Mocks: what’s happening with GCSE, AS-level and A-level mock exams in 2021 and 2022?

student writing on mock exam paper

Here's how your mock exams might be different this year

There’s been a lot of exam disruption over the last couple of years, but the government has said that things should be back to – almost – normal for the 2022 exams.

While the summer exams are set to go ahead as they used to pre-pandemic, there will be some changes to make them fairer for students who may have missed a lot of school because of Covid closures.

These changes include things like telling students what topics the exams will cover in advance and letting them bring in supplementary materials that usually wouldn’t be allowed.

Most of the details of how the exams will be adjusted won’t be released until 7 February 2022, so your mocks might end up being a little different to the real thing.

This year’s mocks will also be unusual because you might be asked to sit up to three sets of mocks for each subject instead of just one, so they can act as a back-up plan just in case the summer exams do need to be cancelled and teachers have to provide students’ grades. 

Here’s everything we know so far about what’s happening with this year’s mock exams, to make sure you can get the most out of them.

students in exam hall writing exams

Are mock exams happening in 2021/22?

Yes, mock exams are happening this year – and you’ll probably be asked to take three sets of them. 

The dates of mock exams will vary depending on your school, but the exams regulator Ofqual has suggested that they should roughly run in November-December 2021, February-March 2022 and April-May 2022. 

Will mock exams in 2021/22 be more important than usual?

The plan is for summer exams to go ahead in 2022, so your mock exams should only be as important as they were pre-pandemic – that is, as a useful way for both you and your teacher to get an idea of where you need to improve before you sit the real thing in the summer.

To give a bit more background, in 2020 and 2021 all summer exams were cancelled because of Covid and students were given a teacher-assessed grade (TAG) instead. Teachers awarded these grades based on a range of information, including their students’ mock exam results.

The government has said that exams will be happening in 2022, so the likelihood is that you won’t get a TAG – however, it also confirmed that if the unexpected happens and exams are cancelled for a third year in a row, students will be given TAGs “similar to [those] used in summer 2021”.

student's hand writing exam

Will mock exams in 2021/22 be held in different conditions than usual?

It depends on how laid-back or strict your mocks have been in the past.

Ofqual has said that schools and colleges should assess students “under exam-like conditions wherever possible”.

This includes: not knowing the questions beforehand; making sure everyone in a school or college takes their mocks at the same time if possible; not being helped by your teacher during the exam; and taking the exam under timed conditions without your textbooks or revision notes to hand.

You should also be “told which parts of the subject content will be covered” in the mocks, but you won’t be told “the questions in advance or be able to predict the questions” from the information you’re given, Ofqual added.

However, if you’re taking a GCSE in maths, combined science or physics, you should be given the formulae or equation sheet that you will also have in the summer exams – as long as the mocks are happening after these sheets have been published.

Your teacher will tell you how your summer exams may be different to your mocks

The details of how the exams will be adapted will be released by 7 February 2022, so before then your teacher won’t be able to give you too many answers.

This means that your preparation for your mock exams may end up being slightly different to the real thing, if the mocks happen before the information is released.

Your teacher should let you know what kind of adaptations you can expect once the changes have all been confirmed.

The adaptations will vary depending on the subject and qualification you’re taking, but they could include any – or none – of the below:

  • You might be given a choice of topics
  • You might be given advance information about the focus of the exams
  • You might be given formulae or equation sheets
  • There might be adjustments made to practical assessments.

You can find out more about everything we know about the summer exams so far in this article on our sister site The Uni Guide.

Will I be able to retake my mocks if I do badly?

Officially, no – not to change your mark, at any rate.

According to the Ofqual guidance, “students should not be given the opportunity to repeat an assessment, for example to improve their mark in response to feedback”.

If your teacher says you can’t retake your mocks but you feel like you need more practice at taking exams, you could always use past papers to test where you’re improving and where you still need to do a bit more work.

You can find a huge selection past A-level and GCSE papers here.

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