Sunday, 20 January 2013

Is There Any Point To Mocks?

by Billie Downer

(image source:

It’s January and, other than failing to lose Christmas weight, breaking New Year’s resolutions and whinging about the snow that should have come over Christmas, what is the school environment focussed on? Mocks. Those strangely-placed set of exams that split a group of students neatly down the middle into: those that feel they are the be-all and end-all for whom revision should be equal to revision for the real exams and those students (probably like myself) who feel cramming the night before (or the morning of) is much more appropriate and that the results won't affect our lives (as long as they aren’t sent to UCAS or kept on our permanent record).
Of course mocks do have a purpose; they help us to consolidate knowledge for real exams. They allow us to check our understanding of fundamental theories and principles behind subjects and refresh our memories of knowledge learnt over a year ago. Mocks also give an indication as to where we are in terms of grades and, by not achieving the desired grades in mocks, students are motivated to work harder, realising that a top grade can’t be achieved without hard work. Finally, mocks give us the opportunity to practice exam technique and understand what a question requires of us.
Conversely, exam technique can be practiced by doing past papers and having half term module tests. Furthermore it could be argued that mocks cannot give a true indication of grade or prediction of final performance. Primarily, they are not taken as seriously as real exams and therefore adrenaline wouldn’t be produced in the same way that it would be by stress and fear induced by real exams. Therefore, a paper which expects long answers under strict time conditions wouldn’t be achieved as successfully in mocks due to the lack of speed in writing usually caused by adrenaline.

Also, the lack of weight given to mocks by most students causes a lack of incentive to revise thoroughly. This lack of incentive, added to the lack of time given for students to revise mocks, leads to a great lack of revision which is displayed through the grades achieved in mocks. Therefore, mock grades give a greatly lower grade than reflects the student’s full potential. Although this can be motivating and encourage students to work hard to achieve the best grades, it can just as easily be a disincentive to students, who may be led to believe that pursuing the previously desired grades is pointless as it could not be achieved.

In addition, mocks apply unnecessary stress on students who are already under lots of pressure (especially Year 13s --- as if coursework, UCAS, university interviews and the stress of real exams looming wasn’t enough). Even for students who don’t give real weight to their mock results, to enter an exam knowing that failing is a likely possibility causes unnecessary strain.  Aside from the students’ welfare, knowledge learnt in mocks is easily forgotten, especially as they are 5 or 6 months before the real exams.  Ultimately, mocks take out a week of school in which students could be consolidating knowledge more effectively with their teachers or cramming more of an overpacked syllabus; they therefore appear counterproductive.
  Overall, yes mocks have their plus points: of course they do, otherwise the people making the decisions and timetables in the school curriculum wouldn’t have decided they are necessary. However, these positive attributes can be achieved as effectively, if not more so, through module tests, practising past papers and revising for the real exams. These alternatives eliminate the negative impact which mocks can have on the student and their final grades. So to answer my question posed in the title:  I believe that mocks serve little point.

See Jemima Carter on How Year 11s are coping with exam stress.
See Claire Stephens on
What is the Point to Exams?

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