It’s UPCAT season again. Let’s say that you have a 50/50 chance of passing the UP entrance test. In that case, the choice of an UPCAT review center can make or break your hopes of getting into UP. The scales could tip either way. Choose the correct UP entrance exam review center not only will you get into the premier University in the country, you [or better yet your parents] will also benefit from the significantly lower tuition rates. Choose the wrong UP Review center and not only do you squander your chances of getting a head start, you will have also wasted a perfectly good summer.
This begs the question: how exactly do you choose the best UPCAT review center?
Different UPCAT review centers will answer differently depending upon their strengths and weaknesses; naturally, they’ll always tell you that they are the best choice for your UP review needs.
Different criteria will also give you different answers. Several factors that will come into play are price, proximity of UP review classes, locations, and add-on features, etc. These will have different weights among the parents of UPCAT takers.
The following is a discussion of the factors that you should consider if you want to increase your chances (or your child’s chances) of passing the UP entrance test. Remember to the following tips when evaluating a potential UPCAT review center for yourself or your children:
The following are the factors that are rather useless when evaluating college entrance test review centers:
Don’t ever, ever, ever think that the passing rate advertised by a particular UP review center is the most important or even a trustworthy criterion for choosing your UPCAT review center.
Of course, the passing rate is important, but keep in mind that the college entrance exam review center industry here in the Philippines is unregulated by the government. This means that UPCAT review centers can (and do) pretty much use any of the many standards used in computing passing rates. Some review centers use a variation or one of the following:
- number of passers in their star section over the number of students in that section
- number of sci-hi student passers over the total number of sci hi students in all UPCAT review classes
- number of passers from current and previous years over the number of current review students
Basically, some review centers are not above lying to entice students and their parents to enroll in their UPCAT review program. They can actually claim any passing rate, and you will not know any better! In fact, UP itself has posted a special notice about UPCAT Review Centers.
Unless you have counted and verified the total number of students enrolled in that center for that particular batch and unless you have counted and verified that the passers have indeed enrolled in that particular center and batch, how can you be sure that the UPCAT review center is giving you a straight answer?
Imagine 2010 presidentiables counting their own votes, he he. Review centers counting their own passing rate is a very good example of a conflict of interest.
Years in the Business
You can easily check the number of years that an UPCAT review center has been in business. Even if a UP review center has been around for a hundred years or so, however, what will that tell you? Will the number of years in business be a good determinant of the effectiveness of the UP review center’s instruction? In some cases yes, but I’ve seen review centers that have survived more than 5 years all because of its advertising base [as opposed to its quality of review]. Consider that UP itself is not the oldest university in the country, but it’s definitely the best.
Referrals vs Comparison
Most parents and students depend upon the referral of friends, relatives and even classmates/ co-reviewers when it comes to choosing their UP review centers. When choosing among any other products or services, referrals can be very effective. However, unless the source of referral has enrolled in or have heard about enough UPCAT review centers to make a decent comparison, don’t put too much stock on UPCAT review centers referred by friends, relatives and acquaintances.
In this sense, UPCAT review services are much like wedding photography services. Most people will only avail of it once, which is not enough of a basis to make an informed comparison.
If you want the best UPCAT review center there is, do your own comparison shopping. Contrast and compare the features of the different UPCAT review programs and choose what YOU think is best for you.
Titles of Instructors
Unless the instructor has been acclaimed as one of the best teachers in the Philippines, all their extra titles (e.g. PhD, M.A., M.S., Eng’r, Doctor, etc.) won’t help you pass the UPCAT. Titles are impressive, and a lot of people put great stock in them. Consider this, however.
Does it take a PhD or a doctoral degree to teach high school math or science effectively?
No, unless your taking the entrance exam to the nuclear quantum supergeek college in the Philippines [which doesn't exist btw]. Choose review programs with effective, engaging and creative instructors instead. You’ll find that you’ll be able to learn more from him than that mumbling grumbling PhD professor who likes staring at the blackboard more than making eye contact with his students. Keep in mind the ability to effectively teach students is very different from IQ.
Quality costs money. The college entrance exam review, especially the review for UPCAT, is not like some new Nike shoes that will not have any long-lasting effect in your life [unless you trip over them and fall down the stairs, breaking both your legs and busting your kneecaps]. Passing the UPCAT is more important than shoes, yet some people are willing to pay for Nike originals than a quality UP review program.
If you want quality UPCAT review classes, then don’t expect them to cost you only a few hundred pesos. UP Free reviews exist if you want refresher courses. However, if you want the real McCoy, pay for UP review classes. Better yet, be prepared to shell out some hard cash for them.
Should you win a spot in UP, the college tuition savings alone will repay your small investment now a thousand fold. So do you really want to have a better shot in getting to UP or do you want to save money? Answer really carefully.
The same goes for review location. Choosing an UPCAT review center just because it happens to be conveniently located is just like choosing to give birth to a baby at home instead of going to the hospital because you didn’t want a long commute.
Given the lack of industry standards as well as the lack of government regulation in the UPCAT review center industry, your only hope of weeding the chaff out of the grain is to do your own research and study. Easier said than done, you might say. Well here are a few pointers to get you going in the right track. Use the following criteria to choose the right UPCAT review center for you or for your child.
Do check out the review program of the UPCAT review centers you are considering. This is a good way of filtering out the fly-by-night, mosquito or copycat review centers in your list. Moreover, this will also give you a good idea of the relevance and scope of the UP review program being offered.
A good review program includes not just a comprehensive and relevant discussion of the academic subjects covered in the UPCAT (namely, UP Math, UP Science, UP Reading, UP Language) but also college seminars that are relevant and helpful to students who are about to traverse several crossroads of life (how deep, he he he). The following are some useful seminars for incoming college freshmen:
- Career Path Seminar: This should give you an insight as to which college course is the best for you. It takes taking into account not just future salary potential but your own strengths and weaknesses, your inclinations, your hobbies, and your interests.
- Diagnostic and Simulation Exams: The first will give you the means to evaluate your initial chances of passing the UPCAT and how much work needs to be done in order to increase the odds in your favor. The latter will give you your final UPCAT predicted grade as well as a glimpse on how effective the UPCAT review was for you.
In a good review program, the difference between your diagnostic and simulation exam will be large [this means that you've learned a lot during the review]. Hopefully, by the time you take your simulation exam, your review grades are hitting the 80 – 85% mark.
Watch out for review centers giving out simulation exams that are much easier than the diagnostic exam! This should warn you that the review center is skewing its results for its own gain.
- UPG seminar
Contrary to popular opinion, your high school grades and your UPCAT grade are not the sole factors that are considered by UP in determining whether or not you will be accepted to UP.
A lot of other factors such as your province, your family’s income bracket, your school, your course choices, your campus choices, etc. are also taken into account. Answering these questions optimally in the first place just might give you a lot more edge over other students who have taken the summer UP review. This is why you should look for a seminar about UPG or university predicted grade when choosing your review center.
- Instructional or Game Type
How the review is conducted will also play a large part on whether you will learn much from the UP review classes or not. If the classroom type/instructional method did not work for you for the previous 4 years in high school, then what are the chances that you will find the same method in a review class useful?
If you find it a lot easier to memorize Ragnarok unit stats, damage points and level up stats or if you find it easier to learn more from GKNB or Pera o Bayong than in school, then a game-type review may be a better fit for you.
- Traditional or Peer-to-Peer
Studies show that peer-to-peer instruction is a lot more effective in learning than the traditional classroom-type review. By peer-to-peer instruction, we mean classes that involve peer-to-peer interaction, group studies and group work. Traditional classroom instruction, on the other hand, is teacher-focused and students are pretty much on their own.
Why is peer-to-peer more effective? Just think. Won’t the facts stick better when it’s your crush discussing thermodynamics with you? Your heart will be on overdrive and your adrenalin will be pumping so chances are high that you will recall more of your lessons. Peer to peer instruction also doesn’t have the age or status hindrance present in traditional learning settings.
This is not to say that instructors should be removed from the review program altogether, but do look for a review program that inserts peer-to-peer instruction during no-review days.
Do check out the quality of the review materials that are being offered by the UP review center. More often than not, they are a reflection of how organized, comprehensive and structured the review program is. For example:
- Xeroxed Modules: This may be an indication that that particular review center has plagiarized the review materials of another. It may also be an indication of a slipshod review program where modules are rife with duplicate questions, errors and typos.
- Reviewers: The availability of original reviewers aside from the usual exam modules is an indication of a well-planned review program. Do check if the subjects are well-summarized and organized. You wouldn’t want to spend 6 years reading a reviewer that’s supposed to summarize your high school subjects!
- Additional Sources: As most review classes are not held daily and you’ll have an extra day here and there for yourself, do look for review centers that includes take home assignments and quizzes as well as additional sources that will further increase the effectiveness of the review.
- Blackboard Instruction or Presentation/Demos: The inclusion of Demos, PowerPoint presentations, hands-on experiential learning activities, exhibits, etc. are also plus points when it comes to choosing the best UPCAT review centers. These show that the center has taken the time, money and effort to make the review as effective, painless and interesting as possible for the students. Moreover, with presentations, you get more value for your money as time will not be wasted waiting for the instructor to stop scribbling on the board.
Effectiveness of Instructors
At the heart of effective reviews are effective instructors. Do they engage their students while teaching? Do they use analogies to make the concepts simpler? Do they make full use of illustrations, group work, etc? Do they discipline those that are unruly in class so that learning for those that do want to learn is not compromised?
More often that not, you will be surprised at how far the actual review is from the ‘best/great/excellent review’ these centers promise in their brochures.
Length of Review
Put simply, the length of the review is usually directly proportional to the amount of learning the students benefit from. Our research into this matter shows that it will take a minimum [note the word minimum] of 60 hours of review in order for all the pertinent subjects to be covered. So make sure to include the length of the review in your consideration when choosing your review center.
Think of your choice of an UPCAT review center as memory pills capable of helping you prepare for your exam. Some will have all the ads, fanfare and razzle dazzle shown in the media but prove to be actually ineffective in doing its job. Some will be generic, cheap but just as ineffective as the best of them. Some will be the genuine product and yet some will be like those meds given by quack doctors. Whatever your choice may be, do tell us about how it turned out when the UPCAT results are posted.