I did rubbish in my mocks – am I doomed?

Bad result

Not at all, you've got this!

You’re definitely not doomed because you didn’t get the grades you want in your mock exams.

While it’s good to practise past papers in exam conditions, don’t forget that you haven’t even learnt the entire specification yet. How can you be expected to smash an exam when you haven’t finished the course?

But if you want to make the most of a less-than-perfect mock experience, we’ve got some tips to help you improve your grades.

Use your result as a benchmark

Each mock grade gives you a starting point to help you with your revision for the real exams. Your teacher may not have been generous, but they will have been using a mark scheme so your result should reflect what an examiner would give you.

Ask yourself some key questions, like: 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 my approach to revision?

Be honest with yourself about what your next steps should be.

Don’t be disheartened, focus your revision strategically, do wider reading, slay your exams!

young man working at desk

Read your answers and the teacher’s comments

This might be painful, but it's a must. Look over your answer for each question. Does it make sense? Does it answer the question? How could it be improved?

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

Going over your mocks and revisiting the areas you underperformed in will improve your knowledge by exam season, so I wouldn't fret about failing them.

Know Your Enemy

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?

Use TSR's free study resources to help you ace your exams.

Hard work > Talent. You can achieve the grades that you want if you really want it. Never give up!

students in an exam hall

Identify the ‘quick wins’

These are the basic errors that are easy to put right. A classic one is not finishing the paper, as this means not giving yourself the opportunity of achieving a whole chunk of marks.

Another common mistake is failing to answer the actual question. Mark schemes are based around the exact wording of questions, so you won’t get top marks if you simply write everything you know about something – you have to address the exact wording of the question and apply your knowledge to it.

An exam is a game. My advice is to memorise the rule book and the scoring system (i.e. the mark schemes).

Another analogy: It's like blindfolded darts. Understanding the mark scheme is taking the blindfold off so you know what you have to hit.


Do it again

Ouch! This is probably the last thing you want to do. but just think how helpful it could be to have another go at the paper. You can find more old papers in our bank of past papers.

This time, eliminate any mistakes and get in all the detail you need when answering questions. 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...

Mocks really aren't representative of what results you might possibly achieve. You have plenty of time to work hard, but make sure you keep at it. Good luck!

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