Preparing for GCSE and A level mock exams

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April 29, 2021
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Preparing for mock exams

With the end of the school year around the corner, students worry about exams, revision, and how to best prepare to meet their academic goals, whether they be French GCSE or Spanish A-level.

Mock exams have always been important for learners to practice the actual exam structure. They also allow us to put our knowledge to the test and identify the strategic areas to focus on during the final months or weeks of the academic year.

2021 has given a whole new meaning to mock exams, which will be used by teachers to actually assess their students since the traditional end-of-year tests have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mock exams in 2021

In January, Ofqual published the consultation documents for GCSE exams and A-levels as well as vocational and technical qualifications.

In the recommendations, it was suggested that:

  • Assessments and mock exams in 2021 should go ahead provided that they follow current guidelines for COVID-19
  • Teachers are given guidance and training by exams boards so that they can make ‘objective decisions’
  • Teachers should draw on a ‘range of broader evidence of a student’s work in making their final assessment’ including mock exams
  • Students will be assessed until early June and teachers will submit grades to the boards by mid-June. Most students should have their results in July

Do mock exams matter?

Normally, mock exams are a way to support your efforts along your learning journey. They can help you get an idea of how effective your preparation has been so far and what areas you should strengthen.

The importance of mock exams in 2021 has grown exponentially since they now work towards the overall assessment of the student’s work and progression.

In 2021, you can consider mock exams as a major part of your final results and treat them accordingly.

Are mock exams past papers?

Mock exams can but don’t have to be past papers. Some teachers create their mocks from scratch, some use past papers, others prefer a mix of both.

In general, mock and actual exams are extremely similar and should share the same number and type of questions, the timing, the allocation of marks, etc. That is why questions from past papers are often used.

How do I prepare for a mock test?

Whether you’re facing 2021 mock tests that will count towards your final grade or reading this when mock tests are back to normal, you need proper preparation.

Revising important concepts, practising your skills and understanding the exam format are crucial steps for successful preparation. Keep reading to find our best tips.

Plan your revision schedule

Planning ahead is the key to successful preparation. Consider your weekly commitments and time off, and come up with a revision schedule to cover all the topics you need before the exam.

Following a schedule will not only allow you to effectively revise the program but also help you keep stress under control since you know you are on time and making progress.

Relieve stress

Speaking of stress: feeling nervous before an exam is normal, but researchers have found that anxiety at school is on the rise. In fact, as many as 10 million students suffer from it in North America and studies have shown a link between standardised scores and test anxiety.

To relax before the exam, try to:

  • Spend time outdoors
  • Eat plenty of healthy foods like fruit and veggies
  • Talk about your worries with people you trust
  • Learn breathing exercises that you can do during the exam to calm down
  • Remind yourself that your value as a person and as a learner does not depend on your test results

Tips to relax and not panic during the exam:

  • Try to clear your mind before starting the test
  • Take your time and read all questions and instructions carefully
  • Start from the answers you feel most confident with
  • Leave time in the end to go through the exam to fix spelling and other minor errors
  • Remind yourself that you have covered all this in class and have prepared for the test

Familiarise yourself with the exam structure

Your confidence with the test format plays a bigger part than you think in your final results. 

Make sure that you are familiar with the marking criteria of your papers so that you know what the teacher is looking for in your answers.

Complete past papers regularly to get used to the test. Make sure to time yourself so that you will instinctively know how much time to dedicate to each question during the actual exam. You can ask your tutor for past papers or find some online.

Practice daily

There is nothing like daily practice. You can expand your vocabulary with a language learning app, read books in your target language or solve maths problems on the bus — whatever you need, if you practice every day you will consolidate your knowledge, boost your confidence, and dramatically improve your results.

Ask for help

If there is a specific subject or topic you’re struggling with, your best option is to ask an expert for their help. Maybe your teacher can give you further resources, or a private tutor will give you the tools and direction that best fit your specific learning goals.

At My Language Lab, we know that each student is unique and that they need to learn fast. That is why we offer top-up individual revision classes and intensive sessions during this time of the year. 

Book a free assessment and we’ll match you with a tutor who can tailor your revision around your needs within 48 hours.


How can I get good marks in a mock test? 

The same that works for actual tests goes for mock exams:

  • Make a plan
  • Revise well in advance
  • Take past tests
  • Learn how to manage test anxiety

If you’re struggling with your GCSE or A-level language revision, get in touch with a tutor who can give you personalised assistance.

Is it bad to fail mock exams?

Mock exam marks normally don’t count towards your final results. If you fail them, it only means that you need to focus harder as you prepare for your finals. However, mock exams in 2021 are actually part of your final assessment so they must be taken seriously and you must give them your best effort.

That said, as much as failing an exam can be frustrating and even delay your academic plans, you should never let it deter you from studying something you’re passionate about nor affect your self-esteem.