Revision: How to use past exam papers
This article was first published in July 2018.
Checking on your progress isn't just about using past papers.
- Check out command words carefully to understand what the question is asking of you!
- Use past papers to make sure that you are managing your time well. Set yourself a time frame to complete each question
- Go through past paper answers with a different colour pen to highlight any marks you lose or mistakes you make
- Test yourself. Find out if your revision has been effective by using past papers or ask someone to test you
- If your notes are all bullet points, past papers might be the first chance you have to write in clear and linked sentences!
- Examiner reports can give you an idea of where students went wrong in previous exams
- Repeat your testing – it is important you test yourself more than once. Try it ten minutes after revising a topic, one day after, then a week later.
Command words and their definitions
- Describe: say what you see - no need for reasons
- Explain: give reasons
- Outline: give a brief summary
- Analyse: go into detail
- Compare: what are the similarities and differences?
- Contrast: what are the differences?
- Calculate: use numbers given to work out the value of something
- Define: give the meaning of something
- Evaluate: consider both sides - pros and cons
- Justify: give evidence to explain something
- To what extent: Judge the importance or success of something - has it worked or not
- Argue: present a case with evidence or reasons
- Assess: Weigh up / give an informed judgement
- Comment on: give your opinion on something
- Debate: give different perspectives