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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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2 University assignments

At British universities, students are asked to carry out written tasks called assignments and submit them to their tutors by a set date. Assignments are part of the assessment process and, while most assignments are completed at home, some will take the form of a formal examination.

Like any other piece of writing you have written so far, assignments are written for a reason and follow a specific structure. The key is to understand these reasons and learn which structure you are expected to follow.

Students are asked to write assignments for a number of reasons:

  • to demonstrate that they understand the subject matter they are being taught
  • to show that they can explain key ideas and information in their own words
  • to show that they can use what they have learned to solve real life problems
  • to demonstrate that they can evaluate, compare and contrast different views
  • to gain feedback from their tutors on their understanding and use of course content.

Depending on the specific purpose of each assignment, university students are asked to write a range of assignment types. For example, they use summaries and definitions to simply describe what they have learned from their readings. They use essays to discuss what they have learned and to show that they can use their learning to make sense of real world situations. Finally, they use reports to describe or analyse a situation and provide recommendations.

The next section looks more closely at assignment types, their purpose and structure.