Mock exams, why are they important? ‘Tis the season of mock exams. As the end of the year draws closer, and we speed towards Christmas, we are all aware of the need to get things done – whether that is Christmas shopping, or juggling our work so that we can finally shut down emails and truly enjoy some annual leave. Many of us are guilty of avoidance tactics, and ‘finding anything to do other than what really does need to be done’ when deadlines loom.
Procrastination is putting something off until later. Figures quoted in an article called “The Psychology of Procrastination” on the website www.verywellmind.com show that between 80-95% of college students procrastinated on a regular basis when it comes to completing school work. Mock exams motivate students to start revising, with the hope that they jump-start them into continue working until the real exams in the summer.
November through to February is the time for GCSE and A level mock exams. Some schools choose to start early with November mocks for their GCSE students. This lucky (or unlucky) cohort will receive their results before the Christmas holiday, making it a great holiday for some, but maybe not for others. Other schools will timetable them in December with the results coming in the new year. This can be kinder for students, but not necessarily for teachers who have to do the marking. Then there are those schools who choose to schedule them in January and use the Christmas holidays as a time to revise. Again, this might seem a bit hard on some students, but for others who prefer to revise at home, the holiday provides the perfect opportunity for some relaxing revision space away from the pressures of the school day.
When schools timetable their mock exams varies considerably. It is a result of balancing out several factors including the benefit to the Year 11 or Year 13 cohort with the loss of valuable teaching time. The fact that schools lose so much curriculum time, but can go on to have a second set too, show just how important they are.
Mock exams are important because they reveal to students what they do know and understand. However, even more important than this, is that they highlight what students do NOT know and understand. It is the content that they still have to learn that is vital to making progress between the mock and the ‘real thing’.
Here are some further reasons why they are just so important and why students should make the most of them.
- Almost as important as the content is the technique of answering questions. Mock exams provide an opportunity to test what type of questions they are answering well and what type of questions they still need to practise in order to gain more marks.
- Mock exams provide students with an opportunity to practise sitting exams in formal situations. They replicate the exact procedures of the summer exams, allowing students to practise with invigilators, adrenaline flowing, and the clock ticking away. It is only by doing this that they will know how to cope under this pressure.
- Effective revision techniques are crucial in committing content to memory for retrieval in an exam. Mock exams allow students to see if the way they revise works in an exam situation. If revision techniques are working, they can continue, happy in the knowledge that they have tested them out. If they have not worked, there is still time to change and find another method that is more effective.
Mock exams are the dress rehearsal for the real exams in the summer, the exams that count. However, the wonderful difference with this dress rehearsal, is that they are not the day before or even the week before, but several months before. There is still plenty of time to put everything that they have learned from the process into place for the exams that truly matter in May and June. However, these lessons can only be learned, if they stop procrastinating, and start studying and revising.