Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Advice to help you through your Science mock examinations
You've done the revision. You've listened to advice from teachers and started your revision early to avoid the panic of 'cramming' the night before. You went to bed relatively early and feel refreshed. Now you are ready for the mock exam - a time to show how well you are doing.
Here's some advice to help you make the most of your time and get you through the paper.
Before the exam
Since phones are not allowed, you'll need a watch. Although there is a clock in the exam room, a watch sitting on your table is great for focus.
Make sure you have all the equipment you will need - including a calculator.
Make a note of the time available and get a feel for how much time you are going to allow per mark. AQA have 60 marks for the hour available to you – one mark per minute.
During the exam
Try not to spend more time than necessary on multi-mark questions. For example, for 3 marks try to spend around 3 minutes on an answer.
Time is easily lost on questions that, at that moment, you really haven't a clue how to answer. It is much better to leave it alone and move on through the paper; your time is better used on questions that you can answer. Since your time is being used effectively, you will be able to go back to those questions at the end - perhaps the answer is more obvious than you first thought!
Plan an essay-style question - maybe produce an outline map or pros and cons lists as bullet points. Remember that good spelling, punctuation and grammar are important if you want to gain full marks. You will often be required to supply a justified conclusion at the end of a well-constructed answer. A good way to end is with the phrase "In conclusion..."
Finishing the exam
Go back to the questions you didn't attempt - the answer might be more obvious.
If you still can't answer the question, take an educated, considered guess. It's better to have a guess than to leave the question unanswered - do not leave the question blank: no answer = no marks.
If you have time, check the answers you have given... have you answered properly, answered what the question is asking, can you add more detail or use better scientific words?
Remember that the harder questions, with more marks, are towards the end of the paper. A good method at this point is to work backwards through the paper so you can concentrate on maximising marks.
After the exam
Once the exam is over, it's tempting to ask your friends how they think they have done and discuss the answers you gave. This is counterproductive - there is nothing that can be changed so reflecting on your performance at this time will not help. Most of us will make mistakes, or give an answer that could have been worded better, but there's no point worrying. The loss of a few marks does not mean you won't get the grade you want.
Command Words are your Friends
Examination boards publish a great deal of information on their websites, including a list of command words. These words form the basis for questions on the paper. Although not exhaustive, here is a description of the main command words:
Compare and contrast: Show the similarities and differences between two or more ideas or processes. A conclusion is not required.
Describe: State the features of something or accurately recall facts, events or processes. A question might include a graph or a table or even a scientific process - include examples from the data in your answer.
Explain: Use science to say why something happens
Evaluate: Use your knowledge and understanding, as well as any information given, to consider the evidence for and against something - you may also be asked to give a conclusion. These questions get the highest marks. Don't forget to include a justified conclusion.
State: Give a fact - no explaining, no waffling (don't rewrite the question as part of your answer - it's a waste of your time). A mark of 1 is usually awarded, reflecting the depth of the answer required.
Suggest: Give a reasonable scientific answer. There are often several correct answers to the question rather than one.
Get yourself familiar with command words - lots of marks have been lost by not knowing the type/style of answer a question requires.
After your Results
Review the paper carefully, making a note of where you lost marks.
The six-mark essay-style question is where most students can improve their marks in future exams. This is especially true for questions involving personal choice or ethics - questions that can't be answered just with science.
Practice strengthening any weaknesses.
Improve your maths skills - make sure you can calculate a mean and know how to handle any anomalies (results not fitting a pattern) in calculations.
Best of luck...
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