The Ultimate Debate: Should You Solve Past Papers in Medical School?
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The Ultimate Debate: Should You Solve Past Papers in Medical School?

Ari Horesh

Medical school is a rollercoaster of learning, sleepless nights, and countless exams. As a future doctor, you are always seeking ways to excel and make the most of your study time. One strategy that often sparks debate among medical students is solving past papers. So, should you invest your time in this method? Let's dive deep and explore the pros and cons, as well as essential tips for making past papers work for you.

The Pros of Solving Past Papers in Medical School

1. Familiarity with Exam Format and Structure

By solving past papers, you become familiar with the exam format and structure. This familiarity can help you mentally prepare for the exam and reduce the chances of being caught off-guard by unexpected question types or topics.

2. Time Management Skills

Practicing past papers under timed conditions is a fantastic way to improve your time management skills. This practice helps you gauge how long you should spend on each question and enables you to allocate your time effectively during the actual exam.

3. Identifying Weak Areas

Working on past papers is an excellent way to identify your weak areas. By analyzing your performance, you can pinpoint the topics you're struggling with and focus your study efforts accordingly.

4. Boosting Confidence

Completing past papers and seeing your progress over time can significantly boost your confidence. As you become more familiar with the material and exam format, you'll feel more prepared and less anxious about the upcoming test.

5. Application of Knowledge

Solving past papers allows you to apply the knowledge you've acquired in a practical setting. This application can help solidify your understanding of the material and improve your ability to recall information during the exam.

The Cons of Solving Past Papers in Medical School

1. Overemphasis on Past Exams

One potential downside to using past papers is the risk of focusing too much on previous exams. Exam formats and questions can change over time, and relying solely on past papers may leave you unprepared for new or updated material.

2. Limited Availability

Depending on your medical school, there may be limited availability of past papers. This scarcity can make it challenging to practice with a diverse range of questions and topics.

3. False Sense of Security

There's a risk that, after solving several past papers, you may develop a false sense of security. This overconfidence can lead to underestimating the actual difficulty of the exam and neglecting the need for comprehensive study and revision.

4. Misallocation of Time

While past papers can be a helpful tool, spending too much time on them could mean neglecting other essential aspects of your medical education, such as understanding complex concepts, attending lectures, or engaging in group discussions.

Essential Tips for Making Past Papers Work for You

Now that we've explored the pros and cons of solving past papers, here are some tips to help you make the most of this study tool:

1. Use Past Papers Strategically

Don't solely rely on past papers for your exam preparation. Instead, use them strategically to complement your other study methods. Ensure you have a solid understanding of the material before attempting to solve past papers, and always review your performance to identify areas for improvement.

2. Mix Up Your Study Techniques

Combine past paper practice with other study techniques, such as flashcards, summarizing notes, and teaching others. This variety in your study routine will keep you engaged and help reinforce your understanding of the material from multiple angles.

3. Practice Under Exam Conditions

To get the most out of past papers, try solving them under exam conditions. This means setting a timer, limiting distractions, and replicating the environment you'll be in during the test. This practice will help improve your time management skills and better prepare you for the actual exam.

4. Seek Feedback from Professors or Peers

Don't hesitate to seek feedback from your professors or peers when reviewing your past paper performance. They may be able to provide valuable insights and help you identify areas where you need to focus your study efforts.

5. Stay Updated on Curriculum Changes

Stay informed about any changes to your medical school's curriculum or exam format. This knowledge will help you better tailor your past paper practice to the current requirements and expectations.


Solving past papers in medical school can be a valuable addition to your study toolkit, as long as you approach them strategically. By understanding the pros and cons, and following the tips provided, you can optimize your use of past papers to enhance your learning experience and exam performance. Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to studying in medical school, so find the methods that work best for you and stay adaptable in your journey to becoming a future doctor. Happy studying!

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