Practice Makes Perfect: The 3IB Mock Exams

On Thursday 21st January, the students of the 3IB had their mock exams. To some students, this is an excruciating experience, however it serves a few important purposes. This makeshift exam gives students an advantage on the real exam as they are able to troubleshoot things like time management and identifying where they need to put in more work for particular subjects. This practice is also helpful for the teachers, as it gives them a general idea of how prepared the students are for the exam or it shows them where the students might need a little extra help.

Maria Jose Godoy Leiva, Karla Juric and Amanda Louisa Johnsen-Hernandez shared with us their experience on preparing for the mock exams while doing online school and gave some advice that may be helpful for the students that will take it next year.

Due to this pandemic, until a few days ago we were having online lessons, how was preparing for these exams at home?

Maria: It wasn’t too bad since we still spent a majority of time at school and online lessons were usually spent reading for the mocks. If anything, the preparation for the mocks was mainly done during the Christmas break (but I didn’t do this) so the online lessons didn’t interfere with the overall studies for most students. Personally, I found it ok anyway because I prefer to study at home.

Karla: I think while it was a bit challenging to follow lessons at home, preparing for the exams itself was not as challenging.

Amanda: Studying for the mocks whilst having online lessons had both its pro's and con's. A good thing was that most of the time the teachers would schedule their lessons so that we met up at Meet right at the beginning of the lessons and then gave us exercises to do for the remaining time. This allowed me to finish the "in-class" exercises at my own pace, and if I somehow finished before the class was over, I had more time to study for other subjects. On the other hand, I sometimes found myself in the so-called "work-flow" and then suddenly got stuck on a question or concept that I didn't fully grasp, and then not having the teacher nearby. I mean, I could always just send a message on itslearning, but it's not the same.

Did you have any challenges or difficult moments due to online lessons?

Maria: There weren’t any significant difficulties since we could still do practice exams at home with the teacher’s help.

Karla: When you spend your entire day at home, you begin to procrastinate more and more. This was what I had most difficulty with, just starting anything.

Amanda: Other than the disadvantage of not having a teacher close-by whenever I had a question, I would say that the hardest thing was going through the "struggle" of mock exams somewhat alone, or at least the days leading up to the mock-exams. Although you stay in contact with your friends through social media and such, it's much more comforting seeing that other people are experiencing the same stress as you are.

How did you prepare for these exams?

Maria: I spent most of my time rewriting notes and watching videos for biology and history since those are the subjects that require more memorisation. As well as going over specimen papers for maths.

Karla: Well, since past tests have had a role in me preparing for my exams, I looked back at the whole syllabus and went through any unknown areas, while mastering the topics I was well acquainted with.

Amanda: For most of my subjects I attempted to do as many past-papers questions as possible. But for subjects such as psychology and english, I found that using flashcards to learn the terminology was extremely useful.

After taking the exams, if you could go back in time what advice would you give to yourself?

Maria: PLEASEEEE start studying earlier. I knew that I had to begin earlier, but I still let myself procrastinate. Also, go over the things you know you don’t know!!! So much time was wasted on topics I already understood and I had wished I hadn’t.

Karla: I think the best would have been to start revision earlier, with more breaks, rather than spending hours without any break.

Amanda: "Just do it"

Knowing that last year's mock exams were evaluated as the real ones did you put more effort in doing them?

Maria: I put more effort into them than what I would have, but an issue I found was that I had IA’s on my mind and the TOK essay which overlapped. It was not a good situation to be in, simultaneously studying for your exams and writing essays.

Karla: Yes, of course. Also, since the mock exams have a role in your predicted grades, which are the grades needed for university, I was already counting on giving much effort in doing the mocks even before Covid.

Amanda: Well, I guess I did to some extent. But in the back of my head, I always studied with the fear of it happening again.

Are you hoping for the cancellation of the IB exams this year or would you like to do them?

Maria: I hope with my whole heart that the exams are still on for May 2021. I know that I will do better in the real exams than these mocks and that I’ll get amazing grades. Since I usually perform better under exam stress rather than usual essay writing for the IA’s, I really need these exams.

Karla: At first I thought I would like to do them, I still wish to have them, but right now I think I'm ready to accept whatever comes along.

Amanda: I would very much like to have them. :)

Do you think mock exams help you to prepare and practice for final exams or is it just stress?

Maria: It does help!!!! All the mistakes that you could make are done in the mocks. If you freak out and answer the wrong questions or too many questions, this only happens in the mocks and you won’t get penalised or have to die from stress knowing that you’ve ruined the whole paper for yourself. It gives you a clear idea of what the real exams will be like and how strict it actually is. I found that others around me still didn’t take it too seriously as they would try to talk to me in the exam room when it’s strictly banned. Thank god they did it now and not during the real exams or else either of us would have been penalised.

Karla: I definitely think that the exams help you to prepare, there is a bit of stress, but I think that's all well since you study even more and come out more prepared for the real exams.

Amanda: Nooo, although the mock exams can be stressful it has by far been the most productive thing I have done in preparation for the actual exams. After my very first mock exam I realized that there is so much more to the exam than just knowing the content. It's also about the experience of sitting high-stakes exams and how it feels so that you know what you're going into during the May examinations.