How to write a written assessment in your B2 Level language

17 April 2020

In her 4th blog, Sara gives her advice on writing in your target language whilst studying abroad.


If, like me, you have taken up the challenge of studying abroad largely to get your target language at university up a notch, it is probably the case that you will have to write at least an assessment in that language. If you are (un)lucky like me, you will have to write one exam and two pieces of 15-page coursework. This guide contains everything I wish I had known before embracing these quests.

In Germany, the Hausarbeit (15-page-long coursework) is the most frequent type of assessment in the Humanities Faculty. I made it my mission to widen my academic horizons while abroad, so I wrote a laboratory report on a network analysis for my Digital Humanities seminar and an essay on migration and health for my Sociology seminar. Being a Comparative Literature student, essays scare me only partly, but these were especially scary because not only are they on topics which go beyond my discipline, but because they are to be written in German! The things that helped me get through them with minimal stress, besides planning and organizing, can be applied to any language:


  1. Take your grammar notes with you!!!

This has got to be the most important tip I can possibly give: your 1st and 2nd year grammar notes are so relevant to your year abroad- yes you can find everything online, but for very specific things that you know you have seen but need a review on, your notes are your best friends. Even taking you’re A-Level notes could be useful! Grammar really is the base of language, so if you’re writing an extended unsupervised piece in your second language (in my case, my third!), why not revise the building blocks beforehand? Just take them with you, if you can fit that extra sweater/shirt/skirt, you can fit a summary of your notes on that suitcase.

  1. Ask for examples of previous assessments for that same class

Although this may not be available for every course, largely because it depends on the teacher, having an idea of what is expected is always a good idea: with an abroad student, they are normally accommodating. Also, bringing up the fact that this assessment is a challenge for you can only help your case: the teaching staff will likely be glad to provide you with further resources.

  1. If not available, read academic papers in the language

Same principle of #2: anyway, you’ll have to do research about whatever you write, but bear in mind that you can imitate the style that they use. For example, the German academic style is much more formal than the North American one, so adapt and survive!

  1. Both for 2 and 3:

Make a list of the set phrases, verb forms and sentence structures that are different from verbal and informal speech: this will help in integrating this new formal style of writing into your assessment.

  1. Take more time than usual

We all know that rush of finishing up an essay 2 minutes before the turnitin deadline: I will not deny the adrenaline keeps one alive. But that strategy is doomed in this kind of scenario: you are not only risking the quality of the work, but its actual understandability! Take a week longer than you usually do, it will be worth it in the end.


By: Sara Cordovez Lopez