If you are in Matric, the importance of using old exam papers in preparing for your National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams, cannot be over emphasised. By using past exam papers as part of your preparation, you can find out what you already know. By the same token you also find out what you do not know well enough or don't know at all.

What is more, they can also be used as an organisational tool to manage your time better, as you can plan according to each section of the paper. They also serve to help familiarise you with the terminology and vocabulary used in the actual exam.

Benefits of Studying Past Exam Papers

Studying past papers are a valuable part of exam preparation and help keep revision focused on important themes whilst practicing exam style questions.

Past exam papers are one of the most helpful tools available to prepare for both internal and external examinations as they provides students with practical insight into how the forthcoming exam paper is likely to look and the key themes or subject areas most likely to be covered. Before starting revision for a subject it is always worth taking time to seek out past papers.

Where to Find Past Exam Papers

If the exam one is revising for is external, then find out the address of the exam board associated with the paper and request some copies. Past exam papers provided by external examination boards will likely include a small charge but it is well worth it given how much of an advantage it is to be able to practice exam style questions. If the exam is an internal exam, then it is much easier to access old papers by talking to one's lecturer, personal tutor or making an appointment with the course head.

For those of you that are in Matric, you can download past exam papers from 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 (Feb/March and November) and 2012 (Feb/March) from the Department of Basic Education's website. Languages papers in all eleven official languages are available. Papers fore non-languages subjects are also available to view or download.

Benefits of Studying Past Exam Papers

There are many benefits associated with using past exam papers including the following:

  • Helps understand likely exam time length;
  • Indicates typical number of questions;
  • Identifies number of choices provided;
  • Helps work out time required for each question;
  • Identifies style of exam questions (short-answer, multiple choice or essays);
  • Helps practice exam techniques;
  • Helps identify key subject areas to focus on in revision.

One of the most significant benefits of practicing past papers is that it helps students to understand the most likely topics to be included in the exam. As most courses have a broad range of associated topics, looking over past papers will help save a lot of potential time wasting on subjects which are not likely to be on the paper thus making one's revision much more efficient and productive.

Past Exam Papers Improve Time Management

Another key benefit relating to using past papers is that it helps one develop practical time management skills which are essential in order to achieve the best possible grade. For example, if Lindiwe spends too long on short answer questions and then has little time to write an essay then this is an inefficient use of exam time. Therefore, if Lindiwe uses practice papers to train herself in sticking to allocated times for each question then it is more likely that she will be successful in the exam itself. An awful lot of exam success if simply about technique as anyone can memorise facts but it is the manner in which such facts are explained or evaluated during the exam that determines overall grades.

Spending time practicing old essay questions and using these questions to guide essay plans will also help you in developing your answer and thus resulting in better marks. Practicing definitions and short answer exam questions will speed up time required in this area where less marks are allocated so that more time can be spent on the essay style questions which allocate more marks.

If you have not used past exam papers before, I hope you can know see the value in using them during revision and exam preparation. Practicing past exam papers helps to fine-tune key exam techniques and to refresh understanding of key phrases or terminology. It also helps in terms of time management so that vital time is not wasted on short answer questions which allocate only a few marks.

Source: Campus Life and Du Boulay, B. Study Skills For Dummies. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2009.




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