Hints and tips for writing assignments
What follows are some tips which should help you when you are preparing for the assignment route of assessment. Your tutors are likely to use contact time in a different way than if they are preparing you for examinations – as well as covering the theory, more time may be spent debating the application of theory to practice, and perhaps using the assignment as a basis for some discussion.
Studying and preparing assignments
Any studying member who require support in preparing and writing assignments should contact their tutor/study centre for advice and assistance.
Guidance on formats for assessments
Please be advised that there is not a prescriptive approach to producing documents for assessment. The content and structure of the document depends upon the audience addressed and the subject matter.
You can undertake research on different types of documents by looking at what is available on the internet. For example, putting in the words “discussion papers for conferences” brings up a wide variety of discussion papers for a conference audience.
To view more examples download our Guidance on formats for assessments.
Check our Command words guide: when answering your questions on your assignment, it is important to ensure you have interpreted what you’re being asked to do.
Your tutor should brief you on the assignment, and they may do this either by briefing the whole assignment or in sections as they cover the associated areas of the syllabus. It is important that, when assignments are issued (as a whole or in part), discussions take place between you and the tutor to clarify your understanding of the assignment brief and what is required. Please note that whilst you can discuss the assignment with your tutor and your colleagues, each assignment must be completed individually, not as part of a group.
Choosing the Organisation
You may also need advice from your tutor about which organisation to use – if you are working, it is often helpful to base your discussion on this organisation, but it does depend on the nature of the brief, and if you are not sure that you can do the tasks based on your own organisation, then discuss with your tutor some other options before you get started.
If you work for a large organisation, it may be a good idea to restrict your discussion to one business area or division as you must meet the assessment criteria within the recommended word count, and this will help contain the issues that you need to discuss. It is not a requirement of the assessment regulations, but it is usually recommended that you use the same organisation for the whole of the submission as it will involve you with less background research, however, this does depend on what you are being asked to do, so be guided by the brief in the first instance.
A brief overview of the organisation(s) chosen, including legal classification, product or service offered, target market and structure should be included as an appendix. This information will not be included as part of the word count and no marks will be awarded for it, but it will provide a context for the examiner who may not be familiar with your organisation, its products/services or the market that your organisation is part of. Please ensure that sensitive data from the chosen organisation is not included or that the organisation remains anonymous within the assignment.
Read the whole assignment brief carefully, several times, and if you are not clear about anything, ask your tutor for clarification before you start your preparation. The front pages are updated regularly, so read them to be sure that you are aware of the latest guidance; do not assume that because you have read them before you know what they say!
Preparing and planning your assignment
Before you start, you need to be thoroughly familiar with what to do, so consider the following:
- read any background information carefully so that you understand the context of the assignment.
- sometimes you are given a role, and if so, it’s important that you write from this perspective.
- sometimes you are asked to do a task for someone or a particular audience, in which case make sure the content is relevant and the tone of your work appropriate.
- the tasks are usually sequential and often they link together, so use the key components of the tasks as headings within your work; if this is not immediately clear, another read of the guidance notes should help you with this.
When you write up your assignment, plan it so that you don’t duplicate material and that the different elements link together as appropriate (be guided by the brief) once you are clear about what the tasks involved, you will need to read around the subject, perhaps do some secondary research and talk to colleagues at work about what happens in your organisation.
When you start to address the tasks, make notes under different headings; you may well compile a lot of material in the first instance and the skill is how to organise this appropriately under the different task headings and how to edit your work so that it reflects the marks allowed and complies with the word count (or pages allowed).
Look at the advice on “Marking CIM assessments” as this will also help you to make sure you have pitched your work at the right level for the qualification you are studying.
When you are happy with your work, submit a draft for your tutor to comment on – remember they can only look at ONE draft and you cannot repeatedly submit for further comment, so make the most of the opportunity for feedback.
Feedback on draft work
Your tutor is permitted by CIM to look at one draft piece of work before you submit your final assignment for marking; this may be one draft of each task or one draft of the whole assignment. Depending on your mode of study, your tutor will tell you what form the draft should be. They will not “mark’ this work per se, but give you qualitative feedback on whether, in their view, you have addressed all of the assessment criteria, and if the amount of work you have done on each aspect is at a suitable level and in proportion to the amount of marks that are available.
Please be aware that, in most cases, your tutor is not part of the examining team and has not taken part in the training session that precedes the marking so they can only give you their opinion about how the marking scheme will be applied. It is for this reason that CIM asks them not to give you a mark or grade and only to provide qualitative feedback. This said, you should take heed of their advice and amend your work as appropriate prior to submitting your final piece of work.
Submitting your Assignment
Work should be typed up and your candidate number must be on each page of assignment; do not use your name anywhere in the submission. Punch a hole in the top left hand corner of the completed piece of work and use a treasury tag to hold it together. Please do not use staples or any other type of binding including plastic wallets as these all slow the marking process up and add to the weight for posting.
Your study centre will tell you the deadline that they need your assignment by – in both hard and soft (electronic) forms; this date will be before the CIM deadline as your study centre needs time to complete their paperwork and to send all the assignments to us. Please ensure that you work is completed and submitted by the study centre deadline as late submission are not generally permitted apart from very exceptional circumstances.
Please note that it is not optional as to when you submit your assignment; you need to book by the assessment deadline for a specific assessment session and if you don’t submit to that session, you may need to re-book, pay again and write to a new brief!
Word count policy for assignments
You must comply with the recommended word count, within a margin of +10%. For some tasks a specified number of pages is given as an alternative to the word count.
These rules exclude the index (if used), headings, information contained within references, bibliography and appendices. You should present your work professionally, using tables and diagrams to support and/or illustrate the text. Unless tables and diagrams are specified as a requirement of a task, they can be included in either the appendix or the main body of the text. If tables are included as appendices they must be referred to within the main body of the text for marks to be awarded. If you use tables to present your answer in the main body of the text, the words used (or where appropriate the number of pages) will be counted and the rules relating to word count or number of pages will apply.
When an assignment/project task requires you to produce presentation slides with supporting notes, the word count applies to the supporting notes only. The maximum number of slides indicated on the assignment/project brief excludes the title page slide and the contents page slide.
You should state the number of words that you have used at the end of each task. In addition, the total number of words used for the whole assignment/project must be indicated on the front cover of the assignment/project. Any assignments/projects that exceed the word count policy will be penalised by forfeiting the marks for presentation for each individual task that exceeds the recommended word count/specified number of pages. Work that grossly exceeds the recommended word count/specified number of pages will be returned unmarked/unmoderated and you will be asked to complete and submit a new assignment/project. Where your work has contravened the word count policy it will be reviewed by the senior examiner and the CIM Academic Misconduct and Irregularities Committee before a decision is made to return the work unmarked/unmoderated.
Appendices should only be included where necessary and should be used to accommodate tables and diagrams to support/illustrate the main body of the text. No marks are awarded for work included in the appendices, and these should not be used as an alternative location for work that should appear in the main text.
Mark schemes are included so that you are aware where the majority of the marks will come from and are therefore able to structure your work accordingly. However, CIM reserves the right to amend the mark scheme if appropriate.