Traditional Luck

– Nina Strochlic

While there is rarely an empty seat to be found in the library come finals week, not all studying methods are the same. Every book-laden, hunched-over student has a unique set of test-taking techniques they fastidiously abide by. While the typical strategies may involve ten-foot stacks of note cards, review sheets, and improved sleeping habits paired with gum chewing, others might step over into the realm of finger crossing, wood-knocking, and lucky underwear wearing. Superstitions run high in uncertain times like midterms or finals week when test outcomes aren’t predictable. Many students ensure their success by wearing a lucky item of clothing or pencil; probably one that has delivered good scores previously. Others swear by strange charms, such as my friend, who’s at his luckiest when his favorite pair of underwear happens to be on the top of his drawer on a test day. Another solemnly claims she can only do well while using a particular decorative pencil on her exam.

Some traditions stray far from individual luck, and become something of a campus-wide practice. At the University of Oregon, students seeking help on their tests diligently place a muffin or other baked good by the feet of the Pioneer Father statue in the middle of campus at midnight. Comparatively, peeing on the Pioneer Mother statue on the other end of campus supposedly grants similar good luck on tests. (The sexism this ritual exudes can hopefully be overlooked for the moment.) UC Berkeley boasts a similar school-wide superstition called the “4.0 Ball.” Named by students, this decorative stone ball draws loads of test-taking hopefuls to rub it for luck the night before a big exam.

While the impact these practices have on the outcome of a test is impossible to measure, maybe the comfort these practices bring actually does make a difference. If sleeping with note cards under your pillow helps you to go into that killer test with confidence, it probably will keep your mind calm and collected throughout. Plus, the risk that comes along with an attempt to dispose of your personal ritual is too great–whether or not you believe the whole thing is a joke. I personally follow only one tried-and-true superstition before a big test: convincing myself that I will fail. Oh, and studying. A balanced combination of those two usually works in my favor. Knock on wood.

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