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Effective ways to use GCSE Mock Exams for better final grades

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

GCSE mock exams, do they matter and what's the point?

Our experts say don't slack off on your GCSE mock exams, not only are they a great compass for where you need to improve before the real exams, but during COVID they were also used to help inform the teacher/centre assessed grades.

In this blog we identify why your mocks are important and if used properly, how they can provide valuable experience and reference points to help prepare you for success in your real GCSE exams...

Keep reading to find out the best strategies to prepare for your mocks and how to use the experience to your advantage.

Revision Learning Opportunities

In the build up to your mock exams you'll get a great insight into the importance of time management and a good revision schedule. Is yours working or does it need revising? (pun intended)

You'll also get first hand experience of what your real exams will be like. A lot of fear is in the unknown, but armed with your knowledge of the mocks, you will know how to prepare and get in the right mindset for the big day.

Do you know how and when you learn best? Many people reach adulthood without realising everyone learns in different ways and have certain times of the day when they're more able to take on board complex learning. Finding the right way for you could make it easier to absorb and retain information. So, whether it's experiment with early revision sessions (yes, there are two 6 o'clocks in the day) or shorter study bursts (see Pomodoro revision method) - this is a great opportunity to find out more about the way you learn.

Hone your note taking and flashcard creating abilities. Like the revision equivalent of Nicola Adams (OBE and pro boxer), these small but powerful tools pack a punch when it comes to locking-in information.

All of these important lessons can come from properly applying yourself in the build up to your mock exams and along the way reviewing and adjusting what is working. Take the opportunity for a little trial and error, then build what works into a new plan for your real GCSE exams.

Practicing Exam Techniques

Mocks are also your opportunity to go over exam techniques, such as question time management (how much time should you spend on each answer). The importance of reading the question (it sounds obvious, but speak to any examiner!), answer structures and more.

You'll also get familiar with what you need to bring to your exams and what you're not allowed to take in, find out the logistics of where the exams are held, how long it takes to get there etc. Again, this familiarity makes you more comfortable on the day.

The experience will teach you how to manage your time wisely. You can practice on past papers, but you wont really simulate the time pressures of the exam until you're actually in one. This is another way that mock GCSE exams help you prepare for the real thing. Experiment with time management strategies with the aim of identifying the one that works for you - allowing you to perform your best under the pressure of the ticking clock.

We provide some exam time strategies in the accompanying blog to this one: how to prepare for your GCSE Mock Exams

If you're taking your mocks seriously then you'll also get a glimpse of the stress you'll feel during the main exams. This is an opportunity to find your best way to manage stress and fortify a positive mindset so you're exam ready.

We provide some exam time strategies in the accompanying blog to this one: how to prepare for your GCSE Mock Exams

Within the exam, test your ability to notice and understand command words in the questions, these are prompts by the examiner that tell the student how they should answer the question... so kinda important! For example, if you see the term 'suggest' they are looking for you to come up with an idea by applying your knowledge, versus having an exact answer

To help you get familiar with exam command words, after you've read this, take a look at our reference guide to exam command words from the major exam boards.

Many able students fail to achieve their potential grades due to misreading questions, running out of time, failing to elaborate on key points or misunderstanding command words. Soak up the experience of mock exams to ensure you add these tools and understanding to your exam stomping arsenal.

Mock Exam Result Rocket Fuel - The Feedback

This is going to sound odd, but acing your mocks can actually be a bad thing. First of all, I know students who have kicked back after great mock results and failed to properly prepare for their real exams - leading to poorer than predicted grades.

So, if your mock results aren't the best be grateful, you've just had a light shone on (and now know) where you need to focus your efforts. You can now create a revision roadmap, from where you find yourself (after your mocks) to where you want to be (a GCSE superstar).

Here is a tool for creating a personalised revision plan.

But make sure you focus on the right thing! Soooo many people focus on the grade and either get bummed out or over cocky, neither of which are useful. Instead focus on the (written or verbal) feedback and translate that into meaning goals (and a study plan) for yourself. This is similar to the MARCKS scheme method for past papers - also worth a look.

In summary...

Take them seriously and treat GCSE mock exams like the real thing, just with no expectation on the outcome - other than a great learning opportunity.

Focus on the feedback, not the grade to be able to create meaningful goals and a study plan.

You'll be able to identify a) where you are right now with your subject knowledge b) the knowledge gaps you need to work on and c) the strength and weaknesses of your current revision methods (what makes the learning stick for you).

Along the way you'll learn more about yourself; maybe you study better early in the morning (many do), perhaps you discover the Pomodoro (short burst) revision technique allows more information to be retained, possibly you know the subject but need some tactics for handling exam pressure.


Your teachers and mock exam feedback are an invaluable resource that many students overlook Buck the trend and improve your grade. A good plan, informed by mock Exam feedback, and a revision timetable will help you focus and stay on track. Plus using a variety of revision techniques, which you've tested in the lead up to mocks, can help the information sink in and stay in

Being armed with the valuable insight and experience that mock exams provide, if embraced and used properly, gives you a huge advantage in your preparation and readiness for your actual GCSE exams.

We hope you take some useful points from this blog and wish you success with your GCSE mock exams.

Now read how to prepare for your GCSE Mock Exams

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