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Exam season is fast approaching and, for almost everyone, these will be the first public exams they’ll take. The specifications are still quite new, with only Sample Assessment Material and four past papers available for practice. Most teachers agree that practising past papers is the way to go with revision, but do students agree?

Just doing past papers in class can seem quite dry, so here are some ideas for a ‘spoonful of sugar’ to help with revision:

  • Without doing the questions, look through a past paper together, focusing on the command words such as find, state, write down, explain, prove, verify, calculate, determine, show that, draw, sketch… and technical words such as exact and hence. For questions with multiple sections, show how the examiner is providing scaffolding to help students to solve problems that require multiple steps of working.
  • Ask students to look through a past paper and identify the questions which are targeting different assessment objectives – AO1: use and apply standard techniques; AO2: reason, interpret and communicate mathematically; and AO3: problem solving and modelling. This will give students an insight into what they need to write to get all of the marks available.
  • Create a card sort from a past paper question – cut the solution into strips as a sequencing exercise. This is really good for proof questions.
  • Provide ‘you are the examiner’ exercises, where you provide a solution that may have errors in for your students to find – it’s quite fun to include a solution which is perfect in this exercise! Students will then have to ask, “Is it wrong?” rather than, “Where is it wrong?
  • Print a set of questions onto cards and ask students to rank them from easiest to hardest. A past paper usually goes in the order that the examiner thinks is easiest to hardest – do they agree with the examiner? Ask students to tackle the questions that are at their level – from the start, the middle, or the end of their list depending on how confident they’re feeling!
  • Make past paper questions into a team quiz, with a sequence of shorter questions on cards to be done one at a time and a long question as a bonus question. You can have a rule that teams can’t move on to the next question until they get the previous one right, and use your judgement about how much help to offer! The team with the most marks at the end of the lesson wins!
  • You can use AS past papers as a step up to A level past papers to build your students’ confidence and exam skills, such as timing.

Exam boards have provided lists of topics that will be examined in each of the papers separately, so packages of questions by topic will be useful. You can view details on the AQA, Edexcel and OCR websites.

You can quite quickly run out of questions from existing papers, and you may want to leave these to be done whole. There’s a wealth of past paper questions from the modular papers that you can use, and you can find collections of questions arranged by topic. The Physics & Maths Tutor website has questions by topic. They may not be easy for students to navigate as the questions are packed away into the old modules, but it shouldn’t be too hard for you to find what you need. Alternatively, also on the Physics & Maths Tutor website, questions have been used to make bronze-silver-gold collections. You could allow your students to choose which ones they want to tackle on any given day, and progress through the layers.

Whichever way you set about it, there’s no substitute for students practising what they’ll be tested on – and that’s doing the sums! I hope that these suggestions help you to make it fun!

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