If you’re in your senior years of high school, you’ll be well-acquainted with sitting mock exams. These are a practice set of exams which many schools will run internally and are designed to test your ability to perform in your actual external exams a couple of months later.
Sometimes, it can seem like there’s no need to take mock exams too seriously (after all, surely they’re called ‘mock’ exams for a reason, right?). Well, it may be true that these exams won’t count towards your final course grade. However, mock exams give you the best opportunity you’ll get during your school year to practise for the real thing, so it’s well worth putting in some quality time to prepare to sit them.
Plus – and some teachers will take pains to remind you of this – if you do get sick or are unable to sit your external exams, you may end up with a grade derived from your mock exams. Of course, nobody wants this to happen, but if you do end up in this unfortunate situation, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you put effort into your mocks!
With that being said, how do you make the most of the opportunities that your mock exams provide? Here’s how we recommend approaching them.
Treat your mock exams like they’re the real deal.
Your mocks are the best shot you’ll get at replicating the exam conditions you’ll find yourself under at the end of the year. Sitting practice tests at home is great as well, but this typically doesn’t put you in the same state of mind you get when you walk into an exam room. It’s the same reason why actors have dress rehearsals before big performances: when you look the part, you’ll do it right! Your mocks are essentially a dress rehearsal for your real exams, so make the most of the opportunity and give them a good shot.
If you’re prone to stressing out in high-pressure situations, you can take this chance to try out some strategies for managing your nerves. Perhaps staying hydrated and getting a good night’s sleep before your exam is all you need. Or, perhaps waking up early to go over some notes on the day of your exam is a better strategy so that you can walk into the room with confidence. There are plenty of tactics you can use; your mocks give you a great opportunity to try a few and see which work for you.
Focus on the areas you’re less comfortable with.
By the time mock exams roll around, you’ve probably got a pretty good overview of what will be tested in each subject. This can mean it’s a good opportunity to start looking over each subject’s syllabus as a whole and to make note of areas where your weaknesses lie.
We know: it’s hard work to teach yourself topics that you’ve already been through in class and still don’t quite understand! Remember, your teachers will usually be happy to help once you’ve started to make the effort yourself, so lean on them where you can. And, although it’s more difficult and frustrating than practising questions in areas you already understand, this approach will improve your marks quickly, so you’ll start to see your work pay off.
If you put in this sort of effort for your mock exams, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable when you’re preparing for your externals, because you’ll have plugged the main gaps in your knowledge and can spend your time tweaking and refining your ability.
Use your results to review the gaps in your knowledge.
The process doesn’t stop when you’re done with your last mock exam – in fact, it’s only the beginning! It’s critical to review the results from your mocks to make sure that you’re learning from your mistakes and can target areas of weakness. If you don’t go through this reflection process, you’re not getting the full value out of the hard work you’ve put into preparing for your mocks.
If you can, make sure you get a copy of your exam scripts back from your teachers. While you’re doing so, you can also ask them about how they think you can improve your work. This will give you a good indication of where to focus your time and efforts in preparation for the next set of exams. In these areas where you didn’t do so well, go back to the theory and ask yourself whether you fully understand the material. A methodical approach such as this one helps to break down the subject into manageable chunks and will put you in a great spot for your external exams.
Let’s face it: studying for exams can get draining, particularly when you give it your all. This means that it’s important to keep tabs on how much effort you’re putting in for mocks. When athletes prepare for the Olympics, they time the intensity of their training so that they ‘peak’ at just the right time. In the same way, you want to avoid working so hard for your mock exams that you don’t have the energy to continue studying for your real exams.
Generally, your mock exams will take place while you’re still at school, so it’s important to factor in time for classes and extracurricular activities around your study. Usually, trying to fit in a little bit of study every day is the best approach. It’s also important to give yourself a break in between finishing your mocks and starting preparation for your external exams, to avoid burnout. By looking after yourself, you’ll make sure that you can go the distance and perform to the best of your ability in the exams that count!
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