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5 top tips for your mock exams

Getting ready for your mock exams? Follow our 5 top tips to achieve your target grades. We’ll guide you through what to do before, during and, after the exam.


  1. Organise your revision notes

If offered a superpower, I guarantee that at this time of year students would choose photographic memory over telekinesis, invisibility, or Hulk-like strength. What’s scarier than actually doing the exam? The dread of learning all those revision notes beforehand. Fear not, there’s an easy solution: be specific.

  • Research past papers and see what questions, ideas, themes, or topics appear most frequently over the years.
  • Organise your notes into these different headings
  • Choose only specific, short, and relevant quotations, words, or phrases to support each topic
  • Find some key quotations that can apply to more than one topic.

By condensing your ideas into manageable and digestible notes, you won’t even need photographic memory to succeed in your exams.

  1. Do past papers

Despite the hours poured into revision, the biggest problem for a student can be running out of time during the exam. You should be practising past papers under timed conditions (these can be found on every exam board’s website).  If you run out of exam questions, try websites like Sparknotes, or Shmoop which have designed their own questions similar to that of the actual papers.

To work yourself up to doing your own mini mock exam, start by answering questions in your own time using your notes. Then, try in timed conditions but with the notes still in front of you. Finally, do exam questions with no notes and in timed conditions. So, by the time you get to the exam itself, that brilliant essay will just flow out of your pen.

  1. Look at the exam specification and mark scheme

Alongside past papers online, you’ll also find a specification and mark scheme for each subject.  These will tell you exactly what the exam board is looking for in an answer, and how each question should be written according to the number of marks or the terminology in the question itself. Arming yourself with this sort of information is vital for time keeping and will prevent you from writing too much or too little. Ensuring that every word and every idea directly links back to the question. Again, essay technique is just as important as essay content, and the exam board’s materials are the perfect tool to hone this skill.

During the exam

  1. Write a plan

This advice cannot be repeated enough. Although planning seems time wasting and difficult, starting the exam with a plan is the best way to write a well structured and, relevant answer. Remember, a plan is just for yourself, not for the examiner. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes and shouldn’t contain full sentences. Start with a thesis, which is a one line answer to the exam question. Then write a couple of bullet points for an introduction and conclusion. Finally, jot down a key quotation or idea for each paragraph, ensure every paragraph and every point you make directly links to and supports this thesis. A plan will allow you to pace your answer, ensure that every idea is included.

After the exam

  1. Don’t panic

Always remember The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s wise advice: don’t panic. You can neither turn back time nor change what you wrote, so rather than worrying about your answers, use your mocks for what they are designed for — to learn. See them as useful practice to learn from mistakes, focus on your weak points, and improve upon your mark. Use the time after your exam for a well-earned break to refresh your mind.


Cited on

By Florianne H., a MyTutor Maths tutor and Physics tutor