GCSE and A Level mock exams often carry a weight of anxiety that rivals the actual assessments. They creep up quickly and come with a lot of pressure, leaving many students feeling woefully underprepared. However, mock exams are excellent preparation tools. They are the perfect opportunity to identify your strengths and weaknesses, fine-tune your exam strategy, and ultimately, boost your confidence. If you get organised early, plan your exam preparation, and find revision techniques that work for you, success is well within your grasp.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you not just face, but ace your mock exams!

1. Create a revision timetable

Crafting a revision timetable is your first step towards effective exam preparation. A well-structured timetable will keep you organised and ensure that you have sufficient time to cover all the necessary topics.

When planning your revision schedule, here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Start by listing everything you need to revise. Using the contents page of your course textbook or exam board specification, break each of your subjects down into specific units or topics. Mocks usually cover all of the content you’ve learnt up until this point. However, it’s a good idea to check with your teacher exactly which topics you’ll be assessed on.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses and prioritise your topics accordingly. Order your list of topics from those you’re least to most confident with or use coloured highlighters to categorise them (e.g. you’re confident with green topics but red topics require more attention). Tackle the challenging ones early in your schedule.
  • Determine how many days you have until your mock exams, considering your school timetable and any other commitments, and pace your schedule accordingly.
  • Allow for flexibility in your timetable – you may not always be able to complete the tasks scheduled for a given day!
  • Remember to schedule breaks and take some time away from your desk.
Female student writing a list of topics she needs to revise for mock exams.

For a more in-depth guide to making the perfect revision timetable, check out our article on How to make a revision timetable you’ll actually use!

2. Start early

The early bird catches the top grades!

Procrastination is the nemesis of success. For students facing exams in January, the temptation to postpone revision until after the festive season – whether it’s Christmas, Boxing Day, or New Year’s Day – can be all too real. However, succumbing to this temptation might leave you feeling overwhelmed as your mock exam dates approach.

So, set aside the procrastination mindset and dive into your revision early on. If your school breaks up on 15th December, make the most of the one-week revision window before the holiday season kicks in. If your school breaks up closer to Christmas, you’ll have time to revise after the New Year. However, for additional preparation, it’s worthwhile fitting in some revision between Boxing Day and New Year.

Starting early gives you the advantage of time, allowing you to pace your revision, reducing stress, and enhancing long-term information retention.

3. Craft the ‘perfect’ set of notes

Imagine having a set of notes so perfect that you don’t need to scramble to recreate them as exams draw near! Take the time to create a set of comprehensive and concise notes for each subject. These notes will serve as your go-to reference guide, saving you precious time and energy during revision. Keep them organised and easily accessible for quick review.

Molly’s revision tips

When I was doing my A Levels, I created a set of index cards for each unit of every subject. I remember calling them my ‘Revision Bible’ because they contained all of the key information I’d need to know for my exams. The beauty of this method was that I only had to create them once, freeing up the rest of my revision time for crucial tasks like memory consolidation and application of knowledge.

To take it a step further, I organised these index cards for each subject into a convenient index card box. This simple act of organisation proved to be a game-changer. No more frantic searches around my bedroom whenever I needed to fact-check or clarify something!

If the idea of creating your own set of notes feels overwhelming, fear not – you can find detailed revision notes organised by subject and topic on Physics & Maths Tutor!

4. Embrace retrieval practice

Unlike passive re-reading or highlighting, retrieval practice involves actively recalling information from memory.

When you actively recall information, you’re not just passively absorbing it – you’re strengthening the neural pathways in your brain associated with that knowledge. This process enhances both short-term and long-term information retention, making it easier to recall information when it matters the most during exams.

Female student sitting on bed revising and recalling information from memory.

How to implement retrieval practice

  • ‘Blurting’: In a brief but focused burst, jot down everything you can recall about a specific topic without peeking at your notes. After your initial ‘blurt’, take a moment to review your notes and fill in any gaps you might have missed. StudyTuber extraordinaire, UnJaded Jade, explains this effective revision technique.
  • Flashcards: Create flashcards with questions on one side and answers on the other. Quiz yourself regularly using these flashcards to reinforce memory. You can easily make your own flashcards using programs like Quizlet or Anki. Alternatively, you can find pre-made sets of flashcards organised by subject and topic on Physics & Maths Tutor.
  • Past papers: Practising past papers is an essential part of revision because it familiarises you with the format and types of questions that may appear in the actual exam. Instead of waiting until you’ve covered all topics, practise past papers regularly throughout the revision process. After revising a specific topic, test yourself using some relevant exam questions – Physics & Maths Tutor provides exam questions conveniently organised by topic! Don’t forget to check your answers using the mark schemes! This approach will reinforce your understanding and highlight any gaps in your knowledge or weaknesses in your exam technique.

5. Make use of mark schemes and examiner’s reports

Speaking of past papers, analyse mark schemes and examiner’s reports from previous years to gain insights into common pitfalls and areas where students frequently slip up.

Especially in subjects like sciences, mark schemes can be meticulous, requiring specific keywords or phrases for mark allocation. As you go through mark schemes and examiner’s reports, you’ll start getting a feel for what examiners are after, giving you a solid edge when it’s time to face the actual exam.

Acing your mock exams is a strategic process that involves careful planning and targeted study techniques. Remember, it’s not just about memorising information but understanding how to apply it under exam conditions. By implementing the revision strategies outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to excelling in your GCSE or A Level mock exams, and also set a solid foundation for success in your final assessments. Good luck!

Want more support in gearing up for your mock exams? Explore PMT’s GCSE and A Level Christmas revision courses designed to help students prepare for their January mock exams!

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Molly Wood

Molly is a recent first-class graduate from the University of St Andrews, where she studied biology. As Project Manager at PMT Education, she oversees SEO, digital content, and media management.