How to win the Tripos

A bit like the Hunger Games, but instead of a fight to the death you do a pass-agg request for a book already on loan

Alannah Lewis

Take on Cambridge, gladiator-styleSteve Cadman/Erica Wittlie B

I remember my first day at Cambridge like it was only 18 months ago. There I was, stood beneath a packed gazebo in the garden of some bloke called The Master (I never found out what his last name was). The air was dense with the smell of clammy fresher. I was dense from the 23 scones I had just consumed in rapid succession. Apparently, they stop being ‘complementary’ after the first five, which is just as well, because I had stopped experiencing feeling in my legs after the first seven. My Mum was there too. She had been helping me move into my new room. She’s so invasive.

At some point during the proceedings, The Master got up to speak, and what a speech it was. His words ring in my ears to this day, a bit like my chronic tinnitus:

“Forget what they taught you at kiddy school. In this place, there are two kinds of people: winners and losers. No box for people who just want to take part and have a jolly time. You are in the Tripos now. The weak will perish. Only the strong will survive”. Then he made a joke about navigating Cambridge’s one-way system and implored us all to help ourselves to more scones. I did as I was told.

Traumatic BENSON KUA

18 months on, I am a seasoned participant of the blood-bath some call ‘Tripos’, and I feel that I’ve truly come to know the ins and outs of it. I’ve had my work described as “almost not bad” and “why is this entire essay written in Wingdings?”.

The golden rule is to be smart. Another golden rule is to be merciless. Dispose of the competition

I’ve been to some lectures. I’ve even worked in a library at night, until whatever chemical they put in those fluorescent lights began to react with my skin and I was forced to retire to my room. You could call me a ‘veteran of the Tripos’. I would very much like it if you called me that.

How did I survive? The golden rule is to trust nobody. If a friend approaches you with offers of ‘ice-cream’ or ‘a cheeky pint’ or ‘a quick revision break’, then they are undoubtedly trying to orchestrate your ruin. Don’t be fooled. They want you to take your eye off the ball and fail. The golden rule is to be smart. Another golden rule is to be merciless. Dispose of the competition. If you are one of those people who thinks that it’s ‘morally reprehensible’ or ‘just not okay’ to kill your entire year group so that you can get ahead, then you could a) stop reading this article, or b) I said stop reading this article.


Mountain View

Walmart yodelling kid to headline Sainsbury's May Ball

Another tip: you’ll want to use a semicolon at some point during your undergraduate degree. Doesn’t matter where. This is easy enough for the scientists (those guys can’t seem to get enough of their punctuation!). Of course, it’s easier said than done if you’re a humanities student. Try placing one at the start of a sentence. ;You can thank me later. Lastly, don’t forget to be yourself. Unless you’re a loser. The sooner you forget that, the better.

Sometimes I think that maybe The Master was wrong. Maybe life isn’t about winning or losing. Maybe it is about the taking part. But then I swiftly excise that thought from my head because I don’t want to live in a world without distinct and unambiguous binaries. But if all this talk of Tripos is getting you down, then just remember: my uncle works for Deutsche Bank and can probably get me a job after graduation. I hope that’s of some comfort to you.