Why should you care about mock exams?

Students sitting an exam

Here's how you can take control of your mock exams and use them to unlock the top grades

‘No one does any revision; everyone does badly; they’re a waste of time.’ Are mock exams just an excuse for teachers to give everyone a sharp kick up the bum? No, they're not.

Make no mistake – doing well in your mocks is tough. You’re told to revise but teachers carry on setting regular homework and 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 Meanie on a bad day. 

Not a very helpful process you might think. But it doesn’t have to be like this, and if you focus on your mocks now they can be a huge help in your exam preparation for the summer.

Here are five ways to use mock exams to help you get to the top grades.

1. Use your mock results as a benchmark

Your mock result gives you a starting point to track your own 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 the following questions:

  • What’s your target grade?
  • 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?
  • 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 bit's painful, 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? What has the teacher written?

Your teacher should have pointed 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.

student writing revision notes

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. Fall into this trap and straight away you've made it impossible to get a whole chunk of the paper's 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 the paper 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 have 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.

Follow the steps above and your mocks will help you understand much more about how you can prepare for the summer's exams. Maybe they're not such a waste of time, after all.

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