Why you should go out more and revise less

Coming for a drink tonight Joe? No? Thought not…


T.S. Eliot once said that “April is the cruellest month”, which if you’re currently staring at a conspicuously thin pile of revision notes and wondering what exactly you’ve been doing for the past six months, might seem a bit of an understatement.

Big old pile of potential knowledge right there.

Big old pile of potential knowledge right there

Yes, the Easter break– despite falling outside of Easter Sunday this year – is the designated revision period before exams start in May. Unlike Christmas, it doesn’t have the festive element that tends to eat into any time you wish to spend revising for January exams, meaning you have no real excuse not to spend the entirety of it in the company of textbooks and coursework. Or so you might think.

I recently “wasted” a long weekend of cruel ol’ April on a booze-fuelled hockey tour in Rotterdam, during which work was the last thing on my mind. It was amazing. A handful of people dropped out, worried that four days of fun with friends might irreparably damage their chances at getting a degree. Do I regret going? Absolutely not. So, will enjoying yourself every now and then over the revision period end in a 2:2? No, no it won’t.

Fun with friends > Reading Simone de Beauvoir.

Fun with friends > reading Simone de Beauvoir

If you’ve been a diligent student and made thorough notes throughout the year, you’ll probably find yourself with more time to revise than you actually need. If you don’t fall into that category…the same is probably true.

Regardless, you’ll probably be tempted to lock yourself away from your friends and family for a solid month (or two, if you’re including days between exams) in some sort of bizarre hibernation, during which you’ll shun any social occasion no matter how alcoholic, lock away your video games, delete your various social media accounts and devote every fibre of your being to preparing yourself for the handful of exams you have to face in May.

The thought of an alcoholic drink terrifies you – think of the brain cells you’re murdering. You’ll start to see every hour you spend with your friends as time that could be spent reading an essay, or doing a past paper, or learning a definition. Soon that attitude will extend to the time you spend taking shower, sitting on the toilet, eating food and even sleeping.

Spot the valid excuse: don’t be like Jack, kids

You’ll think it’s all worth it, that after spending 60 days and 60 nights being unnaturally reclusive, you’ll emerge from your final exam as someone who likes having fun. The truth of the matter is that you were probably never that person in the first place. Fun is not a thing you understand and the post-exam blow-out you’re dreaming of will inevitably disappoint you because of it.

This doesn’t mean it’s big or clever to spend April hurling yourself into the one-two punch of booze and hangovers every other night, but it also doesn’t mean it’s fair on your mate that you’re sober, miserable and basking in your sense of martyrdom at his birthday pres because you’re scared it will mess up your revision timetable.

It’s also a stretch to believe anyone who spends their days sitting at a desk is doing work 100 per cent of the time. Cut the act. Distractions in 2016 are everywhere in the life-stream of viral videos on Facebook, in the “hilarity” of your mate trying out the dog filter on their Snapchat story, in the stress of DJ-ing your way through your “Revision Playlist” and of course in taking the time to tweet about how hard the whole process is.

My revision playlist of choice #DJHero

That’s not to say exams aren’t difficult. Don’t get me wrong – they are. They’re nerve-wracking, tedious and (controversial thought approaching) not a particularly fair reflection of anybody’s intelligence. They’re a necessary hoop of the education system – yes – but are they the worst things you could be doing? Probably not.

Real jobs in the real world are more time-pressured, more tedious and (usually) more shit than reading flashcards to yourself. One day you may even look back at the ludicrously generous month-and-a-half to eight hours ratio of revision time to exam time and wonder how you didn’t realise you had it so good.

Ultimately, we’ve already been told how to revise for exams since year 10 by dozens of different teachers, lecturers and condescending Tab articles. How exactly you spend the revision break is and always will be an imprecise formula that varies from person to person, but not so often does anybody give reliable advice on how to incorporate down-time into your revision timetable.

This year, make some changes: have the odd afternoon off, go to the pub with your mates, get mildly trollied at a party, and interact with your family. By having time to relax and fun stuff to look forward to, you’ll probably find that you work harder in the time between.

More importantly, you’ll be able to state with conviction that you have a sense of bloody perspective.