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Testing yourself is an effective way to improve your knowledge and ability to recall information. Researchers found that students who did a practice test after a period of revision did better on the final exam than those students who didn’t do the mock exam and had just spent the whole time revising.
Instead of seeing an exam as a potentially threatening event or as some sort of judgement on their ability, it would be great if we could help students to see their mock exams as a handy way of improving their knowledge and memory.
Also, if students have a particularly bad mock exam, better to have the shock in the mock, than the final exam. It can act as a call to action that perhaps they need to do more work, change revision strategies and develop skills needed to perform under pressure.
Practising under exam conditions
Pressure can do funny things to students. For some, it can lead to nerves, anxiety, frustration and sloppy mistakes, culminating in a poor performance. For others, pressure allows them to concentrate more, work harder and perform better. It takes time and practice to perform well under pressure. If the final summer exams are the first time students experience these conditions, it is lottery as to how they react.
Mock exams are a great opportunity for students to figure out and practise what works best for them. Techniques to manage exam nerves could include actively slowing down, channelling any nerves into helpful behaviour or listening to some relaxing music beforehand.
Identifying topics that need attention
Doing mocks early enough in the year gives you time before the real thing to target areas that need improvement. Mock exam results can identify how best to spend the coming months for students.
Once these areas are identified, it is then a case of putting in the hours. It is not enough to think about what you need to do better, it is the action and the doing that really makes a difference.
Being comfortable and confident enough to ask someone else for help, be it a teacher, parent or carer, is a big part of having a growth mindset. Mock exams can be used as a way of getting students to feel comfortable receiving feedback, which paves the way for further improvement and learning.