Written by Leopold Laset
Because the UPCAT is such a prevalent test, there are a number of misconceptions about the test or testing format. These myths about the UPCAT can be more than misleading to the test taker - they can negatively impact his score or his chances of admission in UP. Listed below are the top ten misconceptions about the UPCAT (not in any order):
1. Guessing will not improve your UPCAT score.
In a way, this is somehow true. If you are totally stuck on a question and cannot even eliminate a single answer choice, then yes, you should leave the item blank. The UP Admissions applies a "guessing penalty" of one-fourth of a question per missed question and does not penalize for unanswered items. But you should understand that the UPCAT is a test of courage. Any time you can eliminate at least one of the answer choices as being definitely wrong, it's better to guess. From a purely statistical standpoint, this strategy will gain you more points over the whole test than you'll get by playing it "safe" and leaving the questions blank. So guess if you must!
2. The UPCAT tests complex math concepts.
UPCAT math is challenging not because of the concepts themselves, but the way the basic concepts are made into UPCAT items. The UPCAT includes math concepts you learned in your first three years in high school; that is, arithmetic, basic geometry, basic algebra, and a little advanced algebra. You will seldom (if there are any) see calculus or trigonometry items on the UPCAT.
3. You can improve your math score by practicing the necessary math skills but there is no way for you to improve your score in the reading comprehension part of the UPCAT.
Improving your vocabulary is the single best way to improve your score in Reading Comprehension. By widening your vocabulary, you can easily and accurately know the meaning of the words you read. This is done by reading books, dictionary, or even newspapers.
4. The items in the UPCAT are arranged according to the level of difficulty.
UPCAT questions can be divided into three levels of difficulty: easy, medium and hard. But the questions are randomly arranged so it’s possible that some easy items are found in the latter portion while there could already be difficult questions in the first few items. And remember this: every question on the UPCAT is worth an equal amount. So spend your time making sure you answer the easy and medium questions first, and go back to the more difficult items if time permits. Spending so much time on hard items may jeopardize your chance to get a high score in the UPCAT.
5. "My child attends to an excellent school, so their school's curriculum must be preparing them thoroughly for the UPCAT."
The very best schools' curricula often do not correlate perfectly to the UPCAT content. Some material on the UPCAT was either taught several years prior to the UPCAT's administration or never taught at all in a systematic way. Students are dumbfounded at how concepts they learned in the first year reappear suddenly on the UPCAT they take in their 4th year. In fact, schools that focus on advanced curriculum usually fail to let their students master the basic concepts, which is about 80% of the UPCAT. Therefore, a review of and supplement to the child's high school work are necessary in most cases.
6. Everybody has an equal chance to pass the UPCAT!
This is of course, an obvious myth. First and foremost, the UPCAT Qualifiers are determined by the University Predicted Grade (UPG) which is computed using an equation that combines UPCAT scores (60%) with high school grades (40%). So you see, your high school grades count! If you belong to the top students of your school, then definitely, you have the edge. Second, only seventy percent (70%) of the admission slots is reserved for students with the best UPGs. The remaining slots (30%) are then to be filled by the next best students coming from under-represented geographical areas (e.g. cultural minority group). If there are still slots available, then the next best performing applicants can have them regardless of geographical area. This is done to assure that the playing field is leveled and to perpetuate UP’s pride that it is the “University of the People”.
7. You can’t enroll in UP if you did not pass the UPCAT.
Yes, prospective students are screened through the UPCAT; but there are still some other ways to make it in UP. If you are an exemplary athlete or a talented dancer, then you can be a bonafide UP student even if you haven’t taken or passed the UPCAT. You must of course pass first the tough tryouts. This is possible through the Varsity Athletic Admission System (VAAS). Also, UP accepts transfer students from other colleges or universities. Transfer applicants shall no longer be given an admission test. But they should satisfy the minimum requirements for transfer students like number of units taken, general weighted average, etc.
8. Only the top 10% of each school’s fourth year students can take the UPCAT.
This is nonsense. Yes, UP puts academic excellence above all other considerations. But it does not discount the possibility that some average-performing students during their high school years can be at par with if not better than their honor counterparts during the UPCAT and later in their tertiary education in UP. In fact, there is no minimum high school average grade requirement for taking the UPCAT. Some students are late-bloomers that they excel in college even if they do not belong to the honor roll in high school. So even average students can try their knack of making it to UP.
9. You can re-take the UPCAT if you fail the first time you take it.
You may only take the UPCAT once in your lifetime. If you have taken it already, you are no longer allowed to take it again. This is the reason why we really advise students to have the “do-or-die-all-or-nothing” attitude when reviewing for the UPCAT. One chance. One preparation. One test. It’s all worth it!
10. Passing the UPCAT is a matter of choosing the right course.
Many students and parents thought that qualifying for UP has something to do with the course that the student has applied for. That is why it becomes a “strategy” to some to choose a non-quota course for them to be admitted. This is a misconception. To be able to pass the UPCAT, you should qualify to enter a campus that you choose. Different UP campuses have different cut-offs. Once you qualify, you are then screened for acceptance into one of the courses that you choose. Even if you don’t make it to the quota of your first or second choice course, you will remain qualified for that campus. You will be asked then to find a course that can accommodate you. So regardless of course choices, as long as you qualify for a UP campus, you become a legitimate Iskolar Para sa Bayan.