7 Reasons Why Mock Exams are Super-Important

Mocks linger in this strange ethereal realm between importance and neglect in a student's mind. But over the last few years, the importance of mock exams has grown significantly after the cancellation of GCSEs and A-Levels.

Mock exams are used in education for many different reasons. A mock exam is an assessment of student knowledge, usually set by a teacher, designed to be similar in difficulty and format to the form of assessment that it is preparing you for. Usually, they go hand-in-hand with past papers, which gives students the opportunity to practise the skill required for exam techniques as well as core components of the subject itself.

However, mock exams can be used for many different purposes to help students not only perform well in their exams but also as a revision aid to ensure they are familiar with the questions and format of the exam.

1. An Idea of What to Expect on 'Exam Day'

One reason why mock exams are important is that they give you an opportunity to practise what will happen on exam day without actually having it count towards your final grade. At least, that's what it used to be like. Unfortunately, in the uncertain times that we now face, the latest mock exam that you prepare for may actually contribute to your final grade should exams be cancelled again.

Mocks really are beneficial in that they allow you to become comfortable with the exam conditions. One example of this is the difference between at home and in school exams, which can be quite jarring if not prepared properly. This contributes to mental preparation for the big day, which is key to being at your best on exam day.

Professional sports players recognise visualisation as one of the best techniques at their disposal when mentally preparing for a competition. Exams are no different, if you can visualise that exam hall and succeeding on the paper, then your confidence levels will rise and you will feel more prepared.

2. Analyse Prep & Performance

Mocks will provide you with a reality check on your "real-world" performance. There are many students who struggle in a classroom setting but thrive in an exam hall and vice versa. Participating in a mock exam can help you know your current strengths, weaknesses and areas that you should target for revision. One student may decide to focus on the weak parts of the syllabus whilst another may look to capitalise on the strongest parts and earn full marks from those questions. Everyone is unique in their approach.

Mocks can also be used as a way of evaluating how well you are currently doing as a student not just from a quantitative POV By asking the teacher to give you their opinion on your performance, or by referring to past papers for some constructive feedback, you can gain an insight into what areas of the subject you find difficult and need some more work on.

Mocks provide a realistic view of your strengths and weaknesses on topics, which is invaluable information to help you focus your future revision on areas of weakness. For example, if you bombed a specific section of your Maths exam, you can find a GCSE Maths tutor ahead of your real exam to work through your weaknesses with targeted support.

3. Exam Time Management Skills

Many students enter higher education with poor time management skills, especially in the case of timed exams. A mock exam will give you the opportunity to practise these skills and become better equipped for that final push into University. 

Mock exams help students learn how to manage their time efficiently by giving them a taste of what will happen on exam day and getting them to work out the logistics of managing the time they have effectively. 

If, like many others, you procrastinate and putting in the hours of revision isn’t your strongest suit - consider using a tried and tested time-management method, like the pomodoro technique to help you gain momentum and discipline yourself from distractions.

The best way to study is more study…but motivation is the driving force.

Whilst textbooks are an effective resource for revision, nothing helps more than actually revising with timed past papers and a closed book environment. We become better at exam questions every time we practise them with our tuition teacher because these questions always follow a distinct pattern.

It's like learning to ride a bike; you fall off doing something new but eventually get better and better until it becomes second nature. Mock exams allow us to practise the skills that we learn in tuition and cement them into memory by consolidating tuition with past paper questions.

4. Calm Pre-exam Nerves

Mocks have the placebo effect. By taking a mock exam, you can feel more confident in your abilities and experience a real-world scenario that prepares you for the pressure of an exam hall. This is especially important when it comes to letting go of "imposter syndrome" where students do not believe they are smart enough to succeed in their exams.

These feelings can become crippling leading to poor performance and anxiety surrounding exam day.

Mock exams help you get into the right frame of mind for exam success, even if they aren't counted towards your final grade. They are a great way to motivate yourself and practise the skills required in an exam setting without overloading yourself with revision.

5. Track Progress Throughout Each Term

Keeping eyes on your scores across the term to be able to track your progress is pivotal to helping you evaluate your current standing and the progress that is yet to be made to reach the attainment levels you are looking for. 

If you have different strategies for each mock you do, it can also help you track your performance for each of those strategies to know which is best to implement in the exam hall in June.

It's also important to see your scores in order to ensure that tuition is working in accordance with the mock exams you are taking. If there is a disparity between what you achieve in class, in tuition sessions and what you achieve on your mock exams, it can be indicative of various reasons; one of which may be inaccuracies surrounding the tuition you receive if it is not from qualified UK tutors.

Research suggests that 75% of students consider themselves to be procrastinators, while 50% consider themselves to regularly procrastinate and even seek it out to avoid the work they have tasked themselves or have been set. It is an interesting aspect of psychology that we cover in another blog.

The further away an event is, the less impact it has on decision making usually to the detriment of those making the decision. During the summer, exams often feel like they are twirling around in some distant universe. That is until the new year rolls around, Han tells Chewie to punch it, then they are upon us in a flash!

6. Improving Your Knowledge Base

Testing yourself is an effective way to see how much knowledge you have retained over the course of the syllabus. It also gives you an idea of what areas you are struggling in and allows tutors to pinpoint other skills that need improving outside of what has been covered already in the classroom.

Feedback, as you get from mock exams, helps you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Plan what you need to study to ensure you cover weaknesses sufficiently in time for the final exam. This video describes how to make a retrospective revision timetable

They are a great way to organise each topic in terms of how much you have revised and how much you need to do. Using your list of weaker topics plan a timetable for each subject. You can input your review of your mock exam at a starting point with your traffic light data. You can do this with your teacher to make sure they agree with your revision plan. Remember feedback is your friend!

Mock exams are an excellent way to prepare for your final exam in June, especially if you need to give yourself several months of tuition before this.

The trick with mock exams and past papers is to take them earlier rather than later! If you leave it until near the end of term, the material may have been removed from the syllabus or be unmanageable due to other workloads. This is where online tutoring can come in clutch. Sitting down with a tutor one to one and discussing areas of weakness and strength, opening up to topics that need refining and having someone carefully curate a study plan for you to ace your exams is ridiculously under-appreciated.

Combining a retrospective revision timetable with flexible, one-off tuition sessions can be a great way to lower the cost of tuition. By finding out which topics you're the weakest in, you can contact a tutor and specifically ask them to work through your weakest topics with you, to bring you into the green.

In the example above, this means the student could reach out to a A-Level Chemistry tutor on Sherpa to ask them to cover Organic Synthesis and Transition Elements in targeted 1:1 sessions. As they progress through the year, they can arrange more flexible online lessons to cover topics of weakness. This ensures that you're using precious 1:1 tuition time as effectively as possible.

7. Predicted Grades

UCAS still uses predicted grades to inform universities which students to offer places to and they are also used for moving into further education like sixth form college.

Predicted grades are usually given by your teachers or another respected qualified educator. They take into account your academic trajectory from all the way through secondary school - not just the last few assessments.

This can either be a blessing or a curse! If you show the potential to your teachers consistently, even a slight dip in performance in mocks can equate to no change in predicted grades. However, if you tend to study quite late in the year and do not put in the effort with smaller assessments and homework - you can miss out on a lot of opportunities to progress in education.

At GCSE, mocks are less important for predicted grades - but they are great exam experience that should be treated as if they are the final exam. Trust me - it’s worth it! They usually take place in the Summer term in Year 10 and the Autumn term in Year 11. 

At AS and A-level, you have to assume every test is going to count towards your predicted grade. There will usually be mocks in Autumn and Summer terms in Year 12 and only Winter exams in Year 13. 

You don’t want to give universities any reason to believe you are not capable of getting the mark you deserve - so alongside great exam experience, these can really impact who you get a conditional offer (pending specific grades) from when it comes to applying. 

If you do well enough over the last few years at school, universities may give you an unconditional offer which means that, within reason, getting the highest grades is not necessary - but these are extremely rare.

So, What if You Fail?

If you are worried about what happens if you get disappointing grades in your mocks, check out our other blog on how to brush yourself off and get back on that proverbial horse! 

There is still plenty of time to turn your fortunes around and improve your grade predictions and prepare for the final exams. 

If this sounds like you, consider finding an online tutor to help identify the areas that cause you problems so you can tackle them together and in your own studies.

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James Gurnett

5th January

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