Keep calm and carry on till May Week

Cartoon: James Fearnley 15 May 2011

Sophie Dundovic discusses the trials and tribulations of the upcoming exam term. If you can survive The Fear, May Week will be a rich reward.

The library is packed, the bar is empty and the atmosphere around college can be cut with a knife.  The buttery queue winds around courts as hunger clocks are set for 6pm. You know that exam term has hit.

You find yourself manically re-arranging your desk because it is just impossible to concentrate when that paperclip is cluttering up your work zone.

The weather is lovely and the jovial punters outside your window are a constant reminder that summer is making a premature entrance.

Do not worry, you will not have to bother yourself with annoyances such as searching for sunglasses or scheduling in afternoon pub trips, the library will remain dark and foreboding as ever and likely house more belongings than your room, as you are forced to set up shop in there.

The blood, sweat and tears will ensure that the temperature rivals that of Hell’s Kitchen so there really is no need to venture outside. Keep those flip flops in the cupboard – those belated spring showers are bound to make their entrance the day after your last exam.

All sorts of crises are bound to ensue during the next few weeks so it is best to be prepared.

For some it will be the sudden realisation that a post-Cambridge plan is positively lacking, for others this may have already hit, characterised by an unnatural need to spend hours delving through careers brochures or scrolling across random websites hoping for inspiration, labelling it all as necessary research.

Then there will be the usual revision supervision deadlines and the panic when you temporarily misplace your exam pen.

But such minor tribulations will soon pale into insignificance once The Fear strikes.

So maybe you spent the last six weeks dossing around and have nothing to show for it, but it was important to relax before the intense revision period. Only now you realise that last term’s material really did not sink in and Michaelmas’s content simply seems foreign. Perhaps instead you were ahead of the game and put your revision hat on early, in which case burnout with its bleary eyes, caffeine jitters and sleep deprived stumbling is just around the corner.

Exam term is a long and painful slog as any non-fresher will know.

Hours spent rereading the same pages trying to take in some information broken up only by necessary dashes to Mr Simms for a much needed sugar fix.

If only the inevitable hours spent staring into space could count as quality revision.

A little elbow grease and a cool head will go a long way over the next few weeks as mounting pressure threatens your sanity levels. Talking to yourself becomes a part of everyday life and forgetting why you ventured to the kitchen will become commonplace.

Unwilling to reject social interaction but unable to find the time for real mingling, Facebook will keep you in the loop but eat away your days.

When those few fateful days in June come to an end – which they will – take comfort in the fact that the worst is yet to come.

Walking out of the exam hall you will suddenly remember all the things you should have written and realise that only a fraction of your revision was relevant.

Surviving the term will however provide you with a licence to chill, for May Week and beyond, that is worth slogging for.

Sophie Dundovic is an undergraduate at St John’s College

Cartoon: James Fearnley