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How To Get Into UP Even With Low or Average High School Grades

How To Get Into UP Even With Low or Average High School Grades

The University of the Philippines (UP) has the prestigious reputation of being the top university in the Philippines reserved only for the few academically-gifted students.

Besides the bragging rights, being a UP student also entitles you to free tuition, access to a vast variety of degree programs in different disciplines, and more opportunities for scholarships.

Reviewing for the UPCAT? Check out our Ultimate UPCAT Reviewer

Because of this, it’s no wonder that hundreds of thousands of hopeful applicants apply for the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) every year. Out of all the applicants, only 15% usually pass the UPCAT. 

Knowing this, not being the class valedictorian or not coming from a famous school should rule you from passing the UPCAT, right? Wrong

The UPCAT is designed to give a fair chance to all students from all walks of life to pass and study in UP. If you’re one of those high school students that don’t think you have a good chance of passing the UPCAT, read on to find out how you can get a fighting chance.


1. Boost Your Grades While You Can

how to pass upcat with low grades 1

The basis for admission into UP is the University Predicted Grade (UPG).

The UPG is an aggregate score of an applicant’s high school grades and UPCAT test scores, plus other factors such as geographic location, socioeconomic status, and high school type. But the simplest breakdown of the UPG is 40% high school grades and 60% UPCAT score

If you’re reading this and you’re not a graduating senior high school student, there is still time to boost your grades. The UPG will combine three years’ worth of high school grades prior to your graduation year (that is, your grades from freshman to junior years). Since 40% of your UPG will come from your grades, it’s best to prepare by using your time wisely and boost your grades as much as you can.

The competition of getting into UP is really tough and sometimes even the smallest decimal of your UPG can make or break your chances.


2. Study HARD for the UPCAT

What if you’re an incoming college student and you’ve already missed your chance to raise your grades? Don’t forget: the rest of the UPG (60% to be exact) will come from your UPCAT scores.

Even if your high school grades aren’t outstanding, you can still focus more on getting a good UPCAT score to boost your UPG. Take a look at your grades and estimate how high of a UPG you need to reach an acceptable UPG for admission in your chosen course or campus.

Better yet, aim to get the highest UPCAT score you can. Your goal for the UPCAT should be to eliminate all of the possible “what if” questions leading to the UPCAT– what if I studied harder, what if I didn’t skip out on studying that one time, what if I read more, etc. It is possible.


3. Focus on Your Weak Points

The UPCAT consists of four main parts: Math, Science, Reading Comprehension, and Language Proficiency. If you recognize one or two of those subjects as your weakness/es, you should plan ahead and form a strategy on how to conquer them. Allot more studying time for these subjects so you can review them more effectively.

Also, don’t neglect your strong points. Even if you think you’re confident in your knowledge on certain topics, still go the extra mile and study more. The UPCAT is five hours long and covers a broad range of topics. Because you can never expect what will be on the exam, the only measure is to overprepare yourself. 


4. Enroll in a Review Center or Join a Study Group

If you’re one of those students that have bad study habits or get distracted easily when studying alone, a review center or a study group might be for you.

In a review center, you get designated teachers who are experts in different fields to help you review. You will also receive review materials, UPCAT mock exams, and tips and tricks for the UPCAT.

Although enrolling in a review center may be immensely helpful, it does not guarantee you passing the UPCAT. Check out these tips from UP alumni on how to pass the UPCAT without review centers.

If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to review centers, you could form a study group with your class or a group of friends. According to a study done by Washington University, study groups are effective because it promotes a deeper level of understanding and improved retention of subject matter through discussion among peers. 

Whether or not you self-study or join a review center or study group depends on which method is most effective for you. Consider what type of learner you are and assess what will be the most effective way of studying.


5. Read Up and Answer a Lot of Review Materials

Make sure to save your high school notes after graduation and not throw them away (like I did, unfortunately). They will be immensely helpful in your review instead of starting from scratch. You may also purchase review materials from your local bookstores or from past UPCAT takers. 

If you’d rather save money than buy review materials, try contacting family or friends who were past UPCAT takers and ask them if they have review materials they’re willing to lend or give to you. You could also look for free reviewers online. Check out our free reviewers on a variety of UPCAT topics here.

Based on my experience, the most effective way of studying for the UPCAT is answering mock exams. You can also try emulating the UPCAT by timing yourself as you answer the mock exam. Afterward, take note of which parts you took longer answering in and find out what you can do to improve your time.

Even though the UPCAT allots five hours for answering, a lot of people still find themselves struggling to finish the exam. So that you won’t run into the same problem, try practicing with our free mock exams in our Ultimate UPCAT Reviewer.


6. Talk to UP alumni

What better way to prepare for the UPCAT than to ask the UPCAT takers themselves? 

Try talking to any UP alumni or recent UPCAT taker you may know. Not only will you gain valuable insight into what may appear in the UPCAT, you can also ask them tips on what they did to prepare and pass the UPCAT. 

UP students have a saying: “It’s easy to enter UP, but it’s harder to stay in UP.” 

This means that the UPCAT is just one of the many hurdles you will have to face if you end up studying in UP. Once you’re inside UP, you get a clean slate and your past achievements don’t matter at all. It takes 80% hard work and 20% smarts to finish strong in UP. 

As Arnold Palmer aptly said, “Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.”

You can do it. 

Related: The Ultimate UPCAT Reviewer (with Free Practice Tests and Answer Keys)

Written by Ruth Raganit

in Career and Education, Juander How

Last Updated

Ruth Raganit

Ruth Raganit obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the University of the Philippines – Diliman. Her love affair with Earth sciences began when she saw a pretty rock and wondered how it came to be. She also likes playing video games, doing digital art, and reading manga.

Browse all articles written by Ruth Raganit

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