Revision Methods: Past Exam Questions
Whilst it might be tempting to revise simply by reading through study guides and text books, making a few notes and repeating what you learn, the key to study success is to work through material in an individual and active manner. Constructing answers to past exam questions fits the bill perfectly. Using this revision method, you will not only be learning and testing yourself on what you know, you will also be brushing up on your essay and exam skills at the same time.
Tackle The Tricky QuestionsYou might instinctively feel drawn towards the questions that you feel most comfortable with and, indeed, in the exam such questions may be the best ones to choose. However, when it comes to revision, the most important thing is to stretch yourself. When looking over past exam questions, pick one that looks challenging. This will ensure that you get the most out of your study session but will also fill you with confidence for the exam. You are likely to find that even the most terrifying of questions are really quite manageable once you think about them in a little more detail.
To Write Or To Plan?Depending on how much time you have and what you are focusing on within your revision session, you might choose to write the answer to the question in full or just to create a detailed plan. If you are focusing on committing information and arguments to mind, planning a question might be most effective. Time yourself as you do this and initially only allow yourself the number of minutes you would designate to planning in the actual exam. Remember, you can always go back later and add in any extra thoughts. If you are focusing on essay technique, developing an argument and exam skills, planning and writing your answer in full is the best option. This will give you an opportunity to experiment with different essay styles, as well as exploring the varying perspectives on an issue. Again, ensure that you work with your eye on the clock and time your planning, writing and proofreading strictly. As far as possible, you should try to recreate the sort of situation that you will experience in the exam hall.
Seek FeedbackAsk your teacher if they would be willing to mark your practice answer and give you any feedback or suggestions for improvement. It is worth bearing in mind that they may be too busy to mark a large volume of fully written answers but might well be happy to cast an eye over a detailed plan instead.
It is worth taking the time to mark your own answer too. Keeping the exam criteria in mind, imagine that you are the examiner and mark your essay or plan by reading it closely and critically. Look out for both your strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas where you lack background knowledge or relevant facts.
Planning and writing answers to past exam questions forces you to set the cogs and wheels of your brain in motion. An ideal task to undertake after a study session, consider working through a past question after revising the related topic. This will ensure that the information has been firmly implanted in your mind.