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The ultimate Upcat survival guide

By |, Contributor


ILLUSTRATION NICOLL EARL BUSTAMANTE

According to the 2013 Top 300 Asian universities list of the London-based education and career network Quacquarelli Symonds, the University of the Philippines (UP) still holds the crown as the country’s top school.

Being the national university, a UP education is the pot of gold that students all over the country aspire for. But unfortunately, not everyone reaches the end of the rainbow and gets to that pot of gold.

As research shows, most of the nation’s trailblazers and magnates studied in UP. Seven of the country’s 15 presidents graduated from the university, which has also produced 34 of the country’s 57 National Artists and 36 of its 37 National Scientists.

Because of UP’s legacy of excellence, service and honor and its breed of true iskolars ng bayan, it is a top choice among college entrance examinees. You are probably one of thousands of high-school students who will take the UP College Admission Test (Upcat), hoping that this will be your golden ticket to enter the university.

Your heart may be pounding and your knees shaking, but don’t fret. Here are a few tips and tricks for making your Upcat a journey that just might change your life.

Understand, internalize

Understand, don’t remember. Surely, you have done your part in reviewing everything there is to review. But, to remember and simply memorize what you are reviewing will not guarantee retention. It is best to understand and internalize what you are reviewing. Stored knowledge and understanding are what you can really bank on when everything comes down to the wire.

Think out of the box. Find other ways to prepare for the Upcat and to psyche yourself into tiptop shape. You can perform mental exercises, play educational games and talk to your fellow Upcat takers—it’s up to you. But most importantly, never ever doubt yourself.

Happy tummy

Eat. Have a hearty meal before taking the test. Don’t let stress and nerves prevent you from eating your favorite dish. A happy tummy will keep your body awake and improve your overall performance.

Also, test takers are allowed to bring snacks into the room so you should make the most out of it. Bring a few snacks that are easy to munch. Your hungry tummy should not distract you as you take the test. Don’t forget to bring drinking water, too.

Know where to go. Who would want the stress of getting lost on Upcat day, right? To avoid that, do a test run of your route at least the day before, so finding your room will be a breeze on test day itself.

Be early. Don’t arrive at exactly the given time. Give yourself at least half an hour to settle in and breathe. A few instructions might also be given out during that time.

Also, don’t forget that thousands of applicants take the Upcat, which is why the testing centers and the roads around them get quite congested. Prepare for heavy traffic, especially in the Diliman campus.

Stay comfy. You will be seated for a few hours and you want to be completely focused on nothing but the test. So, make sure that you wear something that you are most comfortable in. Not all buildings are fully air-conditioned, and you will not know your assigned room until the day itself. Just to be sure, bring a light jacket.

Triple check that you have all these, and more, with you on Upcat day: No. 2 Mongol pencils, a sharpener, an eraser, a watch and your test permit. Prepare these ahead of time so you no longer have to worry on test day itself.

Don’t panic

Take the easy road. Contrary to popular belief, the questions in the Upcat are not arranged according to difficulty. Easy and hard questions are scattered all over the place. Take it easy, and just go through every question like you should.

Don’t panic, don’t fret. You will surely run into difficult questions that will wring your well-reviewed brain. But no matter how much you reviewed, difficult questions will remain difficult. Just leave them blank in the meantime and move on. Worrying about them wastes precious time. Put a small mark beside their numbers and go back to them later on.

Make a guess or leave it blank. One thing that sets the UPCAT apart from all the other entrance tests is its formula of right minus ¼ wrong. That may seem like a giant leap from a cliff but think about it—you will merit a full point for every right answer as opposed to a quarter point deduction for every mistake. Yet, don’t overthink this fact. Just go with your gut. Pick the answer that seems to make the most sense to you. But if you have absolutely no clue, you might opt to just leave the item blank instead.

Listen to Father Time. Always check the time. There is a time limit for each part of the test so you must manage your time well. Also, listen to the proctor. He or she will update you on your time left.

Common mistake

Your proctor is your friend. Your proctor will give you all the necessary instructions you need to know as you take the test. He or she will also remind you of important rules and regulations, such as when you can go out of the room or where you can put your belongings. Don’t take him or her for granted. Your proctor is your Upcat pal.

Don’t get too excited. It is a common mistake to skip all the words written at the top of the test paper or a certain item, and go straight to answering the questions. That is a big no-no. Read everything carefully before writing anything down. Plus, you never know, some questions are actually tricky questions designed to confuse you. Remember, the Upcat is designed to test your mental abilities. Presence of mind is important.

Rest, breathe and pray. The Upcat will drain your mind and your body, that’s for sure. So, once in a while, pause for a few seconds and just soak everything in. Breathe in, say a little prayer, clear your head, then go back to the test. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. So, don’t worry. You will survive.


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  • http://academic-clinic.com/ Academic Clinic

    Hi Inquirer, we have compiled links to several blog articles answering common questions about the UPCAT in our site.: ) I hope your readers will find this useful.: )

  • n90fanatic

    Preparing for UPCAT is not a crash course. The real preparation happens during your attentive years in elementary and high school. Review lessons are more helpful if there’s stored knowledge to begin with.

  • clanwolf

    Meh. I took that test way back. I went to the school with the harder test.

  • bicolokano

    Also, DO NOT take those UPCAT REVIEWS. Sayang lang pera.

    Lahat naman tayo isang beses lang nagtake neto (at iilan lang pumasa), so mahirap maging expert sa test na ito.

    Bottomline, IF you DESERVE IT, you’ll get in.

    • lee1222

      The best that the UPCAT reviews would give you is a peek into the format of the tests so there are no surprises come testing time, plus some refreshers on what you should already know (that is, if you are really UP-worthy).

      Bottomline: It is no coincidence that only the best and brightest (academics-wise) pass the UPCAT! Good luck!

    • Alvin Aquino

      UPCAT reviews give you a sneak peak of what’s to happen. Plus, they serve as a refresher course. I would suggest getting into one if you are not that confident that you will pass without help.



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