the Dragonfly journal

Walking, talking mock: Are mock exams the way forward?

By Martin Jones - Dragonfly Trainer

From a number of conversations I have had over the past six months or so it became clear that a new phenomenon was sweeping the world of year 11 GCSE Mathematics – the walking, talking mock.

Upon investigation, it soon dawned on me just how good an idea this was and I was left wondering why I hadn’t thought of it myself!

I have never really seen the point of students, especially the crucial borderline groups, sitting for two hours in an exam room with a paper they can’t do, spending a lot of their time trying to graffiti on the exam desks without the invigilators catching them. Don’t get me wrong, they must have realistic exam practice but the idea of walking, talking mock sounded like a much more useful exercise.

Fast forward to the second week back after Easter and I found myself administering a walking, talking mock exercise for the first time in front of over 100 foundation students, none of whom I knew.

The process was fairly straightforward: the students were sat in the seats they would occupy in the real exam. What follows is how I administered the session – this can be amended to fit your individual needs.

The students were told how the mock would operate: I would give them hints about each question and declare the time they were allowed to answer it (if any of the maths staff wanted to make a contribution then this was encouraged).

Students were made aware of the school policy of no equipment being loaned on the day, to write in black ink and ensure their answers are written on the answer line etc.

I began by giving them a hint I always use: the two worst remembered formulae areas of a triangle and of a circle. I instructed the pupils to write their answers down anywhere on the formulae sheet. (As an aide memoire – the windows in the exam room were rectangular. Remember to divide the window by half).

I gave a hint on question one before declaring that the students had five minutes to answer it. This was repeated for every question. When the exam was finished, each student was given a mark scheme and they marked their own papers. With six or seven members of staff in the room, it was fairly straightforward to help any students who had problems with marking and an annotated scheme could be shown on a big screen.

The final task was to show the grade boundaries so that all students knew where they were in terms of targets for that paper.

There were many very positive comments (I also ran a similar higher version with 60+ students) and there was a definite feeling that students’ confidence was boosted by this session. I would recommend that schools find the time to carry this activity out even if only with borderline students.

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