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Quality over quantity: How to hack Cambridge

Work smarter, not harder


Picture the Cambridge experience: Lessons taught by the best professors, working every day from 8am to 8pm, all-nighters finishing the fifth essay of the week. Seems rather daunting, doesn’t it? Well, scrap that!

Whilst academic rigour is certainly an integral part of the Cambridge system, this doesn’t mean you have to burn yourself out just to pass.

Lecture skipping – friend or foe?

I know it may seem counter-intuitive to the over-enthusiastic top of the class A-level student, but attending all your lessons at Cambridge just isn’t possible – at least not without sacrificing your sanity. No one can absorb, let alone revise, all that content, so we just have to be economical with which lectures we actually attend.

Just look at all those contact hours (Image credit: Leah Whiting)

Whilst it’s probably a bad idea to skip ALL your lectures, it doesn’t hurt to be selective with which ones you attend. Any ‘Introduction tos’ that is just a rehashing of A-level content is definitely worth a miss.

To sleep or to study?

Even though I’m an advocate for prioritising sleep over 100 per cent attendance, it’s important to strike a balance between being well-rested and well-prepared for supervisions.

Just stick your notes to your walls and absorb them in your sleep – that’s how it works right? (Image credit: Leah Whiting)

It is definitely possible to succeed in Cambridge without burning out and the key to this is being tactful when deciding which lectures are most important and to make the most of the ones you do attend.

Reading is so last year

You thought you liked reading? Think again.

It’s definitely hard not to get phased when faced with yet another 1,000-page weekly reading list. The sheer amount of compulsory and recommended reading often seems like an insurmountable task. But hear me out, you don’t have to do all of it.

You don’t always have to have your head stuck in a book (Image credit: Leah Whiting)

Going round in circles re-reading the same tedious article without understanding it is, nine times out of ten, actually counterproductive. Your time is normally much better spent reviewing lecture notes or watching summaries on YouTube.

Let’s face it, your supervisor probably won’t have read everything either.