How effective are mock exams?

Mock exams are usually set with the objective of gauging students’ preparedness ahead of the final exams (national exams).

Schools mostly set mock exams at the end of second term. It is candidates who are expected to sit for this type of examination for this helps in providing insight into students’ varying academic performances and consequently determining their preparedness for their final exams.

In Rwanda, mock examinations are set internally by individual schools while others are set by the District under the supervision of Rwanda Education Board (REB).

These tests are usually done by students who are about to sit for national exams; for example in the Rwandan context, those who are yet to do primary six, senior three and Six.

Whereas for Cambridge classes, it is Grade 8, 10 and 12; however this form of curriculum has mock tests of its own, according to the head of the humanities department at Riviera high school and year leader—advanced level—at REB, Ronald Wandira.

Benefits of mock exams

According to Wandira, mock exams are extremely helpful to any student looking to excel in their examinations.

These tests give students a feel of the real final exam. For most of the students about to take a major exam for the first time in their lives, mock tests provide a trial run, he says.

Mocks are extremely helpful to students looking to excel in their examinations. / Net photo

Being placed in the same situation and feeling the same amount of pressure before the actual exam, Wandira says inculcates confidence and self-analytical capacity for the student. And this he says reduces pre-examination fever.

“Most students preparing for competitive exams do so in bits, sections, and stages. Some read on the last minute and by the end of it all, they believe they are well prepared to take the test. But on the day of the exam, often everything one learned is forgotten in the flash of a second,” he says.

He explains that this happens because of a tendency to underestimate the toughness of the questions and the scope of the syllabus, or because some students take things lightly hence being underprepared.

Revision is the key to remembering all that students have studied, and this is where mock tests come in, he says, adding that mock tests help students revise the entire syllabus in the simulated setting of the actual exam. This way they remember what they have learned and perform well on the final day.

Peter Gasinzigwa, who heads the examination items bank at REB, says mock tests are important because of the practice they provide to both teachers and students.

He says if students don’t sit for mock examinations, they miss out on an important step, for these tests give both teachers and students a clear picture of what needs improvement.

Jane Nakaayi, the head of the Department of languages at Riviera High School says most schools have and always do tests, but in most cases, they are not of standards like mock.

Mocks make students familiar with the style and scope of exam question papers and help them to understand what is needed in terms of speed, time and content as well, she says.

“Managing to finish the exam on time is really challenging. But with mock tests, it helps students with time management. They are set in position to work on their weaknesses and strengths as well,” she says.

Aime Prince Lionel Murara, deputy national coordinator in charge of operations and partnership in Education for Nations and Humanitarian Africa (ENHA), believes that perfection originates from practice.

These examinations, he says basically reflect the image of dos and don’ts, what to modify, and strategic inclusions meant for guiding a student towards the path to success.

Moreover, Murara says schools are also able to scale the magnitude of their education standard mainly by the use of these kinds of examinations.

“This is due to the fact that mock examinations are constructed in a scheme that allows a vibrant spirit of competition,” he says.

Murara notes that education is one of the basic pillars responsible for boosting up Rwanda’s global reputation. Therefore, more innovative ideas are the essence of supporting Rwanda’s educational efficiency.

“This is why mock examinations play a great role in increasing the number of committed and thoughtful students who will positively transform our country,” he says.

Ways to make mocks more effective

Pax Elisee Mfura, a student at African Leadership University believes that mocks should be exercises meant to help students to familiarise themselves with the examination setting, evaluate how prepared they are for final exam and also, for schools to see how prepared their students are.

This, he says is all good but he is against teachers who tend to put a lot of pressure on learners to read a lot in a short period of time, cramming them with a lot of work, which he says is wrong.

“If this is done in the name of preparing for mocks, then such exams can discourage students if they are not well mentored to accommodate this,” he says.

While he understands that the goal of such exams is to make the education system more effective, it’s vital to aim at making it as relevant as possible.

“Education should be the most enjoyable and value-adding institutions in the community,” he says.

Mocks should be a surplus to the work that schools have already done. Schools have the responsibility to holistically (emotionally, mentally, and academically), prepare students to perform well in their exams, Mfura emphasises.

Additionally, Mfura believes that on top of mock exams, schools should aim at involving students in doing different projects that enable them to understand what they learn in the practical realm, for this he reasons will encourage innovation, research, and inventions in the education system.

Mfura on the other hand says mock exams shouldn’t be a determinant of how a school or students are standing in terms of performance.

“These exams can as well give false hopes to schools that they are doing great or poorly depending on the scores of the students.”

He further notes that mock tests should be adjustable from evaluating how well a student can memorise concepts and formulas, to giving students a chance to practically and creatively express their knowledge in innovation projects that showcase their competence and acquired knowledge in the area of study.

Availing a wider platform for mock exams

Nakaayi says schools should have different organisations where they can set tests and give them to other schools for assessment.

She says this is important for it helps teachers to measure their teaching capacity.

“As a teacher, when you mark examinations set by yourself, you kind of get biased, and you can end favouring certain students based on different reasons,” she says.

She hence notes that mocks, in this case, will be of great importance if another person marks them and seeing the comments, marks, and rewards from a different teacher helps and guides a teacher well on the way forward.

Nakaayi however advises that before students sit for mock examinations, teachers should make sure the syllabus is already covered.

And that, teachers should also endeavour to take students through a question and answer technique and encourage students to look at as many past papers as possible.

“Students should consult their teachers while teachers should encourage their students to involve in peer learning, group discussions, learning from each other, among other things. Doing things like pre mocks and all arrangements that schools can do in preparation for mocks is very vital.”

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