The first bit of advice I would give to anyone taking an OU course involving an exam is: if you can afford it, go to the OUSA online store and buy all of the available past papers for your course. I’ve taken two Level 2 exams so far, and I owe a large chunk of my grade for each of those to the time I spent tackling the past papers. I think there are two big advantages to including past papers in your revision plan:

  1. You become familiar with the exam format, so you’re less likely to freeze and panic on the day.
  2. You get to find out exactly what kind of silly errors you make when under pressure.

For example, here are a few of the clangers I managed to drop while attempting the 2005 MT262 paper today:

  • Deciding to assign values to a boolean variable in the if and else blocks of an if statement, rather than using multiple return statements – and then forgetting to include any return statements at all.
  • For a method that should return an integer, writing that integer out with a WriteIntPr() instead of returning it.
  • Desiging a lovely user interface for a program that simulates a lift moving between two floors, including visual feedback on whether the lift is stationary or in transit – but forgetting to include any indication of which floor the lift is actually on.

It’s definitely embarrassing to make big honking omissions and errors like those, but I guess it’s better to get them out of the way now than to save them all up for the exam itself!

Edited to add: I should probably have mentioned where to actually get the past exam solutions from, since they’re not available from the OU itself – for MT262, you can get a booklet of solutions for £12 from Black Badge Press, PO Box 1220, Norwich, NR10 4WX. Unfortunately they don’t accept online or telephone orders, but even by snail-mail they managed to get the MT262 booklet to me in about three working days. I’m not sure which other courses they supply solution booklets for, but their adverts in Sesame magazine usually mention MS221, M203 and MST209 along with MT262.