My Tips in Passing the Philippine Civil Engineering Board Exam

A fellow topnotcher in the November 2009 Philippine Civil Engineering Board Exam has initiated a thoughtful and valuable project for CE board exam hopefuls. The site—currently on testing and development stage—will feature free tips from topnotchers all over the country and a whole lot of indispensable resources.

My input was posted on their Facebook Page in a truncated format. I figured out it will be very beneficial to post here my full answers to their guide questions for the meantime (although this will also be posted in full when their website officially launches).

PART I: BACKGROUND INFORMATION
GUIDE QUESTIONS:
Describe your family background (Parents, siblings, other info)
What do you do for fun?
How do your friends describe you?

I’m Romyr from Bacolod City. My father is working as a mechanic in DPWH and my mother’s a housewife. But during my bachelor’s degree, my mother decided to work as a domestic helper in Cavite for 4 years because it was virtually impossible for my father to sustain our needs at home and the financial demands of my course. Being a 50% academic scholar already pulled out a huge thorn but it was still necessary to seek assistance from my Uncle working abroad.

I grew up an introvert and college sort of paved way for me to get out of my shell gradually. My classmates thought of me as somewhat diligent and polished, “kalkulado ang galaw” as one friend remarked—to which I ardently disagreed since I crammed most of the time, and my closest friends could testify how loud and insane I am when I’m comfortable with my company.

PART II: PREPARING FOR THE BOARD
GUIDE QUESTIONS:
Describe your typical day (How many hours per day, days per week do you study?)
What activities did you do?
What tips and techniques can you share with other students?
Sacrifices: What activities did you temporarily stop? What activities did additionally you do?
Manner of review: Did you study on your own? Or did you study as a group? Or both?
How did the review instructors help?
Are there other factors that helped?

I decided to take the morning class since the mind’s fresh, and train it to be warmed up and work efficiently during the actual exams which also started in the morning. Energy drinks were a staple. After the class, I strived to finish all of the take-home problems to get along with the pace of the review. I couldn’t afford to delay or leave-out any since it’s practically a crash course—massively compressing five-year worth of lessons in just 6 months. I literally solved every problem no matter how the fundamental theory in each problem “repeatedly” was the same and how familiar I already was with the concept. Overconfidence is a big NO. The room was filled with formulas written on paper so wherever we looked, we would be reminded of it.

Tips and Tricks

1. Share your knowledge to your classmates. Teaching helped me a lot in memorizing and understanding the principles more profoundly. You cannot teach something you do not know.

2. I had this weird conviction that if I kept hearing the formulas even in my sleep, I could memorize them more effectively. So I recorded my voice reciting all the formulas and I got used to sleeping with my earphones on, hearing the formulas overnight. This might not work for everyone but this was my insanity. When studying, I listened to my most favorite static noise—the sound of rain. It helped me relax, isolate myself from the outside, and focus on studying.

3. They say that the more senses are involved, the better the learning. So when memorizing the formulas, I recited them so I could hear them.

4. Make sure you get enough sleep to restore efficiency and get rid of mental stress and fatigue. We made sure the lights were off at 10. The only compromise was when the take-home exams were inevitably long.

5. Must have days-off to unwind—Sundays in my case. Church, groceries, mall, laundry, social media.

6. Choose the right company. Be with those who are serious of getting a passing mark.

On Review Centers and Instructors & Other Factors that helped

The review center was way far from home, we were in Cebu City. The limitations it brought were blessings in disguise. We were lodging so some amenities like TV and DVDs were out of reach. I chose to be roommates with the school’s potential board placer (he made it to 7th place) so we used to challenge each other a notch higher, creating ultra-hard problems and giving it to each other. That was really fun!

During that time, I still wasn’t infected with the social media pandemic so I could go for months without ever logging in. Today, it might be necessary to temporarily deactivate an account. Don’t just resist temptations, run away from it.

PART III: MOTIVATION
GUIDE QUESTIONS:

What are your motivations?
Who motivated you the most?
Did you encounter setbacks during review? And how did you overcome them?

Hearing your mother telling you over the phone that they were boiling banana just to have something for lunch, and feeling like wanting to give them back that very moment the money they gave you for your fare to school so they could buy rice to steam?—I know these are cliché over-milked stories but I don’t know how I could be emotionally stronger after that heart-breaking experience.

During the review, being far away from them and hearing them periodically discuss over the phone where to get money for my next allowance for food and lodge payment, believe me—words are not enough to describe how intensely desperate I was to change the way things were. I poured over my frustrations on my review books, but most importantly my final solace rests in my strong faith in God. Seeing my father downhearted over the years handing-over virtually all of his scanty salary for my tuition fee, and joking that he couldn’t even afford to buy his own underwear or socks—which was absolutely true!—I felt like the review was the final thrust, we have gone too far to be despondent! Sometimes my allowance got delayed, but I had the blessing of being with open-handed friends who lent me money to grab some basic stuff. The landlady was also generous to allow me to credit-list (utang) my meals in her eatery and pay her monthly.

PART IV: DURING THE EXAMS
GUIDE QUESTIONS:

Describe your experience during the exams
What advice can you give to the board exam takers?

Review centers help a lot because they steer you the right way. For this particular purpose, it’s a waste of time studying a myriad of things which will not come out during the exams, not to mention exhausting. But review centers can only do so much. They adjust their curriculum according to the pattern of problems that they observe per examiner. But during our time, a new PRC examiner in Mathematics recently occupied the seat so there was a high probability that new topics would appear. So I self-reviewed Differential Equations which was not included in our review course—and I was right with my gut feeling because it definitely came out. But even without that demanding circumstance, I surely would have still reviewed extra topics, given the time. During the examination day, the thing that makes you paranoid is when you know there’s a topic you haven’t studied and you’re wishfully thinking you won’t encounter it on the questionnaire. It doesn’t really help at all.

“Pagpupwet” is helpful on problems with related succeeding questions where you pair by trial-and-error the choices of one question with the preceding question’s.

PART V: AFTER THE EXAMS
GUIDE QUESTIONS:

Describe your experience after the exams
Describe your story when the results came out
Did you receive job offers?

After the exams, we avoided talking about it as it would only worsen the agony of waiting for the results especially when you found out you had different answers. We stayed in Cebu until the results came out.

After 3 days, I informed my family over the phone and sincerely, I was very inspired hearing them really happy and satisfied with just the fact that “I passed”. They weren’t even asking about the Top 10. It was really awkward when the List of Top-notchers was finally posted because one of my classmates who wasn’t really close to me was overwhelmed and “Dinawn Zulueta ako!” LOL. I called home right away and they were just crying!

PART VI: ADVICE AND MESSAGE TO  THE FUTURE ENGINEERS
GUIDE QUESTION:
What is your advice and message to the students?

I believe that it’s valuable to exert your best in your endeavors even if you know that you have the competence. Some may find this stale and melodramatic, but the harder the labor, the sweeter the fruit is indeed! Before we went home back to Negros, 2 of my classmates confessed to me that they had an indifferent feeling after passing the board exam because they didn’t feel that they gave their best during the reviews.