I don’t trust anyone who’s ever finished their holiday reading. Even if ceaseless festive family get-togethers have compelled you to seek continual refuge in your room, or indeed if you’ve been isolated on a mountainside for little over a month, there is no conceivable way in which you could have read an entire library of outdated volumes.
Inevitably, there will be a few sparse patches in your knowledge of an obscure tract of social contract theory; perhaps you mislaid your 700-page, size-of-a-small-child copy of Paradise Lost… be honest, have your books even arrived yet?
If you, like me, are finding considerably large, book-shaped gaps in your knowledge, join me in an attempt to conceal this dark chasm when faced with the scrutinising glares of our cruel and unforgiving tutors.
Wikipedia doesn’t quite cut it with these world-renowned experts and your faux-intellectual glasses are only a superficial defence. If your tutor has just asked you a complicated question and is waiting expectantly for a well-informed response, why not play them at their own game and answer their question with one of your own. This tactic can be used to fill between five and thirty minutes of your class or tutorial as your tutor divulges their seemingly infinite knowledge on various topics whilst you continue undiscovered in your blissful ignorance.
On a similar note, diversions can also be used to camouflage your lack of familiarity with the subject. These range from the simplistic: “So, did you enjoy the festive season?” to the ridiculous: “Hark, is that a lesser-spotted greater-breasted mallard I just noticed flitting in through your window?” Crying, however, is generally looked down upon as a bit extreme and pathetic. Fire is not at all recommended.
In terms of salvaging your last-minute essay, tactical reading is essential. Mingle well-known quotations with more obscure ones, which can be found by casually flicking through your colossal volume, pausing when you feel so inclined and highlighting the first sentence you see. If you pull this off well, your tutor may be impressed by the breadth of your knowledge; if not, at least it gives your word count a boost.
Bibliographies can be amplified by grazing a wide selection of the first few pages of critical works. Attempt the entire Introduction if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, and by now it should go without saying that absolutely anything described as a ‘secondary source’, ‘background reading’ or ‘optional’ aren’t worth so much as a minute of your time.
If all else fails, throw caution to the wind and argue against any received opinions you may have heard/made up about your text – with enough fervour and invented rage, this is an entirely foolproof plan.