When it comes to studying for an exam, there are multiple routes you can take. But regardless of whether it’s a high school final or a major professional examination, mock exams consistently prove to be one of the most effective tools around.

The “Why” Behind Mock Exams

A mock exam is simply a practice test that you take prior to the actual exam. It’s like playing in a baseball scrimmage prior to the opening day of the season. It mimics the real thing, but the stakes are much lower.

It’s not so much about passing or failing as it is about putting yourself through the reps, assessing your knowledge at this stage of the preparation process, and clarifying what you need to work on moving forward.

Mock exams are powerful study tools for any situation. Whether you’re in high school or college, or you’re taking a professional exam to earn a specific credential or license, mock exams just flat out work.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Extra Motivation

Research shows that 3 out of 4 students self-identify as procrastinators, while half of all students consider it a major problem. And here’s the big problem with procrastination: The further away from the event or deadline, the less likely people are to make smart decisions that help them accomplish whatever needs to be done.

Procrastination happens in all areas of our lives – and it impacts even the most successful individuals. For example, the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright delayed the Fallingwater project for nine months. Then when the deadline quickly approached, it took him just two hours to design the entire property. In other words, it took the pressure of a deadline to actually get him to take action.

What’s this got to do with mock exams? Well, a lot, actually. Mock exams serve the purpose of providing additional motivation and urgency when the actual exam date is still weeks away. It gives you something to focus your attention on in the meantime.

2. Practice

Mock exams test your knowledge and let you know where you stand during the study process. They often include a sample of the very questions that you’ll see on the exam, which makes it invaluable preparation.

Take the CPA exam, for example. If you were to go into this exam cold, you wouldn’t have any idea of what to expect. But with mock exams, you’re able to see actual practice questions in the format that they’ll be presented.

Some CPA exam review courses, like Wiley CPAexcel, have as many as eight mock exams with 12,000+ practice questions. To not take advantage of these resources would be foolish.

3. Improved Knowledge Retention

When you take a mock exam, you force yourself to engage with the content. This stands in stark contrast to simply reviewing material out of a textbook or lesson plan, which doesn’t require as much thoughtful effort as you might think.

“Testing yourself is an effective way to improve your knowledge and ability to recall information,” Bradley Busch writes for The Guardian. “In a study on mock exams, researchers found that students who did a practice test after a period of revision did better on the final exam than those students who didn’t do the mock exam and had just spent the whole time reviewing.”

When you’re forced to think critically about questions and come up with answers, it makes a much more significant impact. And even if you fail the mock exam, that’s something to be thankful for. After all, it’s better to fail the mock exam than fail the real thing. It serves as a much-needed wake-up call.

4. Exam Format Acclimation

While the content of the exam is important, mock exams also help students get acclimated to the format, timing, and pace. If, for example, it’s a two-hour exam with 50 multiple choice questions and a short response section, the mock exam gives you a better idea of how to pace yourself so that you finish within the allotted time.

Take Your Study Prep to the Next Level

If you’re studying for an important exam, it’s a really good idea to take at least one mock exam during the process. If nothing else, it’ll put you through the motions and give you a better idea of what to expect when you finally sit for the real thing. Give it a try and let us know what you think!