Often, before big exams such as GCSEs and A-Levels, your school or college will give you a series of mock exams to prepare. These are meant to be similar to real exams to help you get used to how they work. It should be a chance to familiarise yourself with things such as the style of questions, to time management in exam conditions. Many people wonder whether these mocks are actually representative of the real exam. There is also an idea that mocks are designed to be harder than the actual exam, so when the real one comes around, you find it easier. You may be wondering – is this true?
Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer to this question. Mocks are not standardised and are set by your school or college. Therefore, they are the ones who decide how hard your mocks are going to be – and they are unlikely to tell you beforehand! Many people have said that they found mock exams harder than their real ones. However, schools may think that it is better for mock exams to be as close to the real exams as possible, so they should not be much harder.
While this may have given you a brief overview, there’s lots more to be discussed. Keep reading for more information about how hard mock exams are, whether they prepare you for real exams, and more.
Disclaimer: As mentioned, there isn’t a straightforward answer about whether mocks are harder than real exams. The information in this article is a guide to what you can expect but may not be true of all mock exams.
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Are mocks harder than the real exam?
While it would be nice to get a simple yes-or-no answer to this question, this isn’t the case. There are lots of things that affect how hard mock exams are in comparison to real exams.
Additionally, everyone’s experience of mock exams is different. Scroll to the top of this article to vote in a poll about whether you found mock exams harder than the real ones, and see the results to find out what other people think!
While GCSEs and A-Levels are the same for everyone in the country taking them, mock papers are decided by your school or college. They may use an official past paper, or even write questions themselves.
Some schools may make mock exams harder than the real ones. If you do well in these hard exams, the idea is that you will then do even better in your real GCSEs or A-Levels. In fact, many people say they found mock exams harder.
However, there are lots of other reasons this could be the case. People might think mocks are less important, so the mocks feel harder because students have not revised as much.
Similarly, there are usually several months between mocks and real exams. Students often improve during this time, in both knowledge and exam technique, so may find real exams easier.
Other schools think mocks should be the same level of difficulty as actual exams. This makes sure you know exactly what to expect when exam season comes around. It should also give you the best idea of what level or grade you are currently working at.
One thing that seems to be generally accepted is that mock exams won’t be any easier than the actual exams. This wouldn’t be very effective at preparing you for the real thing!
How hard are GCSE mocks?
Many people worry about GCSE mocks or feel unprepared. This is because they are usually the first important set of exams you have done in many years – perhaps ever. For a full guide to GCSE mocks, check out this Think Student article.
While it is unlikely that you will find these exams easy, they are not something to get stressed about. They are designed to make sure you are prepared, which is really helpful in the long-term, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time!
Another thing to consider is that your school doesn’t know how hard the real exams are going to be. They might set exams they think are the same level as official exams, but actually turn out to be much harder.
You may find mock exams harder for some subjects, and the same level for others. It is difficult to predict what your real exam will look like – and to predict how hard mock exams are too!
How hard are A-Level mocks?
A-Levels are a notoriously big jump up from GCSE. As you may be expecting, the mocks are not going to get any easier.
However, by this time in your school career, you are much more familiar with important exams. As well as GCSE mocks and real GCSEs, many schools have a set of exams at the end of Year 12. This means you know how the exams system works, which should make them less stressful.
Although the difficulty varies, A-Level mocks are definitely important. Whether at the end of Year 12, or near the start of Year 13, they may be used to work out your predicted grades. These can then have a big effect on your university application.
It is therefore important to take these exams seriously, no matter how hard you think they will be. Have a look at this Think Student article for more information about how important A-Level mocks are.
What is the difference between GCSE and A-Level mocks?
In general, GCSE and A-Level mocks have quite a similar setup. The main difference between GCSE and A-Level mocks is the number and intensity of exams you take. The majority of people don’t take more than 3 A-Levels. In contrast, many students take eight or nine GCSEs.
This means you are likely to have more papers to sit during your GCSE mocks. However, A-Level mocks are often more intense, with longer exams. This is also true of the real exams.
Do mock exams prepare you for real exams?
The whole purpose of mock exams is to get you ready for real exams – so yes, they should definitely prepare you. Despite this, some people don’t find mock exams helpful, saying they were not like their real ones.
There are a few things to do to make the most of your mock exams. The first one is to treat them like real exams. For example, plan a revision timetable, and do practise questions to prepare. This Think Student article has a helpful guide to making revision timetables.
You may find it hard to plan your time or stick to your timetable. This is all good practice for the actual exams, as you can learn from your mistakes.
Similarly, after the mock exams, go over your results and papers carefully. This should help you see which topics you struggled with, so you can focus on revising them more next time. Overall, your mocks should leave you feeling ready to face the real exams.