Step-by-step guide to tackling assessments

The steps below will help you plan, research, write and review your assessment.

The most important thing is to start and start early. If you give yourself enough time to plan, research, write and revise your work you won't have to rush. Once you've started, you’ll also have something that you can improve on.

For help working out how much time you will need for each step try the Assignment Planner – RMIT University

Diagram showing steps in writing an assessment - preparation, which includes understading the assessment task and planning, research, which includes reading and taking notes, and writing, which includes editing and proof reading

Step 1 – Understand the assessment task

Before you start your assessment make sure you analyse the assessment task or question and understand what you have been asked to do. This will help you focus your research.

Also check what type of assessment you are doing. Is it an essay or a report? This will help you focus your research and know how to structure your assessment.


Step 2 – Plan

Planning how you will answer your assessment task or question will help you focus and make writing your assessment easier. You will have a structure to follow, and can make sure you answer the assessment task correctly.


Step 3 – Do your research

Next, research your topic and find relevant and reliable information. You will find some in your course materials and recommended readings, but you can also try:

  • the Open Polytechnic Library
  • online sources
  • talking to experts.

Evaluating information

 Tip – After you do your research review your plan to make sure it still works with the information you found. 

Step 4 – Write

It will then be time to start writing.

First draft

  • Write your first draft following your plan. Fill in the gaps, writing your main points for each section.
  • Write freely. Get as much down as you can without worrying about the wording being 100 per cent right.
  • You may find it easiest to start with the conclusion, so you know the direction your writing is heading.
  • Leave the introduction until last.

Don’t spend too much time trying to make this draft perfect as it will change!

Fine tune

  • Revise your draft, and check that it makes sense and includes everything it needs to.
  • Fine tune the wording, and make sure your writing flows well.
  • Keep different copies of your drafts as you may want to go back to them.
  • Compile your bibliography or reference list.


Step 5 – Review

Once you're happy, take a break. Get some distance so you can check your work with a fresh eye. Then edit and proofread.

Look at the big picture

  • Have you answered the question you were set? Check your work against the marking schedule as well as the question.
  • Is the structure correct? Is the content logically arranged?
  • Have you included all relevant parts? For example, the title page, introduction, conclusion, reference list?
  • Does your assessment read well with each section flowing smoothly on to the next? A good way to check this is to read it aloud.
  • Have you used your own words and acknowledged all your sources?
  • Is your assessment well presented?

Check the details

  • Have you used academic English (if needed)?
  • Check the grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Don’t just use a spell checker (it won’t pick everything up).
  • Check your referencing. Is your APA referencing correct?
  • Are your pages numbered?
  • Have you included your name, student ID, the assessment details and the date on each page?

Tip – If possible, ask a friend or family member to proofread your assessment, as it can be difficult to see mistakes in your own work.

Once you’re happy, submit your assessment.

Got a question?

If you want to talk with someone about planning your assessment, contact The Library and Learning Centre | Te Whare Pukapuka Wāhanga Whakapakari Ako. 

Contact the Library and Learning Centre