With the CETs fast approaching, I can’t help but look back on my own experience in preparing for the CETs; from filling up my college application forms, to revising and hastily cramming my admissions essay, and actually taking the entrance exams. Honestly, I had no definite plans on my choice of university, nor did I know what course I really wanted to take up from the very start. What’s more, I had no idea what or how to review for the CETs. In short, I was totally clueless.
So I did what every other person would do: I Googled, I read, I asked questions (a lot of them), and when the topic about college came up in every day conversations (mind you, it will), I listened. With that, I decided to compile everything that I learned in this comprehensive CETs survival guide in hopes that it will be useful to other CET test takers like you.
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*Bonus: Snack recommendations (because food is life)
A. IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER
• University of the Philippines (UPCAT)
• De La Salle University (DCAT)
B. TIPS ON PICKING YOUR COURSE
If you’ve already had a course in mind, or have had a dream job ever since you were a kid, then choosing the right course shouldn’t be a problem for you. For those who are still undecided, read on.
Many factors come into play when choosing a college course. Questions like: How long will I be studying? Is the course going to be challenging? What possible career opportunities are out there for me? How much will my salary be? will pop up, but these are a few things that I personally think you should do to help decide on the best course to tick in your application form:
1. Pick something you’re passionate about.
Jot down the fields of study that interest you, and come up with a list of courses you would consider taking up based on these interests. Think back on the subjects that appealed you the most back in school, and even the subjects you excelled in. Unless you are 100% sure on the course you want to take, I highly discourage you from putting the same course as your first choice in for all the universities you’ll be applying for. Be more open-minded; it’s always better to have more options to choose from. Don’t be scared of picking an honors program; it doesn’t hurt to try!
If you’re in a position where you, for what ever reason it is (i.e. distance, travel time, financial issues), have to attend a college that you don’t really like; at the very least, pick a course that appeals to you. The reason why I say this is because you’ll find that you work harder if you’re passionate about your degree. You’ll enjoy what you’re doing, no matter how challenging it can get.
“The secret to happiness is being able to love whatever it is you do in life.”
Do your homework and read up on anything you can about the courses you are interested in; a lot of these can be found online. Find out about some of the possible career prospects and other information you might need such as the estimated cost of tuition and the subjects you’ll be taking up. Try visiting online forums and joining group discussions where tons of college students share their own personal experiences about their college life.
Talk to people who are in your interested profession and find out what it’s like to choose your future career. It could greatly influence your decision making. You’ll also be shocked by how responsive people are by simply asking questions. I know I was XD, I exchanged a few emails with a consumer safety officer who allowed me to gain more insight on the differences between FoodTech and FoodSci; the two courses I was initially choosing between. Okay, Important reminder: Do not disclose any private information about yourself (for the sake of your safety HAHAHA).
Another thing you can do is to assess the course outline of the course/s you want to apply for. Other colleges upload their syllabus on their official website (e.g. DLSU). Have a look at the subjects you must undertake and the types of learning, assignments and examination tasks involved. This will let you to have a better idea of what lies ahead for you.
3. Trust your instincts.
There are moments when we think that we’re so certain about what we want to do, but in life, nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you just got to trust your gut. Take it from one of my friends who was dead set in taking up dentistry in UE at first. A couple of months after, when the results were announced she later told me that she decided to take up Economics in Ateneo. While it did come off as as a surprise to me at first, she went on and explained that had a gut feeling about it…and most of the time her gut feeling is never wrong!
If your instincts have never led you astray before, trust your gut, fam. Trust your gut.
C. EXAM COVERAGE
The UPCAT includes Math (60 items: allotted time – 1 hour and 15 minutes), Science (60 items: 50 minutes), Reading Comprehension (90 items: 1 hour and 10 minutes) and Language Proficiency (85 items: 50 minutes).
For a more detailed exam coverage, click here.
There will be Filipino questions integrated in the different subtests (yes, even the Math and Science portion). Other Filipino questions range from topics like uri ng pananalita, wastong gamit, pagtukoy ng mali sa pangungusap, salawikain, sawikain (idyoma), atbp. About 25-35% of the questions in these Language Proficiency and Reading Comprehension subtest are Filipino questions. With that, do brush up on your Filipino vocabulary, occasionally read a few passages, articles and other literary materials in Filipino unless you wanna nose bleed all over your exam booklet. 😦
The ACET covers Math and English. There are two math tests in the ACET: one for the “normal” Math (your usual arithmetic, algebra, geometry, etc.), and another for Numerical Ability (25 items: ~20 minutes); this tests mostly the practical application of math, such as money, purchases, work and distances (basically— word problems).
Like the UPCAT, the English portion is further divided into Language Proficiency (Vocabulary (25 items: 5 minutes) and Analogies (25 items: 5 minutes) and Reading Comprehension (30 items: 25 minutes).
Recall how ADMU asked you to write an essay to be submitted along with your college application form. That was just a foretaste of things to come. As part of the Language Proficiency, test takers will be asked to do that yet again, and this time, you’ll have to do it under more exacting time pressure.
In place of the usual Science subtest is the General Intelligence section that includes General Information (though, we didn’t have this last year–I don’t know why, either.), Logical Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning. The Logical Reasoning (25 items: 10 minutes) consists of identifying if the conclusion based from the given is definitely true, probably true, probably false, or definitely false (e.g. If the given is ‘He lives in Manila and Manila is in NCR.’ while the conclusion is ‘He lives in NCR’ then you would answer ‘Definitely True”) and identifying a conclusion based from a given premise. (e.g If the premise is ‘All males are not females’ then your conclusion would be ‘All females are not males’.) On the other hand, the Abstract Reasoning (30 items: 10 minutes) portion will test your ability to recognize patterns.
For a more detailed exam coverage, click here.
Lastly, the DCAT consists of Language Usage, Reading Comprehension, General Science, General Math. A distinguishing trait of the DCAT is the Life Skills subsection. Apart from the common questions you’ll see on Abstract and Logical Reasoning, it also tests your critical analysis skills (of graphs, charts etc.), deductive reasoning, and…well you’ll know it when you take the exam XD all I’m going to say is that you’ll enjoy answering the last part.
There is also a break in between the exam for test takers to eat their snacks and go to the washroom. Do go back to your exam room when your break is over and don’t loiter along the hallways. I got carried away and stayed out too long to the point the proctor started looking around for me, while I was busy chitchatting with the examinees from another room HAHAH. Thankfully, I caught up easily with the others because we were answering the English portion.
The following are the topics that appeared in last year’s DCAT (plus some topics I reviewed):
Spelling* // Logical Organization* // Synonyms // Analogies // Replacing a word and/or identifying sentence errors // Choosing the best phrase to replace in a sentence //
Short passages // Articles // Graphs and Charts
- Chemistry: The Anatomy of An Atom // Gases and Gas Laws // Chemical Reactions and their Basic Concepts // Molarity and Electronic Configurations //
- Physics: Scalars and Vectors // Concepts on Projectile Motion // Free Falling Objects // Other Basic Concepts
- Statistics: Mean // Median // Mode
- Geometry: Basic Concepts // Similarity // Congruency // Quadrilaterals, Polygons // Finding the Area, Perimeter, etc. //
- Trigonometry: Basic Concepts // Trigonometric Identities // Functions, Quadratic, Polynomial and Rational Functions //
- Algebra: Age Problems // Work Problems //
D. INCREASING YOUR CHANCES OF PASSING + HOW TO ANSWER EFFICIENTLY
Now that you know what course to pick and the topics you’ll need to study for your CETs, I’ll be sharing with you a couple of tips on how improve your chances of passing.
Like most of you guys, I also enrolled in a review center over the summer to prepare for the CETs. One of the things they advised us to do to increase our chances of getting into UP is to (1) Choose a low UPG (University Predicted Grade) cut-off campus. Essentially, 60% of your UPG is going to be taken from your UPCAT score, the remaining 40% consists of your grades from your first year to third year in high school. The different UP campuses have varied cut-off grades; UP Diliman (UPD) usually have the highest cut-off, followed by UP Manila (UPM), then UP Los Banos (UPLB). Most applicants eye to get into their main campus in UPD, or in UPM. The idea is to choose a UP campus with a lower cut-off grade to increase your chances of getting into UP.
To know more about what UPG is and how it works, click here.
Secondly, we all know the famous “right minus 1/4 wrong ” UPCAT scoring system. You either get a 0.25 deduction for every wrong answer, or get no deduction at all if you leave the question blank. Our review instructors cautioned us to limit it to 10-15 questions if we really had to shotgun it. They dissuaded us from guessing, saying that it would be best to leave it blank in order to avoid getting any deductions.
Despite that, one of my teachers convinced me that when it comes to shotgunning answers (again, if you really have to), just go for it. You have to learn how to take risks this early. Plus, it’s a 25% > 0% chance of getting it right when you compare shotgunning it to leaving a question unanswered. The trick is to first eliminate the obvious answers, then make an educated guess. Your first guess is almost always the best one (daw hahaha).
I’d like to think of the Ateneo admission essay as an opportunity to
tell show the admissions officer what your application can’t. The essay question will ask you to share any significant experiences you have had, or accomplishments that you have achieved that have helped to define you as a person. I’m pretty sure it’s been the same question for the past 5 years. Anyway, how would you best answer such as a question?
First, you may do so either in English or Filipino, but never in a mixture of both. The last thing the Office of Admissions wants to read is a self-glorifying composition that is super conyo (very informal ‘yan and it’s nakaka-annoy talaga, as in). Yet another mistake to avoid; when penning your application essay, avoid making it sound like a pseudo-list of achievements or some incredibly cheesy and cliched story like these topics [Taken from The Prospect]:
The “What I learned at this academic conference/camp/event” essay
The “What my mom/dad/family taught me” essay
The “How I felt about moving to a whole new place or being in a new environment” essay
The “How I learned to fit in” essay
The “Death of person x” essay
The “How my parents’ divorce changed me” essay
The “Here’s a very vague essay about my family’s culture” essay
Whatever you’re thinking, others have most likely written about it already. Rather than writing about the same tired topics; write about what matters to you, not what matters to them. Distinguish yourself from other applicants by putting out something that is genuinely you, but at the same time non-standard. Since the admissions officers only spend a brief amount of time reviewing application essays, it’s crucial that you engage them from the very beginning. The best college essays are those which ultimately allow you, as an applicant, to tell a story. If you are truly telling a story about your life experiences, then it is much less likely that you will be cliche. Being true to yourself and describing your own experience stands out to an admissions officer.
More often, these “experiences” that have come to define who you are happen in the context of your everyday life, like this essay a high school senior wrote about Costco that got her into five Ivy League universities. Don’t hesitate use those examples, just as long as you present them in a compelling and insightful manner. What you can also do is have someone else read your essay and provide you with meaningful feedback. At the same time, have them check your work for any grammatical errors you may have missed or other points you can improve on.
Next, Do NOT cram your essay. Start writing your first draft as early as now, so that you have time to make it your best written work before the deadline for submission of applications. My literature teacher always tells me, “Write in heat, but edit in cold blood.” Worry about the correctness and sentence structure when you come back to give your work a more critical eye later. When revising, pay close attention to your punctuation, spelling, and grammar. If you see something that doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of your work, take it out. Don’t keep the unnecessary sentences for the sake of making your essay appear longer.
- General Tips in Answering the CETs
Math – If you know that it’s going to take you some time to solve for the answer, skip the question and go back to it later. Be careful, though. Make sure you’re shading the right number! Instead, answer the easier questions that you know merely take a few steps to solve for. This is especially emphasized when taking the ACET as you are going to be answering a greater amount of questions within a stricter time limit. Oh—and sometimes it’s better to use the “plug in” method instead of using a specific equation (i.e. put the choices in x and see if it works)!
Reading Comprehension – Don’t read the entire text and jump right to the questions if the passage is too long, you’re just going to end up wasting time. Often times, you don’t even need to read the whole thing to able to answer the questions. SKIM for main idea, inference questions; SCAN for detail questions/vocabulary related questions.
English – Familiarize yourself with the common vocabulary terms that appear in the CETs/SATs, you don’t necessarily need to memorize every single word. I’ll be providing a vocab list in my Google Drive for reference. At the same time, if you don’t know the meaning of the word, make use of context clues.
Be wary that you’ll have to write an essay for this subtest in the ACET. Read the essay prompt before answering the Language Proficiency test since the prompt and the test booklet are given at the same time so you can already start making a mental outline as you go through the questions. Stop thinking about having to write a long essay, and work on making a short, yet substantial essay. When Ateneo makes its decisions on equally-scoring applicants, they most likely look at who wrote the better essays. This means that it serves as a tiebreaker for admissions, so don’t underestimate this part.
Logical Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning – Honestly, the key to mastering these tests is practice. Try to answer as many exercises as possible so you can recognize patterns faster. Look at one rule at a time. There may be extraneous data within the question, which is designed to confuse you. Also, focusing on a single aspect can help you work out what is important and what’s not. If you’re having a hard time identifying a pattern, sometimes there are clues in the answers. Use your logic and base everything ONLY from the given.
Answer the questions you know you can answer right away, remember that regardless of their level of difficulty, they’re all worth one point. When answering a number, do not shade the circle yet, instead mark it with a check. Shading consumes time, and when the proctor says stop, you really have to stop and move to the next test. So answer all items with a tick, then in the last 2 minutes or so, shade all the circles with check marks!
E. NOTES AND REVIEWERS
Here I uploaded a few notes, some links and practice tests for you to use (yayyyy, no more searching on Google for hours and clicking through endless results for a decent reviewer) for your review.
I also want to share this printable exam pack made by Emma’s Studyblr to help you get more organized with your reviewing. It contains a topic revision checklist, definitions + formula sheet, essay + project planner and weekly schedule templates.
In case you were not informed, there is an online UPCAT reviewer provided by UP. It will only be accessible to examinees with validated test permits (allow 1-2 working days from issuance of test permit to access the free online reviewer service). Log in using your 5-digit UPCAT Test Permit ID and type in the 5-digit UPCAT Test Permit PIN for the password.
F. CHECKLIST OF THINGS TO BRING
- Your exam permit – GOD FORBID YOU LOSE YOUR EXAM PERMIT, THIS SERVES AS YOUR TICKET TO ENTER THE EXAM VENUE.
- 2-3 Mongol #2 pencils
- Ballpen – This is just for essay portion in the ACET. I was actually unaware that we were required to bring one. Thankfully, the proctor was prepared with an entire box of pens for us poor saps.
- Watch – Wear a watch, it’s good to be conscious of how much time you have left so you can pace yourself or so you can know you still have time to double check those answers you’re unsure about.
- Jacket -While you won’t know whether your exam venue is going to be freezing cold or not, best be prepared with a jacket anyway than to freeze your butt off and lose concentration while taking the exam.
8. Snacks –
Apples: Eating apples helps ease anxiety. They also contain high levels of acetylcholine that help increase movement and sensory perception.
- Nuts: Nuts are probably the best all-around food for brain health. They contain plenty of protein that the body uses to manufacture amino acids. Amino acids are precursors to the neurotransmitters, or specialized brain cells, which help you to maintain mental acuity and motivation.
- Green Tea: Green tea has been known to encourage dopamine production, which is a key to a positive mental state.
- Berries: Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries are full of Vitamin C and antioxidants which have been shown to enhance brain performance. The vitamin C in berries will boost your immune system, memory, and overall mental function. Berry beneficial.
G. What to Do Before and After Taking the CETs
Cease studying at least 24 hours before your testing day. Any form of cramming you may do within that time frame might interfere with your long term memory (which is what I hope you’ll rely on when you take the CETs). Take this time to relax, and don’t forget to get enough sleep. Walang kwenta yung pagpupuyat mo kung mag-ccram ka lang. Tsk.
Pray and ask God for His wisdom and guidance. Offer it all to Him! You should also prepare all the things you need to bring for the exam the night before. Know your exam venue before the day of exams to save yourself the trouble of wandering around the campus when you’re already running late. Memorize your Test Permit ID Number. You’ll be asked to write these numbers more than once during the exam.
Make sure to leave the house early. Heavy traffic is expected around the test center during exam day, it would be best to leave home as early as you can, but make sure you’ve eaten breakfast. For the UPCAT, you will be asked to line up outside your designated exam venues. It’s sort of like a first-come first-served basis (so if you want to take the exam together with your friends, stay close to one another XD). If you don’t want an additional pressure to build up in your body, take time to go the comfort room and before taking the exam.
Be positive and stop worrying about how you did in the exam. Instead, reward yourself for your hard work and go do something you love. This will help take your mind off the exam.
Wait for the results to come out.
Pray (again!). You’ve done your best, let God do the rest. Know that no matter whether you pass or not, you will end up where you’re meant to be. For now, heed my word and just make the most of your remaining time as a senior xD (Related: An Open Letter to Seniors).
Disclaimer: Not everything stated here is 100% accurate. Much of it is based on my personal experiences and other online references; hence, some of the things stated here may be subjective. You’re very much welcome to send a personal message in the contact page for any corrections you’d like to point out or if you wish to contribute information that can help!