My UPCAT experience

Some of my younger friends are taking the UPCAT today. And as I've been praying for them, I tried remembering my own experience, a story that keeps my feet on the ground because to this day, I don't know how I managed to pass it, if not for God's grace.

Seven years ago, on a clear Saturday morning, I woke up earlier than usual, took a hearty breakfast, and quickly made my way to Notre Dame of Marbel University, the testing center in my area. Minutes away from taking the exam that would change my life forever, I prayed for guidance, strength, and wisdom. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to pass. Desperately.

I had three newly-sharpened Mongol pencils, an Staedtler eraser I would eventually lose, and a KCC plastic bag containing chocolates and Chips Ahoy. The exam was too long I didn't have time to eat any of them anyway. I secured my test permits, made sure my bladder was empty—up to now, I get incontinent with exams—and whiled away time with some familiar faces I knew.

"What's your first choice? Your campus?" It was the topic of conversations. I was talking to friends who actually reviewed for the test—and I mean, really went to review centers that cost a lot. Some people I talked to only did self-reviews, and I was able to relate better to them. At that point I felt gravitated to UP, but it was so near yet so far.

We were in an auditorium, with some 150 to 200 people. I was in fourth or fifth row, and my chair creaked whenever I moved. Thankfully the chair's arm desk was stable. And then I started answering the test. It wasn't as hard as the MSA reviewers Manong Ralph handed me down, but it was too long. I hated the Math part because I had to do gross arithmetic calculations. I didn't like the Reading Comprehension part either because the selections were too long. To answer them, I did the reverse: look at the questions first, and then skim the stories. I think it worked.

Months later, just before I headed to the JS Prom, my brother called me up. He was at the Admissions Office in Diliman, looking at my name, and screaming, "You passed! You passed!" I asked about my classmates, too, who daydreamed with me of somehow making it in UP, and they got in as well, and that just made it more exciting.

My father was in my room that day, helping me fix my neck-tie, and when he borrowed my phone to talk to Manong, I saw tears of joy welling up in his eyes.

"I'm happy for you, Lance," Tatay said quietly and slowly, "but I'm just sad because we won't be seeing you here around anymore—at first it was just Ralph, and now, it's you who'll be leaving." My father has always been emotional like that.

In contrast, when my mother heard all about it, she forcefully sported a stoic expression, hiding the bursting excitement within. "So when do we book your plane ticket?"

My little brother, Sean, looked relieved because for the first time in his life, he wouldn't have to put up with his noisy and irritating Manong Lance.


  1. Memories. UPCAT feels so long ago. (Maybe because it is.) :D I took mine in the classroom at the top floor of Chem Pav. I kid you not, the guy beside me shaded all his Bs and proceeded to sleep.

  2. great, my own UPCAT memories suddenly flashed back. the Math was crazy. i still don't know how i passed the test too. haha.

  3. thanks to you lance!! if not for your "Correct" reviewer and persistence in begging our teachers not to have classes so that we can"review-kuno" i might not be able to make it to UP!

  4. Laureen, I wonder if the guy passed. If so, that should be amazing! In exams, by the way, I answer "B" if I don't know any better.

    Anonymous 1, Math is always crazy—the arithmetic part, at least. It takes me so much time to divide 87345 by 45, for example. And I have to write "Let x --> number of 5 peso coins" before I can figure anything out.

    Anonymous 2 (whom I highly suspect is Vanessa Gumban), oh, the blue Correct reviewer! It does wonders!

  5. Lance, I'm not Anonymous 2!!!! :P But yeah, I distinctly remember you telling me to use the blue reviewer instead of MSA's! Haha! Feeling ko Anonymous 2 is May Che. I also remember you telling me to choose BAA so that I can be a CPA lawyer. That didn't work out well though. Haha!

  6. What do you mean you'll book your plane ticket? What campus are you going to? Lucky you, your parents allowed you to!

  7. i had my upcat last august and the memory's still fresh..
    It was terrifying especially the math and science part...
    the next day my head started to hurt..

  8. please pray for me...that i would pass the exam

  9. Wow, I hope to be one of you guys! I took the UPCAT this August 3, and wrote a blog post about it. Hope you guys get to read it. :)

  10. Hi, may I know what reviewer did you use? I'm planning to take the exam this year :) hope you can reply tysm

  11. I messed up with my test center location, is it possible to change the location?

  12. It was too long ago when I passed the UPCAT back in 1988. I really never expected to get in
    because the test was very difficult. Although I graduated at the top 10% of my class. I was not
    confident enough. So when the results came in. I was so surprised to find out that I qualified
    for admission at the UPLB College of Veterinary Medicine. Unfortunately, I didn't pursue
    the course and went to become a nurse to another University. I am now working here in the
    US. I always wondered how my life would have been different if I chose the other direction.


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