What are ‘The Mocks’? If you’re an exam student you might answer that they’re a form of torture designed to bring you to your knees! If you’re a parent, you might say they’re the start of a traumatic few months that’ll have you on the edge of your seat until the end of June! Well, maybe you’re both right and wrong! Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a fan of the second-level exam system, but until some wise person changes it, it is what it is. So, how best to make the Mocks work for you?
First off, change how you’re thinking about them. They’re not the Junior Cert or the Leaving Cert. They’re a practice exam that gives you an idea of how you’re doing. When you get your Mock results, only you will know for sure how representative they are of your knowledge and ability.
If you have been consistently working hard then the result will give you a good indication of what you can hope to achieve in the main exam. If you haven’t been working hard, then you know there’s room for improvement and there is time before the end of May to work towards that improvement.
At a practical level, the Mocks also give you an opportunity to go through the exam experience and this will lessen the fear when the real thing comes along. State exams are a big deal, so every bit of practice will help. Use this as a practice run – have enough spare biros, calculator batteries and bottles of water.
Doing the Mocks you have a chance to try out your timing of questions. Lots of students struggle with timing, especially in the subjects with high written content: English, History, Irish and so on. Getting the balance right between putting down all you know in one question and leaving time to answer other questions is a skill. And you can develop it. If you are struggling with timing have a chat with your teacher about how best to manage this. Use your kitchen timer to help you.
Remember too, that it’s not just your study that matters – your physical and mental wellbeing has an impact too. If you’re tired, hungry or feeling anxious you can’t possibly perform to the best of your ability. Get into a good routine regarding your sleep – it sounds boring but it’s really important. Eat well and bring a decent lunch. Avoid the high sugar bars that give you a false energy – you’ll end up feeling worse. Eat fruit and wholesome food to keep you going and drink water.
If you’re feeling anxious or are beginning to panic, it’s important that you learn to manage this and there are lots of ways to do this. When you panic your mind gets overwhelmed by something – how much you have to do, how little time you have left, how little you think you know – if you let your mind continue on this path of thinking it makes it impossible to make any progress. Divert your mind from this panic by getting it to focus on something else, something simple and concentrate on it. For example, choose a short positive sentence like “I am focused and I think clearly“ or “I believe in myself and my ability” and write it out 10 times, keeping your mind focussed on it all the time. While you’re doing this, breathe slowly and deeply. Diverting your mind from the panic stops it from getting worse and changing your breathing will calm you down. It might seem silly, but it does really work!
Chat to your family about how you are feeling and how they can support you, not just at the Mocks, but right through the year.
So it is not just your Mocks results that are important - look at the results in the context of how your study was beforehand, how you managed your timing, can you identify specific areas that you need to focus on and how you were feeling both physically and mentally.
Think of the Mocks as a bit of constructive feedback.
Reflect on them and build on them.
Use them to make useful adjustments in your preparation for the final exam.