What will make me succeed? How will I achieve the best? These are the sort of questions you’re probably asking yourself right now – and they’re completely valid. The art of revision and deciding which technique to use is not something we are really taught at school – some people get it right and some people don’t. The trick is, if you get it wrong the first time, to learn from your mistakes.
Beyond that, though, there is really only one method that will ensure your success and high grades, in regards to your law or exams – or any exams for that matter. There is one fundamental technique that will put you on the path to get a first – and no, it’s no re-reading/re-writing your notes.
It’s past papers.
This seems to be such a daunting phrase to a lot of people – even if told time and time again to do them, people will put it off. Maybe it’s because they don’t feel like they know everything yet. Maybe it’s because seeing the holes in their knowledge scares them – or maybe not being able to answer the question stresses them out more – but past papers really are the key.
One of the most common excuses used to put off practising questions is “I don’t know it all yet – I need to go over my notes.” This is true. You do need to know the material, but this does not mean re-writing all your notes over and over or doing the same with reading them. It means reading them once over and getting straight onto to past papers. One of the best things about doing past papers is that they will expose the gaps in your knowledge, but the mark schemes will help you to fill these gaps with not only the correct information that your missing, but in the way that the examiners want it. Furthermore, if you’re anything like me, sometimes I have to get something wrong to get it right, and getting it wrong, or not knowing something, in the practice paper, means that I remember what I didn’t know even better. Thus, when the real exam draws around I know everything I need to.
Speaking of, this is another massive benefit of past papers – you learn the questions and the answers. Whilst questions are not going to be identical year on year, they will be similar – and actually, sometimes a question from four years ago will be repeated. If you’ve already done this question then you know the answer. Beyond that, though, the fact that the questions are so similar means that you’ll get to know the questions, what they’re asking of you and what you need to put. As such, when faced with the real paper, it’s going to be so much easier to answer that question.
What’s more, is that beyond learning the questions and answers, the mark schemes and feedback will allow you to understand what is being looked for in exemplar answers, both generally and module specific. Learning and understanding this is vital, as you can know everything, but if you can’t understand what the questions asks and what the examiner wants, you could still fall down. Doing past papers allows you to nail this skill.
Also, writing these answers, which you should be writing by hand, helps with your structuring of the answers. Structuring is just as important as the content, more so in problem questions, and you will be marked on it. Poor structuring could potentially cost you a grade. Practising past questions, going through the mark schemes and understanding what the question needs from you, will help you to perfect your structuring, ensuring that you can answer the question well in the exam. Furthermore, having worked on your answer structuring multiple times before the exam means that you will be able to plan your answer and structure so much quicker in the actual exam, saving you precious time. Additionally, having practised writing these answers prior to examination means that you will be able to write quickly and neatly, saving you time and ensuring your paper can be read. In a world where all we do is type, having these papers practice in writing beforehand can actually make a world of difference. Remember, if the examiner can’t read your writing, they can’t afford you any marks.
Also, as you write these answers, you can send them to your tutors to mark and gain feedback. As such, you will be getting marked by the marker, ensuring you have the most vital and important feedback.
And this is isn’t me just making this all up – it really works and has worked for me in the past. But beyond this, it’s been scientifically proven that the highest performers in degrees and examinations, share a consistent habit of revising through practice papers. This was examined in a study by elevate educations, where they analysed the habits of top students from different countries and in different subjects. The one common factor in these students was past papers, even beyond the amount of effort and hard work they put in. If you’d like to know more you can check the ted talk below.
At the end of the day we all want to do well and in the end, it all comes down to that one exam. How you perform on the paper will determine your grade for it, so doing past papers really is the best way to get the most experience in getting the best grade possible.