If you are in Matric by now you will almost certainly have heard, or indeed been advised, that making the use of past papers as a part of your revision is advisable, and possibly even a must. Finding past papers that cover the subjects you need them too is not that hard, but where some come unstuck is working out just what is the best way to make use of them.
Revising with past papers is rather different than simply trying to memorize facts by rote, or commit paragraph after paragraph of text from a notebook. They are almost literally a test run for the ‘real thing’ but there really is a right and wrong way to go about using them to get the most out of them. Here are some pointers:
Set Yourself Up in a Proper Test Situation – A proper test situation means no textbooks, no notes, no cheat sheets and no noise.
Go Through the Past Paper Blind – Work through the entire paper once answering the questions you feel confident about (or at least believe you know the answers to.) Any you are unsure of pass over. When you have answered all you can ‘stop’ the test and take a five minute break.
Look Up the Unknown – Returning to the paper, use whatever resources you prefer – the Internet, your textbooks, your notes – to ‘fill in the blanks’ on the questions you skipped. Do not revisit those you already answered. Make sure you note down which questions you answered without assistance and which you needed a little help for.
Marking Time – Once all of the questions have been answered, you can turn your attention to the marking key. Mark all of the questions and total your score. But it’s really not about that score. It’s about discovering what you actually know and what you still need to work on. To that end it’s now time for a little past paper analysis. How many of the questions that you thought you knew the answers to right away did you actually get right? Did you make any mistakes on those that you did ‘look up’? Performing this kind of analysis can really help guide your studies that so you spend time on the areas that you need help with most.
Rinse and Repeat – After a gap of a few days or so return to the same paper again and repeat the process. If all is going to plan there should now be far more questions that you find that you can answer right away and far fewer that you need to look up. Will these actual questions be on your ‘real test ‘? That’s highly unlikely, but the same basic subject matter will be covered and thanks to your past paper work you should be far more prepared to tackle them than you might have been had you relied on ‘standard swotting’ alone.