And don’t forget to breathe…

Lent term this year has felt like an especially long one, with Easter the latest it’s been since 2014. The fact that it feels even later than usual is probably also because it was relatively early last year, on April 1st, adding a whole three weeks to the 2019 Easter Egg wait.

Lights, camel, action! :
It’s Strictly the Nativity.

Perhaps it’s because of the late Easter, but the Music Department has already started to receive musical nativity plays under the Act (we usually receive our first batch of Christmas music a little later, over the summer holidays). I was particularly taken with Lights, camel, action! which appeared to involve a dancing camel, who was also an Elvis Presley impersonator.

And now, I’ve mentioned the C-word ridiculously early, it’s time to grapple with the E-word too. Not Easter, but Exams, which this year seem closer than ever. Here are some tips courtesy of the MusiCB3 team for a stress-free examination season.

First, find your perfect place to work. Do you function better somewhere quiet, or do you need bustle around you? There’s no right or wrong answer here, everyone is different. Spacefinder is a great app, that can help find the place that will suit you best.

You can set various parameters ranging from sound levels to working on your own or with others; do you want to be in historical surroundings, would you like a nice view, do you need to be in easy reach of a coffee and a doughnut? More relaxed or more formal? There are lots of suggestions here ranging from areas within the UL to Faculty libraries, pubs and coffee shops, and a few more unusual destinations – why not revise in the Scriptorium of the Round Church, or the former sitting-room of the old Cambridge observatory? And of course on a lovely day there’s always Jesus Green, or Christ’s Pieces.

Welcome to Spacefinder

Don’t be afraid to ask a librarian about the best places to study. Within their own libraries they will know the quietest and liveliest areas, and are happy to help.

If you’re not in control of the heating, remember to layer up or down – some libraries can be chilly on even the sunniest day, while the Anderson Room had a reputation at one time of being the sweltering heart of Cambridge in the summertime (our radiators are now rather better behaved).

Take regular breaks to hydrate, take some exercise, have a change of scene, and give your eyes (and brain!) a rest.

If you like listening to music while you revise, now’s the time to assemble that exams playlist. Some people find binaural beats or white noise helpful. A fellow music librarian recommends a loop of Bach’s Cello suites and Marina and the Diamonds; while several people listened to REM either while revising or as post-revision relaxation. But whether you’re into metal, Sufi drumming, or Mozart, don’t forget to…

Look after yourself. Try some easy breathing exercises to help control stress; and for advice on further support see the University’s pages on Wellbeing.

Sweet treats
Copyright: Helen Snelling

Many Cambridge libraries have their own versions of stress-busters, from jigsaws and origami (a surprise hit) to Sudoku and colouring books. The Pendlebury is famed for its revision week chocolates. A canny librarian reminded me that it was worth experimenting with brain foods – blueberries are supposed to be especially good for short-term memory…

Whatever you’re revising for, take time to relax over the Easter holidays. Come back rested, refreshed, and ready for the new term. And remember exam term is not a bad term, there’s always the quintessentially Cambridge May week in June.


With thanks to librarians across the country (but especially in Cambridge) for hints and tips, and academic colleagues further afield for suggestions involving subjects as wide ranging as music and time travel.

Exams could be much easier if only you had a TARDIS.

About mj263

Music Collections Supervisor at Cambridge University Library. Wide musical interests. Often to be found stuck in a composer's archive, or enthusing about antiquarian music.
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