Sitting in the last row of Thompson Physics Lab 205, quietly observing the apprehensive Ephs around me while waiting for my economics midterm to start, I almost spewed out the gulp of Mango Tango Odwalla in my mouth at the sight revealing itself in front of my eyes: My zealous atheist friend was praying silently, focused on heavenly matters, eyes closed. For a moment, I was in a state of mild shock at her uncharacteristic behavior. Then I remembered the miniature panda bear I used to place on the desk in front of me at every exam in junior high. It was the source of my brainpower. Usually far from irrational or gullible, even the most astute Ephs occasionally (read: habitually) find themselves acting superstitiously when pressed by pre-exam anxiety. Last Friday morning, I embarked on a quest for fellow panda bear lovers in Paresky.
Harlan Dodson ’11
A history major and a member of the basketball team, this Junior Advisor of Sage F does not have enough time for studying. “Due to my proclivity to just not study, I have walked into many exams and midterms woefully unprepared and still managed to bust out decent grades,” Dodson said. What is the secret? “I am a borderline insane Arkansas football fan, and so accordingly my good luck ritual for every exam and midterm I’ve taken at Williams is to wear my No. 5 Arkansas football jersey. The jersey is of Darren McFadden, who is my favorite college player of all time. I’ll often tell my friends after they ask me about an exam that Darren pulled me through.” Could he have done it without Darren? One will never know; Dodson won’t take the risk and find out.
Ryan Glassett ’10
Although Glassett himself does not need to perform anything eccentric to help him focus, he is quite familiar with one study ritual that his dad reminisces about – one involving lemons. “When he was young he used to have a lemon cut in halves with him on the desk while he was studying, and then he would bring a piece of the peel with him on the exam day,” Glassett said. “He said it would bring back to his mind the material he studied because he associated the same scent with it already.” Sounds like this habit might have some actual scientific grounds – think odor-associative memory. As far as Glassett is concerned, this ritual definitely has potential.
Jinyoung Park ’12
One would never guess that Park – a small, cute, animated fashionista with a contagious laugh – knows about a somewhat grimy kernel of good luck advice. “Some Korean people don’t wash their hair for a few days before an exam because they believe that water will wash away the knowledge from their heads,” Park said. Her head of long shiny dark tresses looked quite clean to me, however, and Park assured me that she does not personally follow the ritual. But hey, you never know: This little ritual might be worth a try. Not only might those few extra biology facts stick in your head a little better, but you’ll also have 10 or 20 extra minutes each day to do a little more cramming.
Zach Padovani ’11
Do Shakira or Lady Gaga sometimes disrupt your concentration because you can’t get their haunting tunes out of your head? Padovani apparently knows the feeling well. Having realized the power of music over his brain, he came up with a strategy to make musical notes work for him, not against him. “I have a song stuck in my head every time I take an exam. It’s usually the one I have heard last, so it’s there with me in the quiet exam room all the time. So I listen to the kind of music they play before sports games, anything themed around competition and winning – it gets my adrenaline high and makes me energetic and ready to triumph. I can’t change tracks in the middle of the exam yet, but I might learn how to do it.”
Cat Vielma ’10
The type of person who enjoys kicking back on lazy afternoons and soaking up some sun, just like those little furry animals her name recalls, Vielma has a good luck habit that seems quite normal on first examination. “Every time I use the same kind of pencils,” Vielma said. Simple enough, yet the glint in her eye and the curl of her lip were rather out of proportion to the practice of using standardized writing implements. She continued: “Ticonderoga, the black ones. I don’t like the yellow. And I sacrifice a lamb with it. With the Ticonderoga pencil, that is. A baby lamb.” She was probably kidding.