Tag Archives: Exams

The Big Exam Question: Do I Do Past Papers?

The Values and Pitfalls of Using Past Papers in Your Exam Preparation.

[dropcap style=”1″ size=”3″]O[/dropcap]pinions at exam time are like onions in a crowded Jamaican market – almost every other person has a pile at their feet. Everybody is shouting at you from a mile away about how great their onions are and why you should buy from them.

Yikes! What do I do now?! Cue cards? Past papers? Group study? Revision classes? Do I read my notes alone or the text book? Do I write essays? So many things to do, so little time!! | Photo by Joybot

It’s coming down to the wire now, and as you ought to know by now, your exam preparation time is as precious as your market money.  Just like you cannot spend all your market money buying the loudest person’s stinking onions (and forget to buy everything else to go with the meal), so you cannot afford to spend all your time doing whatever the loudest person tells you. You need to ensure that whatever you do, is effective.

So, Should You Do Past Papers?

Probably – based on what I have learned from watching the first 4 videos in Professor Stephen Chew’s series: How to Study Long and Hard and Still Fail or How to Get the Most Out of Studying.

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The key is found in Chew’s explanation of the difference between what he calls, shallow processing and deep processing of information.

Shallow Processing:  Take this approach and you probably won’t remember the information very well or be able to apply it with any skill during your exam.  Reading non-stop, highlighting chunks of passages and cramming 1000 memory cards of isolated facts is the pinnacle of shallow processing. You may pass, but you won’t do your best.

Deep processing:  This approach doesn’t promote isolated memorization. It promotes learning. It will ensure you remember and are apply to apply information in the exam. Asking yourself questions after reading, applying the information to your personal experience, testing yourself with the information in the way the teacher will test you – all of these promote deep processing.

From this information, based on Professor Chew’s series, it is clear to see that using past papers in your exam preparation is definitely a smart thing.

Warning About Past Papers

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As I said to a friend one day :

“The thing about past papers are that, well, they are in the past!”

Note well, the point of doing past papers is not to build your expectations of the future exam but to strengthen your knowledge of the examinable material. There is a very big difference. The exam may not come in the same way or with the same emphases. There are, therefore, several things to remember about past papers:

1.     You should do multiple years and topics.

I am often tempted to do one year’s paper per course and then feel pretty satisfied – horrible idea. If there are 15 examinable topics and only 5 questions per paper, if you only check one paper, you will miss 10 topics.

2.     You should contrast the past issues tested with the topics your own teacher emphasized.

The general topic may be the same but the emphasis may be completely different in your year. One year may be more procedure based, another more concept based another more fact based.

(“Now Andrew, time to take your own advice.”)

Are you a fan of using past papers? Do they usually help or harm you?





How to Study Long and Hard and Still Fail Miserably

[dropcap style=”1″]T[/dropcap]hrowing darts at a tiny bulls-eye from about 30 feet across the room with a sprained wrist is how I would describe my past exam preparation and exam taking experiences.  Who knows what to do? Just give it your hardest shot. Hit or miss at least you gave it your best, right?

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Wrong. If you genuinely care about learning, about your development and about your future then you, like me, must come to a point where you crave insight into how you can do better at school. Same goes for work by the way – understanding those new models to improve your output. Continue reading How to Study Long and Hard and Still Fail Miserably

Why You Should Probably Skip the All-Nighters This Exam Period

Every student knows the feeling.  It’s like the desire to succeed in school, though quiet all year, gains herculean strength every November – December or April – June as we anxiously begin to prepare for final exams. Suddenly it seems like the only way to avoid the F of your life, is to spend almost every waking (and non-waking) hour cramming your brain.

STOP – step away from that can of Red Bull. Before you down yet another 5 Hour Energy with a cocktail of caffeine capsules, you really should pause and consider whether studying all-night will truly give you the results you expect. Continue reading Why You Should Probably Skip the All-Nighters This Exam Period

One Simple & Guaranteed Way to Boost Your Memory for Exams

I know the feeling. “Heaven help me” is what you are thinking right? You have 3000 tons of notes to cover and only 24 hours in the day. You read day and night – sustained by the power of coffee – but you want to cry because it seems the more you read the less you remember! *cue frustrated scream*

From London, to Florida, to South Africa, to Kingston – all across the world, there is one desire that all students share as they approach exams. Every student is eager to know that ONE secret to doing better in the exam room. Well, this may not be the ONE magical secret, but it certainly is a big deal and may significantly boost your chances if you try it out. Continue reading One Simple & Guaranteed Way to Boost Your Memory for Exams

These Exams Will Not Ruin My Life

There are three things I do not plan to trade in my bid to become an incredibly successful attorney. One is my sanity, two is my faith in God and three is a relatively balanced life. That being said – I still have to do (and PASS) my darn exams.

Like Sheep To The Slaughter

If you are a student, you can definitely relate no matter what your area of study – but let’s just put things in context by using my life. I’m proud to say I attend one of the best law school’s in the world. My colleagues make a habit of beating the best law schools in the world (see 1,2,3). You can appreciate therefore, that the program must be demanding. Continue reading These Exams Will Not Ruin My Life