When I was at school, mock exams didn’t seem all that important and I was utterly confused about why my teachers made such a big deal about them. Not until later did I realize how much I benefited from taking them and studying for them seriously. When I got to the real summer exams, I found I already had a set of well organized revision notes, a back-log of subject knowledge and that the exam papers were much less scary having already sat them once so I was free to just get on and do my best.
Why do mock exams matter?
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect! Exams can be really scary things and by having a go earlier on in the year it is a great way to get used to the specifics of how the exam looks – such as the layout, the timing allowed and how the questions are likely to be broken down. Just the process of familiarizing yourself with this in an actual exam setting can be super useful as you can start to understand more clearly what the examiner is looking for and how to approach the paper.
My old history teacher used to repeatedly tell us earlier in the year to start putting together a folder of revision notes. He was so right to do so. Revision is an entire skill in itself and it’s certainly not easy. Being able to learn, recall and apply information is a skill that will help you enormously in your exams but you need to actually know it to start with. Revision practice is great as you can explore in a more relaxed manner what does and does not work for you – how do you best learn and remember? There are all sorts of different approaches that could help you but you need to take the time to properly explore them in order to figure this out. Working with a private tutor can be helpful at this stage as they can help you to explore your learning styles and the approaches that are likely to work best in in your particular situation.
Knowing your weaknesses
It can feel scary to confront your weaknesses but remember that we all have them. Also, it is much better to know what these are earlier in the year than a day before the summer exam! By taking mock exams seriously and putting in the time to plan, revise and take them, you will inevitably find out areas that need a little more understanding and work. This is all a natural part of the learning and assessment process and needn’t feel daunting with the right help and support.
So, now we know why mock exams are so important, how is it best to approach them? This is where basic study skills come into play, along with organizational skills. Below is a list of key ways to help you to do your very best first time round, so that when you come to sit the real summer exams you can really nail them!
How to excel at Mock exams
Take them seriously
As we’ve already established, take my teacher’s advice from the mid 90’s and take them seriously. Only if you do so, will you really get to grips with your strength weaknesses, study skill abilities and subject knowledge.
Plan your time
Preparing for any exam is a big deal and breaking it down into manageable chunks is a great way to make it feel (and actually be) easier. Plan ahead and make a revision timetable so you partition chunks of time of each subject. This way you will be sure you are allocating each subject enough time and not just focusing on the subjects you either find most scary or are most confident in so are within your comfort zone.
Getting out and about, having some fresh air and getting the circulation going is so important to help keep stress levels down and oxygen levels up. This really helps with overall mental performance so – whatever your preferred method of exercise – make sure to prioritize thi in amongst the other demands.
Identify weaknesses and seek help
As you prepare for your mock exams, you may well find there are bits of the puzzle that are missing or areas of the subject that you just can’t seem to get your head around. Take time to ask your teacher for help and you may also look into hiring a tutor to help you with specific areas of difficulty.
A well balanced diet helps in so many ways – keeping your blood sugar levels on an even keel helps to avoid sudden drops that can affect your studies. Key nutrients like omega 3 (found in fish and seeds) can really help optimize mental performance. And let’s not forget- eat your greens! Full of much needed vitamin D on dark evenings. It’s time to bin the junk food and eat to succeed!
Early to bed
For optimal mental performance you need to be getting enough sleep. These days more than ever, it is easy to be lured into checking phones and tablets late at night and the blue light can wreak havoc with our natural sleep cycles. So, why not set a cut off point in the run up to your mocks and tell someone else about it so you have someone else to answer to? Try having no screen time after 8pm and go to bed 45mins before you usually would and just see how much better you feel and perform in your studies!
We would love to hear how you get on in your mocks and what tips you personally find helpful so keep us apprised via our facebook and twitter pages and we look forward to hearing from you.
Blog author: Anne-Marie Firmin, Director of Bristol Tutors ltd