Coursework - what to expect

Your aspect of your assessment is an important part of the qualifications you take in Years 11 to 14. Knowing what to expect and how best to approach it can help you get higher grades.

Why coursework / internal assessment matters

Many of the subjects you’ll study in Years 11 to 14 are assessed on a mixture of internal assessment and exams. The internally assessed element of a subject can make up a significant part of your final mark and for some subjects, this counts for more than half of the total.

It can be a useful way of showing what you can do, where an exam wouldn’t be suitable, for example, a music presentation or a science experiment, but it can also allow you to:

  • study a subject in more depth
  • take more responsibility for what you study
  • have more control over the pace at which you study

Internally assessed assignments can be set over several days or weeks, so there’s also less chance of your grade being affected if you have an ‘off day’.  

What to expect

The coursework / internal assessment you’re given can take various forms. It could include:

  • projects and fieldwork
  • written work or extended essays
  • artwork
  • experiments and investigations
  • performances
  • oral work

Coursework / internal assessment is assessed internally by your teachers or tutors and may be set at any time during your course. You may do some of your coursework outside school hours and some at school under the supervision of your teachers.

GCSEs

For GCSEs, the mix of exams and internal assessment varies depending on the subject. Some, like art and design, have more coursework and fewer exams.

AS and A levels

Many AS and A levels are  made up of a combination of exams and internal assessment, but this varies depending on the subject.

You may also have to do coursework if you take vocational qualifications, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma. The amount of coursework will also depend on which awarding body (exam board) offers the qualification.

Top tips for success

If you want to get good grades, it’s important to do your best.

Choose your subjects carefully

You’re much more likely to do well if you:

  • choose topics you find interesting - this will keep you motivated
  • get organised - try to plan your projects carefully and give yourself plenty of time to do all your work
  • make sure you find somewhere quiet to study
  • research your topics carefully - make sure you do all your research before you start writing up
  • write up your coursework clearly and neatly - always check your spelling, grammar and punctuation and check if there is a word limit you need to stick to

Things to avoid

Also, there are some definite no-nos if you want to give yourself the best chance of doing well, so don't:

  • leave projects until the last minute
  • start writing up before you’ve done all your research
  • go over the word limit
  • try to watch TV at the same time
  • rush things
  • copy or plagiarise other people's work

Plagiarism – what it is and how to avoid it

It’s really important that the work you produce is your own. Copying chunks of text and pretending they’re yours is cheating and is known as plagiarism. You can be guilty of plagiarism if you copy from sources such as:

  • the internet
  • books
  • computer programs
  • friends or family members

If you copy someone else’s work, you probably won’t understand it properly. You could also really come unstuck if your coursework is linked to exams you have to take later on in the course.

Despite what you might think, plagiarism is often easy to spot as people’s writing styles can stand out. There are also a number of computer programs that can help teachers, tutors and exam boards find out if you have plagiarised someone else's work.

What happens if you're caught

As well as being dishonest and unfair on the person you’re copying from, plagiarism can get you into trouble. You might receive a warning, have your final grade lowered, or even have your qualification taken away.

Sticking to the rules

When you are given an internally assessed assignment, you may want to share ideas or do some research with a classmate. This is okay, but you must make sure that you each write up your work on your own. If you do quote text from other sources, you must always say where it comes from and who wrote it.

Help and advice on coursework / internal assessment

If you’re getting stuck with internal assessment, quite often the best thing to do is speak to your teachers. You can also find lots of help online. Websites like the BBC’s Bitesize are full of tips and good ideas for coursework, homework and revision.

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