How To Make The Most Out Of Practice Assessments
Students of all ages studying for an exam can find practice assessments one of the most effective ways to prepare. Whether you are working towards your 11-plus exams, GCSEs, A-levels or degree, read about why practice tests are so important, what you can learn from them, and our top strategies that will help you be fully prepared for the real thing.
Which practice test should I choose?
Schools offer GCSE and A-level students mock exams to help them with their studies, strategise revision and predict final grades. The mocks are usually the most recent practice exam paper that isn’t offered on the exam board's website. Some 11-plus students can also be given a mock exam to help them prepare.
For most university courses in the UK, your first year doesn’t count towards your final marks. This is so students can adjust to their new work schedule, use constructive feedback to help them with their final years, and try out different strategies without worrying about the impact on their grades. Most university students can also do a mock paper before their final exams.
Familiarise yourself with the exam
Before starting your practice papers, make sure you understand the format of the exam, so you don’t waste time not understanding how to answer the questions. Depending on your subject and level, you could have more essay-based questions or multiple choice ones and you need to know the amount of time you should be spending on each section. This can normally be worked out by the number of marks given throughout the paper. The best exam techniques can vary depending on the type of paper, so familiarise yourself with this so you know what to do ahead of time.
Work under test conditions
Creating a test environment to practise in will allow you to prepare well for your real exam and help reduce anxiety around it. This is a good chance for you to practise time management as well as have an accurate representation of what stage you are at without relying on your notes and textbook. Don’t try this out in a busy place full of distractions. Instead, choose a quiet space in your home or go to a library to practise the test like it would be in real time.
Feedback from teachers, tutors, parents or other students, will help you make the best next steps. The mock exams are an excellent way to get constructive feedback from your teachers, and our tutors can use your practice exam results to address specific weak areas for you to progress. If you are feeling unsure about the stage you are at, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to your friends about how they are feeling after their results and create a good support system around yourself. Remember these are not your final results, and there is still lots of time to improve!
Pay attention to the mark scheme
The mark scheme is your friend when it comes to practice tests. While for anxiety’s sake (and if you tend to add points in your favour) you should get another person to mark your paper first. You should then, however, run through the mark scheme yourself, so you can see how the examiner views answers and where extra marks may be added for certain answers. This is a smart way for you to learn and see how you can improve for your next test.
Work outside the box
Practice exams are a great way for you to review any unfamiliar material. If you found certain questions harder than others you now have a good idea of what your next steps should be. Tests however do change each year, so make sure you are up-to-date on what is specified for you to learn on your syllabus. Another useful part of learning through practice exams is that you can try out new test-taking strategies as well as experiment with your revision techniques, to find out what’s most effective for you. With each practice test, you will be able to learn from mistakes and try new approaches to see what gets you better results.
There is a common misconception among students that practice assessments are too stressful to be taken seriously. However, with the tips above, you will be able to utilise practice tests to take advantage of them and reduce anxiety in the interim. Good luck!