Are practice exams really worth doing?

One of the most common study tips for exam revision is for learners to do practice exams. These practice exams could be past papers that your school has used, past papers from the Department of Education or even practice exam questions such as the ones found in the Ace it! study guides.

We have recommended doing practice exams for all of the different learning styles, as they are a great way to get an understanding of what you can expect in the exams. For visual learners, they are a good way to write out what you know in a format that will suit the exam. For auditory learners, they present an opportunity to practise channelling what you know into an exam-appropriate format and, for kinaesthetic learners, they are a great way to revise because you’re actually doing something rather than just revising content. This can make the information stick in your mind more clearly.

Aside from this, what are the benefits of doing practice exams as part of your exam revision?

Well, first of all, they are a great way to familiarise yourself with the exam format. Each exam you write will have a predictable format. You need to know what this looks like before you walk into the exam room so that you feel less stressed and anxious. Doing practice exams will help you to understand how the exam will look when it is put in front of you, and it gives you an opportunity to practise answering the questions in a way that will score you the maximum number of marks. Most practice exams come with a memo, which you can use to mark your efforts – this will show you when you’ve answered too little, too much, too broadly or not broadly enough.

Secondly, practice exams can help you to understand the question words. So many learners know the content but fail to understand exactly what the question is asking them to do (this often applies to auditory learners in particular). Examiners are given a very clear marking memo, so it’s essential that you are answering the question correctly – not only in terms of the content but also in terms of what the examiner wants to see. For example, if the question asks you to “List…” you should not write a descriptive paragraph. Working with practice exams and their memos can help you refine this skill.

Lastly, practice exams can help to show up any gaps in your exam revision. You may think that you have covered all of your bases only to find that you actually don’t know enough about a particular topic in order to be able to answer questions on it in the exam. It’s essential that you build in time on your study timetable to do practice exams. Try to avoid doing this the day before the actual exam though, because that will not give you enough time to self-correct and go back to a particular section.

As you can see, practice exams are an essential part of exam revision. That’s why every Ace it! study guide contains practice exam questions.