There’s not just one right way for your teen to go about studying for exams.
However, there is something that every teen should do during their exam preparation.
Something so effective in helping students prepare for exams in fact (we speak from personal experience), it almost feels like you’re cheating!
It doesn’t matter what your teen’s predominant learning style is or how they prefer to go about studying for exams…
Every student should use Past Exams to study
Past exams are an absolute goldmine of information.
They let your teen know what types of questions they should be preparing for, the lengths of these questions, the number of questions, the order of questions, and what the layout of the exam is.
We can’t stress how important this little tip is!
Our university had a database that contained the past 10 years of exam papers from almost all of the courses offered.
One particular semester I (Chris) remember having one class that I particularly enjoyed, and another that I took simply because it was compulsory. Throughout the semester I got higher marks in the class I actually liked – which isn’t terribly surprising.
But sadly, when it came time to prepare for exams I found that the past exam papers for my preferred class had been withheld from the database. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it meant I was studying for the exam blind – I had no idea what was coming!
In the end, I got a better mark for the compulsory paper… Not because I put in extra study to ensure a good grade, not because the exam was any easier than I expected, and not because my favoured paper was particularly hard.
It’s just so much easier to study and succeed when you know what to expect.
That is the power of past exam papers!
What will your teen learn from doing past exam papers?
1. What types of questions they should expect
There’s no point in your teen practising multi-choice questions about the novel they’ve studied if their exam is going to contain essay questions.
2. What content they should be focussing on
For most subjects there is core content and peripheral content.
Core content will always be assessed, so it’s incredibly important that your teen studies this first and most thoroughly.
Having a look at some past exam papers will give your teen a really good idea of what the core content for each subject is. It’s recognisable by looking at what types questions always come up and where the easiest marks are usually got.
There’s absolutely no point in your teen studying something obscure that might only appear once every ten years.
3. How many questions they’ll be asked
It’s really nice to know going into the exam approximately how many questions there will be so there’s no nasty surprises.
The number of questions will obviously determine the pace your teen will need to work at during the exam. An exam with 40 short-answer means your teen has less time per question than an exam with 30 questions.
On top of this – exams often contain a range of different question types. Your teen could have an exam with 20 multi-choice questions, 10 short-answer questions, and an essay.
They need to find this stuff out before the exam by looking at past papers so they can sort of their in-exam strategy.
4. What the layout of the exam is
By layout of the exam we mean the order of questions, how the questions look, how much room your teen will have to provide answers – even what the multi-choice answer sheet looks like.
The more familiar your teen can get with the details of the exam, the less daunting it will be.
Where can you find past exam papers?
There are lots of websites that you can download past papers from (for free!) – here’s a list for most of the common exam systems.
NCEA – New Zealand
Past exam papers are stored on the NZQA website under each subject.
Click on the subject you want, then scroll down to ‘Resources for externally assessed standards’. Past papers are under Exam Documents, and marking schedules are called Assessment Schedules.
Past Papers can be found here.
You can get up to date information and links to past exam papers from the Aussie Educator website.
Apologies if your teen is sitting exams other than those above. Your best bet to find past exam papers is probably by doing a Google search. Otherwise your teen’s school might know where you can get your hands on some.
If your teen does belong to another schooling system with their own exam paper databases, please include them for others in the comments below 🙂
Image Credit: alaina.buzas on Flickr