Skip to main content
The Library

How to revise and write online TCAs and SFAs

How to revise and write online TCAs and SFAs banner including image of laptop and notebook

About TCAs and SFAs

The Time Constraint Assessment (TCA) and the Short Format Assignment (SFA) are ways of testing your knowledge and understanding. You will be given set questions and you must submit your answers over a set time period.

You will have several hours to complete a TCA and several days for an SFA. You can refer to your own notes and other resources but you should still revise the same as you would for any other exam.

Revision is essential to getting a good mark, so give yourself a head start by getting organised and finding effective study strategies.

This guide is available for download:


Organising your revision will not only ensure you know what you need to do but will also help you feel calm and in control.


Plan your time


Do not leave your revision to the last minute! Create a revision timetable, so you know what to revise. Be realistic about how much you can learn in one go and schedule a sensible amount of time for each revision session.

  1. Find the dates and times of your SFA/TCA
  2. Use a diary or planner to schedule your revision time
  3. Schedule an equal amount of revision time for each TCA or SFA
    • Divide the module into topics and sub-topics
    • Select topics for revision
  4. Make sure you also schedule time for relaxing and enjoying yourself


Revision Strategies


It is not a good idea to just read your notes over and over; you will remember the material better if you revise actively, by really engaging with it.  There are many strategies which can help you:


Break it down

Small amounts of information are easier to remember, so break each topic down into small chunks:

  1. Summarise key points
  2. Write very brief notes in your own words


Explain it

The best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else, so try explaining the topic to someone who doesn’t know anything about it:

  1. Read some information
  2. Cover the page
  3. Explain the topic to someone (an imaginary person will do)


Test yourself

This will show you what you know and where you have gaps in your knowledge:

  1. Read a topic
  2. Make up some questions
  3. Leave a gap of time and then answer the questions


Use your senses

You may find you can remember material better if you involve your senses:

  • Add colour and shape to revision notes
  • Associate images with information by drawing pictures
  • Draw mind maps and diagrams
  • Record yourself reading information, and then listening to it
  • Chant or sing key words or phrases 
  • Dance while explaining a concept to yourself

Managing Stress

Read all the guidance your School or department give you


You will feel calmer if you aren’t worried about the format of the TCA or SFA, so make sure you read everything your School or department send you.

You need to find out:

  • How long you have
  • How many questions you need to answer
  • If all the questions have the same weighting or if some carry more marks
  • What resources you are allowed to use


Look after yourself


  • Take regular breaks
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Exercise
  • Eat well and drink plenty of water
  • Limit the amount of time you watch the news or look at social media, especially later in the evening


Get everything ready beforehand


  • You will need somewhere quiet to work so you can do your best. If there are other people in the house, make sure you warn them in advance and ask them to respect your need for quiet
  • Make sure you have access to a reliable desktop computer or laptop that will allow you to save work and to upload it onto Turnitin

The day of your TCA or SFA

Gather all the resources (books, lecture notes, revision notes) you are allowed to use and make sure you have water and snacks ready.


When the TCA starts


  • Read the instructions carefully to make certain you know what to do
  • Read the questions carefully
  • If you have a choice of questions, spend time choosing and making some notes
  • Decide in which order to answer the questions


Plan your answers


It’s important to plan before you start writing:

  • For each question underline the key words, identify the main topic and discussion areas
  • Make brief notes
  • Put these notes in a logical order; this will become the structure of your answer.


Review your answers


Save some time at the end to check if everything you have written makes sense. If you have time, check your grammar and spelling.


What to do if you run out of time


  • Look back at the plan you made at the beginning
  • Make one point, supported by evidence
  • Move onto the next point
  • If you are really running out of time, answer in note form – it’s better than writing nothing.


What to do if you start to panic


  • Take some calming breaths
  • If you are in the middle of an answer, read it through and think about what comes next
  • If you are still blank, leave a gap, move to the next paragraph and come back to it at the end



Critical thinking


Because you are allowed access to resources such as books and notes throughout TCAs and SFAs, your emphasis should be on showing your understanding. Spend the minimum time and words on description and more time and words on analysis and evaluation.

  • Questions to prompt your description: What? Where? Who?  When? Where?
  • Questions to prompt your analysis: Why? How?
  • Questions to prompt you to evaluate? So what? What if? What next?




If you are asked to write an essay, structure it in the same way as coursework essays:

  1. Introduction - one paragraph where you say how you are going to answer the question and what your argument is
  2. Main body - a series of paragraphs, each making one point. Concentrate on demonstrating your knowledge, but try to present an original stance
  3. Conclusion - one paragraph, where you sum up the essay and show what the consequence is of the evidence in the main body paragraphs




Although you are allowed to refer to resources during SFAs and TCAs, it may be that your department will be more relaxed about the presentation of your referencing than they would be for coursework. It’s a good idea to check with your department before the day of your TCA/SFA.


Academic Language


Try to write in formal academic language but if you aren’t confident about this, don’t let it stop you writing: instead aim to communicate your understanding as clearly and concisely as you can.