Managing yourself and your time during an assessment

26 July 2022

This year's Late Summer Assessment period starts on 22 August. Managing your time during an assessment is a key consideration for your preparation, so read on for our tips.

Man sitting on sofa looks at laptop

​​​​​​The assessment period can be a stressful time of year, but UCL is here to support you through it. Read on to find out our tips for managing your time during an assessment. 

  1. Try your best to start the assessment calmly. You may want to use some of the time before you begin to do some simple relaxation and breathing exercises to calm your nerves.  
  2. Begin by very carefully checking the instructions on the paper, highlighting or underlining the key points e.g. word limits. 
  3. Consider the amount of time you have, decide how best to distribute this to the different sections of the assessment and aim to stick to your timings. Three average answers will usually get you more marks overall than two brilliant ones and an unfinished third. 
  4. Set regular alarms to alert you when you’ve reached key milestones, e.g., 1 hour left. 
  5. Where there is a choice of questions, take some time to consider the potential of each option before making your decision. If you freeze up, take a few deep breaths, re-read the questions and then do your best to proceed with the assessment. Read on for advice on dealing with panic during an assessment, if you think this could come in useful. 
  6. Begin by answering the questions you are familiar with before answering those that are more difficult or will require using your reference materials. 
  7. Once you've made your choice, read the question(s) thoroughly, then re-read to make sure you've understood and haven't made assumptions. 
  8. With an essay-based question, plan your answer briefly to ensure a strong, critical argument. Keep this simple, no more than section headings and your basic points and examples. If it’s relevant, you may find it useful to quickly note down any sources or quotes to refer back to. 
  9. Remember, you don’t always have to answer questions in the order they appear. Some may want to start by getting the more difficult questions out of the way, while others may prefer to build confidence with easier questions first. 
  10. If possible, take regular 'micro-breaks', e.g. a brief pause at the end of writing a paragraph. Try putting down your pen and stopping to think for a moment, which can help you assume control and collect your thoughts.  
  11. Towards the end of your assessment, try your best to conclude your essays in some way and find a little time to double-check your answers, if you can. 
  12. Once finished, you should spend any extra time reviewing and proofreading your work for grammatical or spelling errors.   
  13. Ensure that you allow enough time to submit your assessment paper – do not leave this until the last minute. 

Remember that you can only do your best on the day. 

Further support and resources 

UCL has plenty more resources available to you. You can explore the Exams and Assessments hub - the Assessment Success Guide is a great place to start.

If you are struggling, Student Support and Wellbeing is here for you. You can speak with an adviser through a same-day appointment, and access a huge range of resources on our website.