In the Bunker

Scenes from Exam Period

Exam Anecdote

A student is taking an exam. Detailed footnotes are required for the essay and he panics. He proceeds to make them up, a host of bogus references. After the exam, seized by a fit of Raskolnikov-like paranoia that the teacher will check up and expose his crime, he types up index cards in the Dewey Decimal system, one for each reference, and slips them into the Widener catalogue.

A Bad Experience

It's the night before the Math 1a exam for a freshman who's living in the Yard and scared. He's sitting in his room, which is neat but somehow oppressive as well, and talking about it.

He was in a self-paced section, see, and he let himself get a little behind during the term. But he realized that he was in a fix, so he got all his other work out of the way in order to concentrate during vacation and reading period on the math. Well, vacation sort of slipped away, and he wasn't too interested in math anyway, but when he got back to Harvard he was ready to get to work.


The first day back, he opened his math book and started to study. After a few minutes, he got tired and lay down. He woke up 12 hours later.

It was like that for two weeks. He was sleeping 18 hours a day. Every time he woke up, he started to study his math. Every time he studied his math, he fell back asleep. He figured something was wrong and went to UHS for mono tests.

After a while, he decided to switch and study for his Philosophy exam, and all of a sudden he found he could study 14 hours straight, without getting tired at all. It was amazing. He wrote his math section man asking for an excuse from the exam, but the section man said you had to have a UHS excuse and the freshman knew he had no specific disease, so there was nothing he could do.

"I don't know if this was caused by Harvard or by an attitude I had before," he says. "I was expecting certain things from school. When I saw what it was like, it resulted in my trying to isolate myself in every way possible. I find this a continuation of games. Everything is transitory."


At Cahaly's several iteams are selling faster during reading and exam period: junk food, cigarettes, and anything with caffeine in it. The store has sold out its supply of No-Doz twice in the past week.


Despite the heavy traffic in No-Doz and coffee, a dealer in headier stay-up drugs claims that the demand for speed seems to have dropped this year. (Although marijuana use is steady: "There will always be people who want a quality high.") According to the dealer, the dropoff in speed consumption is noticeable both at Harvard and Radcliffe. "People want one or two hits to write a paper, but no one's buying in quantity."

Bagging It

People line up at UHS every morning of exams all plagued with various ailments. Lots of people have theories on how to make yourself sick enough to get out of a final: eat a lot of aspirin and drink a Coke; eat spoiled mayonnaise; polish off a quart of Charles River water; swallow chunks of chewing tobacco; say you're hearing voices (how can they tell?). One guy had his roomate smash his finger with a hammer. "It seemed like a good idea at the time," he says.