Taking Stock of the Mock: What dry run exams are - and are not - good for.

Nov 20, 2020, 12:01 AM
There's some poetically ironic about calling these dry run exams "mocks".  For many parents, this is the time when our children make a mockery of revising. Or perhaps it’s more like they’re mocking us for our frequent, if not futile, attempts to get them to study. Ironic naming aside, these dress rehearsals can take up a lot of energy and be a source of anxiety for students and parents alike. Are they simply there to help acclimatise students to working in exam conditions?

In this episode we look at the point of these mock exams and how can we make sure that our young people are getting the most out of them. 

The Study Buddy founder, Nathan McGurl talks with Adam Boxer. Adam is a Head of Science, at a North London school, a blogger, author and speaker about chemistry, cognitive science and retrieval practice. Adam also created “Retrieval Roulette” – an excel spreadsheet that generates random questions. He has evolved this fantastic idea and has now gone on to co-found “Carousel”, which he describes as a “massively pimped up version” of the original.

This period after the winter half term is the season for mock exams. Schools up and down the country have been running them. Certainly, most of our students have been doing them. Many of these young people see them as vitally important this year: after the cancellation of summer 2020 GCSEs mock exam results became a feature of how teachers could evidence a predicted grade. But, of course, they were never intended to actually form part of the formal assessment.

In this wide-ranging conversation, Adam explores the role of mock exams for students and the impact of and on motivation. He touches on retrieval practice and also spaced learning. We discuss the approaches that parents can take in talking through results and the dangers inherent in using this form of assessment as a way of informing future study.


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