Year 11 start mock exams in a week’s time. In late February it’s the turn of the Lower and Upper Sixth. We devote a lot of time to preparation, sitting, marking and reviewing mock exams yet they are quickly dismissed as simply a practice run when there’s really much more to them that that.

Cyclic Culture

The School year is cyclical and as it progresses there is a change of emphasis. As New Year morphs into Spring, priorities shift towards exams and an academic surge is essential. There is no doubt that Mocks create anxiety and this changes the mood of the School. A controlled amount of stress is a good thing but one cannot sustain the pressure for too long. December is too early, whilst early January simply highlights which pupils revise over Christmas. February presents the ideal time in the build up to public exams in May.

Changing working habits

Mocks are the start of Sixth Form working practices. Whilst GCSE requires learning and application, A levels require much more initiative. (see: http://athinkinghead.blogspot.co.uk/2013_09_01_archive.html ) Mock exams and the preparation they demand are the first step in that direction. Pupils who get that right have a head start in the A level race.

Dealing with doubt

There will be gaps between results and expectations. Sometimes they may be quite large. Not surprisingly, lots of myths have grown up, “everyone does one grade better in the real thing” is common. Unfortunately statistics don’t always lie and they don’t support that theory.  

What they do show is that significant improvement is possible when pupils change their working habits dramatically. It’s an important lesson for all walks of life – if you keep doing the same thing, you will get the same results.

Exam burnout

It is extraordinary how long some schools take over mock exams in an attempt to create a balanced timetable for all. Unfortunately, individual schedules in May and June aren’t like that. It’s not uncommon to have two exams in a day and in the peak weeks, most pupils will have eight exams a week. Constant pressure is a feature of the exam season and mocks provide an insight into that. Sleep, exercise and diet are important.

Revise – Reflect – Review

So what is the most important part of Mocks? Taking exams is the obvious focus and receiving results the critical moment. Wise pupils will see that hand-back lessons are more important than anything else. They may be boring, but they contain the key to slipping through the next grade boundary.

Mock exams aren’t the real thing, but the lessons they offer are.

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