In the lead-up to exams, there’s one tip we hear the most from high achievers, teachers and experts: do your practice papers. Sitting practice papers will ensure you’re prepared for any type of question that comes your way, as well as refining your exam skills and hopefully increasing your confidence before going into the exam.
But before you start, there’s a few tips to keep in mind…
1. Complete the whole thing
That’s right, from start to finish. We’ve all picked a paper up, finished the multis and then flicked through the rest. But to get the benefits of completing a practice paper, you need to complete the entire thing.
Of course, answering single questions is still a good way to study, particularly if there’s a concept or topic you need extra help with! But sitting practice papers in full is important for your preparation. Only then will you actually understand what it’s like to complete an exam, and go into the real thing ready.
2. Timing is everything
Similarly, it’s important to time yourself. The exam is a race against the clock, so why wouldn’t you practice getting your timing perfect before your exam? Setting yourself the same time that you’d have in the real thing will allow you to gauge how long it takes to get your answers down.
There are multiple ways to approach this. You can time yourself doing the whole paper, from start to finish and seeing if you can do the whole paper in the 2-hour time slot. Or you can get really specific and time each section of the paper. This will give you a good understanding of what you actually need to work on. If the paper says to “allow 40 mins” for the extended response section, then set your timer for 40 minutes, give yourself an essay question you haven’t seen before and go! In doing this, you can identify which areas of the paper you’re most confident with, and which ones you need more time to prepare for 🤔
3. Put your notes away
A question we often get asked is “Should I do a practice paper with my notes open?” and our answer is simple, “Are you allowed to take your notes into an exam? No.”
We get it, you won’t look at them unless you need to, and even then it’s only a sneak peek. But you can’t rely on your notes to jog your memory. You know they won’t be there in the actual exam, so get your notes memorised and do your practice papers closed book.
4. Recreate exam conditions
Just in case the first 3 tips weren’t clear enough, recreating exam conditions is the best way to complete your practice papers. This includes:
- Sitting at a desk in a room with no distractions
- No laptops, phones, tablets or other devices
- No notes, textbooks or unnecessary paper
- Nothing on your desk other than your pens, paper and calculator (water bottles and watches placed on the floor if you really want to commit)
- Using an analog clock to keep the time
- No food and only drinking water (that means no coffee or energy drinks)
- No breaks
- Including reading time in your practice
- Using a blue or black pen
It might seem extensive, but the more you imitate the real thing, the better.
5. Mark your work
Now, this is the step many people overlook—but marking your work is essential.
By marking your work, you can see which topics you’re prepared for, and more importantly, the content that you need to revisit. If there’s a particular concept you’re struggling with, hop onto Atomi and watch the lesson on it, complete the related quiz and short-answer questions. This way, if you come across this question or something similar in the exam, you’ll know exactly how to approach it.
While your teachers are a great reference, you can also self-mark your work! Most practice papers will have an accompanying marking rubric that you can use to assess your responses. If you’re looking for more detailed feedback, reach out to your teacher (just remember they have a lot of marking to do, so patience is key!)
While practice may not make “perfect”, it will take you as close as you can get. So, get your hands on as many practice papers as you can! Ask your teachers, look online or create a custom revision session on Atomi! The more you can prepare, the better 🤓