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How to handle multiple assessments at once

By Michael Crump | 23 June 2015

Juggling multiple assessments at once is one of the most common challenges students face. Keeping up with the demands of multiple classes is a challenge for any student. That goes double for those who are balancing an online education with a job, family or any other commitments.

The chances are, you’re probably  going to encounter times where you’re working on multiple assessments at once. Since these challenges are an inherent part of being a student, it pays to discover the strategies that’ll help you manage your workload and juggle competing demands successfully.

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques you can use to manage multiple due dates. From spaced repetition to interval studying, these techniques will help you get ready to perform your best in the face of competing demands. Check out our top tips for balancing several different assignments at once:

How have you handled the challenge of preparing for multiple assessments?

Be Prepared 

At the start of the term, take the time to go through each syllabus you’ve received and make a note of any scheduled assessments on your calendar. It doesn’t matter if they’re short form response assignments or those that require longer essays – you need to know what’s coming up so that you can be prepared.

Next, come up with a quick estimate of how much time you’ll need to prepare for each assessment. If you estimate that you’ll need four hours of study time for a difficult assignment and just two for an easier project, knowing these requirements ahead of time will help you manage your schedule in the weeks leading up to the due date.

If your courses are already in progress, don’t worry – you can implement this technique even if you’ve already completed several assessments. In fact, even if you started the term with a detailed schedule, it’s always a good idea to go back periodically and revise it as you learn more about how much time you need to prepare for each subject. Take the time to plan our your study sessions too. 

female student taking notes

Study in Bursts to Boost Retention 

The “all-nighter” is a trap. Emerging science suggests that it’s not the best way to actually retain the information you need for your assessments.

According to Will Thalheimer (PhD), of the Work-Learning Research, Inc., studying for 20-50 minutes at a time and taking a break of 5-10 minutes between each interval leads to greater long-term retention than constant cramming. To give this technique – called “interval studying”  – a try, use the calendar you completed in the step above to determine which subjects you need to study and when and then tackle each topic’s preparation in short bursts.

Remember, even if you’re able to access your books and other resources while completing your assessments, it’s still important to familiarise yourself with the material in advance. Doing so will help you to avoid wasting precious time flipping through the pages of your textbook for a statistic you know you read once.

Have you ever tried interval studying, spaced repetition or any of our other tips?

Spaced Repetition 

Since the ability to recall information in the moment can make the difference between successfully completing your assessments on time and missing key points because you weren’t prepared, it’s important to know your material inside and out. And while interval studying can help you achieve this goal, a technique known as “spaced repetition” may be even more powerful.

Imagine that you’re preparing for an assessment where you’ll need to be able to recall procedures – say, the process for measuring risk as part of your Workplace Safety and Risk Management course. Instead of packing all your studying into the week before your assignment is due, learn a few points each week and then review them before you begin adding new ones to the mix.

According to research published in the Harvard Magazine by Craig Lambert, this technique “can increase knowledge by up to 50 percent, and strengthen retention for up to two years.”

That’s powerful stuff – and it’s sure to help make your assessments go as smoothly as possible.

repetition written three times on journal

Look for Parallels 

While the tips above apply to studying for both a single upcoming assessment and multiple assignments, the challenge of preparing for evaluations in several different courses deserves special attention. After all, it’s something that nearly all students will need to confront at one point or another in their education careers.

In this situation, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to look for parallels that exist between the material you’re studying in one subject and the information you’re covering in another. The more of these connections you can find, the more you’ll strengthen your overall knowledge – and the better prepared you’ll be to recall important pieces of information in an assessment setting.

Take Care of Yourself 

This should go without saying, but it’s all too common for students to let their health and well-being suffer when facing multiple assessments. Doing so, however, can seriously impact your ability to complete these assignments to the best of your ability.

In fact, focusing on your eating and exercise can actually enhance your study efforts. Just 20 minutes of cardio exercise can improve your memory. While drinking water helps you avoid the 12 percent decrease in overall productivity that’s associated with dehydration. And making sure your diet is full of superfoods like salmon and walnuts will keep your brain operating at peak efficiency.

It sounds like such a simple thing, but even minor steps to take care of yourself can have a major impact on your academic performance. 

woman with dark curly hair hugging herself

Treat Your Assessments like Triage 

Ideally, putting the tips above into practice will ensure that you’re as prepared as possible for each assessment you face – even if you’re up against several of them at once.

But let’s face it – this is the real world! People procrastinate, emergencies arise and life interferes with our best-laid plans for studying. Instead of being able to thoughtfully prepare for each of your assessments, you’ve got to get yourself evaluation-ready in much less time than you’d like.

In this case, it pays to think like a triage nurse. Evaluate all of your upcoming assessments with a critical eye. Which are for courses in which your grades are suffering the most? Which will a shortened study period benefit most, and which will you do best “winging” with your current knowledge?

While your academic performance isn’t something to be taken lightly, the idea here is to do whatever it takes to stay in the game. You can always make an effort to prepare better in the future, but for now, triaging your assessments will help you make the best of a bad situation so that you can come out on top later on.

Do you have any other tips for juggling multiple assessments at once?

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