Early exams: we have it easy

Micha Frazer-Carroll 19 May 2016

As a first-year Classicist who sat Part 1A exams at the start of term, there’s no doubt that the past few weeks haven’t been as stressful for me as they have been for some. Sure, the comments on how little work I seem to be having are indeed rather misguided, but upon reflection I can’t help but feel that this term has definitely been the cheeriest for me so far.

Don’t get me wrong, though – getting to this point wasn’t easy. Instead of going back home like everybody else, I spent the whole of Easter vacation in Cambridge trying to absorb two terms’ worth of learning into my brain. In retrospect this was a mistake; but I remember thinking then that the quiet out-of-term environment and access to the library would mean that I’d manage to shun procrastination entirely and be churning out knowledge like a machine by the time my exams came round. But of course it didn’t turn out that way. Even though I didn’t have my home life to distract me, a new distraction came in the form of homesickness, which made life pretty tough when I was also faced with the task of revising texts I’d barely touched since Michaelmas. My potential loneliness was at least reduced since a few of my friends decided to stay behind too; but at times I certainly did feel isolated in that no one else really seemed to be undergoing the same amount of exam pressure as I was. This was especially the case the day before my first exam, for I had the joy of knowing that whilst those around me had the peace of mind to celebrate their return by clubbing in Cindies, I had to hole myself up in my room like a hermit furiously cramming Latin vocab into my short-term memory for the next day.

But despite all this, I’d still say that I’ve benefitted from taking early exams. Of course it isn’t true that we early exam-sitters are coasting through life right now, free from the stress of work – not needing to revise like everybody else doesn’t mean we don’t have supervisions and lectures to go to. I still have my minimum three supervisions a week for the whole term and the amount of time I spend in lectures has actually increased. But not having exams to work towards has also given me a newfound sense of freedom, at least for the time being. I’ve been able to read a non-academic book for the first time in months, and actually enjoy the recent good weather on the backs without the thought of impending exams in the back of my mind. And even though I face a daily barrage of ‘screw you's from friends because of my seemingly carefree current life, I have to admit that the cruel spirit inside me in fact relishes this envy. 

All in all, I admit that life for me at the moment isn’t too bad, and it’s all thanks to early exams. There is one slight disadvantage I haven’t yet mentioned, though; that I still haven’t gone punting this term, because everyone’s too busy to join me. But when I’m not the one with the mountain of revision to get through, how can I really complain?