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Making a Mockery

The Importance of Mock Exams


For students dreading the thought of sitting major exams or tests, the prospect of mock exams can be even scarier. Unlike practice tests or past paper revision that students schedule themselves, mock exams are taken under real life exam conditions – strictly timed, without access to revision material, and, it would seem, with high stakes.

So why do mock exams? In many schools, students don’t have any choice in the matter, but it’s not because teachers want to see students suffer. Teachers sometimes wonder too about the usefulness of mocks. But there are sound educational reasons for doing mocks – and ways to make sure that any extra stress arising from them pays off in the long run.

In this post we’ll talk about why mocks matter, and in a follow up GoConqr post, we’ll give you tips on how to make mocks count for you, or for your students.

Students tend to procrastinateprocrastinate

Procrastination simply means choosing to do one thing over something else you could or should be doing. We are always doing something (even sleeping is something!), but what we do is not always the best thing to help us reach our goals. Some studies suggest that 75% of students consider themselves to be procrastinators.

Here’s the problem: the further away an event is, the less likely it is to have an impact on your decisions about what you do with your time. Having a mock exam is more likely to make you study sooner, even if the result of the mock itself has no real effect.

(Check out this review of the history of procrastination and research on the subject by psychologist Piers Steel).

Practicing under exam conditions leads to better performance

Exams are designed to have students recall and/or apply knowledge in a specific setting. The experience of doing a high stakes exam is very different from that of studying at home or learning in a classroom.

One study suggests that the experience of doing a mock exam – with test conditions including the same exam paper format and timing – improved performance on the final exam more than reviewing an online practice exam that was not conducted under test conditions.

Mocks don’t just help you learn the material – they help you learn how to take the test.

See the study by Dotson et al here.

Testing helps identify weak spots

weak-spotsStudies show that tests help to demonstrate to students what they do not know – and this enables them to allocate their remaining study time more effectively. Just as importantly, it highlights the topics that a student knows well, so they can afford to spend less time on those areas.

Additionally, mock exams help teachers see patterns of weak spots – and spend more class time on areas that many students are struggling with.

(See Roediger on the benefits of testing).

These are some of the reasons that mock exams can really benefit students, but of course we know that they can also be stressful. So keep following GoConqr for more on how to make the most of your mocks – but for now, stop procrastinating and get back to revision!

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