how to pick up after poor prelim exam results

Five ways to pick yourself up from poor prelim exam results

what to do with poor prelim exam results

While many Higher candidates in Scotland contemplate a festive break that will involve studying for the post-holiday prelims, a number of pupils preparing for National 5 exams next May will this week find out their prelim exam results.

Prelims (or ‘mocks’ as they’re known south of the border) are essentially trial exams. They’re great for providing focus months before you sit the actual papers, offering the chance to see what you can do under exam conditions, and highlighting areas for improvement, so they certainly shouldn’t be ignored. If you haven’t quite achieved the results you were hoping for, it can be easy to feel disheartened.

However, the good news, apart from the obvious fact that these weren’t the ‘real’ exams so actually you haven’t messed up irretrievably, is that not only are you far from alone but that there’s also still time to turn things around.

Here are our five tips for picking yourself up if things haven’t gone to plan:

  • Don’t panic

We know that’s what teachers and parents keep saying, perhaps until everyone is sick of hearing it. But actually, it’s good advice. Panic and worry tend to make everything take longer, which is not helpful. Acknowledge (to yourself) that you’ve perhaps not done as well as you’d have liked and that you need to take action, then move on quickly to planning how you’ll turn it around before the real exams.

  • Rethink your revision techniques

Think hard about how you studied for the mocks. Did you space your revision out properly rather than trying to cram everything in at the last minute? Did you do enough work from past papers so that you practised retrieving information from your memory and testing yourself on what you know, rather than just reading and recognising information? After all, you wouldn’t prepare for a tennis match by never playing tennis, so it pays to get ready for exams by writing answers under test conditions.

  • Have you spent enough time on those subjects you’re less keen on?

It’s always tempting to focus on topics you know well or find easy. But the unfortunate truth is that revision isn’t always meant to be that easy! It’s more productive to focus on your weaknesses first, perhaps by doing the subjects you’re less familiar or comfortable with at the start of the day or revision session, when you’re at your freshest.

  • Did the exam experience throw you?

Think about how you actually performed on exam days. Did the pressure or nerves get to you? (And be assured, they can get to anyone!) Did you spend enough time on each of the questions and had you read them properly before you started answering?

how to deal with poor exam results

Remember that for maths papers you must show your calculations, and for any essay where you’re arguing a case, for example in English literature or history, you need to provide evidence for your points.

When you receive your prelim papers back, look carefully at the marks in the margin and spot where you dropped marks – noting especially the types of question where you thought you’d written enough to secure full marks, but actually didn’t.

Work out whether you simply didn’t give enough detail or whether you didn’t spend enough time on the questions that were worth most marks. Or perhaps you started writing too quickly without planning the answer first, or understanding the question fully.

  • Communicate – and pace yourself

Don’t work so hard that you burn out. There are still many weeks to go before you sit your papers for real, so there genuinely is time to turn your exam fortunes around. And keep talking to people – be that teachers, tutors, friends at school or parents. If you’re worried about how you’ve done this time around, chat to someone about how you’re feeling. It may well be that together you can come up with a solution. Remember that a wise man once said, “A problem shared is a problem halved…”

Finally, for an extra boost during the final crucial weeks and months before you sit the real exams, you might want to consider booking a couple of ad hoc sessions with  a tutor, just to boost your confidence and skills in any subject or individual topic that caused you issues in the prelims.

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