By Leanne Goodall

After three years of study, I’ve written a fair share of TMAs now! Each and every one of them has taught me more than just the content of the course books. Throughout my journey I have worked out one or two things which have really helped me when writing those dreaded TMAs and so I thought I’d share them. If you’ve got any other suggestions then please do let us all know!

1 – FUEL – It’s essential to fuel your brain in order to tackle your TMA. I know it’s bad but I fuel my TMA writing sessions with chocolate! I’m certain that it wakes my brain up and helps me to focus. You don’t have to use chocolate, use whatever works for you but make sure you’re alert and ready to go.

2 – THINKING TIME. You’ve read all the books, done the exercises and watched the DVDs but you may well need time to digest it all. I know I do. Having time to think about everything I’ve learnt is crucial to my understanding. During my thinking time I often get into deep conversations about the subject. All this helps me to digest and ultimately build up my own conclusions ready to answer the TMA question. Once you start writing, take a step back every now and then. Think it over again; are you getting your points across clearly?

3. A SHOULDER. Yes, a shoulder. That’s one to cry on! If you’re lucky enough to have someone supportive around then grab onto it and use that shoulder when you need to. Writing a TMA can be extremely challenging and sometimes all we need is that bit of support from someone who cares, someone to listen and encourage. My ‘shoulder’ has been my saving grace on many occasions. He just helps me get a bit of perspective and reassurance to be able to carry on.

4. TUTOR. Your tutor is there for a reason, use them. It is an important part of the journey to be able to understand the materials for yourself but that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask for clarification or assistance. Your tutor is trained to point you in the right direction and a little advice can make the difference between a challenging TMA that you CAN do and an almost impossible one that you feel you can’t.

5. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s an important lesson to learn. Often I will start a TMA with a very simple point in my head. It’s the very basic answer that I plan on giving. Then I over think everything. I go off on all kinds of tangents, fill my head with way too much detail and begin to think that I don’t know how to answer the question. Eventually (often after a meltdown) I get back to the most succinct points (usually my original thoughts) and get on with writing the essay. So trust yourself and your instincts, you’re probably right!

This article was originally posted on Leanne’s blog, Serendipity, History and Me. Leanne is half way through a BA (Hons) in History with the OU and enjoys writing as a freelancer as well as on her blog. Find out more here. You can catch up on all of Leanne’s excellent contributions on STOU here.

What do you think about the excellent TMA tips that Leanne has put forward? Do you agree or disagree with any of them? We’d love to hear your thoughts or any TMA tips that you can offer to other students!  Feel free to leave a comment below or a LIKE/TWEET/SHARE across our social media platforms.


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