Don’t tell anyone, but I secretly loved exam season. I mean it, this stays between you and me – no spreading it, because I have a reputation to protect. But it’s true. I loved it. The flashcards, the cram sessions, that weird purple lump you get on your middle finger from writing too hard; I sheepishly, shamefully adored it all.
I pretended to hate it, obviously, to be normal. You’re supposed to hate exams, just like you’re supposed to hate Mondays, and kale. I whinged along with everyone else for three solid months, weeping ostentatiously over revision timetables and yelling “LET IT AAALLL BE OOOOOVER” doomfully into a pillow every time my parents popped their head round the door to bring me some sympathy biscuits – but really I was lapping it all up like a muggle Hermione Granger, giddy on all the knowledge.
Why did I love exam season? It’s hard to explain, really. You can’t choose what your heart falls in love with; every rom-com ever written has taught us that (and by ‘rom-com’ I obviously mean the Jane Austen novels and associated York Notes that I binged on for GCSE English). But I think part of it had to do with the sunshine. Exam season traditionally brings the most beautiful weather of the year, because, to quote Shakespeare, life is a bitch. And traditionally, in turn, this leaves everyone between the age of 15 and 21 waving their fists angrily at the sky because they know the moment they put their pen down on the final paper, it’ll start pissing it down solidly until October. But in my memory, those balmy May days were all dreamy and peaceful, bathed in golden light like an episode of Made in Chelsea.
Revising outside on the field, or in the park, or on the beach (I’m sorry, we had a beach, but if it helps it was only pebbles) made the whole thing feel a bit special. It was exhilarating walking home in the sun afterwards, school jumpers tied round our waists, Twister lolly in our non-cramping hand, feeling a little bit lighter with each subject that was ticked off the list.
I liked the camaraderie of exam season (incidentally I also learned the word ‘camaraderie’ during exam season). It was Blitz spirit (ditto), all of you in it together, slightly stir crazy and doing whatever it took to survive. Need to hang off your friend’s bed upside-down for 45 minutes singing the theme tune to Balamory in French and pretend it’s revision? Naturellement. Need to stop to make a daisy chain headdress once an hour, every hour? You go for it, Lady of Shallott.
There were the invigilators; a rag-tag troupe of cheery strangers, all smiling and talking in soothing voices and reminding you that whatever happened in the next couple of hours, the world would probably keep turning and you probably wouldn’t die.
I loved the finality of it too. Coursework was different – that dragged on for weeks and weeks, taking bits of your soul with it. But with exams it was over in three hours; bish, bash, bosh. What was done was done, and there was no point thinking about it anymore because you couldn’t change it anyway. When that person came out who wanted to pick through every question like a misery vulture, you could shove your fingers in their ears, yell “LALALALA” in their face and run away.
But the bit of exam season I loved most, obviously, was the end of exam season. All the stress was worth it for that feeling, walking out of the final exam hall: as though a huge cloud of balloons were hoisting your spirit up, up and away, the rest of the summer stretching away before you like a sheet of pure, perfect blue sky.
Like I say though, I’m a weirdo. It’s probably just me. Also – and don’t tell anyone this either or I swear I’ll hurt you – I quite like kale.
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Image: Easy A