Theatre Studies Assessment Types
When I first started University, one of the things I was dreading the most were the assessments. As a gap year student, I had heard horror stories from my friends studying different courses at different Universities of having to write 3,000 word essays every week, and strict lecturers marking students down for the smallest of errors. However, my experience on the Theatre & Performance Studies course at Warwick has been the complete opposite! Due to the nature of the degree, I have done a wide variety of assessment types, from traditional essays and exams to performances and research posters. Therefore, I thought I might write about some of the assessment types I have come across in the last few years for anyone, like me three years ago, worrying about assignments at Uni.
For me, essays have been the most common type of assessment, with the majority of the modules I’ve taken having one in some form. Unlike those in school or college, however, the essays I have written at University have been much more interesting and inspiring. Most lecturers I have had have offered a choice of several essay questions based on the content covered in the module, with essays being between 1,500-3,000 words. Having the choice of questions means that I have been able to choose topics that are much more relevant to me, therefore making the research and the writing a lot more engaging than essays in school.
Portfolios are a shorter form of essay, generally between 500-1,000 words. Due to their length, these tend to be closer readings of one specific topic, drawing on fewer sources for the analysis. While some of my portfolios have been stand alone pieces, others have been part of a collection submitted together. For example, for my Performing Gender & Sexuality module, we had to submit four 500 word portfolios relating to gender or sexuality. This was an interesting way to look at specific examples, as well as getting us to think more carefully about the words we used to write.
- Critical Reviews
Critical reviews are often paired with some form of practice-based assessment, whether that be a performance or something else. These are a chance to reflect critically on the work made, looking at research, the process of creating and things you would do differently. At first, I struggled a bit with these, as they were quite different to anything I had done in school. However, after meeting with my personal tutor to go over one of my past submissions I became a lot more confident in writing them, and now have a much better sense of what is expected.
While exams have not been a major part of my University experience, they are a form of assessment I have come across during my time at Warwick. I have had two exams while here, one in my first year and one (moved online) in my second year. Unlike exams in school, these were much less stressful and felt more relaxed. For both exams I was able to bring in a page of notes to help me, with the lecturers leading revision sessions ahead of time. Exams in Uni are also quite different to essays here, as we were not expected to use quotes and get everything perfect.
Unsurprisingly for a theatre degree, we have had assessed performances as part of the course. Most of these for me were in first year due to my module choices in second & third year. All of the performance assessments I did were in groups, although I have friends who took modules with individual performance assessments. In all of these, the module leaders provided support throughout, giving my group time with them to discuss our ideas and show sections we had been working on. This support was really helpful in us creating our pieces, as well as giving us confidence in our creative ideas.
- Research Posters
My personal favourite type of assessment is the research poster. I have done two of these over my course, and both have been incredibly enjoyable experiences. As someone who very much enjoys making things and being creative, I loved using visuals to express my research and the ideas I was writing about, and putting on my music and sticking together my posters made for a very fun evening! While I chose to make a literal poster, we were given the freedom in both of these assessments to delve outside of the 2D and present our research in a different visual way, such as a sculpture or a live art piece.
- Creative Projects
This type of assessment is one I have come across more in my third year than in first or second year, mostly due to my module choices. Creative projects are a very open form of assessment that ask you to make a creative response to research in whatever form you prefer. For example, you could write a play, devise a performance, record a podcast, make a film – whatever you think would best suit your project. Understanding the role of research in these can be difficult, however the general idea is to use the research to inform your project, often by choosing a research question to answer. These are sometimes paired with a supporting document or critical review, which can help the marker understand more of your ideas and research.
The final type of assessment I have come across is around creating a workshop. This has come in two forms for me – either practically running a workshop for my classmates, or writing up a workshop plan for a specific group. Both of these encourage you to think practically about the group you are working with and the specifics of running a workshop. The module I took that most used this assessment type was my second year Community module, which focused on using workshops to teach skills to various groups. This was an interesting new way of thinking about theatre for me, especially as I had not done anything like this when I was in school.
As you can see, there are many different forms of assessment in Theatre & Performance Studies, some of which I haven’t managed to cover here. While all assessments require a level of research and preparation, this is often a lot more interesting than in school, and the tutors and lecturers are always available to provide support if you want it. Looking back, I definitely didn’t need to be so anxious about assessments at University, and I’ve now got to a point where I actually enjoy assessments instead of dreading them!