Open University Assignment Guidelines

Preparing assignments

Don't be daunted by the prospect of your assignment. There is no single correct way of planning how to write your assignment. However there are some common principles and if you work your way through the stages described below you'll be on the right track.

Covered in this section

  • Planning an organised approach to the writing process
  • Deciding what to write about
  • Keeping on track and answering the question
  • Managing the writing process
  • Improving further for the next time!
  • 25 mins to complete this section
  • Video (7)
  • Audio (1)
  • Activities (3)

Try to plan ahead and allow plenty of time to read the assignment booklet and make sure that you understand the question. It might take longer than you expect to finish your first assignment but, like all study skills, it’ll get easier with practice.

"This year I was so busy at work, I just had time to do enough to pass the module."

Start by think about how much effort you are able to put into writing your assignment. Not all students want to 'ace' every assignment ... sometimes just doing enough is fine. So, first, decide what you want to achieve and what is realistic for you to achieve.

  • Organise a rough schedule for your work over the whole module and book time out for completing assignments.
  • Identify potential contingency plans, find the assignments you could drop or do quickly if you had to.
  • If you have a tutor, discuss together what you're hoping to achieve and what you want out of the module.

Read the module assessment guide to find out

  1. what elements are involved in the assessment - for example, assignments, exam, computer-marked assignments
  2. what flexibility exists - for example, some modules apply substitution or offer a choice of questions
  3. what is required to pass the module - use the assessment calculator, available for most modules, to estimate your overall continuous assessment score at any stage prior to the release of module results, before substitution. If you have any queries, contact your nearest Student Support Team or the Assignment Records Office at Walton Hall.

Talk to others

  • If you have a tutor or study adviser, discuss with them any concerns about the assignment.
  • Many modules have online forums relating to assignments and discussion around relevant subjects is common. So have a look at these before you tackle an assignment but do be wary of discussing your intended approach in too much detail (see Collaboration vs collusion, OU login required).

Assessment handbook for undergraduate and postgraduate taught modules starting before 29 September 2012


2.3 Assignment scores

Calculating continuous assessment scores

Individual assignments may be weighted to reflect their relative importance. In working out your module result, the assignment score your tutor gives is multiplied by the assignment weighting to produce the score that will count towards your continuous assessment. You’ll be given a zero score for any summative assignment you don’t submit, unless your module allows ‘substitution’ (explained in Section 2.9, ‘Substitution’).

Your module may have a ‘threshold’ for one or more of the elements of continuous assessment. This is a minimum score on that element that you must reach in order to pass the module.

The assessment strategy for each module, which will include all the information of this kind, is explained in module materials and confirmed in the Study Calendar for your module.

On the majority of modules your performance in all forms of assessment is recorded and reported back to you in line with the following numerical University Scale.

Table 1 The University Scale

BandUniversity Scale scorePerformance standard
A85-100Pass 1
B70-84Pass 2
C55-69Pass 3
D40-54Pass 4
E30-39Bare fail
F15-29Fail
G0-14Bad fail

Some modules use other scales for marking assignments, and those will be explained in your assignment material, but the overall score for an assignment will be recorded and reported using the University Scale.

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