What are assessments, and what do you need to know about 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 lecturers and tutors can gauge how you are progressing on your course, allow you to receive feedback, and can also provide the grades which will allow to move on to your next stage of study.  Assessments generally fall into two categories: continuous assessment and formal written examination.

Continuous assessments

Some examples of continuous assessment are:

  • MCQs (multiple choice questions)
  • essays
  • presentations
  • in-class examinations
  • reflective learning journals


Formal written examinations

You will receive a timetable for your formal written examinations. You must print this timetable and bring it with you to any exam. You must also bring your student card with you to the exam.

Book of Modules

You will find more information about your course modules and how they are examined in the Book of Modules.

Some key information that can be found in the module description include:

  • Module Objective: this outlines the overall purpose of the module

To introduce students to the field of philosophy and to some of the styles or methods currently used by philosophers


  • Module Content: this outlines what you will be learning about

Introduction to some key areas in philosophy, including philosophy of mind, ethics and metaphysics


  • Learning Outcomes:  these outline what you’re 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: this section identifies HOW you will demonstrate your learning, such as writing an essay, taking an exam or giving a presentation.  Some modules allocate marks to attendance at tutorials or contributing to online discussion boards. These marks count too!


  • Try to engage in every aspect of assessment even if you are not keen on that type of assessment. 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 Book of Modules for the requirement for passing a module! This information is usually found under the heading: Pass Standard and any Special Requirements for Passing 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 tutor 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 or even your tutor. Your tutor 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 accommodations

If you are struggling with assessments and have already disclosed your autism by registering with the Disability Support Service, you should contact your Disability Advisor. They may be able to suggest a reasonable accommodation 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 tutor or lecturer in private, rather than in front of a group.

In order to receive exam accommodations you must have registered with the Disability Support Service.

What to do next?

Make sure that you are aware of what the learning outcomes are and how you will be assessed at the start of a module.

Practical tips

Familiarise yourself with the module objectives, learning outcomes and the forms of assessment outlined in your module descriptions. 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 tutors 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 – maybe online through a blog or other social media.
  • 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 any deadlines for continuous assessments and also times for in-class examinations as these will not appear on your formal end-of-year examination timetable.
  • 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 and tutors are happy to give feedback if asked. This will give you the opportunity to discuss any concerns, and ask for advice in moving forward.

Questions to think about

What are the different forms of continuous assessment outlined in my modules?

What are the deadlines for any continuous assessment in my modules (such as essays or presentations)?

Do I have any in-class examinations?

Do I have any formal written examinations?

How can I receive feedback on my work?

Where do I find details of what the lecturer or tutor will be assessing me on?

How do I submit my work for assessment?

Who can I discuss my feedback with? Do I need to arrange a meeting with my lecturer or tutor or can I request feedback by email?

If I need exam accommodations for in-class exams, have I notified the Disability Support Service in good time (check with your advisor about any deadlines)?

About the author

This article was written by Jackie Hagan, Learning Support Coordinator at the University for the Creative Arts at Rochester and adapted for the UCC context by Kirsten Hurley, Autism Friendly University Coordinator in University College Cork.