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School of Geography

Top tips on assignment stress

I worry. I’m not a low-key worrier: I stress about practically everything that I possibly can! From worrying about whether I have locked the back door when I go out or worrying when I see over twelve assignments sat in my ‘to-do’ list on QMplus…

So, if you are having these thoughts, then here is my advice:

“I have no idea how to do this!”
Don’t worry; you will not be thrown in at the deep end. During your tutorials with your personal tutor, you will be given advice and guidance on how to write academic papers, you will be given the mark scheme for level 4 assignments and informed on how to reference sources.

For many of your first term assignments, the source materials that you will be expected to read and reference in your essays will be provided by lecturers on QMplus. Alongside this, for the first couple of assignments you do, your personal tutor will provide feedback on your essay drafts and give you advice on how to improve your work.

“I have too many assignments!”
In my experience, if an essay is less than 2,500 words long than there is no point worrying about it until three weeks before it's due (or until your lecturer has stated that you have covered the assignment topics in class). During my first year, I lived by the ‘three-week rule’ for completing assignments.

So, what is this ‘three-week rule’? In week one, read academic papers surrounding the topics for your assignments and, at the end of week, produce an essay/assignment plan. In week two, write the first draft of your assignment. In my experience, I have found that it takes approximately 1 hour to write 100 words. So, a 1,000-word essay will take you roughly 10 hours to write. In week three, proofread, edit and submit your assignment.

This is the schedule I try to stick to; however, it might not be perfect for you. Also, don’t stress if you fall behind. It is possible to do all the reading and write a 2,000-word assignment in a week but it’s incredibly stressful! And it is unlikely to be your best work.

“I’m disappointed with the marks for my first assignment - am I not cut out for this level of study?”
Let’s be honest - it is extremely rare for someone to get a first or even a high 2:1 on their first assignment. The whole purpose of studying at university is to learn about a topic you love AND to develop critical thinking and high-level writing skills. As you progress through your studies, your abilities, and henceforth your marks, will improve. So, don’t be too hard on yourself - you can do this! It’s just going to take time and a lot of hard work!

“I’m stressed and I have nowhere to go and noone to turn to.”
You are not alone in this. You are not alone here at QMUL and if you are feeling like this then please talk to someone, whether that be your family, friends, your personal tutor or one of your classmates. QMUL’s Advice and Counselling service can also provide tons of services for support you. No matter what happens or what you are going through, help is always available for students who ask for it.

Bethany Harris (Geography BA, class of 2018)

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