The ultimate guide to bartering for blue books during midterm season

Deborah Chen/Staff

Exam booklets are perhaps the most important thing to bring to class on the day of a midterm, yet each time, someone is left scrambling to find one just minutes before the test starts. Odds are, someone in the room has an extra one. The issue really is getting that person to give it to you. Even though blue books are extremely cheap, in the moments before an exam, their value shoots up. The person with the extra booklet may hold all of the leverage, but you’re about to learn how to turn the tables. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly when you’re getting a good deal and when you’re getting ripped off.

Exchangeable goods 

These are objects any college student might have on hand that are comparable in market to an exam booklet. If you pay any more than this, you’re getting played.

  • A cool pen
  • Several pieces of gum
  • Magnets
  • A decent start-up idea
  • Forks
  • Bread
  • A drawing you put some effort into
  • Spoons
  • Pictures of your dog
  • A Tech Deck
  • The most interesting fact you know
  • Anything that smells good

Exchangeable services

If you don’t have items to barter with, you can always offer to be of service in some way. These small favors are about as far as you should go for a blue book.

  • Vigorous clapping
  • Subdued snapping
  • Handing out a few genuine and original compliments
  • Bowing
  • Listening to your trade partner’s problems for a maximum of two minutes
  • Checking their pulse
  • Brushing their hair with your fingers
  • Cooing softly


If none of those goods and services are enticing enough, these are some techniques you can try as a last resort.

  • Make them feel bad by revealing something sad about yourself
  • Threaten to put a curse on them
  • Start sneezing on them until they give it to you

If you don’t have any items or services from these lists but have other things of equal value to offer, that’ll work too. Often, people are nice enough to just give you their extra booklet. But even in those cases, consider giving back something of relatively little value — they did, after all, save your ass.

Contact Ryan Melvin at [email protected].