Question 2: Time-on-Task estimation

What are the steps that the students need to take to successfully complete the assessment task and how long would each of them take?

 Time on Task: step2.png

Breaking down assessment tasks to indicative steps that the students need to take in order to complete the assignment can be helpful for both staff and students.

This activity could also be performed together with the students during a session when assessment requirements are discussed. The outcome of this activity can be used to design a model for students when undertaking the assessment task.

Students at different levels will require different amount of time to complete similar tasks. It is important for the course team to be able to estimate the time that a ‘novice’ would require to complete the task and not to base their estimations to their own ‘expert’ capabilities. As students progress through their course, they would have gained experience with performing similar tasks and they would have developed further the relevant skills. It is therefore possible, that the same type of task could take less for students at higher levels (e.g., compiling a bibliography, using excel etc). Here it is also important to consider once again the course assessment strategy and how certain assessment tasks may be interlinked and provide a developmental path for students both in terms of knowledge acquisition and of mastery of skills.

Certain steps could be included in most assessment tasks and help improve students’ feedback and assessment literacy, independently of the type of assessment at hand. Type of such steps include:


An example of the breakdown of an assessment task and indicative time on task is illustrated in the below table:

Illustrative example of potential steps and recommended time on task for an undergraduate student to write a review of a scientific paper of 1000 words (5 assessment credits). 


(not in order of completion, as this will depend on individual students)

Notional Time on Task

Reflect on feedback from formative assessment / prior modules

0.5 hours

Reading the paper

2 hour

Identifying unknown terms

0.5 hours

Research for unknown terms

Up to 2 hours

Literature research to support/reject the argument of the paper

Up to 10 hours

Discuss with peers

1 hour

Draft the review

3 hours

Self-assess by comparing with the marking rubric

1 hour

Compare with past exemplars

1 hour

Finalise the review

2 hours

Edit and proof-read the review

1 hour


24 hours


If you'd like to consider again the students' pre-existing knowledge you can go back to STEP 1

If you'd like to check for alignment of the assessment with key factor you can go to STEP 3.