Due to a clerical error identical chemistry exam papers were set two years running. In the second year that the paper was used it was distributed as a ‘past paper’ for use as a revision aid and lecturers worked through all the questions during classes. The students were also provided with model answers. Despite this the cohort of students that had seen and reviewed the questions (n=50) performed no better than the previous year’s students (n=68) who had no prior knowledge of the questions. After the mistake was discovered the students were given a short survey to assess their reactions to the paper. Most thought the practice paper had helped them revise furthermore they did not notice that they had already seen the exam paper. The students’ results and reactions shed doubt on the value of working through exam questions in lessons.
A clerical error provides a unique opportunity to study the effect of previously seen exam questions on exam results
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