So, you have heard that past exam papers are an incredible study resource for your IB Mathematics Analysis & Approaches SL exams? It’s true, past exams are commonly available and provide students with a firsthand look at test language and formatting, which can help boost scores on exam day. Let’s talk about how to use this resource to get the most out of it.

Get Familiar with Command Words

Don’t get caught up in the language of a question and lose points because you didn’t understand what the question was asking. One of the biggest benefits of using past papers to prepare for your exams is that you will gain familiarity with the various command words on the exam, which will save a lot of time interpreting questions when you take your exam.

Common Command Words

Here is a list of common command words and their definitions. It is important to provide exactly what they are looking for, nothing more and nothing less.

Describe: tell what you see in a concise manner. Do not elaborate on reasoning.

Explain: provide reasoning.

Outline: provide a brief summary.

Analyze: discuss in detail, breaking down each concept.

Compare: discuss similarities and differences in detail.

Contrast: detailed discussion highlighting differences.

Calculate: work out a problem.

Define: tell what something is.

Evaluate: create a pros and cons list.

Justify: make an argument for something with credible evidence.

To What Extent: make a judgment of the success or failure of something.

Argue: present a case with reasoning.

Assess: provide an informed opinion on something.

Comment: give your opinion, not necessarily backed by data.

Debate: discuss different perspectives.

Time Yourself with Past Exams

Since a past exam is identical in length to the exam you will take, it is also the perfect opportunity to test your pace. Use a timer and the questions on the past exam to see how long it takes you to complete the entire exam, as well as work on different types of questions. The goal should be about one minute per question. If your pacing is slow, keep practicing until you increase your speed.

Assess the Effectiveness of Your Revision Strategies

Practice the past exams multiple times spaced in between your other revision strategies to get a sense of how effective your study is. It is important to not only take the practice exams but mark your incorrect answers clearly and focus your revision on those trouble areas. Pay specific attention to the pitfalls past students have experienced and measure your performance against theirs.

Final Thoughts on Using Past Papers to Prepare

Preparing for your Analysis & Approach SL exam requires a comprehensive toolset. Practice questions, instructional videos, and past papers all play key roles in your revision. The real value in past exams is learning the language and timing the exact exam length so that there are no surprises on exams. Almost everyone has some level of test-taking anxiety and adequate preparation is the best way to alleviate that anxiety.