How to: Compile Exam Questions

Jessica YungData Science, StudyingLeave a Comment

It’s that time of year again! Here’s a walkthrough for compiling exam questions for more effective revision.


  1. Go to a year’s exam paper and copy the questions. Paste questions into (e.g. Workflowy) document, taking note of which year the paper was from.



Exam paper. URL highlighted for Step (2).


Workflowy document with 2002 questions. Note all 10 questions are still one paragraph.

2. Switch to the next year’s paper by changing the URL instead of going back to the exams page and having to click multiple times per paper. (This may not work.) Repeat (1) for all years that you want.

3. Separate each year’s questions by clicking in front of  the question number and pressing ‘Enter’. Start from the lowermost year in your document and work upwards. Within each year, start from the last question. This is so the position of the earlier question numbers will not move and you can consciously or subconsciously look for their position when you are clicking and pressing enter to separate later questions.screenshot.png

4. Create a spreadsheet e.g. in Google Sheets or in Excel. Copy all your questions (with the exam years specified above each set of questions) and paste it into one column.


5. Delete empty rows either manually with a plugin or script. I used the add-on Remove Blank Rows.


6. Sometimes when you copy from a PDF file, characters may change (presumably because the encoding is different). If you see weird characters you may want to find and replace the following: (Edit -> Find and Replace)

  • ë, ì with ‘
  • í, î with ’
  • Ö with fi
  • § with ff
  • á with fl
  • ¢ with ffi-


7. Organise your questions as you wish.

  • E.g. categorise the questions within this paper by course and topic within that course, and then (1) Select all your columns (or the whole sheet) -> (2) Click ‘Data -> Filter’ so you can filter your data. Now you can order them alphabetically (it works with years too) or display only questions from a certain topic.


  • You may also want to produce graphs of summary statistics. (Select cells with question attributes and then click ‘Insert -> Chart’.


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