Mocking, or rocking, the mocks?
Do mock exams matter? ROWAN MANTELL asks what pupils and teachers make of them
IT’S MOCK exam season, when pupils will be revisiting notes, revising facts, honing techniques and, hopefully, acing exams.
Or not, as not everyone treats mock exams with total respect.
“They’re mocks, mum, the clue is in the name,” my youngest son announced last year when questioned about his relaxed demeanour, and calendar packed with sporting and social commitments, in the run-up to his mock A levels.
A generation before I had been considerably more diligent and was rewarded with top marks in every exam. Unfortunately, I then rewarded myself the rest of the spring off to bask in my brilliance and attend 18th birthday parties. By the time the actual exams arrived I knew a lot about the effects of mixing Malibu, Babycham and the music of Soft Cell, not as much as previously about metaphysical poetry and glacial landscapes.
My boy, the mocker of mocks, progressed from solid to spectacular, quite possibly using the practice exams to identify what he didn’t know and going then to on to put that right before the main event.
Teachers tend to stress the importance of every test but an actual GCSE is obviously much more important than a spelling test, or end-of-unit quiz. So where do mocks fit in, and when and how, should pupils prepare for them? I asked an expert.
Stephen Crump is headteacher at Hethersett Old Hall School and said pupils sit mock exams this month for both GCSE and A levels.
“We don’t want to put too much of a damper on the girls’ festive season, but we do emphasise the importance of consolidating their learning during the Christmas holidays. Revision is key and we give the girls plenty of practical tips and suggestions for how to revise most effectively. This is especially important now that all exams test pupils on two years’ work at the end of the course,” he said.
“Mocks provide a ‘dry run’ for the real thing so are definitely worth taking seriously. At Hethersett Old Hall School we use the outcomes to help ‘fine tune’ the remainder of the course - for example, giving intensive help in any areas found to be weak for any individual.
“We remind girls that mock results are diagnostic – there is still time to fill holes in knowledge, fine-tune exam technique and time management or make sure those nerves can be brought under control.”
And he said teachers value mocks too. “Our teachers welcome mocks as a test of how pupils will apply their knowledge under strict exam conditions and – especially – with time restraints. Mocks certainly show up which pupils are on top of their game and offer the opportunity of a little timely advice for those who are not quite as well prepared!”
Above: Stephen Crump, headmaster of Hethersett Old Hall School, in an A level revision tutorial with last year’s head girl Anna Reed
Hethersett Old Hall School pupil Ria studying for GCSEs