Whether you’re a bushy-tailed Year 9 gearing up for your first ever exam experience, or a cynical senior slowly losing all motivation to try at all – mock exams are coming whether you like it or not.



Like many things in life, mocks aren’t inherently bad or good. It’s how you react to them that will define your experience. Mocks aren’t just there to pile extra stress on unsuspecting high schoolers. They’re there to help you, and can be a great opportunity for growth.

But you’ve heard that rant before. We’re not here to lecture you on how mocks will define your education, career and life from here on out.



We’re just here trying to help students take full advantage of their education – and mocks are a fundamental part of that.

StudyTime has no affiliation whatsoever with NCEA or any other education institution, school or ministry in NZ. It makes no difference to us whether or not you try in mocks, (except if you don’t, we might feel like we have to work on our persuasion skills).

Keep this in mind, and you might be more inclined to take on our advice. 



No strings attached. 




1. Perfect your study notes before the stakes are too high to bother



We all know one of the small mercies of studying is the satisfaction that comes with writing up an Absolutely Lit Page Of Beautiful Study Notes.

Unfortunately, most of us will usually start studying far too late to worry about making our notes pretty. Or, vice versa, we’ll spend a little too long colouring in our title page of study notes, leaving no time for actually learning the information.



The beauty of mocks is that they matter – but not as much as the real thing. This means a lot more time can be spent on the small things that you would otherwise disregard because PANIC.

Don’t get it twisted: there’s no correlation between a page of beautiful study notes and your learning capabilities. Ultimately, the only thing that will define your grades at the end of study leave is how much energy you dedicated to truly learning the information.

BUT… that doesn’t mean beautiful study notes have no worth. As we’ve said many a time: the key to effective studying is finding a method that works for you. If that method happens to involve lots of highlighting, calligraphy and elaborate Kikki.K notebooks – so be it.



Imagine drawing up a beautiful page of study notes, and then actually having the leisure to go through and learn them before your exam? This is how your mock experience could look!

No idea where to start with Study Notes? The best way to start is by making a one-page-cheat-sheet (strictly for revision) of your subject.

Summarising and condensing all your notes into one page is a great study method around for a number of reasons.

  1. DECIDE WHAT’S IMPORTANT. In order to fit your notes on one page, you have to make some decisions about what’s important, and what is fluff. This evaluation actually supports learning and comprehension, but also means that important information won’t be swallowed up by the tsunami of other (useless) information you stuffed into your brain in a matter of 24 hours.
  2. TEST YOURSELF. It’s an valuable resource for self-testing or practicing past papers.
  3. GLAMOUR. Pretty notes look pretty. That is all. 




2. Soften the cruel blow of reality you’ll inevitably receive during exams


You know that sinking feeling of getting marks back and realise that you did way worse on an exam than you thought you were going to?

Or asking your long-term crush to the Incredibles 2 with the confidence of Excellence-Becky-on-Exam-Day… only to be brutally rejected? 



These feelings can be avoided with the help of a secret ingredient: self-awareness.

It’s a psychological fact that humans are pretty bad at objectively assessing things, especially when our ego is involved.

Just as we tend to make our faces more attractive when we look in the mirror, we also tend to overestimate our own competence when it comes to learning and intelligence. This is a phenomenon called the illusion of learning, and it’s more common than you might believe.



But the takeaway here is, you’re never as prepared as you think you are. The sooner you accept this fact, the sooner you can begin to adjust your behaviour to improve for the better.

The illusion of learning isn’t entirely your fault. No one properly teaches you how to study; capitalism is constantly telling you that you are a special snowflake; and when you’re spending the long yards hunched over textbooks that feel profoundly difficult and time-consuming – you’re only naturally going to assume those hours are translating into some sort of knowledge. It is Leo season after all.  



But the truth is that our study methods are often flawed, and simply the act of sitting down to work can trick your brain into believing you’re learning lots, when really, you’re doing the study equivalent of standing with either leg on the side of a running treadmill and congratulating yourself on the miles. (FYI Self-testing, self-elaboration and distributed practice are all good ways to avoid illusions of learning when studying.)



This illusion that we’re learning when we’re really not is what makes that sinking feeling a helluvalotmore painful when it hits.

Mock exams are a golden opportunity for receiving an big ol’ blow of truth – without all the ugly consequences.

However, this will only work if you do. If you treat mock exams like they don’t matter at all, your marks will reflect that effort, and you’ll be none the wiser on how much you have to learn.

If you treat them as though they’re the real thing, you’ll not only have a more accurate picture on how much you have yet to learn, but you’ll also feel a sense of resounding calm when you receive the marks you do: because it’s a gift for your future self. 

So for this mock exam season, I urge you to put in the work, and see what follows. If you don’t do as well as you expected, thank the universe for sending you these pearls of self-awareness before NCEA credits come into the equation.

As for getting good grades on your mocks? Congrats! You now know exactly what you need to do to replicate those results when the time comes.

When in doubt: ask yourself, “what would my higher study self do?”



3. Working towards a challenging goal is actually really Healthy4You (and satisfying too). 


We often like to think of ourselves as pretty spontaneous, motivated and strong-willed creatures. But when we’re asked to choose between Difficulty and Comfort in our everyday lives, most of us, (consciously or unconsciously) will usually opt for Comfort.



It’s the reason we hit snooze on our alarm when it wakes us up for a sunrise run, and it’s the reason we enviously perch on the side of the riverbank while our friends have a swim without us because we decided we decided to “sit this one out and watch”.

The truth is: we’re hardwired to tread the easy line of life.



Again, don’t take this personally. It’s simple biology. Our brains are designed to protect us from all things that they recognise as potentially dangerous, difficult or detrimental.

This is why for many of us: study leave during mock exams just means more time spent lying horizontally than it does actual study.



However it’s also the reason many of us close ourselves off to the many opportunities that come our way.


As Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens has said: “the comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears”.


Try to think of studying for mock exams like diving into a freezing cold waterfall on a road trip with your friends. Initially, it’ll be uncomfortable, maybe even painful. It might take some warming up to, or some motivational internal dialogue.



But the feeling of pure joy you get afterwards – even if only because you did something that challenged you mentally and physically – is enough to make the whole thing worth it. And next time, you know it won’t take you so long to hurry up and get in.

Studying for mock exams will widen your horizons. It’ll make you smarter, more prepared and keep you busy. It’ll make your success feel deserving and fulfilling, and it’ll mean you register your lessons and failures with more strength. 

But ultimately, you should study for mocks because if you don’t – you’re selling yourself short. The opportunities you attract will reflect the life you lead. Don’t remain stagnant. Don’t overlook your potential.

Do you, and do you the best you can.



What is StudyTime?

StudyTime is an online platform dedicated to helping NZ kids make the most of high school.

StudyTime is an online platform dedicated to helping NZ kids make the most of high school. We’re a combined team of tutors and students who deliver entertainment, advice and original resources to thousands of high school students every day.




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