One of the most significant and important questions asked to a teenager during his/her high school years is “Where do you plan to study in college?” Here in the Philippines, this transition from high school to college is considered to be a big stepping stone to achieving one’s dreams. And going to UP is most of the time, if not always, a part of the choices included in the list of schools of any Filipino child and parent’s dream. However, before this dream is fulfilled, the dreaded and feared University of the Philippines College Admission Test, also known as UPCAT, must be taken and passed. More than 100,000 high school students apply for the test, around 80,000 are given slots for the test itself and only around 14,000 pass.
How to Pass the UPCAT
This test may be feared by many but passing UPCAT isn’t impossible. There just has to be a number of preparations you have to do beforehand and some tips and tricks you need to keep in mind during the exam itself. So here are the tips you may want to use and some reminders you may want to bear in mind to pass UPCAT.
1. Have good grades in high school
If early on in your life you’ve already decided that you would want to take UPCAT, it is best that you start prepping your grades already. Since grade comprises 40% of the University Predicted Grade (UPG), it would be a wise decision to start getting flying colors with your grades, most especially in the major subjects (Math, Science, and English).
“But what if I haven’t prepared since the start of my high school? What if I only decided I wanted to take UPCAT recently?”
Just because you aren’t a straight-A student in High School that does not mean there’s no hope for you. Remember, 60% of the UPG is from the standardized scores from UPCAT. Make use of the months you have before UPCAT to prepare yourself for the test.
2. Do not procrastinate, study ASAP!
Don’t waste any time, the best time to study is now. UPCAT will test aspiring students on the information they’ve learned in high school, but not on how much they’ve memorized; it is more on how efficiently have you absorbed and can use the strategies you were taught. Gather the notes you have on Language Proficiency and Reading Comprehension (both for English and Filipino), Science, and Mathematics. These will be the subjects on which the questions of the test will be focused on.
The number of lessons you need to recall for all these subjects will be overwhelming if you decide to review them in only a short period before UPCAT. Save yourself from all that stress by starting early.
3. Run through your strengths but work on your weaknesses
This is an important step you need to do. A common mistake done by students when taking a college admission test is that they tend to use their time to study all the subjects equally, or even focus more on those that they understand the best. But that just makes your chances of getting a good score on the other subjects less. For these types of exams, most especially for UPCAT, you cannot rely on your ceiling-high grade on one or two subjects to pull up your grade for the other subjects. It does not and cannot work that way.
Most of the questions in UPCAT revolve around lessons in Math and Science. So, if in your own assessment you don’t feel as confident with these two subjects, give more time and effort in studying them.
4. Have timed mock tests
This may seem quite questionable for some, but the point of doing such is that it trains you to work under pressure. In cases where we are put under pressure, how we respond and react, most often than not, changes. Since UPCAT, and all college admissions exams, are timed, it would be good to train yourself beforehand; this is to avoid experiencing any nervousness, anxiety and mind block.
You do not have to create or buy a mock test that is as long as UPCAT, but you just have to give yourself that challenge of having to answer a test while being timed. Plus, expect that you will be faced with tons of tough and challenging questions; having mock tests that also have difficult problems/questions will train your brain to think and solve faster.
Do not use only one mock test repeatedly! Buy several UPCAT reviewers and tests so that you are training your brain to master the concepts and strategies, not memorize them. This brings us to our next tip.
5. Master it, do not memorize it!
Now, this is what separates an effective and intelligent student from a memorious student. According to the Oxford dictionary, a memorious is someone who has a good memory. But good memory won’t get you far unless you know how to internalize the concepts and strategies that come along with it. Just because you memorize all the formulas, it does not mean you understand them and know how to use them.
In UPCAT, there will be a lot of questions that will not make sense to you unless you understand the concept, formula, or strategy well. The best way to test yourself if you’ve understood the concept well is by regularly having mental training. Find some exercises and drills you can do for those subjects with concepts you think you have a hard time on. Memorize the formula but master and understand its concept, its nature, and the reason behind why it was created.
6. If you have to guess, make it an educated one, not a random one
Sometimes, no matter how much you’ve prepared or how many times you’ve timed yourself in taking a test, there will still be a chance that you might not have enough time to go through each question thoroughly in the test. Expect the unexpected. But just because you realized you can’t thoroughly think of the answer to the questions that are left does not mean you should just “shotgun” the exam. The shotgun is a term used when taking an exam and you create random guesses/answers. Most likely, this will just end up negatively for you, if you do so.
UPCAT has the penalty of right minus ¼ wrong. Random guesses just make your chances of getting penalized even higher. But how does one make an educated guess? For example, if there are five choices and you don’t have enough time to compute the right answer, exclude the wrong answers you can easily identify from the list. This increases the chance or the probability of getting the correct answer.
7. Stay cool, calm, and collected
Knowing how to work under pressure does not immediately assure you that you can stay calm during the exam. Sometimes, it’s the thoughts that aren’t about the questions in the exam that bother a test-taker’s mind. For many, this exam is a make-it or break-it in life. Or some think that if they fail the exam, this means they aren’t smart. Having this as your mindset before and/or during the exam will create problems for you. Entertaining such thoughts may result in an unfocused brain or insufficient concentration. All college admission tests are not about testing how smart you are, it tests if you are prepared and ready to go to college.
These are the actions you need to start working on if you wish to pass UPCAT. However, there are other common questions still asked. See if one of yours is here.
“Do I need to enroll in a review center?”
Review centers are not a necessity, nor does it guarantee you that you would pass UPCAT. Review centers merely recall SOME of the lessons you have tackled in High School and they would also try to teach you some of the tips that were just mentioned above. The things you will learn in review centers can also be learned right in the comfort of your own home.
“Where can I buy reviewers and mock exams?”
Almost all bookstores here in the Philippines have at least one type of UPCAT reviewer. You can easily find one in your nearest bookstore. There are also some reviewers and mock tests found on the net.
“What are the things I need to do before the exam?”
Other than scanning your notes, all you need to do is relax. Make sure that all the things you need to bring are prepared the night before. It would also be advisable to bring snacks and water. This is just in case you start to get hungry or thirsty during the exam. And bring a jacket; it may get cold in the testing room. Additionally, to avoid getting lost on the day of the exam, make it a point to familiarize yourself in advance with the place where you’ll take the exam so that you won’t have to stress about it on the day itself.
Remember that you can only truly fail something if you don’t prepare for it.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin