Monday, 16 December 2013

Exam Rituals, Routines, and Good Luck Charms

I sat down for my last exam on Friday, a little nervous but mostly just anxious to be finished the semester. Like I have done so many times before, I grabbed an exam booklet and began to jot down my name, student ID, course name, section number, and date on the front page. As I filled in the date, it hit me: my last final was being written on Friday the 13th! I’m not usually very superstitious but I will confess to having a fleeting moment of anxiety. Thankfully that anxiety quickly subsided as a combination of preparedness, rest, and an extra-large eggnog latte carried me through the rest of the exam. 

As I walked out, the first thing I thought about was how excited I was to go celebrate but the second thing that crossed my mind was what kind of rituals, superstitions, and good luck charms U of A students have during finals. I set out to hear what people had to say and received a wide variety of responses from the wholly pragmatic to the outright bizarre. 

Lucky Charms

Not everyone has something to bring them a little bit of extra luck when they write an exam, but I’m sure a lot of students wish they did.  

“I have a pair of bright baby blue briefs that I wear” explains one student who asked to be identified as “Jimm the human”. He continues, “my lucky underwear is getting pretty holey. I’ve always gotten an A when I wear them but now I have to choose what day I’ll put them on for an exam.”

Cindy Zhang, a 3rd year business student also has lucky clothes: “I have two pairs of tan socks and for some reason they just work. If I look into my closet the day of an exam and they’re not there I take it as a bad omen.” 

Pre-exam Rituals

Selfie Meme

Getting into the final exam mindset is crucial and every little source of concentration, confidence, or relaxation helps. 

“Making sure to eat about 2-1.5 hours before an exam,” suggests a pragmatic Vikki Nguyen, “so your stomach doesn't growl obscenely loud in a deathly quiet exam room.”

“I do this” Bry Rouselle states as she begins touching her thumb to each of her fingers in quick succession, “apparently it’s supposed to increase firing between the two hemispheres of your brain.” 

“I take selfies while I study… it can really boost your confidence,” laughs one responder who ironically wishes to remain anonymous. 

Style or Sweatpants?

Should I Wear Sweatpants

The exam crunch highlights one of the most important questions that students face: is getting dressed properly to go to class really worth it? We’ve all seen (or been) a student wearing PJs to their finals and championing comfort over style while writing exams. There are others who prefer to “fake it ‘til they make it” by dressing up for exams. The eternal battle between style and comfort continues on the final exam battleground.

“I go in looking sexy as [expletive]” asserts Kyle Tennant, who insists on looking dapper at even the most stressful of times. A slightly less enthusiastic but equally debonair friend agreed: “Dress up, not real fancy but just enough for an extra confidence boost.”

One champion of comfort wished to remain anonymous but took the opposite stance, “I just want to be comfy so that I can write in comfort and immediately go back to bed when I’m finished.”

Cramming or Catnapping

Cat Nap Study

It’s widely known that it can feel like you can only pick 2 out of the following three things in university: sleep, a social life, or studying. Since a student’s social life is largely thrown out the window during finals, the battle between sleep and studying becomes increasingly fierce. Some students opt to press the snooze button a few extra times while others need to cram just a little more into their brain before the big day.

Logan Lawrence, a recent graduate, offered a holistic approach: “Make sure to get solid sleep and go in looking classy. Look good, feel good, do good.”

“I cram until the very last minute,” confessed one second year engineer, “I like the pressure and sleep is way overrated.”

While each student has different routines, good luck charms, and priorities during the final exam crunch, I’ve found that there is really only one thing that most of the students I’ve spoken with  pretty much universally agree upon…



“I buy the biggest coffee I can find on campus” explains the unsurprisingly jittery Jason Schneck, a poli sci student in his last semester. 

I can attest to his sentiment; the combinations of late nights and early mornings, early sunsets, and the return of delicious holiday beverages have created the perfect storm to increase my caffeine intake by approximately 300%. 

Every student has a different way of preparing themselves to be in optimal exam-writing mode but the most important thing is for you to find what works for you and stick with it. For those still writing exams, good luck! For those who are finished, congratulations!


Related Stories:

8 Study Tips For University Final Exams

Study Spaces for Campus Insiders (i.e. You!)

6 Tips to Help You Stay Healthy During Midterms


About the Author

Hello there! I'm Trenton and I'm super excited to be a YouAlberta Student Communicator. Though I spend a staggering amount of my time thinking about a syllabus for an imaginary Batman 101 class, my major is actually Political Science. I love to read, eat, and play around in Photoshop (sometimes all at once). If you're ever looking for someone to debate about a variety of nerdy topics, I'm your man.

It is my hope to tell a wide array of stories about the sides of campus life and student life that may not be immediately apparent. In doing this, I want to showcase the diversity, passion, and community at the U of A that constantly inspires me. My time at the U of A has been truly trans-formative and, as I enter my final year here, I can't wait to listen to and tell stories about the University and its students.


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