As far as I know, in United States students don't use exercise books.

Image 1. Exercise book

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They use composition books instead, which often have "marble" cover and bound through the fold.

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My question is which wording, exercise book or composition book, would be preferable if I generally prefer US wording, but I need to describe both US composition books and British (and European) exercise books?

  • In USA college campuses, the name I'm familiar with for this kind of stapler-bound lined-paper booklet is a "blue book" (regardless of color) or "exam book", though these will usually have 8-16 pages, while it looks like exercise books have ~80. Some exams will require you to work the problems/write an essay in a blue book and turn it in for grading.
    – Kaia
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 9:48

2 Answers 2


Any book with blank lined paper (or grid paper) is called a notebook. In the US, we do have notebooks with paper covers like those "exercise books", but I'm not familiar with the term "exercise book" so I would probably assume that you were referring to a book filled with exercises for a student to complete (i.e., a workbook). The term "composition book" is known, but it would seem oddly specific to use it instead of just "notebook".

See also Common Types of Notebooks Explained

  • I'll add that 'composition book' is not the usual term I heard when I was in school; it was usually 'composition notebook'.
    – Hearth
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 15:19
  • It's been more years than I'd like to admit, but the label "Composition Book" in the OP's image does look familiar. But I don't think we actually called them that.
    – Barmar
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 19:09

An exercise book in the UK is simply any blank notebook for the student to write in. It may be plain, ruled or squared/graphed. I've never heard of the term 'composition book', ever. Even the ones for music class with pre-printed staves were still called exercise books… even though we were learning composition.

They would be most commonly be simply stapled in the middle, like a magazine, but the type of binding doesn't really dictate the name. Generally they're all exercise books, for doing exercises [work] in.

Older students would often transition to loose-leaf ring-binders.
[This from when Noah was a boy; I presume everybody has an iPad or laptop these days;)

Strangely, as soon as you leave school you never use the term exercise book ever again. It seems very school-specific. It's a term I hadn't even thought about in decades, until I saw your question.

  • "Strangely, as soon as you leave school you never use the term exercise book ever again." - Indeed, this is quite interesting.
    – jsx97
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 11:52
  • Yes. It really just occurred to me as I was writing this answer. I used exercise books all the time at school. I have notebooks now - though same as many people, I can now type much faster than I can write, so I don't really use handwriting for much more than a post-it note; but I haven't had an actual 'exercise book' since I left school. Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 13:02
  • Agree entirely with the answer, but I would just add that iirc when I was at junior school (in the UK, 1960 - 64) a 'composition' was what in my later school years was called an 'essay'.
    – peterG
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 15:34
  • When I was at school in the West of Scotland we called them jotters. I think that was local slang, however, as jotter normally refers to a smaller notebook than this. Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 16:34
  • @LaconicDroid - I'm familiar with the term, but I can't recall it being used at school. [Grammar sch. Yorks, N.Eng. 60s/70s] Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 16:37

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