How to


Past Papers

Study Help
August 12, 2022

Past papers should form the bulk of your revision after learning the material. They are crucial to understanding exactly what you need to write, i.e., what you will get the mark for.

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How to Use Past Papers

  • Make sure that you’ve learnt all the material in the paper you’re focusing on.
    Once you feel confident you’ve absorbed it, start doing practice questions from past papers. You can find thousands of these questions in Flyp’s Question Bank.
  • Before tackling any question, look at the number of marks that it is worth.
    For most subjects, this number tells you how many key points you need to write in your answer, as well as the amount of time in minutes that you should be spending on it. For example, three-mark questions are looking for three specific pieces of information and should take no more than three minutes to write.
  • After answering some questions, go through the mark schemes (also found in Flyp’s Question Bank) and mark your own work.
    Don’t be easy on yourself! Compare your answers to the exact wording in the mark scheme. If you didn’t write what’s there, don’t award yourself the mark; this is how the examiner is going to be looking at your answers. It’s very easy to lose most if not all the marks on questions the first time you do them, not because you don’t understand the material, but because you haven’t used the same key words and phrases as those in the mark scheme. Don’t let this discourage you!
  • Instead, read through the mark schemes.
    What did you miss? Look for those key words and phrases (the most important key ideas will sometimes be in bold). Writing these in your answer is the only way you can get the marks for this specific question, so make sure to learn them. Knowing the mark scheme answer will also help you to understand what the examiner needs to see for similar questions.
  • Repeat!
    The key to consistently getting the marks is knowing what’s in the mark scheme, and to do this, you have to see quite a few questions, and quite a few mark schemes! Try to vary the topics and subjects you study each day, but make sure that you keep revisiting them, trying new questions each time. You’ll begin to absorb the key ideas and see huge improvements in marks collected.
  • Do timed past papers, and try to do them under exam conditions if you can.
    Timing yourself is the only way to understand your own pace, so you know for the future whether to write more quickly or take more time to develop your answer. Being able to work under time pressure also helps to relieve some of the stress for the real exam. Aim to leave at least 20 minutes at the end of the exam to review your answers. Use this time to make sure that you wrote all the key words that the mark scheme might contain in your answers.
  • How to choose your past papers.
    When choosing which past papers to tackle for a given subject, aim for the most recent ones. These use the more updated syllabuses, so will be the most similar to your own exam.
  • Finally, make sure to choose the right paper to review.
    Paper 1s contain different material and have different timings to Paper 2s, so ensure you cover all the types, not just one!

Hopefully, this advice will help you to make the most of your past papers. Working through past papers and their mark schemes is easily one of the most underrated study methods out there, so spend ample time on them!

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