It is the policy here in Nottingham to provide approximately three years’ worth of past exam papers, solutions and feedback (comments, common errors, pointers for improvement) for each of our modules.
With such a policy in place, it is important to make sure that students are aware (assuming this is the case) that studying three years’ worth of exam questions and solutions is no substitute for actually understanding the material taught in the module. Although I said this a few times to my first year Pure Maths students in Autumn 2012-13, it appears that I wasn’t convincing enough. I made a more significant effort this year at the start of the module to explain what students needed to do if they actually wanted to do well in the module (rather than just scraping a pass). I hope that this had some effect: I even got the students to vote on whether they now knew what they needed to do in order to do well in the module, and (perhaps unsurprisingly!) they almost unanimously said yes.
Having said all that, it is of course worth trying past questions and comparing your attempts with model answers, if they are available. Reading the feedback on common errors etc. is probably at least equally important. However, web logs reveal that far more students read the solutions than read the separate examination feedback document. Knowing this, I made sure to include some of the most important feedback directly in the model answers document when I wrote the solutions and feedback last year.
The exam is coming up in about a week’s time, so I will soon see whether there has been any improvement from last year to this!