What are assessments, and how do you survive them?

This section will look at different forms of assessment. It will give you some practical ideas on how to prepare for them, and how to get the most out of them.


Presenting assignments to audiences was a real pain at the beginning, but little by little it became easier. (Finnish student)

Assessments are the means by which your lecturer can gauge how you are progressing on your course, allow you to receive feedback, and can also provide the grades which will allow you to move on to your next stage of study.  Assessments generally fall into two categories: Continuous Assessments and formal written exams.

Continuous Assessments

Continuous Assessment (CA’s) will normally be spread across a module or programme and a schedule of assessment will be provided to the learner in their course manual. Some examples of continuous assessment are:

  • Written assignments
  • Presentations
  • Reflective Journals
  • MCQ’s (Multiple Choice Questions)
  • In-class exams

If your CA is a timed written exam and you want to use your reasonable accommodations e.g. Reader/Scribe, these will need to be arranged separately with the Disability Support Service.

In order to make sure that everyone is marked fairly, your lecturer will use a set of criteria called a rubric to mark against.

  • Learning Outcomes outline WHAT you are meant to know and be able to do by the end of a module. An example of a learning outcome could be, ‘Apply organisational skills that will facilitate a time-efficient response to independent, directed studies, and team work.’
  • Assessment Criteria Rubric identifies HOW your lecturer measures your work against defined Learning Outcomes. An example of assessment rubric might be, ‘An ability to communicate clearly and coherently in visual and verbal forms.’

Try to engage in every aspect of your assessments even if you are not keen on certain parts. Even if you achieve 100% in a particular assignment – if it is only worth only half of a module’s allocated marks you may find failing to complete the rest of the module assessment results in you not passing the module overall. Always check the your course manual for the requirement for passing a module!

How could this affect me?

Many students find assessments stressful, but you should remember that they are an important way for you to receive feedback, which will allow you to develop and improve your work, and to move forward.

It was difficult to hand in assignments on time and to present work in front of people. (Finnish student)

Many autistic students told us that one of the main challenges with exams is to organise the time for revision – doing little by little over a longer period. Also, nerves can get in the way during the exam itself, especially when there are distracting noises in the room.

With coursework the challenges can be similar – organising your time so that you don’t have to rush things towards the deadline. But also knowing when to stop work on an assignment: getting regular feedback from a lecturer on your work-in-progress is crucial here.

Feedback comes from a range of sources and will provide different ways for how you might improve your work. Feedback can sometimes be contradictory but learning to respond to feedback is a vital skill for all students.

Think about whether the feedback is informed or uninformed – for example, feedback from a technician about a technical process is informed, specialist knowledge. It has a different level of usefulness from opinions offered by family and friends. Your lecturer will often give you guidance that is intended to help you meet the Learning Outcomes of the module.

All feedback is an active dialogue which relies upon you to respond and not repeat the same mistakes in your future work.

I needed help with organising myself for a big research essay.
(UK student)

Reasonable adjustments

If you are struggling with assessments and have already disclosed your autism, you should speak to the Disability Support Service team at your college. They may be able to suggest a reasonable accommodation to be made, to enable you to participate in the assessment process. For example, a reasonable accommodation could be making a video presentation instead of presenting in person, or showing your work to the lecturer in private, rather than in front of a group. Read more about arranging reasonable accommodations and how to work with your lecturer on finding the most appropriate way of assessment for you.

What to do next?

Make sure that you are aware of what the Assessment Criteria is at the start of an assignment

Practical tips

Familiarise yourself with the ‘Learning Outcomes’ and ‘Assessment Criteria’ from your course manual. Knowing these will allow you to stay focused and work towards specific targets.

Create opportunities for feedback so that you can continuously improve. Here is how:

  • Make your work available for lecturers and classmates; don’t hide away and isolate yourself.
  • If you find it difficult to ask for feedback, think of ways that you might be able to receive it in an indirect way.
  • Try to accept feedback in a professional manner; don’t take it as a personal insult.
  • Likewise, if you are giving feedback, keep it related to the work.
  • Make sure that you aware of deadlines for your continuous assessments.
  • Use a calendar to prompt you a few days before a deadline, so that you have time to get everything ready.
  • Allow enough time to get to wherever it is you need to be to hand your work in; always factor in public transport, traffic issues etc.
  • If your assessed work is to be printed, make sure that you allow time in case of any technical issues with printers.
  • Likewise, if you are giving a presentation, make sure that the projector works, and your presentation is in the correct format.

Finally, take note of any feedback and use opportunities for discussing any feedback that you receive. Many lecturers will offer a tutorial after giving feedback, which will give you the opportunity to discuss any concerns, and ask for advice in moving forward.

Questions to think about

  1. What are the deadlines for my CA’s such as assignments or presentations.
  2. Do I have an in-class exams.
  3. How can I encourage feedback on my work?
  4. Where do I find details of what the lecturer will be assessing me on?
  5. What are the dates for assessment?
  6. how do I submit my work for assessment?
  7. What format should my assessable work take?
  8. Who can I discuss my feedback with?
  9. When should I arrange exam supports for in-class exams?

About the author

This article was adapted for use in TUS Athlone from the original article written by Jackie Hagan, Learning Support Coordinator at the University for the Creative Arts at Rochester.