A guide to studying independently:
Although academic writing is not a core purpose of the VCI advanced qualifications, written reports are very appropriate for assessing ministry skills where you need to collect and interpret information, and reflect constructively on it. That is, written reports provide evidence both of what you have done and of your analytical abilities.
In this sense, good thinking is reflected in good writing:
- You have the advantage of being able to write a rough draft and improve it through successive drafts. This applies best to biblical studies, program evaluations, and teaching notes.
- Some documents, such as strategic plans and budgets, are good ways of making quite clear what has been decided and keeping it on record.
Academic writing skills are also helpful for other reasons:
- It is reasonable to expect good writing skills at this academic level.
- Christian leaders often need to produce well-written formal reports.
- It is good preparation for the ministry project.
What to expect
Most assessment tasks require you to write a written report of some kind when they ask you to "describe", "identify", "write", etc.
When you get a written task, you will usually be given a total number of words to aim for, and most tasks already specify a word total. This often indicates the amount of information you will need and the complexity of the topic.
All written work needs to meet the academic standards of the units, and these should be your main guide to what will be assessed and how it well be done. Besides it must follow the standard on-line academic writing guide that VCI will recommend.
It is not really the place of VCI to conduct a course in academic writing for senior students, even if you might urgently need it. If this is a serious problem for you, please contact your supervisor.
Your supervisor has the right to ask you to submit early drafts of reports for your feedback. If he/she catches problems at this stage, it will make your final submitted work much better and give you the best chance of success.
Your supervisor may also set deadlines, including deadlines for different stages of each report. It is best to plan your work to have a good job done by the deadline.
If you are going to hand a report in after the deadline, you must ask your supervisor's permission first and give the reason for the lateness.
Note: In many cases, a longer paper not only requires more writing, but also has more complexity. A 100-page paper is often four times the work of a 50-page paper because it is not only double the length but also double the total complexity.
Major projects comprise a series of written reports for each unit. Students hand reports in to assessors one unit at a time according to the guidelines above.
When the assessor has approved them all, collate and present them exactly the same as a thesis. The standard of writing, layout, and typing is very high.
The steps are described in the materials "From project to portfolio" and "From project to thesis"
Oral questioning: what is it?
Oral questioning is simply an oral exam. It's most useful as an assessment method when questions are open-ended, the assessment needs to address your unique ministry situation, and there is no value in getting you to write it all down.
How to prepare
- Gather up the documents relevant to what you will be assessed on.
- Work with your assessor to set up a time and place.
- If you can, show your assessor around your place of ministry and explain how it works.
- Try not to be nervous. Get a good night's sleep the night before.
- Nobody really likes being assessed.
At the interview
The interview will probably take the following form:
- Describe what you have been doing. You might find a story easier to tell.
- Your assessor will most likely ask the following kinds of questions:
- why you did it the way you did.
- what major decisions you needed to make.
- what kinds of things could have gone wrong.
- the main principles that guided you.
- how you evaluate what you have done.
- in what situations you would do it differently and why.
Note: the interviewer will probably use follow-up questions to get you to explain anything so far unclear.
If you know what to do but have never actually done something that is required, you might have knowledge but are not yet competent at the ministry skill.