How to effectively write (and pass) an ILM assignment

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ILM courses and qualifications are broken down into units and learning outcomes. There’s an assessment for every unit and you must pass all of them to achieve your ILM.

Key points

  • Every ILM course will ask you to complete one or more assignments. Usually, they will be long-form essays
  • The questions ask for more sophisticated insights and depths of detail as you progress through the Levels of ILM
  • The assignments exist to prove you understand the learning outcomes. Stick closely to the assessment criteria to make sure you answer the question fully

What is an ILM assignment?

The ILM assignment is a work-related test in the form of an essay question.

It’s an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you understand what’s been taught and you can apply the principles within it correctly.

There will be a suggested word count and it’s usually in the 1,000s.

It’s quite daunting. Most people studying for an ILM Award or certification don’t write a great number of words regularly. You probably haven’t been in school or college for some time and your ability to write long assignments or essays has dwindled over time.

However, your trainer will make sure the syllabus is firmly and clearly in your mind before you tackle an assignment.

How to pass the assignment

At the heart of every unit is a learning outcome. You’ll pass every assignment if you show the assessor you’ve grasped the content and context of the learning outcome.

For example, if you’re asked ‘explain how to agree on realistic targets’, your essay will show off your understanding of underperformance in the workplace and your ability to manage your employee’s performance.

If you engaged with the syllabus and visualise the principles working in the real world, you realise that it’s a detailed process and by no means a straightforward, 200-word answer. it takes into consideration:

  • Policies and procedure
  • The process of identifying problems
  • How you’d tackle the issue and why you need to
  • Agree on a course of action
  • Assign responsibility
  • Plan how to motivate, support and monitor

That level of detail will give you full marks and it’s all listed in the assessment criteria, which is available for you to use.

Leadership pushed to the limit

The skills our apprentices learn on a Leadership & Management course can prepare them for almost anything.

Listen to our ILM Level 5 delegate Jamie Davies, talk to us about flexing his leadership muscles in the Jordanian desert, during his time as a recruit on SAS: Who Dares Wins.

Are all assignments the same?


ILM sets its own assignments, so you may have one of its tasks to complete.

However, it also gives training centres the flexibility to create or adapt their own assignments. The assignment you’re set may have been tailored to a particular group of learners or been tweaked to keep the assignment in the context of your course.

But even though the questions can be revised by the training centre, your learning outcomes are set in stone. That means the assessment criteria and what you need to prove you’ve understood for that unit, doesn’t change.

ILM assignment example questions

The question will always be relevant to what you’ve covered in the previous unit with your trainer and will always be work-based. These are example questions from ILM:

  • How would you identify timescales priorities and financial resources?
  • What are the responsibilities of the employer regarding workplace safety?
  • What are the key features of effective partnership working?
  • Outline the benefits of effective team working
  • Explain the characteristics of different business markets
  • Analyse how leadership and management theories may be applied
  • Describe the importance of checking the accuracy and currency of information to be communicated
  • Describe constraints on the ability to amend priorities and plans
  • Describe an organisation’s principles of conduct and codes of practice
  • Explain the importance of warning colleagues of problems and changes that may affect them

How to approach the assignment

There’s no science to writing an assignment. In our experience, most assignments that fall short of the mark do so because they don’t respond to what the question or criteria require.

It’s often the first word in the question that will trip you up – it’s the verb.

‘Describe’, ‘explain’, ‘list’, ‘analyse’, ‘discuss’ and ‘outline’ are all asking for different breadths and depths of information. If you get midway through your essay and you know the syllabus inside out, but you’re still struggling, check the verb in the question.

There’s a simple three-step technique, which applied to each assignment will satisfy that requirement.

1. Read the question
2. Respond to the question
3. Check if you have fully answered the question


Keep a watchful eye on the verbs. There’s a big difference between ‘list several management theories’ and ‘describe several management theories’. As you progress through the levels, the verb in the question asks more from you. For example, verbs like ‘analyse’ appear as you become a more sophisticated manager. At this level of ILM, you’re learning how to manage larger teams, or whole departments or organisations.

ILM has a verb glossary for you to explore.

How to structure your answers

Follow the structure of the ILM assessment criteria – that’s what it’s there for!


Within the assignment paper, the ILM units are clearly laid out with the required outcomes for each section. For example:

  • Section 1. Evaluate own ability to fulfil key responsibilities of leadership role
  • Section 2. Evaluate own awareness of emotions in shaping performance
  • Section 3. Evaluate own ability to set direction and gain commitment

Use these unit titles as headings in your assignment.

Don’t waste time creating new headings because you’ll confuse yourself and more importantly, the person who has to read, mark and assess it.

What should be in each answer?

In terms of content flow– it should be logical so for section 1 above we might:

Section 1. Evaluate own ability to fulfil the key responsibilities of a leadership role.

The theory you want to assess yourself against

  • What the theory says
  • Your interpretation of what it means
  • References of sources used

A little background

  • What are the key responsibilities of the leadership role in your workplace?
  • Where you work & what you do (or are supposed to do)

Your ability

  • Self-assessment
  • Appraisal forms
  • Workplace feedback processes

The example of how it has applied in your work

  • What happened if successful or what could you have done differently to affect a different result?
  • Then a judgement – how effective are you at fulfilling the key responsibilities of a leadership role?

Link to your personal development plan or CPD Log

  • What are you going to do to get better?

Easy as pie! Keep it simple, keep it structured and you’ll pass in a heartbeat!

Need to develop your Leadership and Management skills?

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Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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