Diary of an NQT: The mocks are taking over

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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The pile of mocks to mark is looming large, but our NQT diarist is determined that these exams will play a vital role in informing her teaching this term

A new term is in full swing, and just as I have managed to reduce my to-do list to a number of tasks that seems fairly manageable, I am presented with a hugely unappealing pile of mock exams to mark!

I am in the process of mentally preparing myself for what seems the equivalent of running a marathon. Collectively, I have 100 pieces to assess and feedback on. The thought alone is eye-watering.

I have had to rearrange my priorities massively due to the timings of our mock exams. Our students will experience a mock “results day”, which means I am working to a strict schedule, both for providing feedback and for moderating within the department.

Whereas I would have used this time to ease into the different units rather leisurely, I instead feel the pressure of “the pile” and this is making me feel more urgency about everything else during the school day.

I am planning to “chunk” the task by marking small amounts, but as often as possible. I don’t think there’s any harm in setting a quota, but I know I have to be realistic about how many hours there are in a day and my work/life balance.

Of course, I am feeling hopeful that as I slog my way through the endless pile, the hard work will be worth it.

After speaking with students recently, it is fascinating to see the different responses to the concept of mock exams. Inevitably, there are some that still argue – “what’s the point?”.

However, despite my pleas of frustration and despair, as I try to turn these negative exchanges into more positive conversations about how mock exams are the last chance at being able to showcase true capabilities, I am slowly learning that my words will always fall upon some deaf ears.

Conversely, I have had conversations with extremely anxious students who are convinced that doing badly in their mock exams will be the end of the world as we know it. It’s been really difficult to stay sane among these contrasting views, but I really do feel that as a professional I have done as much as I possibly can at this point.

One thing I do know is that the exam results will be put to good use – they certainly won’t be banked, filed, reported, never to be seen again. I can’t let the time and effort, from both me and my students, go to waste. After some moderation with the department, the results will inform both my teaching and planning for the rest of my time with my year 11 class.

We have approximately three and a half months until the real GCSE exams and all units and papers have already been covered in normal class teaching time.

So, when I have the mock results, I’m going to analyse them carefully and highlight where both strengths and weaknesses lie, which will guide my week-by-week teaching rota of high priority topics.

Within this, I will try to focus on specific areas, rather than generic and broad recaps on plot lines and exam papers. I am going to focus carefully on making sure my students’ subject terminology is as thorough as it can be, and that elements such as key vocabulary and contextual information are rooted firmly.

And lots of formative assessing will take place along the way to ensure that my methods are working and the students’ learning is sticking!

  • Our NQT diarist this year is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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