Exams and Revision

Beat The Bad Mocks Blues (& Build On Them For Next Time)

If your mocks didn’t go as well as you hoped, it’s easy to feel utter despair. If this is you, the best thing to do is to run a bath or play a sport or buy yourself a brownie (or all three). In short, do something to take your mind out of that negative ‘I-suck-at-exams’ space. But once you’ve recovered, it’s worth reflecting on your mocks and making a plan of attack.

Were you disappointed in just one subject, or a whole range of them? In other words:

  1. Are you struggling with something in particular?
  2. Or do you need to change your general approach to revision?

Whichever it is, here are some tips to help you take control and be proactive about improving your results in the real thing.

positive for mocks

Think positively about your bad subjects

It’s very easy to get a mental block about a particular subject. Maths/English [delete as appropriate] can quickly feel impossibly difficult, even hostile, and it’ll be easy to give up on it because you feel like you’ll never ‘get’ Pythagoras/Shakespeare.

At this point, you need to try and see the good in the bad. If you loathe a particular subject, use it as an opportunity to have fun. Hate English? Go and see a play. Science? Visit the Science Museum. French? Go on a trip to Paris (okay, that’s a bit over the top). But the point is that if you enthuse yourself about a subject, you might get rid of that mental block. You may not suddenly ‘get it’ but you’ll have gathered some context, broken it down and thus be able to approach it anew. Positivity is an enabling state of mind, so keep your thoughts bright and you’ll give yourself the best chance.

Of course, if you have a passionate and unshakable hatred of a subject then it’s best to console yourself that doing it now will help you study more interesting, far superior subjects later in life.

strategy for mocks

Try a different revision approach

If you were disappointed with a lot of your results, it’s probably worth changing from your mocks revision strategy. It may be that it’s not the subjects themselves which are causing the problem, but rather the way you approached them. A few small tweaks to your revision methods may lift your subjects into the grade boundaries you deserve.

Here are a few ideas for changing the way you revise:

  1. Manage your time better. Make a (realistic) study timetable and stick to it, or try the Pomodoro technique.
  2. Test your knowledge more thoroughly. With flashcards, past papers, 15 minute speed essays, getting someone to test you. Make sure you do plenty of testing as this is what helps you remember.
  3. Get an app. There are loads of apps that can make revision easier, and they help perk up the hardest tasks.
  4. Have some online tuition. Having a few one-to-one sessions with a tutor online can make the world of difference to your revision. You’re accountable to someone, forced to work for a full hour, and their complete attention is dedicated to helping you through the bits that you find hard. One or two lessons a week can keep you right on track.

support for mocks

Get some extra support

If you’re really struggling, you should think about getting some extra help. There might be a study club at your school, you could ask your family to help test you or not allow you out until you’ve done a past paper, or you could look to tutoring (as mentioned before) – be sure to reach out to someone before the problem gets too big, and make sure it’s well before your real exams. Not much can be done with one week to go.

feedback for mocks

Talk to your teacher to get more detailed feedback

Good teachers tend to give good feedback. It’s pretty awful going through a paper covered in red pen looking at your mistakes, but it’s honestly worth it. The red pen is your friend. But if your teacher hasn’t made it clear where you went wrong (or you just can’t read their handwriting), it’s worth approaching them for more feedback. The teacher is your friend too.

Learning how to correct your work based on constructive feedback is one of the fastest ways of improving your technique from your mocks. Always seek as much feedback as you can – you’ll learn loads.

marking mocks

Learn from how things are marked

If your teacher can’t give you the amount of feedback you need from your mocks or any other revision work, it’s worth doing a bit of research yourself. Luckily, there are often repeated patterns or themes to questions. Science papers might ask similar questions but in different ways and there are common questions asked on each set-text in English.

A great thing to do is to look at the mark scheme of a paper and make sure that you both fully understand the assessment objectives and know how to pick up the marks. Even if you know all there is to know about how the kidneys work, you can only be rewarded if you say the sort of thing the examiner is looking for. That’s just an example but I’m sure you can see, it helps if you have an idea for how the marking works.

There are also similarities in humanities subjects. English or History questions are often phrased in similar ways despite rarely being exactly the same (e.g. ‘Examine the view that X’). If you practise responding to different kinds of questions, you’ll be best prepared on the day.

With that, best of luck! And remember, there are always baths and sports and brownies to brighten any rainy day.

Written by Bryony Glover


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