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Assessment & Feedback: Types of Assessment

What types of assessment will I do?

Essays and exams are traditional types of assessment that you might have encountered, but at university there is a wide range of assessment types that will often be different depending on the discipline you are studying. Coursework is quite broad and course specific, ranging from traditional essays to vlogs, poster presentations, leaflets, policy briefs, business reports and much more. Depending on your course, you might also attend field trips, conduct work labs or studios, complete internships or attend clinical placements.

Your assessments will be either summative or formative.

What is a summative assessment?

Summative means that assessment is designed for you to show how you meet the learning outcomes of the course and is weighted towards your final grade.

What is a formative assessment?

Formative is to help you practice and the best opportunity for you to get feedback.

Below are some examples of assessments you may do. This is not an exhaustive list and you may encounter some other types depending on your discipline.


You can find detailed assessment guides for the following;

Types of assessments

An essay is a traditional approach to academic assessment, a structured piece of written of work based on meeting learning outcomes/ assessment criteria using academic standards of writing. You may be asked to write different types of essays throughout your course.

Argument essays
  • Argument or argumentative essays are similar to discussion essays in that you have to explore different sides of an argument. 
  • However, the argumentative essay will focus more on one aspect of the argument, so you will have to find strong evidence to support your line of argument.
  • This does not mean that you can ignore counter arguments, but it does mean that you have to try and persuade the reader that you are making a good case.

Compare and Contrast essays
  • Compare and contrast essays explore the similarities and differences of two or more things (e.g., two theories, methods or historical periods)
  • There are two main ways to structure this kind of essay using a block approach or a point-by-point approach.
  • The block approach involves giving all the arguments for and against for one subject first before moving on to consider all the arguments for and against for another subject. 
  • The point-by-point structure considers all similarities and differences for one subject. 
  • The point-by-point structure is generally clearer because it ensures that similarities and differences are stated immediately.
Reflective Essays
  • Reflective writing is common in practical courses such as education and health.
  • In this kind of writing, you may have to explore the relationship between theory and your own professional practice.  
  • It may also involve personal reflection on your experiences of an aspect of practice using a particular model of reflection (e.g., Gibbs or Kolb’s Reflective Cycle).
  • As with all assignments, essay requirements can vary, so study the essay instructions very carefully.
  • A case study requires you to analyse a specific situation and to explore how its different characteristics relate to theory, legislation and professional standards.  
  • The case may refer to a real-life or hypothetical event, organisation, individual or group of people and/or issue.  
  • Sometimes, you may have to think of solutions or recommendations for future action.
  • Make sure you check the assessment task very carefully so that you are clear on the exact nature of the task and of the case study itself.
  • The structure of case study can vary from discipline to discipline but may include a Table of contents—Introduction—Discussion/Analysis—Conclusion—Reference List—Appendices.
  • A report is a structured document that provides information, such as factual data, insights and recommendations, about a particular topic, issue, event, or subject matter.
  • It is typically written to convey the findings, analysis, and conclusions of a research study, investigation, or inquiry.
  • Reports are often used in disciplines such as accounting, finance or management and marketing.
  • They often focus on case studies from the real world of business and require you to apply theory to real-world situations in order to explore problems and to suggest solutions or make recommendations.
  • If a simulated situation is being used as the basis for your report, you may have to think carefully about your audience (e.g., the CEO of a company) and how this may affect your report.
  • As with all assessment types, read the task carefully and structure your report accordingly.

You can find more guidance on reports here.

A portfolio is a collection of work that you have created and compiled over a period of time.  It helps to demonstrate your skills and abilities, as it makes your learning or artistic/academic development more concrete and visible. 

These are often produced as part of a project or placement, consisting of a collection of writing produced on a regular basis and then collated together into one larger piece of work.

Depending on whether your portfolio is part of your course assessment or developed for prospective employers, your portfolio should:

  • Demonstrate your engagement in higher levels of thinking through enquiry and reflection
  • Display your level of artistic/intellectual skill
  • Present your capacity to translate your life experiences, including work, education, community service, extra-curricular or travel into evidence or artifact for learning and creativity
  • Serve as an interesting conversation starter that will help you stand out as an artist or practitioner.

You can find more guidance on portfolios here.

Presentations require you to usually produce a visual element such as a poster/ creative artefact/ PowerPoint as well as verbally present your work. This may be on your own or as part of a group.

You can find more guidance and support on Presentations here.

For guidance on Poster Presentations please check here.

  • A research proposal is usually a concise summary or overview of your proposed research.
  • It outlines the central questions you intend to explore and provides a brief review of the literature in your chosen area.
  • In other words, it provides the reader with a good idea of what is already known about the research area.
  • A typical structure might include an introduction – literature review – methodology and reference list.

You can find more information on research proposals here.

  • The requirements for dissertations may vary from subject to subject, so always check with your department before you begin.
  • It involves an extensive review of existing literature and research, the formulation of a hypothesis or research objective, data collection, analysis, and interpretation of findings.
  • Find out as much as you can, for example the word count and any requirements regarding structure.
  • Longer pieces of writing like this may contain a number of different sections including an abstract—introduction—Literature review—Results—Discussion –Conclusion—References—Appendices.
  • For extended pieces of writing and research, it is important to manage your time and your workload as effectively as possible.

You can find more information about dissertations here.

  • Laboratory reports are also called scientific or experimental reports and they represent an important assessment type in the sciences.
  • Typically, laboratory reports document the reasons for conducting experiments – the procedure or methodology used – the results or findings from the experiment—a discussion about the implications of the findings and finally a conclusion and recommendations.
  • Laboratory reports should be clearly written so that, in theory, the reader could replicate the same experiment.
  • A blog can be seen as a collection of short writings, often posted online format, on a regular basis.
  • When creating blogs for academic purpose the assignment brief often requires you to focus on reflective writing about a particular topic or practice or project.

Vlogs is short for video blogs which are visual recording of you academically discussing a given topic/s. You are often still expected to use academic and/ or professional language as well as keep to academic standards by ensuring what you are talking about is backed by evidence and references.

The requirements and guidance for video assignments will be given to you by your course tutor. You may be producing a video on your own or with a small group of peers. The content of the video will depend on the individual assignment.

Further Reading