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What we've learned from thousands of mock exams

What we've learned from thousands of mock exams

Since we first offered our prep programs online several years ago, our customers have taken thousands of mock exams. By looking at these practice tests as a whole, we’ve learned some important lessons that can help you and all examinees.

We analyzed a large sample of practice tests taken on our platform, across different exam prep programs. Here are three of the things we’ve learned.

1. Most people fail their first mock exam attempt

This was a surprise to me. I figured that, after reviewing all of the material in depth through our video lectures, that initial attempt scores would be at least middling. But they weren’t. Mastering this kind of four-option, multiple-choice exam is a skill set unto itself (see #3 below), and that skill set can take some time to build.

So, if you found that your performance on your first mock exam isn’t what you hoped it would be, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It turns out that almost everyone fails their first mock exam attempt – and almost everyone who completes our programs passes the real thing.

2. Initial attempt scores matter less than final attempt scores -- with a caveat

The overwhelming majority of our customers pass their actual exams. So those initial, failing scores on first mock attempts aren’t predictive of actual exam performance. If you use that first attempt to review item rationales, your improvement on future attempts says much more about your readiness to test than your initial score does. We see a bit more of a relationship between final mock exam performance and performance on the real thing.

At this point, we don’t have enough of a data set of people who failed the real thing [/low-key flex] to identify specific warning signs, like cutoff scores on our final mocks where you should be concerned. But even if we had such flags, your specific scores on mock exams matter a lot less than understanding why you’re scoring where you are. Do you have areas of content strength or weakness? Are you making consistent errors on certain questions? Again, reviewing the rationales for your mock exam attempts can go a long way.

One important caveat here. Practice effects, where your score is influenced more by remembering mock exam items than by improvement in knowledge, are a real thing. It's important to focus on improving your knowledge and skills across the broad base of knowledge your actual exam might cover, and not just on the specific questions on a single mock exam. 

3. Test-taking skills matter a lot

Since we introduced our Think Like the Test™ videos, we’ve noticed a clear uptick in mock exam performance – for those who actually watched that video all the way through. Folks who hadn’t viewed that segment, or had only viewed a small part of it, missed a potentially easy bump in their test scores.

The fact is, test-taking skills matter a great deal on the real exam. You may have a solid understanding of the material, but unless you understand how questions are asked and why some appealing answer choices can be wrong, you can fall into traps that would otherwise be easy to avoid.
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