Why should I do timed mocks?
A lot more goes into doing a STEP exam than just answering STEP questions. You have to consider question choice, timing, endurance, and presentation. All of these skills need to be practised just as much as actually answering STEP questions. After all, in June you will be sitting exams not individual questions.
Doing timed mocks helps with all these factors; not only do you practise answering questions, but you also improve all the exam techniques which go with it.
Also, answering questions in exam conditions helps you continue on when you are stuck and not find the answer on the internet or simply give up.
Timed papers also give a quantitative way to track your progress, and you should note down marks that you achieve.
Which papers should I do?
You should be completing as many papers as possible, to be entirely honest. Plan out, with however much time you have left, which papers you will complete – leaving the most recent papers for closest to the exams.
What conditions should I use?
Use full exam conditions. Print off the exam paper beforehand, without looking at any of the questions.
Having everything offline will help eliminate distractions and be more similar to the real exams.
Try to do all three hours in one go if possible. One of the things I found hardest at first was keeping a constant pace throughout the time. I would often find that nearer the end I was getting tired and not working as effectively. It was only through practising working for the whole three hours that I improved.
Write out your answers as if they will be marked by someone else, don’t leave out stuff just because you know how to do it.
I would suggest keeping track of how you are using the time by noting how much time has elapsed when starting a new question. This can help you see how you can improve your time management later on.
What should I do if I have already done one or more of the questions?
Ignore them and do different questions. It might well be very helpful to try different topics of questions, since you don’t know what you’re going to come across in the real exam.
How can I mark them myself?
While Dr Carroll and I are very happy to mark papers you have completed, marking them yourself can be a valuable exercise.
Leave the paper for a few days, then read through your answers seeing if you can follow them. If you find it hard to understand your own answers that is a strong sign you need to improve your presentation.
I would mark my answers in ranges, as it is often very difficult to decide on an exact mark with any degree of certainty. This can be done with the help of unofficial solutions online or the official hints and solutions page.
It is important that you only mark what is on the paper, not what you thought or what you think you could have done. The examiner will not know that you meant 5y when you wrote 10y etc. Be harsh with yourself.
Have I done well enough?
You will find that you improve increasingly rapidly, as everything you learn builds on what you knew before. There is no need to worry about the exact scores or grade you are getting (the marking is pretty subjective) but you do want to be showing improvement. It can give a guide as to how much time you should spend on STEP rather than your other subjects.
What should I do next?
It can help to go through some of the questions you didn’t finish or attempt because of time and try to do them. Correcting any questions you made mistakes on can also be very helpful.