Here are our top tips to help you use past exam papers more productively to get you the best grades in your exams. Practicing using past papers is a great revision strategy, so it essential that you learn how to use them wisely! The video below highlights our top 10 tips.
Tip 1 – Know which papers you are sitting!
To start with you should ensure you know which exam board and which specification you are studying as well as which paper you will be sitting.
This is particularly important for GCSEs where you might be sitting the higher tier or the foundation tier also some exam boards have more than one specification per subject such as Geography A and Geography B.
If you don’t know which board or specification you are studying ask your teacher. This will give you a starting point as to which past papers you should focus on first.
Tip 2 – Find the past papers
Revision World is a great place to find all the recent available past papers from AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas, WJEC, CCEA and CIE. The most recent past paper may not always be available as this is often held back by the exam board for use in mock exams so is only available to teachers.
Find GCSE Past Papers here.
Find A-Level Past Papers here.
In some cases there may not be too many examples of past papers available as exam boards regularly make changes to the syllabuses and content so it’s extremely important to use past papers wisely and only attempt them when you have the time to cut out all other distractions.
Tip 3 – Find a quiet place and cut out distractions.
First of all switch off your phone- tiktok and instagram will still be there for you once you have finished. Tell your parents not to disturb you and if you have space in your home, banish your siblings to another room.
Tip 4 – Print out your past papers
Once you’ve got hold of your past paper it’s a good idea to print it out as having a physical copy allows you practice in real exam conditions with your pens, calculators, rulers and other equipment allowed in exams.
Tip 5 – Set aside the correct time to complete the paper.
On the front of the past paper it sets out the time you have to complete the exam. So make sure you have that time available, to get the most out of the paper you really should make sure you complete it in one go as time management is a vital part of exam success
It might be worth creating a revision timetable to set aside specific time to complete your paper. You can find Revision World’s timetable maker here.
Tip 6 – Don’t cheat!
The may be questions in the paper that you struggle with. However tempting it is, do not cheat! Do not look at your notes to help you answer a question.
Give it your best shot as if you are a real exam environment as you never know you may still be able to pick up marks. This will also help you to cope when you get into a stressful exam situation.
Tip 7 – Time management is crucial
Take a look at the number of marks available per question and allocate the amount of time accordingly for example a one mark question may only need a minute and a 6 mark question may take 6 minutes. If you are stuck on a question move on as you can always come back to it later.
Tip 8 – Practice with papers from other exam boards
In England Ofqual regulate all GCSE and A-Level exams so most of the content will be similar or even almost identical regardless of the exam board so if you run out of past papers from your own board try a paper from another exam board.
In England the four main exam boards are AQA, Pearson Edexcel, OCR and Eduqas. It is also worth your while looking at the Welsh board WJEC and The Northern Irish board CCEA as well the international boards including CIE.
Tip 9 – Use the mark schemes to mark your answers.
Alongside the past papers, you will also find all the mark schemes on Revision World. Bear in mind the mark schemes have been written for examiners so you may find them slightly complicated so it’s worth having a good look through them before you start to mark your work.
Also have a good read of the language that they use as this gives you some tips on what sort of language and key words you should be using in your written exam paper. It’s a good idea to make notes on your written paper as you mark as the mark scheme may show you a different way of working out and presenting your answers.
Tip 10 – Mark yourself critically.
When marking your own paper it is essential to mark yourself critically so you don’t get too complacent about your progress. This is particularly important in the higher mark questions. If you are in doubt give yourself a lower score. Remember you are using past papers to improve your performance not to prove that you are already exam perfect!
Once you have your mark, take a look at the grade boundaries. These alter every year and determine how many marks you need to achieve each grade.