LOL Mondays: Exams – The Bane Of My Existence

Do you still get nightmares about that dreaded rite of passage?

By Alywin Chew        2 October 2023

The grass is always greener on the other side, isn’t it?

As a kid, I often wished that I could fast forward time so that I could instantly become an adult, because I thought adults had no curfews to abide by and were able to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

But I have since learned that adulthood doesn’t come with more freedom. Trust me, I’ve been married for 14 years. 

Also, ask any parent and they’ll likely tell you this so-called freedom goes right out the window when you have kids.

“I thought there would be time for me to do some gaming or watch movies when the kid goes to sleep,” lamented a friend who recently became a father.


“But this kid is worse than my platoon sergeant. I get multiple turnouts a night!” 

These days, however, I look back at those childhood days and yearn to be the kid who does not have to deal with all the pains of being an adult. I don’t know about you, but having to work and pay the bills is not fun. At all.

I miss those carefree days when I would just reach into my mother’s purse for my allowance and spend all day playing football at the void deck.

Unfortunately, I can no longer do the latter.

But there is one thing I DO NOT miss. Exams.

You see, I never really understood the purpose of studying. To me, going to school was just about memorising a whole bunch of stuff that I would later have to regurgitate onto a piece of paper during the exams. I had such a bad experience with studying that I have even developed PTSD because of exams. 

I kid you not. I still occasionally have nightmares in which I’m sitting for a Math or Science exam and have absolutely no idea how to solve any of the problems.

My therapist recently suggested that these nightmares aren’t due to the exams per se, but a deep-seated fear of something else.

“Have you ever thought that these nightmares could be due to an unresolved fear of failing in life?” she asked.

“A fear of failure?” I laughed. “Trust me. I am totally accustomed to failure.”

“Why do you say that?” she said.

“I was a zero fighter in BMT. I failed all my IPPT tests!”

As scary as exams are to me, I did find one thing about them amusing – the rituals involved.

Case in point? Drinking essence of chicken right before an exam. 

I’ve never liked this drink. It always made me gag. I much preferred the one-sausage-two-eggs combo (which look like “100” on the plate) my mum would prepare whenever exam period was around. Truth be told. None of them helped with improving my exam scores.

Look, the only way to NOT get crappy grades in school is downright simple.

Just don’t go to school. 

Unfortunately, my parents were vehemently against my proposal of becoming a full-time wastrel.

Speaking of rituals, Singapore isn’t the only place that has them.

I read somewhere that some Chinese parents like making their kids eat noodles before the exam, because they believe noodles for some reason signify that everything will go smoothly.

I don’t understand the logic behind this. Erm, hello? Food coma?

Here’s another interesting one – apparently many South Koreans believe that you shouldn’t wash your hair before the exam because you might wash all the knowledge out.

I really wouldn’t recommend doing this in Singapore. Let’s not turn the exam hall into a gas chamber. (Cue NSF memories of yelling: gas, gas, gas!)

Also, based on this logic that hair has the ability to contain knowledge, I assume a pontianak would be really good at her studies?

My best friend in school used to have a rather peculiar ritual too – falling asleep with the textbook under his pillow.

I used to tease him about this ridiculous ritual. 

“Why on earth do you do that?” I asked.

“Because, you know, osmosis,” he said sheepishly.

“Erm, are you a plant?

“Nope. But I’m a vegetarian. I suppose that helps?”

LOL Mondays is an ongoing series of slice-of-life stories from freelance writer and NSman Alywin Chew. Look out for the humorous tales which will be posted every first Monday of the month, to help you drive away your Monday blues!

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