Tips and Tricks from Former UCAs

We reached out to our returning UCAs and asked them to share their advice on how to be a successful UCA, based on their experiences, for new hires and other UCAs. We received great responses that covered various aspects of working as a UCA, and we’re excited to share their insights with you! (Responses are paraphrased.)


  • Efficient Grading 
    • Use Gradescope’s shortcut buttons for streamlined grading.
    • Reviewing slides and course material related to questions makes grading easier.
  • Writing Rubrics
    • Review multiple submissions to understand how students answer questions before writing the rubric (if applicable) or assigning grades.
    • Adapt grading strategies based on question difficulty. Awarding points for correct ideas (positive grading) is often less discouraging and is suitable for challenging questions, while deducting points for incorrect arguments (negative scoring) may work better for easy questions.
    • Finalize the rubric before beginning the grading process.
    • Keep the rubric readily visible while grading for consistency and efficiency.
  • Collaborating with Other UCAs
    • When multiple UCAs grade the same question, communication is vital for consistency, particularly for errors not covered in the rubric.
  • Comments and Feedback
    • For subjective questions, leave comments to provide feedback. Students will appreciate them, even if they are simple words of encouragement.
  • Timely Grading
    • Start grading on time, and avoid leaving it until the last minute. It’s important to deliver feedback to students in a timely manner.
    • Give yourself enough time to grade lengthy assignments.

Office Hours 

  • Office Hours Preparation
    • Bring work that can be easily paused in case of no visitors, but don’t bank on having free time.
    • Reviewing homework and labs will better prepare you for office hours. It also lets you assess the content difficulty and offer student perspectives to instructors.
    • Make a list of expected questions.
    • Stay on top of class material and assignment deadlines.
    • Post on class forums (Piazza, Campuswire, etc.) to encourage attendance and advertise virtual office hours.
  • Interaction with Students
    • Remain calm and understanding when students ask questions, considering their perspectives.
    • Before helping with a problem, allow the student to articulate their confusion and thought process. Often, simply describing the issue sheds light on how to approach the problem.
    • Understand students’ concept comprehension before addressing their issues.
    • Use examples and visual aids for effective communication.
    • Helping someone does not always mean answering questions directly. It can be more beneficial to guide the students towards finding the answer themselves. Focus on clarifying material over giving direct answers.
    • During your explanations, check in with students and ask if they are clear to students or if they’d like further clarification; do not assume understanding.
    • Don’t be afraid to be honest about your own knowledge and abilities. It’s better to admit that you’re unsure how to answer a question than to provide a wrong answer.
  • Time Management
    • Manage time effectively during office hours and seek help from other staff if needed.
    • Utilize class forums or emails to provide follow-ups in case the office hour time ends before addressing a student’s question.

Staff Communications

  • Effective Communication
    • Communicate openly when you lack time for tasks.
    • Don’t hesitate to ask fellow UCAs or TAs for help or guidance; teamwork is important.
    • Maintain transparency with students and professors about your abilities.
    • Join all communication channels to avoid issues.
  • Voice Your Opinions
    • Be honest about your UCA work and offer opinions for improvements on course material or logistics.
  • Professionalism
    • Demonstrate politeness and punctuality in interactions.
    • Be responsive and plan ahead to manage tasks effectively.


  • Always be curious to seek knowledge and opportunities. Initiative leads to discovering new passions, enhancing problem-solving skills, and finding creative solutions.
  • Download mobile apps for class forums and staff communication and turn on notifications.
  • Be a mentor to cares.
  • Time management is a significant learning experience for UCAs. Learn from peer UCAs, TAs, and professors.
  • Own the course. Develop the mindset of an instructor rather than just a student. This perspective brings more rewarding experiences and proactive problem-solving.
  • Remember to enjoy the journey and be yourself!