Strategizing the Board Exam

Graduating college with honors doesn’t just mean one gets a special rope for your graduation robe. Completing a chemistry degree from the University of the Philippines (Diliman) in 2012, with no “laude” attached to it, did not somehow deter John Ephraim Esperas Torres to push his way to top 3 spot in the chemist licensure exam September 2012. A bit of an irony because John’s original plans did not have Chemistry in it.

BS Accountancy and BS Chemical Engineering are the two courses John wrote in his UPCAT Application Form. Both courses are in-demand that time, causing him to not qualify though his UPCAT result is DPWS (degree program with available slot). He chose BS Chemistry instead and decided to stay put and finish the course and not shift course, along the way.

His original career path spells a keen interest in business. He quipped “I want to combine Chemistry and Business. My ultimate dream is to establish my own chemical manufacturing company. It may sound crazy but I’m serious. But of course, I have to work first and learn everything about the chemical industry, how manufacturing businesses work and operate, and then I will pursue my ultimate dream.

In December 2011, John prepared all his review materials including chemistry notebooks, books and college handouts. The original plan was to start reading chemistry books by January 2012 but failed because of the time he allotted to do his research thesis. In addition, he cannot study well in his dormitory because all they would do is talk, laugh and jam. For these reasons, after graduating last April 2012, he decided to rent a solo room and isolated himself to these distractions until board exam month.

His routines would include waking up early in the morning and study all day until dawn. Review class starts at 4:30 in the afternoon and he will continue to study even after the review classes has ceased. The only break time he would have is when he’d eat lunch, dinner or snacks or when stressheadaches start thumping its way to his head. This was his daily routine.

Certainly sounds exhausting, but John is bent to get used to it, after a while.

John would head back home on Saturdays and spend almost the whole day in his church on Sundays. Weekends and Mondays (Mondate, as he calls it) are his rest days. Enrolling in a review class helped him a lot in knowing his weaknesses, stimulating the actual exam pressures and answering techniques. Most importantly, he knew his rank in every mock board exam which had the over-all percentiles and per subject. That is apparently what he was after in a review center. However, one needs to work hard on your own and not just depend on the review center. He advised that if you want to top the boards, a review center is a big factor. These are John’s tips for the next batch of board takers:

Have a strategy: You need to manage your time. You cannot study everything in five months and you must be strong in all subjects, and so scheduling is vital. I used my phone’s calendar to make a monthly plan. The chapters I will study and the exercises I will answer for the day are noted in my calendar. In general, my plan is one subject for one month, so a total of 4 months which coincides with the schedule of subjects in the review program. The fifth (last) month is devoted for sample exams and exercises.

Three words- Practice, practice and practice: answer as many questions as possible (exercises and sample board exam questions); don’t focus on reading your book, too much reading will just waste your time. Analogous to body building, but reading stuffs about building muscles and not actually doing the physical exercises, is futile.

And, pray until something happens…

Gusto ko tagalog naman dito sa last part. Medyo korni ‘to. Minsan lang sa buhay ‘tong boards, sineryoso ko na talaga, binigay ko na lahat ng kaya ko para walag regrets pagkatapos. Mahirap yung magsisisi ka, “sana pala ginalingan ko o sana pala pinilit ko mag-top kaya ko pala.” Basta ibigay n’yo na lahat. Wag n’yong isipin na cool yung hindi masyadong nag-aaral tapos papasa pa rin sa boards. Careerin nyo nalang ‘tong boards kahit tawanan kayo ng iba nyong kaklase. Sa mga gustong mag-top, lahat gustong mag-top syempre sino bang may ayaw. Pero hindi lahat willing na mageffort ng todo. Hindi naman kailangan sobrang galing ka, hindi kailangan nerd. Hindi naman magpapasolve ng Schrodinger Equation dun. Ako nga as in hindi talaga marunong nun seryoso. Basic lang questions sa boards, yung kaya lang sagutan within 3 minutes. Mas kailangan ng common sense, diskarte at dedication syempre. To God be the Glory!