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TIPS & TRICKS IN THE BOARD EXAMINATION

March 2007

Prepared by
ARCHITECT RAISON JOHN J. BASSIG

1st Placer June 2006 PRC Architect Licensure Examination


10th Placer March 2007 PRC Master Plumber Licensure Examination

So you are about to take the board exam. Nervous? You should be.

A few months before I took mine, I have experienced what every board examinee goes through:
Unexplainable nervousness. Butterflies in the stomach. Catatonic looks.

Am I ready?

For one thing, it's better to be nervous NOW than to feel your sweat dripping and your veins
popping ON the day of the exam itself.

Imagine yourself staring blankly at those test questionnaires. 45 minutes have passed. You are
already at question number 31, yet your answer sheet remains blank - a complete mental
blackout.

Your mind then wanders. As you look along the walls of the quiet classroom, you begin to
reminisce your days in college. How you wish you remembered what that professor had taught
you. You gaze up the ceiling and wonder about the future of your career, hanging in the
balance, through these test questions you are holding right now. You inhale deeply and pour out
a sigh of air. You pray for luck, hoping the next question would be something that you have read
in your 1-week review. You turn the next page.

Tsk. Where in God's name did they get all these questions???

Mi... ni... mi...ni... mai... ni... mu.

This is a typical story of what could go through a mind of a board examinee. A board examinee
who did not prepare, relied on luck, and had no idea how to go about answering the board exam
questions. Thankfully, that did not happen to me. When I took the Board Exams for Architects in
June 2006 and for Master Plumbers in March 2007, my confidence was sky-high. All because I
was prepared. This leads me to my conclusion: "Talo ng preparado ang matalino."

So for almost 12 months now, I have been sharing to others through seminars, lectures and
informal discussions, how I prepared for the board examination. Allow me to share with you
some tips and tricks based on my own experience that can help you prepare for your own
review.

SETTING YOUR GOAL


The first and most important tip that I would give you is SET YOUR GOAL. Whether you just
want to pass and get a license, or maybe land a place among the top 10, or probably get a
grade of 90+ on the most dreaded subject, it helps if you have direction. The more specific your
goal is the better. Try to write it on paper and feel committed to it. Mine was to top the board
exams - and I did.

Now in order for you to work on that goal, you must have the RIGHT MOTIVATION. This is the
second and equally important tip. Your motivation is your drive in achieving your goal. It could
be anything from a person that inspires you (an idol, a crush, or a loved one) to a material
promise (like an all-expense out-of-the-country trip or a brand new car). It's up to you! Use this
to keep you going everyday. Use this to get you up early in the morning when you normally
wake up late. When you are motivated, you feel like you can do anything. Yes, ANYTHING! So,
this gives you a psychological advantage.

The board examination, just like any other sport or competition, is all about how you prepare for
a fight. It is all about setting your mind, body, and emotions straight before the main event.
During the preparations, YOU ARE YOUR OWN ENEMY. The less you know about yourself,
the harder it is to succeed in this undertaking. That is why you have to train hard. What you do
to your time is all up to you. You could sit back and relax if you want, but keep in mind, all the
others might have already gone far ahead in their reviews while you are still sitting pretty waiting
for that right moment.

DECIDING WHEN TO TAKE THE EXAM

Time is one of the most critical resources in your entire preparation. Once time goes by, it can
never be brought back. So speaking of time, the first question you have to ask yourself is:
"WHEN AM I GOING TO TAKE THE EXAM?" It may sound simple but believe me, this simple
question will determine how much extraordinary effort you may have to exert throughout the rest
of your review.

I know some people who spent 4 months studying, paid a lot of money for their review classes,
only to back out 3 weeks before the exam. For some unexplainable reason, they found
themselves "not yet ready" and would just opt to take the next board exam, which is scheduled
6 months or 1 year later. Uh-oh. Now that's a lot of time gap until the next exam. You would
easily forget most of the topics discussed in the review center and you would be forced to take
refresher courses again later on. If they were unsure, they should have not enrolled
immediately. It's a waste of time and a waste of money. In my opinion, the only logical
explanation for their backing out is that they were half-hearted with their review. You know, once
you have decided that you are going to take the board -- GO FULL-FORCE!! As the saying
goes, "Todo Na 'To!". Never ever be half-hearted. That's why the sooner you decide, the better
your chances of making the most out of your time. In my case, I decided to take the June 2006
Board Exam for Architects as early as November 2005. I had 8 months preparation.
PRC REQUIREMENTS: ALL THE HASSLES INVOLVED

Completing the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) requirements for filing a board
exam application is a total hassle. You are lucky if you don't encounter any problems here and
there. Depending on the board exam you are going to take, the PRC requires certain
documents you have to submit to their office (which is located in Morayta) before a certain
deadline (usually 3 weeks before your examination date). Check the PRC website for the
required documents.

Please. Please. Please. Submit the requirements ASAP! Don't cram. Getting all the documents
consumes a LOT of time (and money). Filing for a board exam application should be the least of
your problems once you are already studying for the board exam. YOU DON'T WANT THIS TO
INTERFERE WITH YOUR STUDY SCHEDULE. Imagine yourself already 4 months deep in
your review, and in the back of your mind, you are still worrying if you going to beat the deadline
for application because you havn't got your documents ready yet. Believe me, it would take
WEEKS sometimes MONTHS to complete the requirements, what with all the red tape involved.
The diploma and transcipt of records usually takes 2 weeks minimum. NBI clearance can be
from 1 to 3 days. NSO-issued birth certificates can take 1 day to 1 week (depending where you
were born). And expect long lines in the PRC building when applying. It's not going to be a
breeze. You will have to go from one place to another to buy metered documentary stamps,
take a picture, pay the cashier, etc. By the time you are finished, expect yourself to be all tired
and sweaty.

KNOW THE COVERAGE OF THE EXAM

YOU SHOULD KNOW what subjects you are to tackle in your review. The PRC board usually
issues a curriculum showing the coverage of the examination. You have to know how many
days the exam is and what subjects would be taken in which days. For example, the Architects
board exam is scheduled for 3 days. For Day 1: we have the subjects History and Theory of
Architecture, Principles of Planning, and Architectural Practice. But these subjects are
compressed into one exam only. It is a 125-item exam that starts 8:00am to 5:00pm. Unlike the
subjects in the first day, Day 2 is divided into three exams for each three subjects. The 1st exam
is Building Utilities, a 100-item exam that starts 8:00am to 12:00nn. The 2nd exam is Structural
Design, a 40-item exam that starts 1:00pm to 2:15pm. The 3rd exam is Building Materials and
Methods of Construction, a 60-item exam that starts 2:30pm to 5:00pm. For Day 3: we have the
subject Architectural Design and Site Planning, a drawing-type exam that starts 8:00am to
5:00pm. Given all these data, I knew how to balance my time and create some strategies in
answering come exam day. I knew I have less than 5 minutes to answer one question in Day 1.
For Day 2, it becomes tighter with a little above 2 minutes per question.

But going back to your review, you should determine which subjects covered by the exam are
you most comfortable with and which subjects are you having problems with. It's a good
strategy to study your favorite subjects first. These subjects are usually the ones you are really
interested in. The idea is to get you "IN THE ZONE". Think of yourself as a car that needs a
jump start. Once you get going on one subject, then that's the time you absorb the other
subjects along the way.

KNOW YOURSELF

The key to a successful board exam preparation is knowing one's self. Find out your strengths
and your weaknesses. Are you a fast reader? Do you easily comprehend anything that you
read? How good are you at numbers? Can you memorize dates well? Would you appreciate a
book by looking at illustrations or by reading the article itself?

You have to know yourself and seek for self-improvement. There are a lot of ways for you to
improve. Use your strengths to concentrate on building up your weak points.

TOTAL CONDITIONING

Believe it or not, preparing for the board is not just a walk in the park (especially if you have set
high goals in the beginning). If you really want to make the most out of your review and achieve
the goals you have set, then you must be prepared in all aspects, and I really mean ALL:
physical, emotional, spiritual, social, mental and even financial :)

Most of us are night-owls, we begin to study at night until the wee hours of the morning. This is
our comfort zone. This is where we feel we are more progressive studying. That's ok as long as
you still have 6 to 8 hours of sleep. I usually study from 11pm up to 6 am the next morning, then
sleep and wake up around 2 pm. Whatever your comfy zone is, feel free to use it as you please.
But as the board exam nears, there is a need to re-adjust your study habits. About 2 to 3 weeks
before the exam, you have to practice waking up early and studying in the morning - not at night
anymore. The idea here is to get yourself comfortable "thinking" in the morning because the
board exam starts in the morning. Else, you'll feel sleepy and nauseaous during the exam. Also,
be conscious of the food you eat 1 week before the exam. Nobody wants to have an upset
stomach on the day of the exam.

The hard-core reviewing should end at least 2 weeks before the exam. By this time, you should
have studied what you needed to study. The 2 remaining weeks should give you time to relax
and psych yourself. Ideally, a week before the exam, you should just be browsing through your
notes to refresh your memory. No more all-nighters. No more burning your eyebrows. So don't
stay up all night exhausting your energy cramming for more information. That was my mistake
when I took the Board Exam for Master Plumber last March. Since I only had a month's
preparation (because I was also working), I had to exert more effort in my studies - more than
what my body can take. Come board exams, I was on Tylenol because of a fever. Sleep early
the night before the exam.

A board examinee must also expect pressure from a lot of people. There are pressures from
your family, there are pressures from your relatives (especially those successful ones), there
are pressures from your friends and barkadas, from your office and even from your
girlfriend/boyfriend. The moment you decide you'll take the board exam and tell it to someone,
word really travels fast. They would be greeting you 'good luck', but others would also expect
you to do really good. I know some people who did not tell a single soul that they'll take the
board exam. Maybe they were too pressured or shy. You don't have to be mum about it.
Besides, whether you pass or fail, in time, everybody will still know that you took the exams.
TAKE ALL THESE PRESSURES AND PUT IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. If you are motivated,
these pressures would even help propel you to study harder.

Depends on your religious belief, it's already a habit that board examinees be going to Baclaran
or celebrate Holy Week in Manaog or complete the midnight mass during advent. We would
even buy paraphernalia and bring our pencils, rulers, and books blessed. Prayers help a lot. Ask
for His divine guidance. And pray for others too. But always remember all these will be useless
if not complemented by studying. As the saying goes: 'genius is 1% inspiration, and 99%
perspiration.'

TO ENROLL OR NOT TO ENROLL?

Enrolling in a review center is NOT a guarantee that you will pass the board exam. But review
centers offer a lot of advantages. For one, they have a schedule. So you are 'forced' to pattern
your self-study with their schedule. Another advantage is the review materials. You'll have
access to books and other references (if they have a library) or photocopied handouts (which
they sell for a price). But I think the best advantage in review centers is you gain a lot of
contacts. Students from other schools have different lecture notes and different methods of
reviewing. You could exchange ideas with them. Through these contacts, you will be able to
create study groups. You may also be able to borrow review materials from their friends who are
enrolled in other review centers as well.

The only disadvantage is the financial aspect. You have to shell out A LOT of money.
Remember, review centers are businesses. Aside from helping you prepare for the boards, they
are there to get your money. So you have to be sure you are getting your money's worth. Scout
for possible review centers to enroll. Ask previous board examinees the advantages and
disadvantages of the review centers they enrolled into. Know the centers' strengths and
weaknesses. In my case, I enrolled the basic course in one review center and the design course
in another.

The best strategy to make the most out of the review centers is that YOU STUDY BEFORE
YOU ENROLL. The idea is to learn the subjects ahead before they even teach them. Don't start
the day in the classroom all shocked and awed about the topic the lecturer is teaching because
it is the first time you heard it. Review centers should help you familiarize again - not learn
everything from scratch.

TRIPLE-CHECK TWICE AND ORGANIZE

This might still be a bit of an understatement, but check, check, check, check your review
materials again and again and again. Be wary of misinformation (errors on handouts, outdated
information, etc.). It happens. Nothing is more sour than spending a lot of time memorizing a
table of information from a code or law only to find out that it is already amended by a newer
one. Equally damaging is reviewing notes you photocopied from your classmate only to find out
that it was a typographical error on his part. The only way to be safe from this is to triple-check
your review materials. Counter-check every information from other sources. DO NOT RELY ON
ONE REFERENCE ALONE. Try to check other books and cross-reference it. Search the
internet. Have discussions with some professors or friends about inconsistent info.

During the course of your review, it is true that you have to make the most out of it and grab as
much information as you possibly can. But it is also true that you can only take as much
information for a certain period of time. This happens a lot. We borrow and photocopy a lot of
books and handouts only to find itself stacked up on your bedroom floor.

The index card would be your best friend in your review. Put information that you need to
memorize in index cards and always keep them handy. You could browse through them while
riding the bus or jeep. Use color-coded pens for highlighting old and new data. Use post-it on
books to help you keep track of notes and points of discussions.

PRIORITIZING THINGS

An effective board exam review relies on discipline on the examinees part. There are so many
temptations around: your favorite TV shows, the billiards hall, online gaming, etc. Learn how to
prioritize. Think of the board exam as a one-time deal (although if you fail, you can take the
board exam again - but nobody really wants to fail, right?) YOU WILL HAVE ALL THE TIME IN
THE WORLD AFTER THE BOARD EXAM. Use your time wisely. Instead of watching TV for 3
hours, you could have understood and memorized a large portion of the book your reading
already.

MEMORIZATION TECHNIQUES

If you have good photographic memory, you have an advantage. Equally advantageous is if you
are a fast reader with good reading comprehension.

Try using play of words and numbers through word association. Example of questions in our
review: "Who was is the architect of Greenbelt 2?", "Who is the architect of Greenbelt 3?".
Through word association, I know that the architect of Greenbelt 2 is "Recio + Casas" because
they are two (2) individuals (note the number 2 in Greenbelt). For Greenbelt 3, I know the
architect is G.F. Formoso because I associate the 3G phone (note the G in G.F. Formoso).

Use letters as symbols. Here's another example that appeared in the Master Plumber exam.
"Which is denoted by its Inside Diameter? a) Pipe or b) Tube"

I know that the PIPE is denoted by its Inside Diameter because I always write it "pIpe" (note the
capital I, meaning Inside). I know the the TUBE is denoted by its Outside Diameter because I
always write it "tubO" (tubo is tagalog for tube, note the capital O, meaning Outside). Get the
idea?
If your having trouble with numbers (like dates and laws) but good in memorizing visual
patterns, try using the cellphone keypad as a guide. You'll remember the pattern you create
while typing in the numbers more than the date or law itself.

Rearrange information found in books. Most of the time what is printed in books is not the best
way how you would read and memorize it. Take the case of the National Building Code. I was
memorizing 30+ types of pipe and their colors. In the book, it is arranged alphabetically by pipe
type. What I did was I arranged it by pipe color. I found out that there are only 4 pipe colors so
its easier to memorize. So I got 4 pieces of paper, painted them Red, Orange, Yellow, and
Green respectively, and wrote in each paper the corresponding pipes. Voila. Easier to
remember and understand.

There are lots of other tricks like forming Acronyms or Creating a Song or Story. Try to create
your own memorization tricks up your sleeves.

BOARD EXAM: IS IT JUST MEMORIZING?

Most people would say that the board examination is not really a gauge on how good a person
is. They say it only reflects how good a person can memorize. Well, they are partly correct.

But then again, memorizing is not as easy as A-B-C. It takes hardwork and a lot of patience.
The most common mistake of board examinees is that they memorize just for the sake of
'enumerating' it. If you ask them what it's all about or how it works, they could not fully explain.
The basic trick is: DO NOT MEMORIZE; BUT FAMILIARIZE. When you are familiar with the
topic, you try to understand. When you fully understand, you try to analyze. You ask questions,
"Why is this so?" and "Why is that so?". Then after you have achieved all this, you'll find it easier
to memorize.

The board exam is about setting a goal and working hard to achieve it.

It's not just about memorizing. Nor is it about mi... ni... mi...ni... mai... ni... mu.

So are you ready?

-Raison John J. Bassig-


QC, Philippines
March 2007