How to attend a supervision without doing any of the work

Hungover? Tired? Just plain lazy? We got you.

Cambridge supervision supervisor survival work

We’ve all done it. You’ve had a mad one. You’ve written off the last three days thinking you could pull it out the bag at the last minute.

You set your alarm for 5am, but the allure of the snooze button was just too strong. You wake up about 20 minutes before your supervision, giving you just enough time to get there. What are you to do?

Supervisions are the backbone of the Cambridge system. Our colleges pay for them, and the interview process is meant to scope out whether you can cope with sitting in a stuffy room with serious academics every week. But also, Cambridge or not, it’s still uni. The clubs are shit, and yet we still religiously frequent them. Pulling an all-nighter just to survive one supervision leaves you zombified and unprepared for the next.

However, if you take this advice, you might be able to preserve some shred of academic dignity.

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10am supo the day after Caesarian Sunday, nah m9

Arrive early

As counter-intuitive as this might seem, making sure you get to the supervision on time can actually work in your favour, no matter how woefully unprepared you might be. Firstly, it makes you look super keen and allows you to look like you’ve actually done the work. When your supervision partner arrives a couple of minutes after you, be sure to tut and nod disapprovingly to assert your dominance.

Then it’s a case of answering all the easy questions. “How did you find this text?” is a perfect platform to rattle off some generic bullshit about how “some parts were more challenging than others” etc. Be careful not to seem too keen though, or else they might ask you why  you found said text interesting, and then you’re fucked. Walk the line carefully enough and you’ll have survived the first 5 minutes or so, leaving your partner to deal with the tricky stuff in your wake.

'The Cambridge Supervision' - an artist's interpretation

‘The Cambridge Supervision’ – an artist’s interpretation

Nod. A lot.

This one works wonders for maths and science supervisions, where it’s notoriously more difficult to feign understanding if you haven’t done anything. As they explain the complicated graph before you, be like a bobble-head and agree with your supervisor completely at every stage in order to try and seem like you belong. Throw in a few wry smiles and knowing chuckles here and there.

If you do get hit with a tough question, which inevitably will happen, umm and ahh and pray to the powers that be that your supervision partner fills in for you. At which point you say “I knew that” or, “of course”, and go back to being a yes-man. Don’t overdo it though, or you might come off looking like you’re head-banging to a non-existent punk band, and that isn’t a good look.

Take as many toilet breaks as humanly possible

This seems obvious, but it’s all about pulling it off properly. You could either literally fuck yourself up by drinking a shit-ton of water, like you probably did last night while you were gurning your tits off which landed you in this sorry predicament in the first place. Or you could substitute with coffee. A couple of quadruple espressos down you and you’ll be good to go, literally. The physical discomfort could backfire though, and you might end up like Will from the Inbetweeners.

While it might get you out of the supo, it’s a rather messy way to go out. Ideally, you’d just pretend. You might even able to quickly Google or SparkNotes a feasible answer while you’re on the bog. Just be careful to space out your breaks, or else your supervisor might get suspicious that you’re doing coke lines.


Down it fresher

Bring snacks

On your frantic cycle ride there, try and stop off somewhere and pick up some flapjacks or something. Quickly dispose of the Sainsbury’s basics packaging and pretend that they’re home baked. Your supervisor should hopefully appreciate the spontaneous effort and go a little easier on you. You could also bring something messy like tacos or something and can therefore guarantee some time-wasting in the clean-up effort. Also, apparently in some supervisions after 6pm it’s customary to drink sherry. This is a perfect excuse to get wasted and blame your shittiness on being a “lightweight”. Hell, if you can get your supervisor pissed, in the good way, that’s all the better for you.

Sabotage your supervision partner

It’s not personal. Your partner is probably a lovely human being who’s sent your their essays and covered for you in the past. However, when you’re this hungover and with so little fucks to give, it’s dog-eat-dog. Regurgitate their well-researched answers in ever-so-slightly different words, preferably bigger ones so you can steal their idea and fob it off as your own. Violently disagree with them, even when you have no academic leg to stand on, and ask them to elaborate on their ideas. They’ll probably never speak to you again, but you’ll have looked like you’ve engaged in hot intellectual debate and come out the true winner.


Much Cambridge. Very sense of inadequacy.

Or maybe just do the work

Goes without saying really. It’s Easter term. How have you managed to wind up repeating this process for so long?

Tell yourself that it’ll all change from tomorrow. Set your alarm. Promise yourself you won’t miss it this time. Tomorrow is another day…