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Students chatting in communal study area at Burwood Campus

29 November 2022

Strengthen your assignments with these top tips from Deakin’s peer mentors

Have you ever sought help from a peer mentor at Deakin? If not, you’re yet to understand just how valuable another student’s perspective can be when navigating uni life!

Deakin has a range of specialised peer mentors who can support you in a number of ways. They are available to help you understand your subjects, find solutions for your queries, and help you improve your academic skills.

Now that Trimester 3 is well underway, you’ll no doubt be working on various assignments. We’ve got you covered! Here we take a look at the best advice we’ve received from our peer mentors about how you might improve your 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.’
Pavani Trikha, a Bachelor of Health and Medical Science (Honours) student and one of Deakin’s Writing Mentors, agrees. ‘Academic writing takes time and multiple revisions, therefore give yourself some time to understand and build up your work from there.’
This is especially important if you have a particular assignment or quiz 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 quiz and 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 quizzes you are supplied in your unit sites.

Focus on mastering the basics

What should students concentrate on to do well in assignments? Amie is unequivocal: ‘Referencing and academic writing. I cannot stress that enough. The Deakin guide to referencing is a fantastic resource but so many students still don’t use it and get continually pulled up on their poor referencing style.’ 
Maths Mentor Jennifer Tran shares a similar view when it comes to getting the basics right: ‘I think the most common problem that students face with maths is that basic concepts are not clear. A lack of foundational maths can lead students to struggle in the long term,’ she says.
‘Maths is about practice. Doing practice questions definitely helps to improve your skills.’
In addition to acquainting yourself with the Deakin guide to referencing, check out the Academic skills guides to really polish your assignments.

Remember to pace yourself

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.’

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 keep trying!)

‘I think that maths is a subject that is commonly viewed by students in a negative light due to previous experiences or the mindset that ‘‘they aren’t good at it’’,’ says Maths Mentor Caitlin Waterford.
‘Many students come to the Maths Mentors with the capability to work through the problem or topic that they are stuck on but are just lacking the confidence to express their ideas.’
Writing Mentor Asees Kaur notices this pattern too: ‘Everyone who starts studying at university must make themselves familiar with the conventions of academic writing and there is no expectation of having it mastered at the beginning of your course. Having a lack of confidence is a common feeling and like developing any other skill, you get better with practice.’

Reach out for help any time you need it

Could you use a little more guidance with your assignments? 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. Our Writing and Maths Mentors are also available during various drop-in times throughout the trimester.

We also encourage you to access the many free health and wellbeing services available to you at any time. Your wellbeing matters, and we’re here to help.

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