Past papers. They’re useful, right? Put simply, yes – they are. As long as you do them properly that is.
We’ve all been there. It’s the night before an exam and you’re reading frantically through as many past paper memos as possible. Ultimately, you’re trying to cram WAY too much information into your brain. Bad news. This approach probably won’t work or, at the very least, won’t help you as much as it could.
So let’s rewind and start from the beginning.
Step 1: Where do I even FIND past papers?
Okay, so maybe you’re not even at the last-minute-memo-cramming stage. You’re a few steps behind and haven’t found any past papers yet. That’s okay too, we can change that.
The first thing you need to do is figure out if your school follows the National Senior Certificate (NSC) or the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) curriculum. You can find past papers for each curriculum here:
NSC Past Papers
IEB Past Papers
Matric: IEB Website
While it’s pretty easy to get hold of matric past papers, finding past papers for other grades can be a tricky process. We suggest the following if you’re struggling to find past papers for a particular subject or grade.
- Ask your teachers if they have any past papers from previous years that they would be willing to give you.
- Learners in older grades or older siblings are worth a try too. They may have kept old exam and test papers from when they were in your grade.
- Another option is to ask learners from other schools. Most schools cover similar content but may test in slightly different ways. Approaching content from a different perspective could be useful in strengthening your knowledge.
So what are you waiting for? Get searching!
Step 2: Knuckle down
So you’ve got your hands on some past papers. Now what? Here are a few important points to remember when doing past papers.
- Past papers are not the first step in the process of studying. If you don’t know the content, testing yourself on it won’t be that helpful. Do past papers once you have studied the content and want to see how well you know it.
- Try and do your past papers under ‘exam conditions’.
What this means is: sit down, time yourself and do the paper all in one go – as if you are actually in an exam. This will be a true test of how well you know your stuff and will prepare you for how an exam will feel.
- Following on from the ‘exam conditions’ idea, don’t check your answers after each question. Mark the whole paper once you have finished it in the time you have given yourself.
- Don’t check the answers every time you get stuck. You won’t learn if keep looking at the answers every time you don’t know something. Answer as best as you can. Once you have completed and marked the paper, you will be able to see where the gaps in your knowledge are and what content you need to focus on.
Step 3: Try, try and try again
Do as many past papers as you can – and then do more. Past papers will give you the best indication of what to expect in the exam and will help you feel prepared. They are also the best indication of whether or not you are actually ready for an exam.
If you get in the habit of doing past papers from the get-go, by the time you get to matric you’ll be a seasoned professional and know exactly how to get the most out of doing past papers.
Step 4: It’s simple: ACE THAT EXAM!
We can only get you so far – now it’s up to you. You’ve done the past papers under ‘exam conditions’ and you are prepped for the exam ahead. Get your head in the game and you will soar through those exams.
We are big believers in past papers. They are really valuable… if you do them right. This study method is a useful way of getting your mind ready for the exam season. So put your head down and get the work done. We believe in you! 🙂