Top 10 exam rituals from stressed students across Asia – BBC News

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Paws for thought: If lucky cats are not enough, what are your preferred pre-exam rituals?

Exams are a time of great stress. Especially in East Asia, where the pressure is on to achieve sky-high results.

Whatever the cultural differences, all students have their own rituals and superstitions, whether it is playing a lucky song, eating special food or even wearing a pair of lucky pants.

Here are some of the ways that exam-crazy students from across Asia ensure they pass with flying colours.

And there is a comment form at the end to let us know your favourite exam rituals and special ways of preparing.

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KitKat in Japanese sounds like “surely winning” and has become a good omen for exams

1. How KitKat got lucky.

Traditionally, Japanese students would eat Katsudon before or on the day of an exam, comprising a warm bowl of rice topped with egg and a deep-fried pork cutlet.

The dish name’s likeness to the word “katsu”, meaning “winning” is thought to bring students luck.

But KitKat in Japan has also been marketing itself as a bringer of good luck.

Pronounced as “kitto katto”, the chocolate’s name is similar to the phrase “kitto katsu”, meaning “surely winning”, making it a good candidate for a good luck charm.

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Fruit of learning: Hong Kong students eat apples before exams

2. An apple a day.

Canteens across Hong Kong University campuses serve apples, and a variety of apple dishes, in the run-up to the exam period.

“The pronunciation of apple in Chinese is “ping guo”, which also means “safety”. So it’s considered that you will safely pass the exam,” says Chong Wang, from Nanjing in China.

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Bad hair day: Rinsing away any chance of success

3. Avoid washing your hair.

In your vicious cycle of all-night revision, microwave food and highlighter pens, you may have forgotten to have a shower.

But not to worry – in South Korea, it’s thought that washing your hair could wash all the knowledge out.

“There was one boy in our class who didn’t wash hair before exams. The rest of the time he was very clean, but once you came to know his exam ritual, you didn’t want to go near him,” said one student about a classmate.

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It’s all in the name. For Chinese students, the name for cashew nuts is like “wish to pass”

4. Going nuts over the exams.

Around a month before exams start in Hong Kong, students in clubs, societies and residential halls, will gather for “superpass”, or ging guo.

“Superpass” is a series of activities aimed at helping you pass your exams with a top score. The first part is the superpass dinner, which is usually held at a Chinese restaurant.

It’s important that students eat pork cubes with cashews, one of the signature superpass dishes. The Chinese word for “cashews” sounds like the word for “wish to pass”, and “pork cubes” sounds like “desire for a distinction”.

Homophones, or homonyms, play a big part in ritual and superstition in many East Asian languages.

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Cutting a roast pig is a part of many ceremonies in Hong Kong, including “superpass”

5. A slice of luck.

Returning to the hall, it’s time for everyone to have a turn at slicing through a giant roast pig, considered to be an important sacred offering in China.

Each participant is given one try at cutting the pig into two halves.

Those who succeed are thought to go on to pass all their exams the first time round, and those who fail, will have to re-sit some.

This is followed by eating kiwis, as the Chinese word for the fruit sounds like “easy to pass exams.”

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Parents in South Korea praying for their children as they take exams

6. Praying for success.

Many students in East Asia have the attentive support of their parents, whether they want it or not.

“Some parents wait for their children outside the exam hall praying for them to pass,” says South Korean teacher Ji-Youn Jung, “My mum did, but my test results turned out to be awful.”

Ultra-keen parents will go as far as praying at Buddhist temples every day for the 100 days leading up to the exam.

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Slippery customer: Seaweed soup could mean exam disaster

7. Lucky watch versus a slippery soup.

In South Korea, the slipperiness of the widely-eaten seaweed soup is thought to mean you will lose all the knowledge from the notes you’ve been revising like mad.

“I try not to have seaweed soup before important plans like exams or interviews. But if I happen to eat it without consciousness, I don’t worry too much,” Ji-Youn says.

But Chong Wang from China says: “My personal tradition is to have noodles for breakfast on exam day, as noodles mean “everything goes smooth” in Chinese. But I also take my lucky watch.”

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Could chickens help boost your brain power?

8. Chicken power.

A bit of sugar might give you an energy boost, but South Koreans also believe that this sugary snack could have exam-passing powers.

Yeot, a traditional sticky food, is eaten before important exams, especially university entrance exams.

Ji-Youn explains: “Yeot is a sticky sweet, and the Korean words for “sticky” and “pass entrance exam” sound the same.”

Or else drink some chicken juice, which is thought to give your brain a boost.

Students in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and China tend to drink this while revising for exams, and on the morning of the exam itself.

“It’s nothing superstitious,” says Dylan Lee Soon Yoong, a Singaporean student at University College London.

“I drink chicken essence on the morning of the exam… you down it like a shot after heating it up. It’s supposed to help your concentration and is marketed pretty heavily to students in Singapore.”

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Well read: All you need to remember for exam success, lucky red pants

9. Wear red underwear.

Red is widely believed to be a lucky colour in China. So many believe that it’s a good idea to wear some red clothing, or more specifically red underwear, during an exam.

When a person is particularly successful, there is a Chinese saying, “Are you wearing red underwear?”

But Chong Wang warns: “Some people may avoid wearing red during exams because in China, fail scores are written in red on score sheets.”

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Singaporean students can pray electronically to the “Bell Curve God”

10. Pray for mercy from the “Bell Curve God”

The Bell Curve God is an embodiment of university students’ fears of the bell curve grading system used in Asia’s top universities, such as the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.

Bell curve grading means not just measuring how well you did in an exam, but rather how you did in relation to everyone else in your class. In an already high-achieving country, that pushes competitiveness to the max.

Shrines to the Bell Curve God have been set up at both universities, where food and candles are left as offerings to the “God”.

The National University of Singapore has gone as far as setting up a website, Facebook and Twitter account for the Bell Curve God, so that students can pray electronically.

“As students, we are subject to the omnipotent, inscrutable force that is the Bell Curve God. He is the arbitrary being that decides our grades,” Dylan Lee Soon Yoong explains.

Top 10 exam rituals from stressed students across Asia – BBC News}