Previous question papers

Tests and exams are a part of any education. They are how we determine what information students have retained and if they are qualified to progress in their studies. With so much being determined by their outcome preparation and revision of the work are of vital importance. This is exactly where previous question papers come in.

Not many people are aware that there are previous question papers available to students at many levels. Additionally, these papers can be effective tools for revision to ensure that you are prepared. This is why we decided to take a look at how to use these past paper questions to help you study, the benefits of doing this, and where you can find them.

Where to find the previous question papers

The first question on your mind is probably where can you find these previous question papers. It may come as no surprise that they can be found online. Though rest assured there is nothing illegal about these past papers they are freely provided to help current students prepare for their exams. That being said the following are just some of the places where you can find these past papers:


If you are looking for previous question papers for your entire school career then Testpapers is the site for you. There you can find past papers for grades 6 to 12 and even grade 3. All of their papers are organised alphabetically by subject making it easy to find exactly what you are looking for.

Government websites

Both the Department of Basic Education and the Western Cape Department of Education have previous question papers available on their websites. Though these are limited to matric papers. However, with the importance of doing well in matric, this is a welcome resource for most students. Their lists are up to date with the most recent past papers available and they have memos available to check your answers.

The most exhaustive collection of past papers for most grades however is on the Eastern Cape Department of Education website.

University websites

If you are in tertiary education there are still previous question papers available to you. Many universities make these papers available to their students to help them prepare for tests and exams. The University of Pretoria for example has them available on their library website, easily accessible to all students through their student portal. There you can search for past papers by their course code.

How to use previous question papers

Now that we know where we can find previous question papers, we can take a look at the best way to use them. This can be divided into the following steps:

  • Practice questions: Once you have revised the subject a past question allows you to put what you have studied into practice. You do this by treating the past paper as an exam, answering all the questions without looking at your notes.
  • Time yourself: Most exams have a clearly defined time limit. When completing past papers it is important to time yourself, so you can see how long it takes you to finish a paper.
  • Mark yourself: Most previous question papers come with a rubric or marking scheme that allows you to mark your attempt to see how you perform.
  • Analyse: Once you have marked your attempt you can analyse your results to see what areas you need to improve in.

The benefits of this type of revision

By following the steps mentioned above you will get the most out of using previous question papers for revision. This form of revision has a number of benefits for students that help them to perform better on their tests and exams. These benefits include the following:


The primary benefit of using previous question papers for revision is that it gives you a chance to practise. While many students know their course material they struggle to communicate this knowledge in writing. This is where these past papers can prove invaluable as it allows the student to practise without the pressure of the exam.

Learn the exam structure

Completing previous question papers also allows students to familiarise themselves with the layout and language of exam papers. This can prove helpful as they may possess the subject-relevant vocabulary but the way questions are sometimes asked can be confusing. Additionally, for subjects with reference pages with formulas, completing practice papers will familiarise students with where these references are. Saving them time and confusion on exam day.

Improve time management

By completing previous question papers under timed exam circumstances, students can see how much time they can dedicate to each question. This allows them to practise their time management and improve it for the day of the exam. Ensuring that they use their allotted time wisely and efficiently.

Understand mark allocation

Utilising the rubric or marking scheme to mark attempts at past paper questions greatly benefits students. As it allows them to familiarise themselves with how marks are allocated and the types of answers the exam questions require. Allowing students to refine their answering skills and saving them time on the exam.


After completing one of the previous question papers and marking it students can see what areas they need to focus on in the next round of revision. This allows students to better assess their abilities and better focus their revision efforts to make up for any shortcomings. Which can improve their performance in the exam.


As you can see previous question papers are one of the best methods for students to effectively prepare for their exams. The practice they offer students is indispensable, helping to familiarise students with the exam layout and marking scheme. We hope this article has provided you with everything you need to effectively utilise this revision tool. We wish you the best of luck with all of your exams!

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