My mocks were a disaster – what now?

A reader asks:

I got an E in my mocks, but the universities I plan to apply for need at least a B - what do I do?

PANIC! Next question.

What's that? Oh, OK. The Ninja says I have to write a proper answer. And if the Ninja says so... here are some steps you can take.

1. Stop panicking

Your mock happened; it didn't go so well. These things happen: you need to take it as a kick up the bum rather than a punch in the face. You need to take responsibility for putting things right. Sure, your teachers will do all they can, but they can't learn it for you -- and, the chances are, they've got dozens of other students to help as well. There's only one person whose future is particularly affected by the grade you get in the summer, and you'll find them sitting in your chair.

And above all, you need to get analytical about getting your scores up.

2. Analyse your mock paper to death

Get hold of your exam script, the paper you sat, and the mark scheme, and go through it question by question.

Where did you lose marks? How? What do I mean, how? I mean, most dropped marks fall into categories like:

  • Silly mistakes
  • Nearly had it, but you were missing a link
  • Not reading the question
  • Started ok, but went down a false path
  • Had the right answer but second-guessed yourself and crossed it out
  • Didn't have a clue where to start
  • Didn't have time to answer

Also think, where did you get marks? What solid foundations do you have to build on? Were you confident in your answer?

3. Make a plan

Now you've figured out where you lost marks, you can start working out how to get them next time. Practise on similar questions -- for example, look at the 'Mixed exercises' in the relevant chapters of your textbook, and do handful. If you're finding it tough going, try reading the chapter and doing some questions in it.

Don't be afraid to ask your teacher for specific help -- you'll get a much more helpful response to "I didn't get this partial fractions question right and I don't see why" than to "I don't get partial fractions."

4. Do more papers

Doing lots of papers is a good way to get used to the style of language and questions exams tend to ask. That's only half of the story, though: by doing steps 2 and 3 on the papers you do, you can use them to guide your studies over the critical few months in the run-up to the exams.

Good luck!


Colin is a Weymouth maths tutor, author of several Maths For Dummies books and A-level maths guides. He started Flying Colours Maths in 2008. He lives with an espresso pot and nothing to prove.


5 comments on “My mocks were a disaster – what now?

  • Arleen Westmacott

    How can I help my son who bas dyscalculia get a c in gcse, he got an E in foundation and Has been moved up to intermedIate but is panicking ,any help would be most appreciated.

    • Colin

      Hi, Arleen – I’m a bit puzzled. To the best of my knowledge, there (regrettably) hasn’t been an intermediate tier since the mid-00s and the new GCSEs use number grades rather than letters.

      The best advice I can offer doesn’t really depend on that, thought. I would suggest building on areas where he is already strong – perhaps he prefers shapes to arithmetic, or algebra over statistics – and focus on building his confidence in those areas while making sure he picks up marks here and there in the other topics.

      Best of luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up for the Sum Comfort newsletter and get a free e-book of mathematical quotations.

No spam ever, obviously.

Where do you teach?

I teach in my home in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth.

It's a 15-minute walk from Weymouth station, and it's on bus routes 3, 8 and X53. On-road parking is available nearby.

On twitter