How to Survive Exams: The Russian Way

You might think that consistent study, a good night’s sleep, and a healthy breakfast are the best ways to keep your mind clear and prepared for an exam, but Russian students have lots of other practices that they have been using over the years to bring good luck to exam time! Many students adhere faithfully to these traditions, whether or not they believe in them. From not washing your hair to gaining knowledge through your pillow, we will outline the craziest to the not so craziest of traditions associated with exam luck!

The main student ritual which must be performed to guarantee getting an excellent grade in your exam is catching "khalyava". What is "khalyava"? It’s kind of like a "freebie" or a "free pass", something you get without making much effort or spending any money, for example like a good grade for an exam. In order to catch your "khalyava", you need to wave your gradebook around through your window and shout "Khalyava, come!". For those who don’t know what a gradebook is, it’s a tiny pocket book where all of your university grades for each class are kept with the signatures of your professors. When you’re performing this crazy ritual, be sure to check for rain or snow so as not to "stain" your previous academic success.

No less important a tradition, which can really help you to quickly study the material, is to sleep with your notes under your pillow the night before the exam. All the knowledge of an entire semester can seamlessly seep into your brain through your pillow, in just one night. These days, less students are writing their notes by hand, and everything is on the computer. But sleeping with a laptop under your pillow might be a little uncomfortable, so you can just keep it under your bed. If you keep your laptop under your bed for at least a month before exams, making sure to read a few pages from time to time, then you will surely pass your exam with flying colours.

Your appearance and hygiene are also closely linked to your exam success. You have to be sure not to wash your hair the night before an exam, because you might in fact be "washing away" all the knowledge that you have gained thus far. Men shouldn’t shave, because this will bring bad grades. You have to wear old clothes to the exam, ideally something that you wore at an earlier time when you received a good grade. Most certainly do not cut your nails the night before your exam.

"To the left, to the left… ", maybe Beyonce was actually talking about how to pass your exams effectively. When you take a question for an oral exam, make sure to take it with your left hand, so you can get a question that you know the answer to. On the day of the exam, you should stand up on your left leg first, brush your teeth with your left hand, and just before entering the classroom where the exam will be, you should stand on your left leg and decide what your grade will be.

Your exam success rides significantly on the role your family and friends play, too. Just before leaving the house, they should say a special phrase to you, "Ni pukha, nipera" which literally means "not a bit of down, nor a single feather", and is said when wishing someone good luck. But you must respond with a phrase "k chyortu", which literally means something like "to hell". This kind of strange practice comes from hunting. So as not to jinx a hunt, you wish the hunters bad shooting, i.e. that they don’t catch any birds. The hunters response, "to hell" is his way of saying "to hell with you, nothing will stop me from catching my prey".

The second most important, and extremely absurd role of the family on the day of the exam, is to start insulting the student. You might hear some foul language, but apparently the more bad things you are told, the better your exam grade will be. Just make sure not to start insulting yourself and calling yourself an idiot.

Don’t forget to put a five-ruble coin in your shoe as you leave the house for your exam. Five-rubles because "5" is the highest grade in the Russian educational system! There’s also a fountain in the central hall of ITMO University’s main building on Kronversky prospect, that students believe has magical powers that help to pass an exam. If you throw a five-ruble coin in there, you’re guaranteed to get a good grade! (Then maybe afterwards you can grab a few coins for a post-exam pick-me-up ice-cream).

But all in all, the best practice, and probably the most reliable, is to actually attend all your classes, and study hard. This will definitely give you the best grades! We wish you all the best with your exams!

Photocredit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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