How to Make the Most of Mock Exams

Laptop saying mock exams

Many students think that mock exams are a waste of time. They’re not ready for the exams yet, and these don’t count, so why bother really trying?

Well, the reason we use mock exams is that both you and your teachers need to see what you don’t know.

There are only a few weeks in the final term until you sit the actual external ATAR exams. Your teachers want to get a clear idea of what they need to focus on in this time.

And so should you.

So, let’s look at what you can learn from the mock exams and what study techniques you can implement from now on to get you the results you want.


When we revise our work, it is very tempting to just keep going over the stuff that we already know. It gives us a big confidence boost and lulls us into the false belief that we know everything and are ready for the exams. But this is a very ineffective study habit.

In fact, at this stage, we need to STOP revising the content we already know and focus on the work we haven’t yet mastered.

Granted, this won’t be as quick, or as much fun. And it probably won’t give us that same hit of dopamine that we score when we get things right.

But this is where our energy needs to be directed in the lead up to exams.

Ask yourself:

  • What do I need in order to improve my understanding of this content?
  • Do I need to ask my teacher for further help?
  • Do I need to sit more practice exams?
  • Do I need to work through more examples?
  • Or (to be honest), do I just need to take the time and effort to learn this information in the first place?

 Time Management

Perhaps time management was a factor? You knew the answers to the questions, you just ran out of time to get them down onto the paper?

There’s an easy study habit that can help you here.

Make sure that when you test yourself at home you do so under exam conditions.

From your mock exams, you should gain a clear idea of how many minutes you can allocate to each mark on the paper.

When you work another example, be sure to set yourself this same time limit.

There is no point being able to nut out the answer in 45 minutes if you need to do so in 4 minutes in the exam!


Our next study tip is to make sure that you hand write any practice responses – many students struggle to write quickly (and legibly), especially under pressure.

Remember that your marker doesn’t know you and won’t be used to your handwriting. You need to make it as easy as possible for them to read what you have written. The clearer your handwriting the more likely they are to look for any extra information for which they might be able to give you marks.

Practising your writing will help you speed up, and get your hand more used to the process of writing. Use the same pen in revision that you plan to use in the exam. This way your finger will develop a small callous, making the pen more comfortable on the day and enabling you to write for an extended period of time.

Practising your handwriting also helps you determine how many words you can fit into a page This will help give you a visual understanding of how much you need to write in the exam in order to meet the length requirements

Specific vocabulary

Maybe you were pulled down for spelling or for not using subject specific terminology?

Maybe you misunderstood, or failed to acknowledge, the specified cognitive verb you needed to address. Make sure you know what each cognition requires. If a question asks you to ‘analyse’ and you simply ‘explain’, you can’t be awarded top marks no matter how accurate your response.

Now is a great opportunity to make yourself vocabulary lists and ensure that you know how to use and spell these specific words.

Flashcards are a great way to do quick and simple revision.

When you work through your flashcards, sort them into three piles – the content you can recall easily, the content you can recall with effort, and the content you really don’t know at all.

Put aside the cards containing the content you already know.

The cards with the content you can remember with effort can be revisited in every second study session.

It is the cards with information that you really don’t know that need to form the basis of your study moving forward.


Maybe stress and anxiety were your undoing?

If that was the case, you need to think carefully about what you can do to overcome this issue.

Let’s face it, the stress in the actual exams will be far more intense.

Have you tried meditation or relaxation techniques?

Can you develop a routine or ritual that might help calm your nerves before the exam?

Be wary of studying with friends, or talking to them too much about the exams. If they have prepared differently you may psyche yourself out and decide that their methods are right and yours are wrong. This will cause you to second guess yourself and the many hours of studying and revision that you have done will be wasted.

Now is the time to back yourself. You’ve done the work (I hope!) and now is your time to shine.

There are many different ways to respond to many questions – especially in the humanities subjects. You and your friend might approach it differently but that doesn’t mean that either approach is wrong.

Besides, maybe you’re the one who’s got it right. Why do we always assume that if our ideas are different we must be the one who is wrong?

Try to turn this around and smugly think this is at least one student who doesn’t know as much as you!

A lot of exam success is based on attitude and frame of mind.

Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you enter the exam room in a positive and determined frame of mind, ready to do your best.

So, what study techniques do you need to address in the leadup to exams?

Whatever it is that you need to work on, remember that you still have plenty of time and opportunity to do so. We offer plenty of help for students if you need a helping hand.