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Mocks

Sometimes students dismiss mock exam results as unimportant. They say that at GCSE they didn’t do well in mocks but still got good grades in the real thing. They don’t really believe there is anything to worry about, or they do but they push it right down because it is too frightening to contemplate.

A levels are different from GCSEs. I am sorry, but they are: GCSEs lend themselves to cramming, to lots of memorising at the last minute. Some students passed their GCSEs by this strategy, but it doesn’t work at A level.

Here are the grades achieved by my AS maths group a year ago, with their actual AS grades (names redacted):

Name C1 Mock AS Grade
A E A
B C C
C C B
D B A
E A B
F U U
G C B
I D C
H C B
J A B
K B C
L D B
M B A
N E E
O C C
P A A
Q E D
R A B
S C B
T U B
U E D

You will see that 18 out of 21 got the same grade, or one more or less, in the actual AS exams as they got in the mock. Of the other three, two climbed four grades and one climbed two grades. So the vast majority of students failed to get significantly different grades in the summer. I remember very clearly student ‘A’ and student ‘T’. They totally changed their attitude, they were like different people, totally serious and driven; they worked so hard, eating up extra work. I had been convinced after the mocks that student ‘T’ in particular would fail but by the summer, I was disappointed that he missed the A grade by a couple of marks.

Now, my subject is maths, and advice varies by subject, but most under-achievers simply do not do enough work, that’s the fact. And if you think you are working hard, well you have to work harder, because that’s what it takes. Use your free periods better, use evenings and weekends. See your academic work as your priority and do what needs to be done.

But it is also a question of what work you are doing. We know that many students waste their time. They waste it in low level activities (highlighting key points) and avoiding the challenges of hard thinking. And they allow themselves to be constantly interrupted by social media and other online distractions so they never get into a flow. They play music and kid themselves it is helping.

So have a chat with your teacher about what work you should be doing. And put aside all your devices when you’re working.

In my subject, the challenge is often about resilience. Students give up too easily and check the mark schemes/solutions, and they never really learn to think things through for themselves. Crucially, you should never give up: if you are stuck you need to spend time thinking about it, trying one thing and another, checking for errors, doing it again, reading the text book and notes, looking for similar questions, over and over until you gets it right. That is the only route to success.

Challenge yourself with past paper questions. Never give up. If it takes three hours to get a question fully right, that is three hours well spent. Once you conquer a question, find a similar one to test yourself one. There is no short cut to success.

The time is nigh. You have to decide what are you doing here? How much are you willing to invest in your future, in success? Every single Woodhouse student has the ability to achieve high grades. What is in question is not ability: it is mindset.

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