What to do if your mocks go wrong

by Anita Naik

Mock exam season is almost over, and with it comes your results. If your grades aren't what you hoped for, don't despair. Here's how to make disappointing results work in your favour.

Failing your mocks or not getting the grade you want can feel devastating, especially if you put in the revision time. However, mock exam results aren't an indicator of your eventual grade if you are willing to learn from what went wrong. After all you still have time to put new study and exam tactics into place to improve the outcome of your actual exams in August.

Look at what went wrong

Sometimes it's obvious where you went wrong. Perhaps you didn't revise enough or look at the exam specification. Or perhaps you panicked in the exam and lost focus? Or maybe you have knowledge gaps or haven't grasped what you were meant to know and why. The only way to truly understand where you went wrong is 1. Be honest with yourself, and 2. Ask your teachers for feedback.

Being honest doesn't mean giving yourself a hard time and assuming that it's all your fault; it means recognising that perhaps you didn't revise hard enough and admitting to what your study shortcomings are. Do you need to ask for more help with your knowledge gaps or your revision techniques? Or do you need to go back over the specification and make a better revision plan? Or maybe you need the help of a tutor or extra sessions with your teacher?

Sharpen your exam technique

It may not be your revision that let you down but your actual exam technique. It's one reason it always pays to look at your mock exam paper and work out where you lost out on marks. Was it on small mistakes or something more significant?

Some of the most common mistakes students make are:

Not understanding what the examiners want.

Not planning answers.

Not answering the question.

Not reading the question correctly.

Running out of time.

Help yourself by looking at the examiners' mark scheme and then track where you went wrong on your paper.

Are you surprised by your mistakes? If you are, the chances are you need to improve the way you answer questions. The best way to do this is by working on past papers under time conditions. Always mark yourself as an examiner who would improve on key areas and read the examiners' report for the paper to understand what examiners want to see from students.

Be specific about what you need to do

Between now and your mocks, you have four to five months. That's a good space of time to develop a plan of action to tackle your exam and study techniques.

Step one is to focus on what you can change (your future grades) and not on what you can't (your current grades). This means letting go of feeling disappointed about your mock exams and motivating yourself to up your study game for your actual exams.

Step two, with the help of a teacher or tutor, set up a revision timetable breaking down what you need to study to make revision more manageable. Think about how you are going to study and what you will study. What will help improve your memory retention - testing apps, flashcards, quizzes? Factor in time for past papers and extra time for those weak areas, which need more attention.

Step three test yourself as you revise. This means completing past papers, explaining key concepts to others and testing yourself with flashcards.

Ask for help/Look for help

Online resources can help you improve your grades and exam technique. Firstly check out the wealth of Study Tubers on YouTube who offer up subject help, revision help and exam technique help for GCSEs, A-levels and more. Secondly, if a particular subject is proving hard, check out what's offered as help online and on YouTube.

For more specific help, ask teachers and tutors - they can offer up more bespoke help tailored to your needs and the examination process. Lastly, don't forget your peers - studying and sharing knowledge with peers is a fantastic way to get motivated, improve retention, and test yourself to know you are going in the right direction.

For more help look at our posts on Memorisation techniques for revision, How to study effectively, How to revise and When should I start revising?