Past papers are able to show you how your own exam will look like, while also offering a sense of the kinds of material it will ask for and how you can prepare for it.
Here are some tips to get the most out of past papers as a revision tool.
Use past papers to predict what will come up in your own exam. Look for patterns in the topics they go into and the types of questions they use. Familiarise yourself with ones that come up frequently and be prepared to answer them.
Prepare yourself for the exam room by putting yourself under the actual time conditions of the exam and solving past papers like you would in a real exam. Use these opportunities to time yourself and practice your test taking skills.
Make note of questions you got wrong. Copy them down in a notebook with correct answers and relevant material from the topic. Use these questions to find specific topics you haven’t revised as well and focus on them. Highlight materials you missed or didn’t learn enough about.
Compare your own notes taken throughout the year with past papers. Check that your notes and what you learned in class cover all parts of the syllabus well. Look out for topics you’re missing and fill them in.
Similarly, don’t shift your focus too much to past papers. There may be topics that haven’t come up for a while but will this year. Keep on revising all topics and all parts of the syllabus well, while focusing on specific parts that tend to come up often in past papers.
To do this effectively, use past papers with the same syllabus as your own. Don’t get bogged down with past papers from ages ago that used a whole different syllabus covering topics you don’t need to know and aren’t expected to learn.
Right before your actual exam, solve past papers once again to check that you’ve covered all the syllabus and gotten used to exam conditions.