How to use mock exams for maximum benefit

At many schools, mocks are over. And for some pupils, that is the last time they will give them any attention, writes Tougher Minds, Head of Education, Andrew Foster.

This is a huge mistake. The reason that mock examinations (increasingly referred to as Pre-Public Examinations in schools looking to emphasise their importance) have been a feature of education as long as anyone can remember is because the process benefits both the pupil and the teacher, giving an indication of how best to improve between now and the real thing.

Knowing is great. But unless it is accompanied by doing, it isn’t any better than ignorance.

If you are a pupil and a parent just coming out of the mock examination process, I have some very simple and practical advice for you. Take each subject examined, and devise on the basis of a mock one thing that can be done at least once a week, and preferably on a close to daily basis for each subject. It might be self-testing on French verbs using flashcards, practice at quadratic equations or watching the excellent My GCSE Science videos on YouTube.

Once the actions are decided, place them into a grid like so:


Place it somewhere prominent in the house. Add ticks every time the action is complete. The cumulative impact of these weeks of repeated practice will be significantly improved performance.

Our brains are not designed to pursue long term goals like GCSE and A Level results. Left to its own devices, it will find more immediate things to focus on. Simple techniques such as these can help us keep our attention on what would otherwise be quickly forgotten.

To paraphrase George R.R. Martin, summer is coming. Our experiences in these mock examinations can better equip us to meet its challenges. But only if we keep them in the forefront of our minds between now and then.

Check out the new Parents and Families section on this website. It shows how our tailored Tougher Minds training can help families support each other and improve performance during revision and in the build-up periods to mock exams and the real thing.

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