Seasoned students give their TMA Top Tips

We asked seasoned OU students for the top tips they'd give new students for their first TMAs. Here's what they said...


Whether you’re working on your first TMA of the year, or your first TMA ever, these Top Tips will make studying a breeze.

We asked seasoned OU students for the top tips they’d give new students for their first TMAs, and they responded with enthusiasm. Who said distance learning had to be lonely? Your peers have got your back, and here’s what they said…

  1. 1 Don't panic

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    "Try to keep in mind - it doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be done."

    "Leave your introduction until the end. You can't introduce what you've written until it's wrote."

    "Remember, if you knew it all, you wouldn't be studying. You've got this!"

    "Remember people work at different paces. Just because someone else is halfway through the TMA and you aren't doesn't mean anything."

    If you're feeling a bit anxious about getting started, make sure you'relooking after your mental health first and foremost. 

  2. 2 Get organised

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    "Make a rough draft as you progress through the content, add references and number pages, so when you go back, main points are easier to find."

    "Learning Outcomes are your friend. Read which ones are being assessed for your TMA & consider how you can relate them to the question."

    "Print your TMA questions and use it as a bookmark while you read the relevant book chapter, and annotate on the printed TMA the pages or sections that are relevant to each question."

    You might find it useful to have a separate notebook for each TMA, and it always helps to have a neat and tidy study space. 

  3. 3 Prepare

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    "Highlight all the key words from the prompt. This will help you actively read the case study or TMA materials so you then are able to answer everything that is being asked, and thus deliver a strong TMA."

    "Make sure you have a look at the tma in full as soon as you can. More often than not you’ll end up finding some of the answers as you are reading through the work"

    "Always have the question and guidance notes to hand, refer back to them all the time whilst you’re writing"

    "Make sure you know what the tutor will be marking you on, if for example, the TMA says they'll be marking you on your method and not the final product, take it as it is and focus on explaining your methods."

  4. 4 Jump right in!

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    "Just get something on the page, doesn't matter if it makes full sense or not. Its always easier to go back and edit an answer than just stare at a blank page."

    The first step is sometimes the hardest, but once you're over that first hurdle, you'll be on a roll. 

    In need of a little motivation? Get some tunes blasting from our Great Mood Generator.

  5. 5 Get into good habits

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    "Post it notes marking the recommended reading pages in textbooks - makes it so much easier to reference quickly."

    "Reference as you go along, not at the end - much easier especially with longer assignments"

    We also recently published a really useful good academic practices article by current OU Students Vice President Education, Cinnomen McGuigan.

  6. 6 Be concise

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    "Answer the question!"

    "Don’t add any extras to the answers. Only give what is requested."

    Somtimes it can be tempting to get over-excited with showing off your knowledge. Keep in mind that you have a specific question to answer and a tight word count to stick to.

  7. 7 Always double check

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    "1. Read the question.  2. Answer the question.  3. Read the question again and see if you have actually answered the right question accurately and fully!"

    "Edit always on a printed copy."

    It can be temping to skip proof-reading and click submit, but this might lead to missing a typo or worse. Make sure you check you've answered the question, used the correct terms, and maximised readability if you can. 

    If you have access to a printer, you may find it helpful to proof read on a printed copy of your assignment. Use highlighters, make notes for adjustments, and circle spellings that need to be changed.

  8. 8 Give yourself plenty of time

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    "Don't leave it to the night before"

    "Start early, at least so you can relate what you’re learning to what’s needed of you. I keep a checking list and a ‘notes’ document so I can thrash out ideas as I go, then hopefully pull it altogether"

    "Print them/book them early, read them and work out what part of the course each question relates to. Then answer Q's as you progress.  Nothing worse than starting a TMA and thinking "Urgh I did this weeks ago now, can't remember how I did it!"

    "Get it done with time to spare."


  9. 9 Reward yourself!

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    "Once it's gone, forget about it, as you're bound to think of 101 ways you could have made it better, or notice a spelling error that wasn't there the first 100 times you checked it!"

    "Lots of wine and chocolate!"

    "Coffee helps"

    Completing your first TMA is no mean feat. Give yourelf a pat on the back and take a break before rewarding yourself with some snacks or your favourite activity. Self-care is for study too!

  10. 10 Join our community

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    All of these tips were submitted by your fellow students. Follow The Open University Students Association on Twitter and Facebook for more tips and to meet people just like you. 

    There's also plenty more study advice on The Hoot. 

    Got a top we've missed? Comment below. Happy studying, and good luck!


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Gabby Willis

Gabby is a member of the Students Association staff team.

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