What's the point of mock exams?

The mock exams are coming!


"No one does any revision." "Everyone does badly." "They’re a waste of time." 

Are mock exams just an excuse for giving everyone a kick up the bum and forcing them into frantic cramming? 

Actually, no. Here's how you can use your mock exams to unlock the top grades. 

There's no getting away from the fact that mocks are tough. 

You’re told to revise but teachers carry on setting regular homework regardless. To make it even worse, they haven’t even finished the specification. 

There are lots of (usually empty) threats about what’s going to happen if you do badly and then they make it a self-fulfilling prophecy by marking as meanly as Mr Burns on a bad day

It's not a very helpful process. But it doesn’t have to be a pointless one.

Here are five ways to use the results from your mock exams to help you get to the top grades in the real thing.

1. Use your result as a benchmark

Each mock result gives you a starting point to track improvement. Your teacher may not have been generous but they will have a mark scheme so marking should at least be in the right area. 

Ask yourself some key questions. What’s your target grade and how far is the mock result from this? How much improvement do you need to make? How much revision did you do for the mock and how much more can you do for the real thing? Do you need to change your approach to revision? Be honest with yourself about the task ahead. 

2. Read your answers and the teacher’s comments

This might be a painful process, but it needs to be done. Look at each question and read your answer. Does it make sense? Does it answer the question? How could it be better? 

Your teacher's notes should point out areas where you’ve done well (look for ticks, the occasional ‘good’) and also where you’ve got things a bit wrong, missed out key points or not shown enough of the skills the exam board want to see. 

3. Find the gaps in your knowledge and skills

Make a list of the topics you need to know more about. Your weaker areas will need more attention during revision than your ‘comfort zones’. Every exam requires students to show particular skills – what are the skills you need to show in each question? Have you shown them? How can you improve your mastery of these skills?  

4. Identify the ‘quick wins’

These are the basic errors that are easy to put right. A classic is not finishing the paper. This means you don’t give yourself the opportunity of achieving a whole chunk of marks. Another is failing to answer the actual question. Mark schemes are based around the exact wording of questions so you won’t get high marks if you write all you know about something – you have to address the exact wording of the question. 

5. Do it again

Ouch! Probably the last thing you want to do but just think how helpful it could be to have another go, this time eliminating the mistakes, answering the questions properly and getting in all the detail you need. You can mark it yourself using the mark scheme or ask your teacher if they’ll take another look. You should get a better result and feel much more motivated. What’s more, you’ve got some extra knowledge and have better exam technique. Maybe mocks aren’t such a waste of time after all... 

Have you started revising yet? Maybe you've had your mock exams already? How did they go? 

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