Wednesday 22 November 2017

Why students shouldn't be shocked by the mocks

The exams are a useful exercise -- but pupils need not over-react to the grades

Testing time: Students revising in Cork College of Commerce before last year's Leaving Cert
Testing time: Students revising in Cork College of Commerce before last year's Leaving Cert

Nerve levels are likely to rise a few notches in households across the country over the coming weeks as up to 100,000 students sit their Junior Cert and Leaving Cert mock exams.

For many students this will be the first time that genuine anxiety over exams kicks in. The response from students to the experience is likely to be everything from complacent over-confidence to ill-founded despair.

But most teachers believe students need to maintain a sense of proportion.

"It should be treated very much as a dress rehearsal,'' says Niamh Crowley, history teacher at St Angela's Ursuline Convent in Waterford.

"For many students there will still be three months to the exams. So there may still be a lot to learn. Most students improve by the time of the actual exams.''

Brendan Guildea, who organises popular Leaving Cert maths revision seminars at Trinity College, Dublin, says the higher level maths course is usually not completed by the time of the mocks. So many students can expect to improve their marks by around 15pc.

"There is a danger that capable students panic after the mocks, and switch from higher level to ordinary level.''

Mr Guildea says students can learn the importance of timing in exams when they are doing the mocks.

"They should find out the number of marks for each question and divide up their time. You can learn that from previous exam papers.

"It is important also to attempt to answer a question even if you do not fully understand it. You can get marks just for making some kind of stab at it and not getting it completely right. If you leave a blank you get nothing. That is a crucial thing to learn in exams.''

Many schools now buy in mock Leaving Cert exam papers from private companies. The correcting of the papers may also be farmed out. The advantage of the private exam is that it is an independent process and the teacher cannot pack the exam with questions that have been well covered in class.

A disadvantage of farming out the papers is that a mock exam is held at different times in different schools, but the same paper may be passed between pupils in different schools. If they want to benefit from the experience, students should not try to find out what comes up.

Eamonn Maguire, author of the study guide Less Stress More Success: Irish, likens the mocks to a GAA season. "It is like playing in the National Football League before the All-Ireland championships have started. You learn a lot just from playing, but the Sam Maguire is the real thing.''

Mr Maguire says students studying for the mocks should learn the importance of the three Ps -- preparation, perseverance and presentation.

Mocks can be used effectively to put into practise study skills such as the proper way to plan the writing of an essay, according to Mr Maguire.

"I advise students in an exam to spend 10pc of the allotted time laying out what you are going to write in an essay, 80pc on writing, and 10pc checking back what you have written.''

A growing number of students are going online to seek help with Junior and Leaving Cert exam revision. Examsupport.ie is an established service where pupils can subscribe to computer video lessons. Mocks.ie is a newer online exam and correction service targeted at Junior and Leaving Cert students.

Irish Independent

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