Last month, Tinig ng Plaridel put out a call for stories from past UPCAT-takers, encouraging them to tell us their motivations for taking the exam, their preparations for it, their results and their reactions. Some stories were triumphant, some hopeful, some bittersweet, but each one told of different experiences and different people. Before the University of the Philippines College Admission Test comes to challenge another round of examiners this Aug. 6 and 7, we take a look at how others faced it in the years before.
By Mari Aven Perez
Taking the UP College Admission Test in our high school was a big deal for our batch. We had to live up to the previous batch’s achievements because it was always a competition between whose batch was better. Before everyone settled into the fact that in a year’s time, they were about to graduate, the seniors were scrambling to get their requirements for the infamous entrance exam. Well, at least, for the seniors who really wanted to take it.
I was just looking at them from beyond my arm chair, minding my own business. I had other plans. Plans that were already molded and cooked in the kiln ever since I stepped into high school. And that didn’t include taking the UPCAT, or UP in particular.
During those days of chaos for the requirements, someone asked me why I wasn’t completing mine. I had a simple answer: I don’t want to take the exam. My other classmate, upon hearing what I said, dragged me to get his original form photocopied for me. I had to fill out the requirements and pass it, because I was thrown into the ring, and the bell had already rung. There were no white towels in sight.
I had no idea why I really thought of taking part in something I knew from the start was unsuccessful. I know I wasn’t UP material. All I knew was, I had my plan carved in stone. My classmate just told me to give it a try. So try I did.
My UPCAT day was a Saturday, and I was part of the afternoon batch. I had a ton of chocolates in my bag, water in my right hand and newly sharpened pencils on the other. I was ready for battle, or to be accurate, ready for a nasty headache.
It was hard to take the exam seriously because my school was a regional testing center – we didn’t have to go to Diliman to take the test so the proctors for our school were our high school teachers. But when the reality of sitting there sank in, that I was about to take the UPCAT, I started panicking. My attitude of taking the exam just so I can say that I did take it dissolved and was replaced by nervousness.
The actual test was mostly a blur. It was like a surreal dream of multiple choices, figures, scratch paper filled with…well, scratch equations that didn’t end up with any of the answers in the given questionnaire and hushed moans of frustrations mixed with anxiety and fear.
I tried, in my way, to answer the questions as far as my knowledge could lead me. The headache started to pound on my head and I wasn’t even halfway through the exam, so I opted for my dairy back-up. As it turned out, it was a bad time to open my chocolate stash.
I stained the answer sheet with the chocolate I was eating because the proctors wrote the last “15 minutes” reminder on the blackboard. Everyone knew that if you tamper with the answer sheet, it could automatically disqualify you from the exam because, it won’t be read by the machine.
The chocolate scene got me thinking if I was just taking UPCAT just for the heck of it…or if I somehow got invested in the exam despite my plans.
I did get a headache after the exam. And an almost-heart attack with slight paranoia over the chocolate-covered answer sheet. Nobody in that room was elated or confident enough that they’d pass UPCAT. Even the people I knew who reviewed for that day weren’t so sure if they were going to pass. After that exam, I felt every single one of us in that room were even – not separated by grades, honor- roll standing, private or public schools or self-made long term plans.
During the process of taking in potential students, UP begins its humbling experience, starting with everyone who takes the UPCAT.
Everything changed from then on. All the plans got washed off by the waves. I got sidetracked. For the better.
Mari Aven Perez is a 2nd year B.A. Communication Research student from the UP College of Mass Communication. She is an avid reader, and enjoys writing.