How to lose an assignment in 10 ways

It’s assignment season and they’re coming in hot. Get across these 10 common mistakes and learn how you can avoid them.

1. Thinking referencing will be a breeze

Reference as you go, people. We repeat, reference as you go. Don’t wait until you’ve finished your assignment. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a bad time.

2. Underestimating the time it takes to reference your work

Underestimating the time it takes to properly format your references, and write in-text citations, is a common trap to fall into. The easiest way to avoid losing marks unnecessarily is to allocate enough time as you go to get it right. Remember to paraphrase correctly and include enough references to support your argument. If you need help, head down to the Learning Hub (there’s one on every campus) and get tips on referencing from a Peer Learning Adviser.

3. Not planning your approach first

What are your main points? What kind of evidence will you need to find to back up your claims? Are you going to need to do further research before forming your argument? Which style of referencing are you meant to use? So many questions!

Planning out your approach to your essay or assessment beforehand will keep you on track, provide structure and prevent you from feeling lost down the line with a case of writer’s block. Peer Learning Advisers are the best port-of-call for helping you to map out your assignment’s structure.

4. Misunderstanding the question

You may have written an absolutely brilliant piece of work, but if it doesn’t properly address the question, you won’t be rewarded for it. Remember to re-read each question a couple of times before you answer it, underlining important wording so you know exactly what’s being asked of you. Keep coming back to the question as you go to make sure you’re not going off on a tangent.

5. Not reviewing the assessment criteria

To determine what you’re being assessed on, review the assignment’s marking criteria. Find this information for each subject on the LMS in your subject learning guide.

6. Not proofing

Sometimes all you need is a break and a fresh set of eyes. Proof your work after you’ve written it, and leave time to have a break before you do so. If you can afford to leave a full day before reviewing your work again, do it. You might be surprised by the things you couldn’t see before.

Ask a friend or family member to check for typos, spelling and grammar, or read it aloud.

La Trobe students also have access to a free online assignment help service called Studiosity. Online experts are available at all hours to provide feedback on your individual assignment or to answer your questions via live chat.

7. Leaving everything until the last minute

Very few people are able to do their best work writing their assignment at the eleventh hour. Not managing your time well and leaving your assignment til the last minute can result in an incredibly stressful experience.

Breaking down your assignment into smaller, manageable tasks is the key to being productive. La Trobe has a free online tool to help you do this. Head to the Assessment Planner online and enter your assessment start date, due date and subject code. Click ‘Calculate’ and it’ll do the rest.

It’ll show you a countdown so you know how long you have to complete your assignment, as well as break it up into tasks such as research, drafting, reviewing and rewriting. Your plan is tailored to each individual subject, too.

8. Ignoring the word count

Got too much to say or not quite enough? You can lose marks for both not meeting the word count and going over it. Markers usually allow a buffer of 10%, which means if your word count limit is 1,000 words, you can go up to 1,100 words. Check with your subject coordinator, lecturer or tutor to see if this rule applies to you.

9. Missing the deadline

We’ve all seen those Turnitin screenshots showing assignments being submitted 1 second before the deadline. While it is a little funny, you definitely don’t want to be in that situation. It’s super stressful, especially if your WiFi decides to pack up and go on hiatus minutes before the assignment is due.

Missing the deadline will result in lost marks that would have been a given if it was on time. Submit early, with enough buffer time in case something goes wrong. If you’re experiencing circumstances that might prevent you from submitting on time, contact your subject coordinator or lecturer and discuss it with them before the deadline.

10. Not seeking help when you need it

Everyone at La Trobe wants you to succeed. Get across the academic support available to you, from Peer Learning Advisers to subject coordinators. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or just need someone to chat to, La Trobe offers free counselling for all students.

If you have questions about your assignments, don’t be afraid to ask your lecturers or tutors. If you’re not sure if you’re allowed to ask them about a certain aspect of your assignment, do anyway. The worst they can say to a request is no, and you haven’t lost anything by asking.

Asking for help is a good thing, it means you care about your work.’

Nick, Peer Learning Adviser and third year Physiotherapy student