Practice exams papers are a vital part of your revision toolkit. Find out how to get the most out of them...
Most of the time, there won't be much difference between these. However, past papers can sometimes cause problems. If the course has changed since the paper was first used, then some of the questions might be out of date. Some past papers might also be missing information: for example, old English literature papers sometimes leave out extracts for copyright reasons. The older a paper is, the more likely it is to be out of date, so try to use more recent papers when you do a full mock exam.
- Sticking strictly to the time limit
- Not looking at any notes or reference materials other than the ones the exam specifically allows
- Not communicating with anyone else during the exam.
If you take extra time, make a note of where you would have had to stop without it. If you look anything up, make a note of it alongside your answer.
If your exam has right or wrong answers, you might be able to mark it yourself or swap with a friend. Most exam boards let you download mark schemes as well as past papers to make this easier. However, even this kind of marking can be harder than it looks, so there might be some places where you're not sure what mark you would get. On essay-based exams, you won't be able to mark your own papers.
Ask your teachers or tutors whether they would be willing to mark some of your practice papers: this will give you a better idea of how you have done and where you can improve. When you get your paper back, make sure you go through your answers carefully to see what went well and what can be improved, rather than just looking at the overall result.
Many exams ask you to choose a certain number of questions from a longer list. This means that once you have used the practice paper, you can go back and attempt some of the questions you didn't choose as individual questions. This also forces you to attempt a question you're less confident about - useful preparation in case you get a tough exam.