The 'Secret' of topping the board exam


Licensure examination for Librarians 2015 topnotcher (1st place with a grade of 89.60%)

Thanksgiving and Testimonial Program
Henry Luce III Library, Central Philippine University, 18 May 2015

(Note: the quotes here are from the blog of Arch. Raison Bassig - I followed his suggestions on the board exams and I recommend it to future test-takers, his tips helped me a lot in my review and on answering the exams. The ‘WTF’ acronym is not mine, I got it from a LET topnotcher.)

Good afternoon, welcome everyone. We acknowledge the presence of Mr. Nelson Pomado, the Dean in the College of Education, Maam Melda Estember, Director of Libraries, the rest of librarians and teachers, and of course BLIS students.

First of all, I would like to thank everyone here. Thank you to the teachers and librarians of CPU who were always supportive ever since we were students and even until now. Thank you, especially to Maam Cynthia, Maam Estember, Sir Daryl, Sir Stephen, Sir Fed, for the time that you gave us last year in our informal review sessions and for the review materials you shared. Thank you to the BLIS students who came before us who gave their advice on the board exam. I thank my classmates, those who passed and also to those who unfortunately didn’t make it - we were all in the ‘journey’ for the board exam together and in a way, we all learned something, passed or failed.

Now that I am a topnotcher, people keep asking me the ‘secret’ of topping the board exams as if there was a top-secret magical formula. There is no one ‘secret’, and it would be too long anyway if I try to say it, but I will try to tell you. For a start, I will share my board exam experience and also some words for future test takers. We graduated last April, so we had a year to review. My mother advised me that I focus on the review first. She’s the one who prepared for everything in my review, and she went to Manila for support during the exams. All thanks to her and I always say that we both topped, not only me.

I think the most important thing if you want to pass the board is to understand the basic things well while in school. As tips for other board exams always say, the review starts in school, not after graduation. If you understand the basics now, you will not find the review difficult. Also, learn all you can during your practicum and have experience in the library - this is not only for the board exam but your future work.

There’s an acronym on passing the board exam I found on the internet from someone who took the LET. It was WTF, which stands for Willpower, Test-taking skills, and of course, F which stands for Faith.

First, willpower. If you are going to take the board, be determined! Claim that you will pass and work hard for that goal. As they say, “The prepared beats the intelligent.” But its best if you’re already smart, and you’re also prepared, there’s no chance you’ll fail. So make the most of your God-given talents. In the exam, its not only your preparedness or intelligence that counts, but also ‘lakas ng loob’. My mother did not say ‘Good luck’ or ‘God bless’ but what she said was ‘Be strong’ - ‘Isog ka dapat’, have determination, to make the most of your time, and not give in to stress, pressure, and all your negative thoughts.

Second, test-taking skills. Remember, there are 6 subjects for the board exam and each has 100 items of multiple-choice questions. The correct answer is already there, you just have to choose. So the most effective strategy would be to train yourself on how to answer multiple-choice questions. In the exam, you cannot know what exact questions will come out… and here what will help you is reading comprehension and logic - use elimination. I answered a lot, I mean hundreds, of mock exams and focused on studying my mistakes. And, according to research, the best way of learning is taking tests. So in taking mock exams you are imitating the environment of the exam and will be ready and prepared when the time comes. In my review, I balanced practice exams and reading notes.

Of course you must work hard, but find time to rest and relax. Its not that I didn’t sleep anymore or I had tremendous discipline because that’s not true, the challenge was to fight my laziness. If you feel tired after studying, then give yourself a break. Just think of the exam as another final exam to pass. Our minds also need rest. In my review, I set a day, every Monday, to not think about the exam, to just walk around Diliman, visit coffee shops and treat myself to a ‘brain break’. In this way, you are also saving up energy for your next study session.

Last, and the most important, is faith. In your review, there will be days when you will not be motivated and sometimes you may even hate it. That happened to me. I almost gave up. But in these moments of trial, its your faith that will get you through. Remember that God has good plans for you and he will not withhold blessings if you also do your part. These hardships are temporary. The license, once you pass, is for life. And when I prayed, I dared to ask God for the top spot. I prayed everyday. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming and praying, right? And it came true!

Second question that I always get asked about, “Where did you review?”. To answer that, we had our informal review here with our teachers and I attended the regular review in UP Diliman. But in my opinion, all review is self-review. Review classes, even here with our teachers, even in UP, does not guarantee you passing the exam, it still depends on you. What you get out of the review will depend on the effort and dedication you put into it. The review that counts more is the studying and discipline that you exercise daily, by yourself. You don’t have to work hard for hours, sometimes you just have to meet the few goals for the day, little by little. Its better to study a little everyday than to cram near the exam.

But, of course the review classes have a lot of advantages. Different lecturers have other ways of explaining things and I learned a lot from them too. You can ask them about things you do not understand. The advice is if you are going to enrol, study before you do. They should help you familiarize the concepts and strengthen your memory, not that you go to the review center shocked because you just learned the subjects there. And staying in Quezon City with only the studying materials and no other distractions made me focus better than when I just stayed at home.
In your review, think like a librarian. Exercise your information searching skills to look for the best sources. Use the library, search the net. Because I had time, I read books in the Reserve section upstairs. If you have time to do this, I suggest reading the most basic books, don’t pick up something so advanced. Basic knowledge is important, because this is your ‘foundation’ in understanding the more complex parts of the subjects. I did not rely only in the handouts and the reviewers but also looked for more reliable sources - they are there if you know how to look for them. Reading different perspectives and different explanations will help for better retention in your memory. Everyone of us have different learning styles, I’m not saying you should follow what I say, but this one worked for me and there’s no harm in trying.

Again, it is good to seek out and listen to advice, but its still you who will decide what’s best. I did not follow every advice given to me because I knew myself and I knew how I learn best.
One topnotcher of the Architecture board exam said, "Do not let pressure and nervousness control you. You must be able to control them. The board exam is like a war and you will be going into battle."

Take Manny Pacquiao's training as your inspiration for studying.
I always thought of the board exam as something like boxing. Your review is your training before the big day of the fight. Look at Manny Pacquiao who trains for months for a fight that will last for minutes. Trust me, the board exam will hurt your brain and you will need to recover. Rest before and after the exam. All your review classes and teachers are only the guides to your training, and in boxing language, it is still you who will go up the ring to fight and you will not know how the entire bout will go, you cannot exactly predict your enemy’s moves. The exam is selected from a database by computer, and even the BFL cannot say what questions will come out. But do not be afraid, because God is with you and he’s the only one who knows the questions. I can say that without God and the wisdom he gave me when I prayed for it, I would not top the exam.

So, the last thing I can say is another quote from the same topnotcher: “Never look at things as problems or troubles that would hinder your development as a person. Look at things as challenges and opportunities for you to learn and grow.” I hope that those who will take the exam will be professional librarians who will do their best to improve our libraries, our education, our country, and the world; and remember the values we have learned in CPU. Again, thank you.

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