Whether you call them mock exams or trial exams (nothing reassures you it’s low-stakes like calling it a trial, right?!), whether they’re before Christmas or after, chances are if you’re a GCSE or A-Level student you’ll have practice exams coming up soon. And in many schools, you’ll have them a couple of times a year.
Mock exams. The full experience of walking into a hall, finding your seat number, remembering to bring a clear pencil case and water bottle in case you’ve scribbled some physics formulae on the inside.
They can be hard and they can be stressful. But they don’t have to be, and they can be a great way to make sure you’re on track for the grades you want in your real exams.
In this series, I’m going to have a look at the ways to make the best of them before, during, and after mock season, with some really practical steps to help you dial back the stress.
- Know your goals.(this post)
- Create a revision timetable
- 10 revision tips
- A good revision space
- What to do during mocks
- Review, reflect, repeat
Know your goals
Putting this first might sound strange but I actually think it’s the most important thing! Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur and motivational speaker, said:
It’s not the direction of the wind that determines our destination, it’s the set of the sail.
You have to know where you want to get to – or how can you possibly get there? Alice in Wonderland put it another way:
.More than that, I believe that knowing what you want to get out of them will help you reduce stress. If you have something clear to focus on you can work out what to do. And, perhaps just as importantly, you can see how effective your revision actually was!
Write down your motivation
I know – you’re itching to get out the highlighters and make a colour-coded revision timetable…
But knowing why you want to achieve something is scientifically proven to help you. It focuses your subconscious brain on what you want, and then because your brain realises it’s important to you, it starts looking (without you always realising) for ways to help you.
Think about all the times you’ve wanted to do something important to you – you’ve made things happen, right? When you know what you want and why, you figure out ways to get there.
Why do you want those grades?
I find this stuff embarrassing sometimes but remember – nobody else has to read this! Think about some of these questions and write down why you want to get there. There’s a couple of examples underneath.
- Do the grades help you go to an apprenticeship, college, sixth-form or university? Do you have to get a certain level to get there?
- Do you have a future career in mind that you’d love to do?
- What will it feel like on results day opening that envelope?
- How will getting grades you’ve worked hard for make you feel?
Try not to write about the expectations of others, and focus on what you want.
I want to get 8 grade 7s and above, so that I can get into Lansdowne college and do Art, Theatre Studies and Textile Design. I’d love to have a job in the future where I make things, because I love being creative with materials, but I know I need a good set of qualifications to get me going in the right direction. It might be hard, but I can do it.
I want to get all grade 8 and above, with 9s in English and History. I know this is ambitious but I think I can do it, and my parents and teachers have faith in me. I want to go to university to study Law so that I can become a human rights lawyer and help people around to the world to have a better life.
I want to get 5 grade 4s including English and Maths so I can do a painting and decorating apprenticeship. I like doing active things and making things look better, like they’re cared for. I think I might like to own my own business one day so English and Maths will help me find good customers and make money.
I want to get 8 grade 6 and above. I want a 7 in Maths because I like it and think it’s my best subject. On results day I’ll open the envelope round the corner from the hall with Malaikah and Elise, and I’ll feel really proud that I got the grades that I worked for. I’ll feel like I can do anything that I want and will be ready to celebrate!
What do I do next?
Once you know where you want to get to, you have to figure out your starting point.
- Make a list of all your subjects
- Put your personal target grade next to them. This is what you It might be influenced by your parents, teachers, friends, but the main driver here is you.
- Put next to that your current grade.
- Put the subjects in order, the furthest off at the top:
Some of these might be a way off, but that’s ok at this point. There’s plenty of time until the summer to start making this happen.
Next up: create a revision timetable.