Bonil Noun was holding a bundle of lotus flowers last week as he approached the Preah Ang Dangkeu shrine, a place considered by many as one of the most sacred religious sites in Cambodia.
Mr Noun, a 19-year-old student, could not hide the fact that he was nervous.
He was just one of scores of high school students there to pray for good luck for today’s exam.
Mr Nuon said he will take his exam at Chroy Changva High School and was praying to boost his confidence and relieve anxiety.
“I have seen so many previous year candidates faint or encounter unprecedented accidents,” he said. “Though logically speaking, prayers do not fight away bad luck in a way we could see.”
Mr Nuon said his friend shares the same perspective that prayers should be offered before an exam.
“We both believe in our abilities and our faith – praying won’t ensure our success, but it offers a feeling of comfort and security before facing the intense two day exam,” he said.
Mr Nuon said he chose to come to Preah Ang Dangkeu Keur because his sister, who had issues with conceiving a child, became pregnant after praying here.
Wat Samraong Andeth, a pagoda in Sen Sok district, is known for its monks giving water blessings to students before the exam.
Phin Seavmey, an 18-year-old student from Preah Sisowath high school, said she came here along with her classmates and her teacher for a blessing.
“My teachers suggested that we visit the pagoda for good fortune and avoid any bad luck,” Ms Seavymey said. “We do not know what will happen, we went here to wash those bad things away.”
As the second child in the family, and first to take the exam, she must perform well, she said.
“I pray that the proctors will take it easy on my paper when they are grading it,” Ms Seavmey said. “Elders should be praised, the younger generation should value and respect the norms.”
Ouk Chhayavy, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said many students flock to religious sites because they did not study.
“If they focused on their education since the very beginning, they would not worry about failing,” Ms Chhayavy said. “Praying is just one factor, the crucial part is knowledge.”