How Seriously Should You Take Mock Exams?
Mock exam season is upon us and with it come the inevitable debates over how useful they really are as a form of assessment. They don’t count towards your final grade and yet schools repeatedly impress upon students the importance of taking them (almost) as seriously as any other exam. Why? Are mocks just another point of stress that is ultimately meaningless and best ignored?
In 2020 covid put the spotlight on mock exams in a way that was pretty confronting. The pandemic crept up on us in March, over half way through the school year, meaning that students were not able to sit their summer exams and instead received calculated grades, in which mock results from the pre-pandemic days played a significant role. This showed us that, even in covid-free times, we mustn’t underestimate the significance of these formative assessments; you never know what might happen to push them over the edge into the summative zone.
But beyond the possibility that a crouching global disaster could unexpectedly result in mocks becoming schools’ principal method of assessment, there are a plethora of other reasons why students should think twice before dismissing these exams.
It’s no secret that exams are stressful. When you’re battling the pumping adrenaline and catastrophic thoughts racing around your head, it can be extra hard to concentrate on the questions in front of you. It’s the ultimate catch-22: when there’s pressure on you to perform, the nerves inevitably kick in and often prevent you from performing as well as you could.
But the more practice you have, the better you will get at overcoming these symptoms. The all-important dry run that mocks provide is sure to make the real exams far less daunting, allowing you to enter that exam hall with a cool head and a clear mind.
Identifying strengths and weaknesses
Mocks are an excellent opportunity to identify the areas you may need to work on before the exams proper. You may be thinking ‘I already know what I’m struggling with - I don’t need exams to show me’ but you’d be surprised how frequently students fail to successfully self-diagnose without the help of exams.
You might think you have a solid understanding of your academic strengths and weaknesses, but exams constitute a very specific set of circumstances and students often respond to timed conditions in unpredictable ways. Perhaps you have a firm grasp of the material you’re studying, but when it comes to writing a whole essay in the space of an hour, you’re stumped. Mocks can help you identify these types of problems and give you the chance to practice and improve before the real thing.
Use for teachers
Sometimes you might need a bit of help using the mocks for the above diagnostic purposes. Perhaps you came out of your mock exam thinking it had gone well but then received a lower grade than you were expecting. It’s completely normal to think ‘what went wrong?’ Enter your teacher.
Teachers have years of experience interpreting mocks and using them to identify the areas in which students may need some extra support. So, they will likely be able to use your results as tools in a way that you may struggle to. Flagging up problems you’re having, but which you may have trouble articulating, to teachers is invaluable and will help enormously in the run-up to exam season.
Applying to university is a stressful time. With competition for places higher than ever, so much can feel out of your control. Your Year 13 mocks, however, are an exception to this. While you can never be sure what grade your teacher will predict you, how you perform in your mocks will have an enormous impact in this area. And, as we know, predicted grades have a substantial role to play in university entry. So your mock results could mean the difference between being accepted or rejected by your dream university.
Make the most of your mocks!
So, instead of seeing mocks as just another pesky stumbling block (or a backstop in the event of a return to home learning), we recommend you think of them as an opportunity. Even if you don’t end up getting the grades you’d hoped for, they, luckily, don’t count towards your final result. And when you think about it, that ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ moment might just be exactly what you need to start knuckling down before summer rolls around. You still have a whole term to turn it all around before the real exams; use your mocks to make sure you don’t waste this time. Good luck!