I got a couple of emails from a few readers asking me for tips about the NMAT (National Medical Achievement Test), the big qualifying exam for medical schools in the Philippines. The multiple-choice exam covers basic science subjects, language, and abstract reasoning, and is administered twice a year: every April and December. 

The pressure is for would-be medical students to score high in this test, so they'd get the desired cut-off percentile score for the med school they're eyeing. In the UP College of Medicine, for example, the cut-off is officially pegged at 90%.

Many undergraduates enroll in NMAT review sessions. These span weeks or months, and are generally expensive. The biggest utility for these classes is not the learning—one can only remember so much in so little time—but the practical tips, strategies, and sample exams that are given upon registration. If you took a science course that had a lot of math, chemistry, biology, and physics, I don't think enrolling in these cram schools is necessary. The exam questions are basic, and you only need to do a cursory self-review of those subjects. 

On hindsight, I should've paid more attention to the Practice Exams Set that was given after I got my NMAT exam permit. Some questions were directly taken from the Practice Exams! And I should have taken the social sciences and psychology part more seriously. I didn't take any such subjects in College, so I mostly relied on the tidbits I knew about Freud and Jung—which were practically close to nothing. I should've done some extra reading.

Yesterday I was surprised to see younger friends write about their NMAT experience in Facebook. That brought back memories of my own NMAT experience, and how the Lord has seen me through:

—The peer-administered review sessions with Monchi Goce, Coy Cabanilla, Joe Poblete, Melay San Luis, and the late Boom Jacinto. I always scored the lowest in the practice exams. My friends, on the other hand, were brilliant!


—The last-minute review and sleep-over at Coy's house in Antipolo, and the packed chicken sandwich that Coy's mother prepared for us before we left.

—This blog entry dated April 1, 2008, the night before the test date:
I don't understand why we have to learn and re-learn organic chemistry, mechanical physics, and all the structures we've memorized in biology. But the lesson is clear: I am not prepared--I do not feel prepared--to take the NMAT tomorrow. But, I realize, that it is precisely during our moments of helplessness when we are nearest God. I trust that tomorrow, every stroke of my pen will be guided by Him who promised never to leave me nor forsake me.
—The look on Bon Buno's face in that cold De La Salle classroom. He sat beside me. He would later remark how movable I was during the test, and how pressured he felt when he saw that I was already finished while he still had a number of items to answer. He didn't know I wasn't sure at all of my answers at all, and I just wanted the test to be over.

—The portrait of Philippine tycoon, Lucio Tan, on the halls of De La Salle University. Monchi pointed it out to me.

—The relief I got when I got my exam score months later. It was sufficient to qualify me for interview at UPCM.

—The joy of learning, after the long process, that I finally made it to UP. Overwhelmed, I wrote, "This is because of grace. If I say I made it on my own, that would be hypocrisy, for it was the Lord who helped me write the answers in the NMAT, gave me good grades, and convicted my heart to say what needed to be said during the interview process."

Any tips for or memories of NMATs past? Post them in comments.