Many students don’t really take the mock exams seriously, believing that they ‘don’t count’ and are a long time before the actual exams.

But in fact, the mock exams are a fabulous source of feedback that should be used to guide and refine your study techniques in the lead up to exams.

So, rather than shoving them in a drawer – or throwing them in the bin! – use your results to help you gain extra marks in the final ATAR exams.

Let’s have a look at 5 key study strategies most commonly revealed as needing improvement.

1. Time Management

This is an area that causes problems for most students. It’s very easy to get caught up in trying to solve a question, only to then run out of time to complete the paper. Check your mock exams carefully to see what you could have done to help with this problem.

  • Did you calculate the number of minutes allocated for each mark?
  • Did you follow this time allocation?
  • Could you have answered the questions in a different order?
  • Is there a particular concept or topic you need to spend more time revising before the final exam?
  • In an essay exam, did you manage to finish the complete essay? If not, consider what held you up? Is it that you need to learn to write faster? Would better planning have reduced your thinking time? Did you spend too long thinking about what to write?

In your revision leading up to the exams, adopt the study habit of working to a timer. This will force you to speed up your responses and ensure that you can work within the allocated time.

2. Exam Literacy

It is essential that you learn how to successfully decode the questions, by identifying the key elements of knowledge and the key skills (cognitive verbs) being assessed.

  • Did you interpret the question correctly?
  • Was it your deconstruction of the question that let you down?
  • Did you respond in the appropriate cognitive manner?
  • Did you follow any cues regarding the number of examples or elements required in your response?
  • Did you respond to the question/s on the paper, or to preconceived ideas of what you would be asked?

Now is the time to improve your metacognitive skills – understanding how you think. By understanding your thought processes and the cognitions you do or don’t apply, you will be able to correct them where necessary.

3. Selection Of Content

Having decoded the question and understood what the marker is asking, it is important to select the information used in your response very carefully.

No exam question will ever ask you to tell the marker everything you know about a topic. You will need to consider and select your information carefully.

Frustrating as it may be, you should leave a successful exam feeling that you learned a whole heap of information that the paper never asked.

  • Did the information you included directly address the question asked?
  • Did you provide clear supporting evidence?
  • Did you go beyond the most obvious quotes and examples?
  • Did you structure your response logically?

One of the best study habits is to teach the topic to a child. This will ensure that you understand the information and select only key facts.

4. Marking Schema

The number of marks allocated for a question will provide clues about how much detail is expected in the response. The external assessment marking schema is more fine-grained than the Internal Assessment Tasks. Look carefully to see where you lost marks carelessly and can make some easy gains.

  • Did you have a number of questions in which your response lacked depth or specificity?
  • Did you provide the appropriate number of pieces of evidence?
  • Did you address all elements in the question?
  • Did you leave marks ‘on the table’ that you could easily have picked up?
  • Are there key words you need to learn to spell?
  • Are there key concepts you need to revise?

In the lead-up to your exams, it is important to focus on the smaller study habits that will get you over the line. Create flashcards of key, specific words and terms. Create style sheets to remind you exactly how to write an effective paragraph. Paying attention to small details is as important as learning the big content.

5. Communication

Many students know a lot of information about their exam topic, but struggle to communicate this knowledge. Your marker is not allowed to make assumptions about knowledge that is inferred but not overtly stated. You have to make sure that your answers clearly demonstrate all of your knowledge.

  • Could your paragraphs be structured more effectively?
  • Did you provide all working so the marker can follow your thought process?
  • Is your hand-writing clear and legible?
  • Can the marker find the response to each question (especially if you crossed out your original response and re-wrote it elsewhere on the paper?
  • Have you used sophisticated, academic vocabulary and expression?
  • Have you used subject specific nouns?
  • Have you provided justification and evidence for your statements?

Don’t Waste the Experience

Sitting the mock exams and getting your results back is a great study technique. But the process should never stop there. Just knowing how well you did in the mock exam is of little, if any, benefit.

It is essential that you take the time to read over your marking guide, any comments from your teachers, and your response to see what you could have done to improve it.

Rather than putting the paper aside, use it as a revision guide to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes in the final exam. Yes, the questions there will be different, but the processes will be exactly the same. Use this new learning to your advantage.

  • Focus on the positives of what you did well – and keep doing them
  • Re-work any questions that you got wrong.
  • Use more time pressure in your revision
  • Add more specific terms to your essay response
  • Make a clear list of things to remember for the next set of exams

If necessary, try to vary your study habits and study techniques. If things haven’t been working for you, don’t just keep doing things the same way. Talk to your teachers about how to improve your study skills and learn some simple tips and tricks to improve your responses.

For more help for students, watch our Youtube video study tips.

Past exam papers can be accessed here.