By now, most Year 12 students would have completed their final set of mocks before Year 13 and are beginning to think about UCAS, personal statements and applying to uni. For many of us, these mocks provide significant evidence for what our performance in a year’s time could look like and constitute much of our predicted grades which will ultimately determine what we’ll be doing in September. Naturally, this is a very stressful time and while your mocks might have gone incredibly well, I’d like to share some thoughts for those who aren’t feeling so great about the outcome.
1. A-levels are not meant to be easy.
A-levels or “Advanced levels” are meant to be challenging (after all it’s in the name) so it’s not unusual if you are in fact finding them challenging! They are a huge step up from GCSEs in almost every way; the workload is much more intense; the content is more conceptually demanding, and the level of independent study required from you is higher. Couple this with the fact that current Year 12s had to learn around half of our GCSE content at home due to the pandemic and the rapid increase in the standard of work demanded from us seems a lot more daunting. If you are really struggling with the content remember that this isn’t the end (you still have an entire year) and that there are plenty of things that can be done in the meantime to help you improve.
2. Mocks are not public examinations.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in thinking that a bad mock exam grade is the end of the world. Looking down at your paper and seeing a low mark circled in bright red pen isn’t exactly comforting, however it’s a good idea to put things into perspective instead of allowing yourself to go off the rails and spiral into a negative place. One of the many purposes of mock exams is to provide you with an opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment so that you’ll learn from them and avoid repeating them in the real thing. So, while looking at all the incorrect answers you wrote down in that stuffy exam hall might make you cringe – it’s an incredibly helpful way to help you devise strategies on how to improve. Additionally, it is a chance for you to practice under realistic exam conditions, which should help the process of sitting exams feel more familiar and in turn improve your confidence.
3. Learn from your mistakes!
I mentioned earlier that mocks can help highlight common mistakes you make (they could be conceptual or due to timing/exam technique issues) but this is only useful to you if you actually review them. What I mean by this is thoroughly going through each paper side by side with the mark scheme and comparing your answers with a model example. If your teacher left notes for you – read them – and note where you could implement their advice. If you’re really keen on improving, do the questions again (and again) until you get them right. This is one of the best ways to learn because the errors you have made will stick in your mind, so you are less likely to repeat them due to a heightened awareness. Furthermore, you could visit your teachers during their office hours to ask specific questions that a mark scheme might not be able to answer or to discuss areas in need of improvement. The big thing to take away from this, is to treat the whole experience as a learning opportunity – that way it’s a win-win and you’ll gain something rather than lose confidence in yourself.
4. Summer: Work hard, play hard?
By this point you’ve reviewed your mistakes, decided on how you’ll get better and are probably wondering what to do next. First of all, rest. Exams take a lot of energy and effort and it’s important to acknowledge this by giving your body and mind a break from it all. Go hang out with your friends, have a lazy weekend or watch a movie with your family. Whatever it is make sure it’s something you enjoy and something that will help you relax. After you’ve recovered (and avoided a burnout) you might want to start thinking about how you can implement some gentle revision into your summer plans. If mocks really didn’t go the way you’d planned, it might be a good idea to re-sit them in order to boost your marks. If this is the case and your exams are in September, you’ll want to utilise much of your summer and dedicate a good amount of time to reviewing content and revising. Even if you aren’t resitting them – it’s a good idea to do somework over the summer as you want to avoid forgetting everything you’ve learned throughout year 12 or become complacent.
In summary, don’t stress too much! There is still time to improve and there will be plenty more opportunities for you to demonstrate your academic abilities. Afterall, mocks are…mocks.
Tiffany Igharoro is a sixth form student. One of her favourite pastimes is writing as it helps her organise her thoughts creatively and dynamically. She has won awards and prizes for poetry, academic and scientific writing and short stories. Recently, she won a nationwide historical essay competition that opened her eyes to the importance of how things are told, and the impact ordinary people have on the world. She studied art GCSE and believes there is something incredible about finding links between drama, art and maths.
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