How to prepare for UPCAT and other college entrance exams

The time has finally come, high school seniors of the Philippines. Most probably you are nervous as hell, even paranoid because of the uncertainty you have about what the future may bring. That, for sure, is a valid feeling for months from now, you are going to make one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life–choosing a college or a university.

But before you stress yourself about choosing the college or the university to enroll in, think about the things that keep your from these dream schools of yours first. They’re none other than entrance exams.

The University of the Philippines College Admission Test, better known as UPCAT, is one of these hurdles. And as we know, it’s not a joke. In fact, it has been said that among thousands of UPCAT takers, only 16% actually pass.

Don’t worry a lot, though, as there are things you can do to prepare for this monster entrance test. Here are some of them:

1. Enroll in a review class.

While many people believe that passing the UPCAT or any college entrance exam is a matter of destiny and that you are going to pass no matter what you do as long as you’re destined for that school, still, we cannot deny the fact that enrolling in a review class offerred by legit review centers can still make a lot of difference.

In a review class, you will be more familiar with how college entrance tests usually go. I myself worked in a review center and I am aware of how intensive the lectures are. Students are not just prepared for the topics covered by the exams; they are also given tips on what to do with certain types of exams. This way, an examinee won’t be dumbfounded anymore upon seeing an exam type he hasn’t encountered yet.

Also, most of the review centers hold mock exams that will allow you to really have the feel of the entrance exams. They also give other information that you should know about the entrance exams.

2. Listen to your teacher.

Let me tell you something: reviewing for any college entrance test can be really, really stressful. During my stay in the review center I used to work for, I already encountered some students who actually panicked and even got sick due to stress. Usually, this happens when there is only limited time left and there are still a lot of things to review.

You have to review topics from first, second, and even third year–in several learning areas. How’s that? What if you also have to thorougly review even those topics discussed during the first months of your senior year? That would be more stress on your part! So, to make your life easier, please listen to your teacher and try to absorb the lessons as much as you could so you won’t have to stress yourself about them when the exams are already near.

3. Gather reviewers.

Reviewers are created for a reason, that is to help you prepare yourself for your battles. Indeed, those aren’t just pieces of paper compiled and bound to catch dust in your shelf. They are actually meant to be your best friends. Like review classes, these reviewers can help you become more familiar with the test types you should know about. You can also get more acquainted with how questions are usually phrased so when you encounter them during the actual test, at least you already know how to understand them.

4. Create your own review schedule.

While enrolling in a review class would be really helpful, it is still ideal for you to have your personal review sessions. This is to give you a chance to process things inside your head and go back to some things you might have missed to absorb very well during review lectures.

5. Get a private tutor for follow up.

Some review classes are held during summer so just in case you need to refresh some things you have taken up during your summer review classes, it is also advisable that you get a private tutor to help you. This is a good idea most especially when the exam is already near and you feel like you have already forgotten some things you studied about.

6. Read FAQs and be informed.

As much as possible, read stuff on the entrance exam you are going to take. How many students usually take these exams? How many among these examinees qualify? How about the pointing system? Do they implement right minus wrong? UPCAT, for instance, implements certain things that you should know about. One of them is the fact that for every wrong answer, there will be a corresponding .25 deduction from your total score. There are a lot, really. Keep on reading!

7. Prepare all the things you need–ahead of time.

Failing may be bad but not being able to take the test because of something you have forgotten to bring on the exam day is worse. So you better be ready. Prepare everything you need ahead of time. And please, please, please take care of your test permit. I already saw someone cry at the gate of her UPCAT venue just because she was not allowed to get in. Why? Because she forgot to bring her test permit. Goodbye, chance.

8. Form your own support group.

This battle may be big but it does not mean that you have to face it alone. Sure, finding people who are going through the same thing would be a great help. Who knows? You can even study together!

9. Get to know the venue prior to the exam date.

You do not want to miss your chance just because you got lost somewhere in the campus, don’t you? This is very important most especially if you are taking the UPCAT at UP Diliman. It’s a huge campus, really. And it is never hard to get lost within its premises. Also, getting to know the venue would also give you an idea on how long your travel time would be. Familiarize yourself!

10. Come up with strategic plans.

Going with the flow and being happy-go-lucky may be a cool thing but to be honest, you need to be really strategic and organized days before your examination. So draft your schedule and indicate time of meals and sleep. Also, come up with plans on how you’re going to manage your time. It’s going to be helpful.

11. Listen to your ate, kuya, mom, dad, lolo, lola, teachers, or anyone older and wiser than you are.

They say experience is still the best teacher. So if you’re looking for really great tips and pieces of advice, run to the older and wiser ones that you know and ask them. It is also a great idea to talk to people who also had their shares of entrance exams. If possible, interview those who actually passed (and graduated). Their firsthand experiences and golden wisdom will help you a lot.

12. Take care of yourself.

No matter how hard you study, no matter how prepared you are mentally, if you become sick on your exam day, everything will be useless. Enough said.

13. Always be updated.

Who said you should stop using Twitter? Maybe you need to moderate use of  social networking sites but you do not have to stay offline. Remember, lots of useful updates like weather forecasts, traffic reports, and a lot more are online. They will help you in this battle.

14. Don’t panic.

A little stress might be helpful but stressing yourself too much may just worsen things for you. So keep calm and act properly.


College entrance exams may be intimidating and really difficult but acing them is not impossible at all as long as you prepare properly. Don’t worry, everything will be worth it once you pass.

So good luck and may the odds be with you!



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