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Divide lefthand vertical into as many subject areas as seems appropriate from your inspection of syllabus and past exam papers. Do this very careful and only after you have become very familiar with exam topics. Also, make allowance for any coupling of topics because sometimes examiners like to link one topic with another. If you have, say, a dozen past papers and a particular linking has only come up once, you are probably save to forget it. But if it has occurred, say, three or four times it needs to go down.
So now you have large set of cells, each of which relates to a particular year and to a specific topic. Place a cross in each cell for year in which a given topic has come up. If there is a pattern, and very often there is, you will soon see it. The relative frequency with which various topic come up will now be easy to see.
It is not that examiners are doing a parallel kind of exercise to determine structure of next examination they set. They might well be unaware of kinds of patterns we are talking about. But examiners do have at least a mental scheduling of relative importance of particular topics and an impression of what have been chosen recently.
Now use spare column on right-hand side, which relates to year you are going to sit exam, to mark those subject areas which seem most likely to come up this next time. These are ones which you need to spend extra time on. The other areas need to be covered as well, but your projections need special care and attention.
In case of some examinations such a pattern may not seem to emerge. But often it will. In any case, it is worth investment of time to find out, and whether it does or not it would be foolish not to inspect as many past papers as possible. You need to see how questions are phrased, how they are divided, sometimes even subdivided, whether there are any special conditions imposed, such as papers which are divided into different sections with different lengths of time allowed for each, and so forth.
Overall, many students just seem to accept constraints of an examination system as a barbed wire fence they can do nothing about. But foregoing might just give you a set of wire cutters!
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About The Author A K Whitehead B.A., M.Phil., Cambridge University Certificate in Religious Studies (+ many other exam successes on the way) He has also set and marked and invigilated numerous examinations. Web Site: www.christianword.co.uk Conditions Of Use: This article may be reproduced physically or electronically providing that it and this end statement is not altered in any way without express permission.