Whether you are studying A-Levels, GCSEs or Functional Skills, the use of past papers when studying really is invaluable. In fact, using past papers as part of your studying is invaluable for any course that has examinations at the end.
Although you may think that using past papers when studying might be a form of cheating, it’s actually not. Each year the exam boards create and form new examinations for student to sit, these papers are a combination of old questions used previously and also new ones which relate to any syllabus changes.
The thing that a lot of students don’t know (or realise), is that the same exam boards release past papers publicly for both schools and students to use in preparation for exams. Not only do they release the past exams, but they also release the mark schemes for them.
Using past papers as part of your study will help you to perfect your exam question answering and also give you a better idea of what particular areas of the course syllabus the questions tend to focus on and put more value on.
Where can I find Past Papers?
You have two options when it comes to finding past papers to practice with. You can either do a quick Google search and links to them should appear, but be careful not to get tricked into buying the papers, they should always be free and readily available for download along with their mark scheme.
Otherwise, if you visit your chosen Awarding Body (for example AQA or Pearson Edexcel), then you should be able to search their website to download past papers and also the mark schemes for them.
How do I study Past Papers?
Once you have a set, then you can begin to use them as part of your studying and revision. It’s advisable to approach them in two ways. First, try and complete one full paper as if you were under examination conditions. So set a timer and give it your best shot. If you have a tutor or teacher helping you, once you have complete the mock exam, ask them to go through it and mark it for you. If you don’t have a tutor or teacher, then work your way through your answers comparing them to the mark scheme example answers and pointers to see how far off the mark you were.
Once you have a clear idea and understanding of the style of questions and the areas of focus, now you can go back through your notes or course materials and read up on the areas you struggled on in the mock exam, this way you are improving your weak spots and ensuring you have all the needed information for when you try again or sit the actual exam.