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16 December 2021

Deakin’s peer mentors share their top tried-and-tested tips for assignment and exam success

Have you ever received support from a peer mentor at Deakin? If so, you’ll understand how valuable another student’s perspective can be when navigating uni life.

That’s why Deakin has a range of specialised peer mentors available to help you understand your subjects, find solutions for your queries, and help improve your academic skills.

Now that we’re well and truly in the middle of T3, you’ll no doubt be planning your final assignments and exam revision. We’ve got you covered! Here we review the best advice we’ve received from our peer mentors about how you might improve your final assessments, based on frequent questions they’ve received and their own experience as students.

Start early

Don’t tie yourself up in knots wondering how you should tackle a new assignment – commit to getting stuck in as soon as possible.
‘Just start,’ says experienced peer mentor and Criminology Honours student Amie Morgan. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s a messy mind map, or some dot points, whatever! Just get something on paper. Getting going is the biggest hurdle.’
Jess Hay, a Bachelor of Forensic Science (Hons) student and one of Deakin’s Writing Mentors, agrees. ‘I find when I am struggling to write an assessment piece or lacking confidence, just getting something down on the page can go a long way in improving my confidence. You can always edit and proofread later (which you should always do).’
This is especially important if you have a particular assignment or exam that is making you feel nervous. By allowing yourself maximum time, you’ll reduce your stress and be able to fully utilise Deakin’s Study Support services and resources. And if you are a procrastinator? Read our tips on overcoming this pesky habit!

Pay attention to what you’re being asked to do

Always check assignment instructions carefully to ensure your work is addressing the prescribed criteria and is supported by relevant sources of evidence. This tip alone will help ensure you gain every possible mark you can. 
‘Don’t overthink it. Students get tripped up on simple assignments because they overthink it,’ Amie says. ‘There are no tricks – the instructions and rubrics are available to show you exactly what you need to do. So take a breath, read it and just do what it asks.’
When it comes to exam preparation, attend all your classes and seminars to gain a sense of what topics and concepts your teachers consider particularly important – anything that is repeated or emphasised is likely examinable. And, at every opportunity, test your understanding by taking any practice exams you are supplied in your unit sites.

Focus on the basics

What should students concentrate on to do well in assignments? Amie is unequivocal: ‘Referencing and academic writing. I cannot stress that enough.’
Jess shares a similar view: ‘The majority of questions I see are usually regarding referencing. There are a lot of different referencing styles around and the referencing style required can vary from unit to unit (or even sometimes assessment to assessment). It is easy for students to become overwhelmed by this or confused.’
‘Deakin recently updated their referencing guides to make them more user-friendly and I encourage students to have a look at them.’ 

In addition to acquainting yourself with the Deakin guide to referencing, check out the Academic skills guides to really polish your assignments.

Take it easy (sometimes)

To stay happy and well as you work through assessments, you need to factor downtime and activities you enjoy into your study timetable – but it all comes down to striking the right balance.

‘I don’t just schedule classes and study hours; I also schedule leisure hours,’ says Amie. ‘This makes sure you don’t forget to take a moment to relax, and that you don’t spend too much time relaxing. If you don’t take breaks then you’re more likely to lose focus and end up losing time daydreaming, or just needing to stop and not being able to get back into it.’

Are you finding it tough to juggle your study with other responsibilities? Take a look at our handy assignment plannerstudy workload planners and tips for organising your studies which can help you map out a realistic and sustainable routine.

Believe in yourself – and reach out for help

‘The most common problems students have [with maths] are confidence issues,’ says Maths Mentor and chemistry student Daniel Coomber.
‘A lot of students … will have a very good idea of what they are meant to be doing, but they will just mess up one step in a question because they are not confident about their answer. Then solving the whole problem goes wrong.’
Could you use a little more guidance with your assignments or exam preparation? Head to the Maths Resource Centre webpage for help with your maths practice, or check out the various Academic skills guides and other Study Support resources for targeted advice.
We also understand it’s been another challenging year, so we urge you to access the many free student support services available to you at any time. Your wellbeing matters, and we’re here to help.

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