Cambridge Companion to Exam Term
Baffled by late library opening times? Worried that you will have to commit suicide on a sunday? Here is The Tab’s guide to exam term to sort it all out.
By now freshers will have settled nicely into Cambridge life, cries of ‘Down it fresher!’ have died down and you have worked out where your lectures are held (and promptly forgotten, never to return there again, if you’re an English student). Then along comes exam term with its new array of baffling lingo and systems. The only way to succeed? Know thy enemy.
Libraries: Imagine a library. A cosy chair, wide desk and the kind of silence where you can hear a pin drop, right? Wrong. In exam term, college libraries become crammed, noisy zoos.
Expect to have to get up early to reserve a spot; drape books and laptop cables in the manner of a german with a towel on a sunlounger. Extended opening hours mean that they open late, the UL doesn’t shut until 10 on weekdays.
Competitive revision: Between girls a furiously polite battle of “who has done the most work” begins. Tactics include piling weighty and intelligent looking tomes around your study area and asking your course colleagues difficult and probing questions concerning additional texts on your reading list.
For boys, the game is “who can appear to have done the least work”. The canny player relies on his aptitude for making paper aeroplanes to chuck around the library and loud animal noises to disturb any patches of silence. In the dead of night they must silently and secretly actually get the work done. For the aim of the game is not to actually fail, but only to look like you are going to.
The Corn Exchange: Cambridge is too small to cope with the onslaught on exams. For University exams, the solution is the Corn Exchange, which turns from that place where you went to see the comedian off the telly to the building in which you subject your hand to the gruelling workout that is a six hour exam. For college exams, this means random supervision rooms are turned into miniature exam centres for the day, with Genial Bumbling Supervisor transformed into Exam Invigilator.
The Cease of Cindies: the final Big Fish Ents’ Tuesday night Cindies runs on the 10th May, then it is shut for three weeks during exams, reopening on 14th June.
Quiet Periods or ‘noise bans’ by the more militantly minded colleges: The period of time over exams in which large gatherings, parties or other general frolics prone to causing noise are banned in college. Either ruin or save your life, depending on whether you are a blissful exam-free fresher or a stressed finalist.
Caesarian Sunday: Grown men rugby tackle each other over a decapitated and somewhat soggy pig’s head after the President of the Green Monsters has downed a bottle of Pimms. This may sound like a weird, outdated ritual, and that is because it is.
Legend tells us that a bottle of Pimms was once stolen from the Jesus Caesarians by a member of the Girton Green Monsters. The thief then threw this bottle at the Caesarians as a challenge to a fight and it has now become annual practice. This porcine tradition is celebrated on at Jesus Green on 1st May, generally marking the final big piss up before revision starts, and often the scene of imitations for other drinking societies.
Final Final: It is an uncontested law of the universe that every third year, upon finishing their final exam, must be sprayed with champagne by screaming friends. Once suitably doused, they must be dusted off with a couple of party poppers and then the crowds can disperse and return to the library to cram for their own exams.
Results: Exam results are posted on Senate House. This is a cruel method of torture, Most probably invented by the kind of clever-cloggs that always comes first and wants to show off about it. Nowadays exams results are emailed personally first, so at least you know in advance whether to smile or weep.
Suicide Sunday: Ironically named to celebrate the fact that students have not committed suicide due to exams. The chap who made that up must have been pretty hilarious. It occurs after the end of all exams, on 19th June. It is marked by much celebration, garden parties and that disorienting feeling that you are pissed but it is not yet lunchtime.
Illustrations by Laura Dennehy.