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What to Wear on Exam Days


Woman taking an exam

It’s almost the end of the fall semester, and while Xmas break is coming up, that also means final exams are approaching!

As every college girl knows, fashion is pretty much last on the list of priorities during exam time – who has time to pick out the perfect outfit when you might fail your biology final?

And that’s how it should be. When you’re in college, fashion can’t come before doing what you’re there to do – pass your classes and graduate!

That said, I’ve received lots of emails and comments from readers who want some ideas on what to wear during exam week – outfits that are comfortable, stylish, and easy to put together when you’re pressed for time.

I think I can help you guys with that – just because you’re super busy, it doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon looking good. There’s definitely a middle ground; it just takes some planning.

Plan your outfits out in advance.

Folded clothes

On the Sunday before exam week, put together a wardrobe full of basics for the days ahead – as if you were packing for a vacation.

Look for pieces that all go together and could be mixed and matched in a bunch of different ways. That way, when it’s time to get dressed, you just need to throw on some clothes from that pile and go ace your exam! No extra worries.

A sample “exam week clothing list” could look like this:

* 3 pairs of jeans – One for every other day. You want to go basic here, nothing too crazy looking that would be hard to pair with your other clothes. When in doubt, go with dark stretch jeans. They’re always classy in any situation. Also, comfort is key – those super-skinny jeans might be your new faves, but sitting in them for 5 hours studying might not be very comfortable.

* Basic tanks and tee shirts – My wardrobe staples when I need a chic outfit in a hurry. I love American Apparel deep v neck tees in basic colors and A&F , H&M or James Perse tank tops (so comfortable.)

* 1 or 2 cardigans! – Another staple for me. Cardigans are so chic and they dress up a plain tank top or tee. Even better, they keep you warm! If you aren’t on the bandwagon with cardigans yet, see my article 5 Reasons You Should Own a Cardigan.

* Cute earrings – An easy accessory that will make a huge difference. If you’re going to be writing a lot or just bubbling in ScanTron sheets, having a bunch of bangle bracelets on your arm will annoy you and everyone else around you! Skip the bracelets and wear cute earrings instead.

* Ballet flats or flat boots – You want to make sure you’re comfortable and at your exam on time, so those 4 inch heels are out! A cute pair of ballet flats or some flat-heeled boots are chic options that are still comfy and easy to wear.

* A small purse – If you’re just taking a test and don’t have any other classes, a small purse is the easiest option. Just bring your ID, money, phone, and some extra study materials. Less stuff to carry and less to worry about are both good things to have on exam days!

Don’t wear sweats or pajamas.

While I know it’s tempting to stay up all night studying and go to your final in sweats, you’ll feel more awake and ready for your test if you’re dressed normally. Going to an exam in your PJ’s might make it difficult to concentrate, not to mention that it’s definitely not a stylish choice at all!

It’s no more difficult to throw on a pair of jeans before you go to your exam, and it will make a huge difference in how you feel during the test. Try it for yourself – I think you’ll be surprised at the results.

Exam week hair & makeup tips

A girl getting ready in the mirror

The best tip I can give you for doing your hair and makeup during exam week is keep it simple. There are few times in your college career that are more stressful than exam weeks, and the easier you can make it on yourself, the better.

Here are a few tips on how to look cute while still spending little or no time on hair & makeup during exam week.


Here are my makeup essentials – this is pretty much all the makeup that I usually wear on exam days:

My advice is to skip the eyeshadow, bronzers, eyebrow powders and complex makeup when you’re going to an exam! The goal is to look presentable without spending more than 5 minutes doing your face. Keep the complicated makeup for another time – after all, you have last minute studying to do!


Your hair should be out of your face so when you’re working on your exam it doesn’t get in your way – I hate when I’m constantly trying to pull my hair back during a test! Again, skip complicated styles and go with something basic, like one of these fast and easy hair styles. You’ll be ready in a flash and won’t be fixing a complicated hairstyle all day.

Another quick hair tip: don’t wear a headband if they can give you headaches. This happens to me occasionally and I wouldn’t want to be stuck wearing one during an important final.

The most important thing

Hopefully this article will help make it easier to look cute without worrying about it, so you can focus on doing your best on all the tests you have to take. I know it sounds cliche, but at the end of the day, what you wear during exam week isn’t as important as how you do on your exam. Good luck to all of you on your finals this year!

Your Thoughts?

Since most of you probably have exam week right now, what have you been wearing? Do you wear your pajamas to take exams, or do you wear jeans? Leave a comment and tell me what you’d wear.

* Photos by bryanpearson and greenapplegrenade

Posted on on December 2, 2008 / Filed Under: College Life, Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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32 Responses to “What to Wear on Exam Days”

  1. 1
    December 2nd, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    On exam days I stick to something comfy but still stylish. If I feel confident about myself I tend to perform better on exams. I’m usually low key with make-up and carry a big purse to keep track of notebooks & flashcards and accessorize with a venti starbucks haha.


  2. 2
    December 2nd, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    I hear you on the Starbucks! That’s one of my favorite accessories at exam time too :)

  3. 3
    December 2nd, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    I totally agree with the jeans vs. pajamas. pajamas make me feel too comfy and relaxed, and not as focused and alert as jeans would.

  4. 4
    December 3rd, 2008 at 12:00 am

    youre going to hate to hear this, but although i usually look quite pulled together, i come to exams with no makeup, a 2-second ponytail, and sweatpants. I really cant waste time worrying about my looks on a day that tests my intelligence.

  5. 5
    December 3rd, 2008 at 12:50 am

    My exam week was last week and I refused to wear sweats at all.
    On my first day I had a presentation so I had to look really formal and I wore a skirt with heels and all the works. The other days were more relaxed, I wore jeans with either boots or my pretty sneakers. I like to look put together even if I stayed up until 3 in the morning studying the day before.

  6. 6
    December 3rd, 2008 at 1:22 am

    i would wear just a plain dress under tights for exam days (if it is in the summer) or winter, just jeans, a shirt and a jumper over it(in the winter!!) How about wearing haviannas on exam days?? I find that they are comfy. Plus i cannot stand wearing sweats and pjs in an exam room!!!

    makeup wise, i just wear tinted moisturizer and that is it. I will not go into an exam room with a cake face (imagines a caked face melting in the exam room..not cool). And hair wise, i just leave it out!

  7. 7
    December 3rd, 2008 at 1:26 am

    oh and mind you, i felt that wearing jeans to an exam helps with my performance in exam, and one time, since i had a Saturday exam, i woke up late and didn’t get enough time to put on jeans, so i threw on tights and a jumper, plus haviannas!! (This was winter btw)/

  8. 8
    December 3rd, 2008 at 1:52 am

    i find that putting a little bit of effort into my outfit on exam day, as much i don’t want to, really helps my confidence. as you said, i go for basics – (bascially everything you listed) but i feel better about myself when i’m dressed nicely.

    when i wear sweat pants, i feel blah! except when i’m lounging around the house or whatever.

    jeans, a t-shirt, cardigan, and boots or flats (depending on the season) and i’m ready to go!

  9. 9
    December 3rd, 2008 at 1:53 am

    that bangles one is true!! i used to come to class with a lot of wrist action, and i would always have to switch them to the inactive wrist because they were always loud and in the way

  10. 10
    December 3rd, 2008 at 4:16 am

    I always find when I make a tiny bit of effort in my appearance, like making the effort to wear jeans and not my lululemons or sweats, it makes me FEEL better and more confident, and I usually do better on tests.
    Totally know what you mean by the bangles, they are so irritating sometimes.

  11. 11
    December 3rd, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    What you said couldn’t be more right! If I wore sweatpants or my PJs to an exam, I would fall asleep through the test! I think that giving yourself that preparation time in the morning can clear your mind a little before you dig into however many exams that you have. Plus, looking better just makes you feel better about yourself, which ultimately could affect your exam performance! Good blog! =D

  12. 12
    December 3rd, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Oh these are totally great tips!

    I actually did wear a pair of cute earrings, and they were the diamond earrings my fiance bought me from and I wore them for luck.

    They helped me feel more confident when I took my SAT’s and got a decent score in the end, so all these tips help ladies!

  13. 13
    December 3rd, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    I sleep in pajama bottoms with big concert tee like t-shirts. When finals come around I’m not too concerned about fashion even though planning ahead makes sense. Day of a casual final I wear either dark bootcut jeans or fitted sweatpants with a fitted t-shirt and navy blue tennis shoes. My hair is up in a ponytail I did as I drove, only makeup I got on is some conclearer and thats it

  14. 14
    December 3rd, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Ooh, I totally agree with the no PJ thing. In high school, it used to drive me NUTS when girls would do their hair and makeup but still wear PJs. Come on! How long does it take to throw on a pair of jeans??
    I’ve noticed a change in my personality and self esteem when I feel cute, so I think it’s worth it to not look like a total slob. If I’m feeling good about myself, I can concentrate on other stuff.
    8 days til I’m on winter break!!!

  15. 15
    December 3rd, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Why would anyone want ot wear their pjs for an exam? That’s just being pure lazy. I like your idea on what to wear on exam days. How about what to wear to Christmas parties and New Years parties?

  16. 16
    December 3rd, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Here in asia, with warm weather.. i like to wear dresses.. final is on friday and im thinkin to wear some comfy cotton dress with gladiator flats ;) for cold weather, i would wear long sweater with legging and finish with flat knee-high boots..

  17. 17
    December 4th, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I don’t even want to think about what I used to wear to my exams! It’s true, if you shower and dress – you’ll feel better and perform better. Good luck!

  18. 18
    December 4th, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    i must admit, i have been a sucker to the sweats! i know the shame the shame!!! i recently bought my first sweats cuz i constantly saw my boyfriend in them. so i feel in love with the university of memphis sweats, they are comfy and they keep me warm during the coldest winter of my life!

  19. 19
    December 4th, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    This is all good. Yea, any chance we can get recommendations for holiday parties? They can be tough to dress for.

  20. 20
    December 4th, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    that’s true about wearing sweats and feeling crappy AND then not doing so well on the exam! i prefer dressing decent at least…because i don’t want to look like i stayed up cramming all night even though i usually do. its good to feel in control at least by looking in control . but yeah, point is…who cares how we look on exam days anyway?

    btw do you mind making a blog about how to fight shopping addiction!? the holidays i think is killing everybody’s wallets : ( and college is just getting more and more expensive here…thanks to the new budget.

  21. 21
    December 4th, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    i totally 100% am with the no sweats PJ’s thing!!
    soo many people in my college wear them all the time, it doesnt take 2 secs to throw on a pair of jeans ..
    i can manage it after a college party, were feel like throwing up but you still get dressssed!!!
    englands atm is -3 degrees so yeahh can undrstand why people cba butt.. i just cant bring myslef to do itt!!
    having to wear a different outfit everydayy is a struggle! and im sooo crazy for jewellery!!
    stubbled accross this blog by chance and its been my bible for the last few weeks sooo cheers!! :-)

  22. 22
    December 4th, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    I’m so glad you mentioned the headbands problem. I’ve learned that the hard way!

    Another thing is, if you have bangs/side bangs that haven’t been trimmed in a while, trim them or put them up with bobby pins or something like that… there’s nothing worse than having fringes of hair getting in your eyes when you’re looking down on a test.

  23. 23
    December 6th, 2008 at 6:04 am

    LOL i totally agree w/ Annie! it happens to me all the time!
    one of my tips is that, when i forget bobby pins (since no one really wears it nowaways…) i used the pen cap instead. YES that makes me look very silly but the truth is when youre takin the test, no one is reli lukin at u…LOL

    and my exams are comin up! it’s really cold now but sometimes in the testing rooms its so hot. i have hard time predicting the temperature :S
    i’m also thinkin of like long sweaters with stockings, or cardigans with jeans.

    thanks so much brianna! :):):)
    if you can, can you put up an article on how to look great and trendy with glasses on? i hate glasses…but unfortunately most of the time i have to wear them :(
    and i agree with the budget thing that piggu mentioned!! i need to control myself…but it’s so hard =(
    i love CF <3 ^^

  24. 24
    May 16th, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    I second the cute glasses article request!

  25. 25
    July 29th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I always used to wear my sweatpants, as a means of hiding in the big exam room. I now find that it’s worth it to wear my well-fitting bootcut jeans, because I just feel so confident in them; like I can take over the world! :)

  26. 26
    April 24th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    I always wear jeans, but with a hoodie, so much more comfy if you ask me! and also i tend to feel really cold when i didnt sleep much, and hoodies are warmer then cardigans…

  27. 27
    April 24th, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    I would wear jeans, leggings or if I’m really lazy, then shorts. As for hair and makeup, I wouldn’t even think that much. Hair just goes into a pony tail and I don’t wear any makeup usually, much less during exams.

  28. 28
    June 4th, 2012 at 2:01 am

    My favorite testing outfits usually include a camisole, jeans, flats, and a cardigan (just as described) I love to wear my silver watch, or mini pocket-watch necklace. It helps me keep track of time, without having to constantly turn around to find the clock. I keep my make-up simple, and usually do a quick doughnut bun, so that when I take it out after the test my hair is full of these huge wavy curls. Though I could never live without my triple grande latte. Fat helps caffeine pass the barriers of the brain keeping you nice and alert during a test!

  29. 29
    December 14th, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Great tips, definitely going to help me focus on exams versus style(: I would also add to wear cute, but comfy panties and bra. I don’ know why, but I’ve found that if I wear my sports bra and bikini panties, I feel less awake and focused than I would with a nice (but comfy) bra and panties. Even though no one’s going to see it (during exams anyway), you’ll feel more confident and less cautious of your looks.

    Thanks for the article<3

  30. 30
    December 11th, 2013 at 3:31 am

    I usually wear yoga pants or anything that will keep me cozy and warm here in Iowa in the winter. No makeup or anything just hair up out of my face. I will probably be wearing leggings tomorrow, boots, a long sleeve shirt and an oversized hoodie. And backpack. :-) I like to be comfy and I do just fine on exams, whether or not I’m in pjs, yoga pants, sweats, leggings or jeans.

  31. 31
    April 21st, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Good point, but I’m still gonna wear sweatpants!

  32. 32
    April 21st, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    If I’m wearing a cute, well put together outfit with my sweatpants, I still feel just as confident! I am just more comfy, so I usually do better. I have always worn sweats on testing days.

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