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…
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!
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.
Question types make a huge difference to your teen’s study. Multi-choice questions, short answer questions, and essay questions, each require very different types of preparation.
2. What content they should be focusing 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.
There are lots of different places that you may find resources for your exams which will differ based on where in the world you are and what type of exams you’re sitting. There might be books with old exam papers, there might be official websites with papers to download, or you might have some lucking trying a Google search. Your teen’s teacher will probably be a great person to ask about this.
If you do find a great database of exam papers please post it in the comments below to help others find it! 🙂
Image Credit: alaina.buzas on Flickr