A lucky hoodie. A special pen. Many of us have them: weird little items or rituals that we believe (or just hope) will get us through an essay or exam. Sometimes rituals are as simple as wearing your special sweatpants on test day. Other times it’s a lot more complicated. We asked students what rituals they performed when writing essays, taking exams, or just plain studying.
“I have to start on a blank page,” said Catherine Lopes, a fourth-year English and professional writing student. “And I have to use a black pen.”
“I like studying on the floor,” said another student, Camille Amigelo, who’s taking a double major in English and chemistry. Other students get comfort from a cup of coffee or tea while studying; still others feel the need to panic even just a few days before a deadline.
Psychology student Sarah Desouza explained how she uses stories to memorize a passage from a text. “I’ll make up a story with the items on my desk and relate it to what I read—even if they’re not relevant. And it works,” she added, reading from her cognitive psychology textbook.
Some students writing essays get their best thinking done while shampooing their hair. “I construct my thesis when I’m in the shower,” said Jodelle Faye de Jesus, also an English and professional writing student.
Whereas professors are always advising us to start essays in advance, several students said they did otherwise. “I can’t start writing too early,” explained Amigelo.
“I gather all my research in advance, but I sit down to write closer to the deadline.”
Students disagreed on the level of noise they needed to study. Some said they needed a steady babble, while others required absolute silence. Several declared it blasphemy to attempt an essay without music and headphones.
When it comes to final exams, students become especially superstitious about their wardrobe. Desouza said she would wear an item again if she did well in a previous exam while wearing it. She also mentioned a concept that made a few other female interviewees nod: “I keep thinking that if I dress too well to an exam, I’ll fail it… like karma, or something.”
De Jesus took a different view. “Wearing a hoodie to an exam would be admitting defeat,” she said. The majority of interviewed students, however, said their clothing item of choice for a long exam would be a comfortable sweater or hoodie.
Another student (who wished to remain unnamed) stressed the importance of relaxing before an exam. “I like to read Japanese novels the night before an exam,” he said.
Since our campus doesn’t have a long history behind it, superstitious rituals based on campus artifacts have yet to develop. We have no statue whose big toe we can rub for divine assistance on that calculus test or response to Kafka. But until such a statue is constructed, UTM students will probably continue to write topic sentences while rinsing their hair and to wear their sweats and hoodies with pride.