Heads or Tails: The UPCAT
UPCAT stands for the University of the Philippines College Admission Test. It is the universal test administered to incoming freshman students for admission in any campus in the University of the Philippines system, be it the Diliman, Manila, Los Baños, etc.
Now on to my experience.
Of course, you have to apply first. I was told that the key to getting into UP is to choose your campus and course wisely. During my time (and I don't know if this still applies today), there were "quota courses," those courses with a limited number of slots and "non-quota courses," those courses that have no limit on available slots.
The key, as they say, to assuring entrance into UP is to choose the campus course you really like as the first choice and a second choice campus. Then for every campus, choose the course you really like as the first choice and then a non-quota course as the second choice.
In my case, I chose Diliman and the first choice and Manila as the second. For Diliman, I chose Civil Engineering (a quota course) as the first choice and Geodetic Engineering (non-quota) as the second. If I can still recall, I chose Biology (quota because it's a pre-med course) and Political Science (then non-quota but I think now it's not) as my first and second choices, respectively for the Manila campus.
I think they timed the UPCAT perfectly in our case. We would take the UPCAT the weekend we finished our periodical exams... whew! Good thing I was exempted from one periodical exam so my brain had the chance to rest.
Now for the test itself. I had no problem finding my building because I was assigned to the College of Management, then the easiest building to find, besides the College of Law...
I'm sorry to say this but during my time, it was a push-over. It was an old imported exam, much like the ones I'm used to taking. I think there was an IQ section and basic competence tests in major subjects. Two things were for sure. The ACET (Ateneo College Entrance Test) was way harder. Even our NCEE (National College Entrance Examination, during our time, still required to go on to college) at the time was harder than the UPCAT. I don't know if that's still the case.
I think I finished ahead because I'm so used to taking these kinds of exams and I work fast. The last test of this type I took (The Civil Service Executive Examination or the CSEE), I likewise finished early and I even had a hangover at the time...And I also passed that one (I still have the touch, Yay!)
The result? I was already set to go to the Ateneo (BS Legal Management) when an envelope-offer for a scholarship in Geodetic Engineering arrived at our house ahead of the UPCAT result so I was assured of going to the Diliman campus (if at all I wanted to). When the result came out, I passed my first choice of course in my first choice of campus. Apparently, I was good enough. My fantabulous high school performance probably counted for a lot also...
If that "quota" system is still applicable, my tip above may still be valid. All you need to enter UP. You can easily shift later on to the course you really intend to pursue.
Well, that's my UPCAT experience and tip.
The other side of the coin is supposed to be here.