Revision Strategies for Mock Exams
Mocks will be soon on everyone’s mind and preparing students for mocks is high on everyone’s agenda. Here are some strategies I use in order to help prepare students for mock examinations.
1. Recapping explicitly the different components of each paper
This might sound basic, but helpful reminders for each paper of what sections will appear can help to guide students on the right track of how to revise; for instance, for the listening and reading papers, students might want to focus on vocabulary and reading strategies; whereas for the writing exam, students might want to revise tenses and structures to help them with accuracy.
2. For each exam paper, and each section of each paper, remind students of metacognitive strategies that they need to deploy.
Along with knowing what sections appear on each paper, need to know what it is they need do and what metacognitive strategies students need to deploy in order to be successful in each element of a paper. A prime example is that of the photocard on the foundation writing exam – if students mention more than one thing that there is in the photograph in one sentence, they only get a maximum of 2 marks even though they mention two different things – they do not get any extra credit! Some students may even find they run out of things they know how to describe in the photo and lose marks because they were not cognisant of that the strategy they needed to use: ‘hay’ or ‘il y a’ plus one noun per sentence, over a total of four sentences.
3. Question types: reading them carefully before answering and identifying common distractors
Going through different question types and looking at what students need to do to answer them is very useful. But what is even better for the reading and listening papers is how to identify possible distractors. Looking at key question phrasing – such as the most serious problem suggest to students several problems will be mentioned and they need to pick the one that is the most serious. Being aware of this and combing for the superlative can help guarantee students success.
4. Remind students of common pitfalls for each paper and how to avoid them
Alerting students to common pitfalls is essential to make them aware of where they can fall; but we also must tell them how to avoid these pitfalls in our teaching during revision lessons. One such example is on the 150-words – students can write the most amazing narrative – full of complex structures and vocabulary, but should they fail to give 2 justified opinions, they receive a communication cap of 9 marks out of 15. This is something I have seen native speakers do on a regular basis in the December mock examinations. I remind students of checklists of what they need to do in the 90 and 150-word tasks to ensure that they comply with the requisites that will allow them to access the full range of marks.
5. Revise and teach tenses and how to apply them
In the writing and speaking exams, if students have errors with their verbs, this can cost them severely in their marks. At the beginning of their writing and speaking exams, I get all students to write down their endings for the present, preterite, imperfect and simple future tenses. The reason for this is that they can use these as a handrail during the exam in order to check their endings and conjugations during the exam.]
6. Plenty of practice
There are plenty of resources out there to aid students with exam prep. ZigZag papers, Kerboodle papers and revision guides are all out there to aid students. The more practice students get, the more exposed to question-types and vocabulary they will become.
7. Review prior exams and note down vocabulary
Going through transcripts and annotating vocabulary is invaluable for gaining unknown vocabulary. When going through, students highlight where the answer is, translate it into English, note down any unknown vocabulary, then pair it with the question itself. We then look at any specific details that students must include in their answer to gain the mark so they are aware of the level of detail students need in their answers. Students note down any vocabulary that they do not know and any infinitives of verbs that appear in their vocabulary books.
8. Vocabulary quizzing
Interleaving vocabulary from different modules and creating vocabulary lists for students to quiz each other on as a starter activity is very useful. It is low-stakes and students enjoy it. Students assess their partner, tick if they get an answer correct and cross any incorrect answers, before swapping and then returning to retest the incorrect answers again.
9. Can-do attitude
Embedding a can-do attitude can be difficult, but every year before the mocks, I look at our tracking sheet, known as ‘The Beast’. I show them the look ups and the grade boundaries for each paper. I make students very aware that, especially on the higher paper, once they are on the scale, they can move up the grades very quickly. For instance, on the listening paper, 13 marks in 2019 was a grade 3; 2 more marks would earn a student a grade 4 and a further 3 marks would see a student gain a grade 5. Presenting the grade boundaries in this way can give students a boost in self-belief and make them realise that they can achieve in these papers.