Studying Effectively

Types of feedback

Getting feedback on formal assessment tasks

At University, you may encounter different forms of assessment:

Formative assessments

These provide you with opportunities to gain feedback and then reflect  before completing a final assessment. They give you experience of writing or performing a task without it having a direct impact on your formal progress.

They are therefore an extremely valuable and important tool in developing your skills. You should take advantage of opportunities to do formative assessments, but do remember:

  • Read the feedback carefully
  • It is important to review your writing/performance and to ask yourself if you can see why the feedback contains those comments
  • If you don't understand the feedback ask for clarification
  • Develop a plan to work on the issues highlighted in the feedback. You can get support with this.
  • Compare the feedback across a number of assessments to determine the progress you are making.

For those of you who are enrolling as research students, your nominated supervisors may request written work during the course of your degree that they will give formative feedback on. How often this happens will vary from one research student and supervisory team to another.

Summative assessments

These are submitted for formal assessment. Often, there is no formative assessment stage and this is the only opportunity to get feedback. It may not be helpful to only look at the grade.

You may feel relieved or disappointed, pleased or angry depending on your view of the work. It may be best to set it to one side for a little while, to absorb these initial reactions. However, as with formative assessments, it is important to take time to come back to the work and go through the stages above - review the feedback and your writing/performance and try to see what the marker had in mind.

Getting informal feedback from friends and colleagues

Many students gain help from friends, family and colleagues in developing their academic skills. You can obtain a different kind of feedback from a peer who is a non-specialist, especially when it comes to clarity of meaning and the style of writing. Indeed a friend or colleague, who does not work in the same academic area, may well find it easier to concentrate their feedback on some of the more technical aspects of your work such as spelling and grammar.

A subject specialist will be better placed to give feedback on the accuracy and detail of the work. It can therefore be helpful to obtain feedback from a variety of people who have different sets of knowledge and understanding and who may provide feedback with different emphases and perspectives.

Building and accessing supportive groups

Look out for different opportunities to get feedback and share ways of learning when you start your programme of study. For example, you might be able to join or form a 'Writers' Group', or take part in 'Work in progress' seminars, if you are a research student.

The more you get used to talking about how you learn, how you write, and how you perform tasks, the more you will have companions on your 'learning  journey'. 

Sharing your writing and receiving feedback at different stages in its development, can help reduce the problem of 'writer's block'. Talking can also make learning more fun and gives you a wider range of ideas to try out for yourself.

Student getting feedback on assessment


Further reading

Studying at university

Types of teaching

Preparing for assessment

Recommended by Academic Support

People who can help

Talk to someone in your school or a specialist support service


Studying Effectively

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