Time and again I get asked regarding the preparations I did when I took the dreaded University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) twenty years ago (goodness, had it been that long already?). The answer is: nothing much, really. I followed the instructions and showed up and that’s it.
1) I had a checklist. I made sure I had my:
i) test permit and my school ID. I would not have made it inside the testing room if I didn’t have these;
ii) erasers, sharpeners, pencils. Notice these are in plural. I made sure to bring more than what I needed. I didn’t want to risk sharpening my pencil when I could have been actually answering the exam itself. That, and I thought I should have an extra set in case some examinee needed them;
iii) snacks, water, and juices in tetra pack, and a sweatshirt just in case the venue is air-conditioned.
Because I’m absent-minded and highly likely to miss important stuff, I asked my sister to pack these things for me. She double checked it the night before we left the island for the exam and I did, too, the night before the exam.
Call me obsessive but these are exam tools. They are important.
2) Scour the exam area.
The day before the exam, my best friend Mhy and I left our island (in Alabat) and traveled to the capital of Quezon Province, Lucena, the exam venue.
When we arrived in Lucena, we settled at her aunt’s house first. Ate, dumped our luggage, and ran outside to look for the school where we’d be taking the exam. Well, not really ran, ran. But we wandered through town. Our exam was scheduled in twelve noon the next day, but did we really want to spend our morning under the blazing sun looking for the school?
And this is where we had our adventure. Mhy and I both didn’t want to ask for directions so I suggested: Maybe we should follow that student, see where she’s going. Which is, of course, a stupid suggestion because the student was going home. We noticed we were retracing our steps back to where we came from. Lol. 😀
We ended up asking for directions. We asked several people for good measure (just to make sure we were pointed to the right school) and we took note of the landmarks, the signboard on the jeepney, etc. etc. Once in school, we searched for the classroom where we’d be taking the exam.
3) Sleep. Rest.
Don’t review. Sleep instead.
Yes, we missed a day in school so we could have a decent sleep. It was a wise decision.
We already decided we’d be taking the exam, why not go the distance? Missing a day in school is nothing. Resting is part of the preparation.
We could have left the island the day of the exam itself but did we really want to do the two-hour travel (one hour by sea, the sea is rough during this time of year making for a nauseous and unpleasant travel), and then look for the venue, and THEN take the exam all on the same day?
Possible. Doable. But by then, I’d have been tired and grumpy and smelly and possibly suffering from an extreme headache.
4) Show up.
Ahead of time, and with full stomach if I may add (my father said examinees tend to concentrate and perform better compared to students who have a full stomach but the pangs of hunger never failed to distract me. To each his own, I guess). It won’t do if you arrived late and miss half the test, would it? Also, in your most comfortable (but appropriate) clothes.
I think Mhy and I arrived early enough to take the first batch of exam. I couldn’t exactly remember what we did anymore while waiting but I remember us talking a bit. We also did people watching, observing the students who arrived complete with their entire family.
5) Focus, keep calm, take the test, and eat your snacks.
I took the test as calmly as I would with any of my periodical tests.
To be fair, at the time, I had been in the dark. Had I known I was taking the purported “hardest” entrance exam in the country that made examinees vomit, faint, and goodness knows what else, I might have been vomiting alongside the others instead of eating while answering the questions. AND I would be committing mistakes while I was at it. Yep, I did this during quiz bees every goddamned time. I’ve been known to giving the wrong answers to easy questions because I was nervous, panicking, second-guessing myself, and could not concentrate.
Focus and you’ll realize you know the answers all along. In my case, the first answer that came to mind is always the correct one. I don’t also check the choices unless I already have the answer at the ready. I read the question first, answer it, and then search for my answer among the choices.
Don’t agonize over an unanswered question. I skip it and return to it once done with the rest.
This should not be said, but I’m saying it anyway. Yes, eat, but be inconspicuous about it. No need to let the entire room know you are eating. Be mindful of any ripping sound the wrapper of your food might make, or any cracking sound the food itself might make. Be mindful of the odor it will give off.
My sister packed me biscuits and chocolate raisins. I ate the chocolate raisins and drank my fruit juice. 🙂
We didn’t have mobile phones in our time. Now everyone has it. It goes without saying this one should be turned off.
6) Double-check answers.
Done answering the English test? Then you have extra time. Check your answers. Check the pages. Maybe you missed to answer a page or two? Yes, this has been known to happen, too.
In our school, only two of us passed the UPCAT and then I was offered a scholarship [offered only to seventeen other students that year. The scholarship exam (an entirely different story), harder than the UPCAT by the way, I took when I was only in third year].
No, I didn’t review before taking the UPCAT. The things above were the only preparations I made, but then again, being a reader since I was four helped me breeze through the exams. Oh, and having a father who did academic lectures at the lunch and dinner table daily helped a lot, too. Lol. 🙂 Actually listening to the teachers and reading my textbooks didn’t hurt as well. Some of the questions were lifted from our textbooks (I came from a public school).
Trying to cram information a month or a week before or a night before won’t help.
Good luck, UPCAT takers! ❤ When you think about it, everything you’ve done in school has prepared you for this and those are years and years of preparation, isn’t it? ❤ So be confident, it will go a long way! 🙂