Every student suspects that the true purpose of mocks is to wreck Christmas. Who knows why. Another gut-wrenching disappointment to overcome on the way to growing up?
But a parents’ evening at my son’s school last night suggested there might be other reasons.
When it comes to revision, students are attracted to material that they like and probably already know quite well. Mocks serve to demonstrate (cruelly) which gaps in their knowledge need plugging. When asked ‘Why did you get a D?’, most students will be able to pinpoint the questions which floored them. What needs to happen now is that an attitude of growth mindset is employed, and instead of ‘Oh well, I can’t do quadratic equations’, he or she follows strategies to repair that gap.
Another thing that mocks throw up is the efficacy of the way a student revises. Simply reading through topics and highlighting sentences is not in itself very effective. In order to digest the content properly, one needs to think more critically about it, and the best way of doing this is by practising with proper exam questions. Over time, this also helps the student understand exactly what examiners are looking for in their mark schemes.
Exam pressure can suppress a student’s potential, so the more formal tests prior to an important exam, the better. This way, familiarity with the exam process may begin to diminish the fear it holds. If your child suffers from exam-related stress, do help them to understand what they can do to settle their nerves: sleep well, eat well, exercise, breathe slowly. The more relaxed they are prior to exams, the better they will perform.
And finally – that pesky timing! Unfortunately January is the ideal time for mocks: the year has turned, the summer a mere 5 months away. Nonetheless, that’s 5 whole months! 5 months in which, with careful planning and timetabling, much revision can be done. Teenagers are procrastinators by nature. The cold shock of dispiriting mock results will hopefully jolt them out of their comfort zone and into doing something about it. The earlier they get started, the better.
So, to preserve their lovely childhoods, perhaps we should think of bringing Christmas forward to mid-November.