For a lot of graduating senior high school students, the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) is one of the most awaited college entrance exams. Some students want to pass the UPCAT because they want to study in one of the most prestigious universities in the Philippines. For others, they want to take advantage of the free tuition and high quality of education that UP offers.
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Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that thousands of students aspire to pass the UPCAT.
However, UP can only administer so many students every year. Out of the hundred thousands of UPCAT examinees, only the top 15% successful applicants are allowed to enroll in UP.
With such tight competition, you really need to make sure that you’re 100% ready when it comes to the actual UPCAT day.
To help you prepare for the Big Day, we’ve compiled the best tips from past UPCAT takers on what to do before, during, and after the UPCAT.
Table of Contents
- Part I. Prepping for the UPCAT
- 1. Keep your grades up
- 2. Revisit your old high school notes
- 3. Enroll in a review center
- 4. Create a study group with friends
- 5. Check out free reviewers online
- 6. Always check for updates and announcements
- 7. Scout your testing center beforehand
- 8. Prepare the stuff you need the day before
- 9. Eat well and sleep early
- Part II. UPCAT Day
- 1. Double-check your stuff
- 2. Leave early and beat the rush
- 3. Follow the crowd, but also ask questions
- 4. Keep calm. You got this
- 5. Maximize your exam time
- 6. Make educated guesses
- 7. Skip the question if you’re uncertain about the answer. Focus on what you know
- 8. Don’t be afraid to ask the proctors
- Part III. After the UPCAT
Part I. Prepping for the UPCAT
1. Keep your grades up
As you know, the basis for admission into UP is the University Predicted Grade (UPG). The UPG consists of 60% your UPCAT score and 40% the average of your high school grades from the last three years in high school prior to graduation (that is, grades 9 to 11).
If you’re reading this and you’re still studying in high school, use your time wisely, and boost/maintain your grades. Sometimes, the smallest boost in your grades can make all the difference in the computation of your UPG and ultimately decide your admission into UP.
2. Revisit your old high school notes
Once you graduate, don’t throw away all of your high school notes (like I did!). They will help you immensely when you start reviewing for the UPCAT.
Starting from scratch can be very time-consuming. Use your notes and review materials from high school as a starting point and build upon it. Or if you really want to start from scratch, you could always rewrite and condense your notes.
Don’t write it word-for-word– Instead, rewrite everything in your own words. Not only will this help you in memorization, it will also test your comprehension of certain topics.
3. Enroll in a review center
A review center may be extremely helpful for students who can study better in a classroom-like setting. When you enroll in a review center, you get access to teachers, review materials, refresher courses, and most importantly, mock UPCAT exams.
Although helpful, enrolling in review centers is not a requirement. Being in one also does not guarantee that you will pass the UPCAT. Instead, it depends on which study methods work best for you.
4. Create a study group with friends
This is the best alternative for students who can study and focus better in groups, but don’t want to spend money in a review center. Ask your friends if they’re interested in forming a study group solely for the purpose of studying for the UPCAT. If they agree, great!
Try assigning people to teach certain topics each time you guys meet up to study. One person may excel in one subject but is lacking in the other, while the other one may be the opposite. By discussing with each other, you get to share your ideas and knowledge with others and receive back.
A study done by Washington University showed that discussion in study groups promotes a deeper level of comprehension of ideas and concepts for all of the members in the group.
Study groups can also double as an emotional support group. Almost all of the hopeful UPCAT applicants feel the growing anxiety and panic as the UPCAT date draws near. If you or one of the members in your study group feels this, you can help each other by reassuring and motivating each other.
5. Check out free reviewers online
You don’t have to spend money on buying reviewers and study materials for the UPCAT. In fact, there is an abundance of free UPCAT reviewers online. In my experience, one of the best ways to study for the UPCAT is through answering practice exams because you can emulate the feeling of taking the actual exam.
6. Always check for updates and announcements
Make it a habit to always check the official UPCAT website and social media accounts for updates regarding the application process and exam. Due to the sheer amount of applicants each year, it’s crucial that you are aware of deadlines because it takes a long time to process your application.
During the UPCAT season, a lot of fake accounts and fake news about the exam start to circulate around social media so make sure you only get news from the official accounts.
7. Scout your testing center beforehand
Once you receive your UPCAT test permit, take note of the date, time, and place where you’ll be taking your exam.
There are multiple UPCAT test centers around the Philippines to accommodate those who live in the provinces. But for the majority of the applicants who live in or near NCR, the test centers will most likely be located within the UP Diliman campus.
If you are not familiar with the place, it may be helpful to visit your designated test center in advance. If you will be commuting to the test center, plan ahead how you will travel there.
The UP Diliman campus is vast and can be overwhelming to people who go there for the first time. There have been many cases of examinees being late or ultimately missing the exam because they couldn’t find their designated test center. To avoid that, it’s better to be prepared and scout your test center beforehand.
8. Prepare the stuff you need the day before
Prepare your bag with all the stuff that you will need the night before. Generally, you will only need the following:
- Your UPCAT Test Permit
- At least 2 pencils (one for emergency; make sure it’s dark enough)
- A sharpener
- A pencil eraser
Just to be sure, check the official UPCAT website to know if you will need to bring more.
Snacks and drinks are very important, believe me. It’s hard to think straight once the hunger pangs start to kick in. Make sure to only bring finger foods or foods that are easy to eat with one hand.
It depends on where you will take your exam, but it may be useful to bring a jacket or sweater with you. The last thing you need during the exam is to be distracted by the chilly atmosphere in the test room. Be prepared.
9. Eat well and sleep early
Don’t forget to eat a healthy dinner and sleep early. Make sure you will get at least 8 hours of sleep for the exam. Even though it’s hard to sleep from the combined excitement and anxiety for the day tomorrow, try to get enough rest. You’ll thank me for it in the end.
Just a personal anecdote: When I took my UPCAT, I only got around 2 hours of sleep because I was too nervous for the exam the next day. While taking the exam, I immediately felt the regret of not getting enough sleep because I felt dazed and tired. Thankfully, I made it through and passed the UPCAT.
Did my lack of sleep affect my UPCAT score? Probably. Do I recommend this experience? Definitely not. Get some sleep!
Part II. UPCAT Day
1. Double-check your stuff
If you followed our tips above, you’ve already put everything you will need in your bag. However, it wouldn’t hurt to do a last-minute check before you leave the house.
Make sure to wear comfortable clothes because you will be sitting on your chair and answering exam questions for five hours. No need to dress to impress.
Remember: bring only what is needed. A small bag with the essentials will be just fine. Bringing unnecessary stuff like your laptop or a game console will just burden you and might even distract you before the exam.
2. Leave early and beat the rush
Always allot more than the extra time needed for travelling. By leaving early, you also get to avoid joining in with the everyday morning and afternoon rush. It’s better to be very early than late.
3. Follow the crowd, but also ask questions
This is a very important tip, especially for those who are not familiar with how the UPCAT is conducted. Once you arrive at your test center, look for a crowd or a line. Before lining up, first make sure to ask if you’re in the right line. Ending up in the wrong line for hours has happened far too many times to a lot of examinees and their parents.
4. Keep calm. You got this
You may feel a lump in your throat as you hear the UPCAT coordinators say that your exam will be starting in a few minutes. Relax. You got this.
No need to speed-read your study notes for the last time. All you will need is a bit of peptalk and confidence. If you’ve prepared for it, you’re ready.
5. Maximize your exam time
As mentioned earlier, the UPCAT will be five-hours long. Don’t take too long to answer questions, but also don’t go too fast or you might end up making a mistake. Focus more on the exam, rather than the time remaining.
If you still have time left after answering, make sure you go back and recheck all the items in the exam. Check if you missed an item or two. Double-check your answers and make sure it’s final.
6. Make educated guesses
The majority of the UPCAT will be in a multiple-choice format. If you’re uncertain about your answer to a question, try doing the process of elimination with all the choices. Increase your chances of getting the right answer by eliminating choices that you know are wrong and choosing between the most promising ones.
7. Skip the question if you’re uncertain about the answer. Focus on what you know
Don’t spend too much time on one question. If you’re not able to make the final decision, skip the item (but take note of it) and answer the ones that you can. After you finish answering, go back to the items you skipped and analyze.
The UPCAT is infamous for its right-minus-wrong implementation of the exam. This means that for every wrong answer, they will deduct 0.25 from your score. However, if you leave a blank, you won’t get any deductions. If you’re unable to make an educated guess for an item, it may be best to just leave it blank.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask the proctors
If you’re uncertain about a particular question or if you want to clarify something, don’t waste time and immediately ask your exam proctor about it. You only get one shot at the UPCAT and you shouldn’t waste a single moment.
Part III. After the UPCAT
1. Celebrate! It’s all over now
After sitting through a grueling five-hour long exam, you deserve to treat yourself to something nice afterwards. No matter the outcome of your exam, the UPCAT will surely be an experience worth remembering.
2. Avoid comparing answers with your peers
If you want to relax and take your mind off the UPCAT after finishing the exam, you may want to avoid comparing answers with your peers. Not only will you feel anxious when you find out that you had a different answer from your peers, your head will also be filled with what-ifs and regrets even before the UPCAT results come out.
What’s done is done. There’s no use in getting anxious over things that can’t be changed. Getting a different answer than the majority doesn’t automatically make your answer wrong as well. Have faith in yourself.
3. Remember your UPCAT application account details
After the UPCAT is the long waiting game for the results. Make sure you take note of the email address and password you used in your UPCAT application because you will also use them to access your results.
It’s important to understand that it will take a long time for the UPCAT results to come out due to the thousands of exams that need to be processed and checked thoroughly. UP does not usually give out the exact date of when they will post the list of UPCAT qualifiers. Instead, you will just be surprised once they post the results online. Keep your eyes peeled on social media.
4. Beware of fake links and potential viruses
Be careful of opening fake links to UPCAT results that will be floating around on social media. Only open links from reputable social media accounts such as news sites or government websites or just check the official UPCAT website directly.