How to Review for UPCAT: A Definitive Guide to UPCAT Coverage

Last Updated on 10/02/2020 by FilipiKnow

The University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) is one of the biggest and most well-known college entrance exams in the Philippines. Averaging nearly 100,000 applicants from all over the Philippines every year, only less than 15% of the examinees are successful in gaining an admission slot into UP.

Reviewing for the UPCAT? Check out our Ultimate UPCAT Reviewer

The basis for admission into UP is the University Predicted Grade (UPG) which generally consists of 40% your high school grades and 60% your UPCAT score. With such a big portion of your UPG coming from your UPCAT score, combined with tight competition and limited slots, you will need to do everything you can to prepare for the UPCAT

In this article, we’ve compiled the UPCAT coverage based on the experiences of recent UPCAT takers. If you want to gain the upper hand in UPCAT, read on!

 

The Four Subtests.

The UPCAT consists of four subtests: Mathematics, Science, Language Proficiency, and Reading Comprehension– basically everything you’ve learned in high school.

The UPCAT not only tests your knowledge on these subjects but also your physical and mental endurance in a five-hour-long exam session. 

1. Mathematics.

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The Mathematics subtest can be further subdivided into the following subjects: Arithmetic and Number Sense, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Statistics. 

a. UPCAT Math subtest coverage.

Here are the topics commonly covered in the following subjects:

Arithmetic and Number Sense.

  • Basic algebraic principles
  • Real and Imaginary numbers
  • Fractions, percents, decimals
  • PEMDAS

Algebra.

  • Algebraic expressions
  • Exponents
  • Factoring
  • Cartesian Coordinate System
  • Inequalities (linear, quadratic, etc.)
  • Linear equations
  • Negative numbers
  • Polynomials (adding, subtracting, etc.)
  • Quadratic equations
  • Radicals (square roots, cube roots, etc.)
  • Ratio and Proportion
  • Rational expressions
  • Squares
  • Word problems 

Geometry.

  • Angles
  • Area and Volume
  • Asymptotes
  • Circles (circumference, diameter, area, etc.)
  • Definitions, Postulates, and Theorems
  • Dimension calculation (length, area, etc.)
  • Euclidean geometry
  • Logic
  • Word problems

Trigonometry.

  • Angle Identities
  • Area and Triangle Laws
  • Basic trigonometric functions (sin, cos, tan, etc.)
  • Unit circle
  • Word problems

Statistics.

  • Factorials
  • Logic
  • Mean, Median
  • Probability

Pre-calculus and Calculus.

  • Limits
  • Basic integration
  • Basic differentiation

b. UPCAT Math subtest based on experience.

The topics list may look daunting at first, but you shouldn’t be afraid. According to past UPCAT takers, the Math subtest is mostly composed of Algebra questions. This means that the number of questions for the following subjects is relatively few compared to Algebra: Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, and Pre-/Calculus (in descending order of dominance in the subtest). 

However, you shouldn’t overlook or give less time to study these subjects. Remember: the UPCAT will test everything you’ve learned in high school. Make sure to at least understand the basics of each topic listed above. Even if a subject only has 1 question in the UPCAT, that 1 point might be the deciding factor in you passing the UPCAT.

The UPCAT changes every year and while it’s important to take note of important trends in previous exams, it’s also important to expect the unexpected. In the event that the Math subtest contains questions in Filipino, here are some of the most common Filipino measuring units that may appear:

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c. Tips for studying.

  • Master the basics. You don’t have to study in-depth every topic or subject. Just focus on the basics for every topic and master them. Make sure you are able to answer basic math problems for each of the topics.
  • Practice basic arithmetic. Calculators are not allowed in the UPCAT so expect to do everything manually. Don’t worry though– you’ll be given some scratch papers. 
  • Derive and understand. Sometimes, just memorizing a formula or a math law/theorem isn’t helpful. To fully grasp a concept, take the formulas, and understand how they were derived. For theorems or laws, know what they’re used for and why. This can also help you when you’re in a pinch and forget the formula during the exam.
  • Practice, practice, practice! This is the most effective studying method when it comes to math. Pull out your old math exercise books in high school and start solving as many problems as you can. For people who aren’t that proficient in math (like me!), this is a life-saving tip.

Check out our free UPCAT Math practice exams (with answer key) and mock exams:

 

2. Science.

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The Science subtest can be subdivided into five portions: Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Astronomy.

a. UPCAT Science subtest coverage.

Here are the topics commonly covered in the following subjects:

Earth Science.

  • Earth’s Vital Statistics
  • The Layers of the Earth and its Composition
  • Rocks and Minerals
  • Depositional Environments and Associated Landforms and Waterforms
  • Basics of Stratigraphy
  • Fossils and the Geologic Time Scale
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Earthquakes
  • Volcanoes
  • Climate, Weather, and the Atmosphere

Biology.

  • The Ecosystem
  • Classification/Taxonomy
  • Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Plants and Photosynthesis
  • Animal Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Genetics and Heredity
  • Human Anatomy

Chemistry.

  • Precision and Accuracy
  • Conversion of Units
  • Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures
  • States of Matter
  • Nomenclature
  • The Periodic Table
  • Electronic Configuration and the Quantum Numbers
  • Nuclear Reactions
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Stoichiometry
  • Gas Laws
  • Redox Reactions
  • Basic Organic Chemistry

Physics.

  • Scalar and Vector Quantities
  • Laws of Motion
  • Relative Velocities
  • Force
  • Work, Energy, and Power
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Light, Sound, and Waves
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Thermodynamics

Astronomy.

  • A Brief History of Astronomy
  • The Origin of the Universe and Solar System
  • The Solar System and its Planets
  • How the Earth Was Formed
  • The Motions of the Earth 
  • The Motions of the Moon
  • Other Celestial Bodies in Space

b. UPCAT Science subtest based on experience.

Based on past UPCATs, the Science subtest usually has an even distribution of questions for all subjects. However, some UPCAT takers say that there is a heavy focus on Earth Science so take note of that.

Expect a few objective-type questions and more of application-based questions. This means that questions in those subjects are more likely to test your comprehension of ideas and concepts when applied in real-world situations than just questions that require memorization.

Also, expect questions that will require you to do simple computations especially in Chemistry and Physics so make sure you’ve memorized the formulas.

c. Tips for studying.

  • Internalize, don’t just memorize. While memorization is important, you’ll find that blindly cramming textbook definitions in your brain won’t help you in the UPCAT especially in the Science subtest. Making sure you have a strong grasp of scientific concepts also helps eliminate the need to memorize.
  • Learn to tell stories. That is, learn how to translate scientific concepts into easy-to-understand stories or explanations that even your younger siblings or someone who isn’t knowledgeable about the topic would understand.
  • Answer practice exams. The Science subtest is pretty straightforward. Besides going over your high school notes, make sure to answer a lot of practice exams as the Science subtest usually follows the same format with a few changes every year. 

Check out our free UPCAT Science practice exams (with answer key) and mock exams:

 

3. Language Proficiency.

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The Language Proficiency subtest consists of both English and Filipino portions tackling Vocabulary and Grammar and Composition. 

a. UPCAT Language Proficiency subtest coverage.

Here are some of the topics you might encounter:

Vocabulary

  • Word definitions
  • Spelling
  • Synonyms, Antonyms, and Homonyms
  • Confusing Words

Grammar and Composition

  • Parts of Speech
  • Correct Usage
  • Punctuation
  • Capitalization
  • Figures of speech
  • Subject-verb Agreement
  • Sentence Construction
  • Modifiers
  • Active and Passive Voices
  • Essay Writing

b. UPCAT Language Proficiency subtest based on experience.

If you have excellent command over English and Filipino, you won’t have a problem with this subtest. The questions are fairly straightforward and are mostly composed of choosing the right choice to make a sentence correct or reasonable.

Expect that this subtest will contain the most number of questions. Because of this, your enemy is time. Learn how to read fast but also be mindful and not make careless mistakes.

There may or may not be an essay portion for this subtest. However, it’s best to be prepared and learn how to construct an essay with good structure and clear flow.

c. Tips for studying.

  • Read a lot. Personally, this is just what I did when I was preparing for my UPCAT. I just read a lot of books, articles, poems, and other proper reading sources. Because of this, I picked up a good sense of sentence construction, proper verb tense use, learned new words, and a lot of other stuff.
  • Practice writing. This could be done in multiple ways: start a journal, create a blog, etc. If you use social media, try practicing writing posts, comments, or tweets with proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. As much as possible, practice writing using pen and paper as these are the only mediums you will use in your UPCAT.
  • Learn a new word every day. There’s a big chance that you will encounter a word you might not know in the UPCAT. I thought I was well-read and had a big vocabulary when I took the UPCAT but I was stumped by some items. Make it a habit to learn new words every day leading up to the UPCAT.

Check out our free UPCAT Language Proficiency practice exams (with answer key) and mock exams:

 

4. Reading Comprehension.

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The Reading Comprehension subtest is all about, well, reading and comprehending what you read. 

a. UPCAT Reading Comprehension subtest coverage.

Here are some of the things you will need to look over when you study for this subtest:

Reading Comprehension

  • Getting the Main Idea/Topic Sentence
  • Appropriate Title of Selection
  • Essays
  • Poetry
  • Short stories
  • Speeches
  • Figures of Speech (simile, metaphors, etc.)
  • Author’s Point of View
  • Literary and Textual Criticism
  • Meaning Through Context Clues
  • Drawing Conclusions
  • Inference
  • Fact and Opinion

b. UPCAT Reading Comprehension based on experience.

When I took the UPCAT, most of the feedback I got from my peers was that the Reading Comprehension was too long and that they couldn’t finish answering it.

This is because of the way the subtest is structured: you will be given a short (or maybe not so short) selection to read and after that, you will have to answer multiple questions based on what you’ve learned from the selection.

The selections can range from novel excerpts, news articles, poetry, short stories, speeches, and others. Like with the Language Proficiency subtest, your main enemy here is time as well. 

c. Tips for studying.

  • Know what to look for. Before you read a selection, check out the questions that you need to answer first. Then, while reading the selection, take note of the answer. This way, you’ll be able to get through the subtest more quickly.
  • Read even more. I’ve said this before but it’s really important that you learn how to read quickly and effectively. I remember reading a selection that was more than one page long but only had to answer 2-3 questions based on it. Now imagine reading multiple selections that long throughout the exam– that’s how this subtest sometimes works. 
  • Think carefully. Most of the time in this subtest, you will encounter an item with choices that all sound very similar. In that case, you will need to choose the best one among the choices. How do you find out which one is the best choice? This will all depend on your own sense of logic and reasoning. You can hone these through reading different literary sources. I’ll say it again: read a lot!

Check out our free UPCAT Reading Comprehension practice exams (with answer key) and mock exams:

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

Ruth Raganit

Ruth Raganit is an aspiring geologist who 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.

One thought on “How to Review for UPCAT: A Definitive Guide to UPCAT Coverage

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