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10 Less Known Facts about the UPCAT

Every year, thousands upon thousands of wide eyed high school students hurl themselves against the formidable barrier guarding their entrance to the premier university in the Philippines – the UPCAT.  Some come armed to the teeth with tons of stock knowledge and an impressive high school record, some come armed with an UPCAT review and practical experience tucked under their belts, while some come with only the clothes on their backs, a pencil and a feeble prayer to the gods of mercy.

Regardless of their preparations, most students arrive in their designated UPCAT testing centers with a vague, if not mythical idea about what they are really up against when taking the UPCAT and in an age where information itself is a potent weapon, one that can give you an edge over more than 70,000 UPCAT takers all over the country [of which only about 10,000 gets into the University], knowing these 10 little less known facts about the UPCAT or more specifically admission into UP, can literally make or break you dream of getting through the gauntlet of UP admissions.

1.   UPCAT Passing Rates

The national passing rate for the UPCAT stands at more or less 16%.  This means that of the 70,000 students who annually take the exam, only about 10,000 make it through.  Not so surprising you might say, but consider the fact that the passing rate of students in the NCR is only about 12.15% as compared to 19.64% of the students taking the UPCAT in the provinces. [based on studies of UPCAT 05-06]

This is an interesting fact in itself considering the fact that UPCAT Review Centers are mostly concentrated in the NCR [ if UPCAT reviews are really really effective, then why is the NCR’s passing rate even lower than the passing rate of the provinces?]

2.  Public Vs.  Private High schools

Interesting too, is the fact that students from the public schools have a much higher passing rate than students attending private schools in our country.  Statistics shows that public high schools have a 23.87% UPCAT passing rate as compared to a measly 12.57% of private high schools.  So you will have 10% more chance of passing the UPCAT if you have attended a public high school rather than a private high school.

3.  The UPG vs UPCAT

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the UPCAT score but the UPG score [University Predicted Grade] that gets you in the University of the Philippines.  The UPG is a more comprehensive measure of a student’s ability to make it through UP.  It takes into account your UPCAT score [60%], your high school grades [40%] as well as some socio-economic factors such as your parent’s income status, your province, your cultural background, etc.

4.  Quality vs.  Equity

As mentioned above, your UPCAT score will not be the only thing that will determine your acceptance into UP.  Quality vs. Equity factors in the UP admissions formula states that only 70% of the UPCAT passers will be taken from straight line UPCAT score ranking [ palugit and pabigat included ], the other 30% of UPCAT passers will be determined through the ranking of UPCAT scores of students from underrepresented areas and minority groups [slots are distributed relative to the 3rd year student population of that place compared to the total 3rd year population of all the underrepresented areas and minority groups].

So you see?  Students from underrepresented areas or minority groups are given more chances of making it to UP than regular students.  This is so that UP can maintain its mandate of providing education to deserving students all over the Philippines regardless of their culture, income, province, etc.

5.  Palugit [ UPCAT bonus ]

A palugit, or an UPCAT bonus of 0.05% is also given to UPCAT takers coming from underrepresented provinces, public high schools, vocational high schools, etc.  note that this bonus is given regardless of what your economic status is [ the University assumes that the type of high school you attend is indicative of your economic status ]

6.  Pabigat [ UPCAT Penalty ]

Conversely, a pabigat or UPCAT penalty [0.05%] is also given to those students vying for a spot in a UP campus prioritizing local students for admissions.  An example of this is a student from the NCR vying for a spot in UP Visayas, this is to lessen the risk of local students losing slots and opportunities to study in UP to students from other provinces or big cities such as Manila who might use their admission to these lower UPG cut-off campuses as a jumping point towards UP Diliman or UP Manila.

7.  Campus Cut-Offs

The different UP campuses have different UPG cut-off requirements [ the minimum UPG you need to be considered admission to that particular campus].  This UPG cut-off requirement is based on the number of students who have indicated that particular campus as their first choice and the number of slots available in that campus.

As such, UP Manila and UP Diliman tend to have higher UPG cut-offs than the other UP campuses.  This means that your chances of passing the UPCAT decreases if your first choice of campus is either of these two and more so if both were listed in your first and second choice of UP campuses.

8.  No Shows

A considerable number of students who pass the UPCAT yearly elect not to enroll.  In fact, as much as 35% of UPCAT passers do not enroll in UP even though they have passed the UPCAT [ based on 04-05 UPCAT ].  This means that those on the waitlist [ students who have made the cut-off grade but did not get a slot ] can still hope to find themselves a slot in UP PROVIDED they are up to the legwork.

9.  UP Backdoors

Again, contrary to popular belief, the UPCAT isn’t the only way into UP.  Students can opt to take the Talent Determination Test of UP colleges such as the College of Fine Arts and Music, or the Varsity Application Program of the College of Human Kinetics and still get into UP even without taking or passing the UPCAT.

10.  Correct Minus [1/4] Wrong

If you still don’t know this by now, the UPCAT does not reward those who use guesswork as a method in passing exams.  This means that if you get 800 questions correctly in a 1000 question exam, your actual grade will be 800 [correct answers] – ¼ x 200 [incorrect answers] = 750.  This is on top of a multiple choice type of exam where the probability of you guessing the correct answer for each item is only 20-25%.  Regardless,  the benefits of making an educated guess outweighs the cost of leaving the item blank (as discussed in one of the comments below).:)