Thanks a lot! :D

by Mariega De Guzman on Managing Pre-UPCAT Anxiety

USTET: Does Your Batch Really Matter?

By Janina Denise H. Torralba

            Because UST is one of the Philippines’ Big Four, qualifying for UST tends to be competitive. Tens of thousands of applicants take the exam every year, and only a few qualify for the university. A portion of the examinees who do not qualify apply for reconsideration, which itself is another story.

Being a prestigious event, the USTET has its own myths. Perhaps the most popular myth about the USTET (save for the one about the Arch of the Centuries, because there is absolutely no basis for believing in it) is that being in the first batch of examinees increases your chances of qualifying. Some say that taking the test in August will help you get within the quota of your chosen degree program. How true is this?

Simply put, taking the USTET in August makes no difference. It does not give you an edge over the October or December batches; if anything, it is less helpful. Think about it: by the time the first batch is due to take the USTET, classes would still only have been two months in or less. You would still be “revving up” for the rest of the year, and some topics that the USTET could cover might still not have been discussed at your school. You would be a soldier going into war unprepared. On the other hand, you would be all fired up from all your exams and school activities by the time October or December rolls around, and by then, you will have learned all the lessons you could possibly learn before taking the test.

This argument may bring up the question, “What about the UPCAT takers?” We all know that the UPCAT is only administered every August, a week or two before the first USTET schedule. These two examination schedules have dates closest to each other. Should you take one exam after the other while your mind is still fresh and in the proper condition to take a college entrance exam? Or should you take a break first after slaving over the UPCAT?

Again, the decision makes no difference. It is completely up to you if you want to use the knowledge you’ve garnered for both exams, or if you want to learn a bit more before taking the USTET. Remember, there are still other entrance exams you could possibly prepare for if you wish. Therefore, even if you don’t take the USTET right after the UPCAT, there are other entrance exams with schedules that would allow you to consolidate your review. You have other chances to kill two birds with one stone.

To put things in perspective, here are a few personal stories. I took both the UPCAT and the USTET in August 2011; I was able to pass both. A former schoolmate of mine took both the UPCAT and the USTET in separate months of 2010; she qualified for UP, but she did not qualify for UST. A classmate of mine took the UPCAT and the USTET in separate months; she qualified for UST, but she did not qualify for UP. There are many more such cases out there with varying outcomes.

As you can see, the results are inconclusive. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the first, second, or last batch of USTET takers. You will neither miss nor hit the mark of degree program quotas in UST until all the batches have taken their exams (unless of course you really do perform poorly, but I digress). It’s like a Schrödinger’s Cat situation; whatever the variables, you cannot be certain of the outcome until you see it. It is not a question of when you will be taking the USTET; it is a question of how prepared you are to take it.

USTET Review Guide

It’s not unusual to find forum members discussing the level of difficulty presented by the different college entrance exams.  Opinions vary as to which test is the most difficult.  On the flip side, there are those who believe that certain tests are among the easiest of the bunch.

Unfortunately, an implicit danger lies within these kinds of discussions.  The temptation to rest on your laurels and think you can breeze through the University of Santo Tomas Entrance Test (USTET) is great, yet allow me to show you what the test is about and why you shouldn’t think that way.

USTET Coverage

The USTET shares a lot of sub-sections in common with other entrance tests—you’ll find the self-explanatory Mathematics, Science and Language Proficiency (English reading and comprehension) there.  If you’re a prospective artist, you may also get some additional testing on abstract reasoning care of the College of Fine arts and Design..

Besides those, you’ll also find a sub-section that’s more uniquely UST:  the Mental Aptitude section.  It’s basically a formidable-sounding term for a general IQ test, yet it may likely be your toughest challenge in terms of time pressure.

Still, most USTET veterans claim that the exam doesn’t quite have the frenetic, pressure cooker feel of its peer tests, and that stock knowledge can help you get through it.  That may be true, but beware:  the Mental Aptitude, for example, has the shortest time limit available of all the sub-sections, while the Math section has the largest amount of items to solve.

For a more in-depth discussion of the different USTET sub-sections, please go here.

Preparing for the USTET

The first round of testing begins in August 2010, so it’s never too early to begin preparing for it.  In fact, if you’ve been studying diligently all throughout your high school tenure, then chances are, you’ve already built up your stock knowledge sufficiently for this exam.  Kindly check this article for more USTET preparation details.

There’s no harm, however, in seeking out extra help if you feel you need it.  Your friends Mr. Google and the Yellow Pages will gladly help you with respect to finding review centers and such.  Better yet, ask others who’ve attended these same centers for their feedback.

Due to the more general nature of the USTET, you don’t really need to look for “specialized” reviews.  Most review centers offer instruction in all core academic subjects, anyway, and they only really vary in terms of their approach.  Though it’s more about preparing for another entrance exam, this article here provides a checklist of general guidelines for shopping around for a review center.

Final Tips

When asking around, see if the review centers in question use Thomasian-authored textbook material in the sessions.  Exposing yourself to this material will give you an advantage, as the USTET understandably draws a lot of content from books written by alumni and alumnae.

Here’s one final reason for not slacking off:  the USTET also has a bit of a ranking system built into it, meaning that certain courses will be easier or harder to get into depending on the quotas set for them.  Regardless of how easy or hard you think the exam is, give it your best shot and you’ll have no regrets in the long run.

USTET Coverage

There are certain subjects or sections that you’ll see in almost every entrance exam out there:  mathematics, science, and what not.  Sometimes, though, you’ll come across a test that desires to act out of the box and experiment a little.

One example of this is the entrance test of the University of Santo Tomas—the USTET.  Its coverage is a tad different from other entrance exams in terms of presentation.  Allow me to explain.

Testing the (Mental) Waters

If you’re an entrance test veteran, the terms like “formulas”, “word problems” and “language proficiency” are probably household names for you already.  The USTET doesn’t really deviate from the norm in the sense that they will draw from your high school stock knowledge of science, math, English and Filipino.

Besides the sections mentioned above, the USTET has its own “specialty” Mental Aptitude section.  Don’t let its highfaluting name intimidate you—it’s basically an eighty-five item IQ test.  If you’ve answered anything even resembling an IQ test before, then you’ve got a pretty good chance of doing well on this one.

If you’d like a more detailed listing of the sub-topics the USTET questions are drawn from, kindly refer to these webpages for math, science and English, respectively.

Of Likes, Unlikes and Time Pressure

Unlike the UPCAT, the USTET does not penalize you for committing errors, so make good use of your common sense every time you come up against something you’re not entirely sure of.

Like any other entrance test, however, the USTET will apply a palpable amount of time pressure on you, so stay on your toes.  While it may not as bad as the infamous “pressure cooker” of some of the other Ivy League universities, it’s still serious enough to cause problems for the unprepared.

One thing you should watch out for is the reduced amount of time you have for the Mental Aptitude section—you’ll get around one and a half hours for the Science and Language sections, around two hours for the math and only one hour for Mental Aptitude.

Horror stories have been told of who ran out of time and had to guess from the hip.  It’s very easy to forget this in the middle of answering everything, so keep that watch handy!

Final Advice

Overall, complacency will be your worst enemy during this exam.  I say this because the USTET has a general reputation of being one of the easiest exams to pass (Staying in UST, of course, is another story.).

It’s way too easy to get lulled into a false sense of security and to throw caution to the winds.  Just ask any USTET veteran who paid the price of complacency and he or she will be happy to regale you with stories of mistakes past.  Learn from the mistakes of others, then, and don’t rest on your laurels, even if you think the test is easy.

The best way to do that is to study and pay attention in your high school classes, review your lessons to keep your brain up to snuff and do your best during the USTET itself.  If you learn these good habits early on and continue to apply them throughout your college life, they will help you last—and last well.


With all the hullaballoo over the “Big 3” universities, it’s easy to forget that entrance exams for other worthwhile learning institutions also exist—the USTET, for example.  Potential Thomasians are also gearing up for the big day just like their student brethren.

While the USTET hasn’t exactly garnered a frightening reputation for itself as compared to some of the other exams out there, there are still things about it that are worth noting.  Let’s take a look at some of these.

What to Expect

An entrance exam isn’t an entrance exam without the standard issue stuff:  science, English, reading comprehension and math.  You may look forward to some abstract reasoning questions as well, but the institution may only administer these subtests to architecture and CFAD (College of Fine Arts and Design) applicants.  There’s also no essay test here to fret over.

If you’re an artist, a musician, an architect, or a CFAD applicant, you’ll be asked to go to the extra mile and showcase your talent by taking additional ability tests.  For example, music students will be asked to take a music diagnostic test, sing and play their favorite instrument, while architects and CFAD folks will take tests on structures and abstracts, respectively.

One thing you should keep an eye out for is the MAT (Mental Ability Test or the IQ section)—probably the USTET’s signature section.  While manageable, you’ll only be given twenty minutes to thirty minutes to answer it.  If you’re not careful, you may find yourself running out of time real quick.

Complacency is Deadly

The word on campus is that the USTET is a breeze.  Beware!  It’s attitudes like that that can lead to complacency and eventual disaster.  Just because it doesn’t have right minus-1/4 wrong UPCAT system or the ACET/DLSUCET “pressure cooker” feel doesn’t mean you should take the USTET for granted.  Just ask those who found the test “easy” but who ended up failing it.

Thomasians who have been there, done that recommend that you find a good balance between rushing madly through the exam and resting on your laurels.  In other words, answer as quickly as you possibly can, but don’t go too fast that you miss important details and make stupid mistakes.

As with all entrance tests, answer practice exams well beforehand to get a feel of your optimum speed and adjust accordingly.

Leakage…or Not

Here’s are some things you probably don’t know about the USTET:  one, the test questions are drawn from high school text books whose authors are (surprise!) Thomasian instructors.  If you can get your hands on some, you’ll be good to go.

Furthermore, the UST tends to zero in on IQ, which would explain its more basic, general nature.  Translation:  if you’ve been paying attention in high school and if you pore over your high school lessons for this test, chances are you’ll be very well prepared for it.

Here’s a final reality check: the USTET itself may have a reputation for being easier than some other entrance exams out there, but some UST courses (e.g. nursing, physical therapy and courses that deal with science) are harder to get into, and even harder to stay in for the long haul.  The real work will begin after you land that coveted slot.

My conclusion:  do well in high school, review well, pray and do your best during and after the exam.  That way, you’ll rank highly enough to become a Thomasian yourself.

10 Tips on Acing the UST Interview

After passing the USTET, the next step before you could actually enroll is the scheduled interview. Not all courses require it, but if you are to take up Nursing, Tourism, Physical Therapy and the like, passing the interview is as important as passing the entrance exam. So here are some points to help you increase the chances of passing the interview:

1. Good grooming.

A lot of folks say that the way you look reflects your personality. It might sound cliché but it is actually true. As you take the fist step into the interviewing room and greet the panel, the first thing they notice is basically how you look. Hence, it is very important to keep yourself looking neat and orderly.

  • Get a good haircut for the gents, be sure to leave off those emo or F4 styles behind, at least for the interview. Suit yourself a clean cut, that way you’d look professional and orderly. (Even if you’re not.)
  • For the girls, kindly put your hair tied up neatly. May it be clipped or plainly tied up in a ponytail.   Do NOT get your hair done like you’re going on a debut or wedding. I actually saw someone during her interview sporting that grand hairdo, we called her “salon girl” ever since. Luckily, I still see her around which means she passed anyway.
  • For the guys, please do shave your facial hair. You don’t want to look like Mr.Suave on your interview day, do you?
  • Put some make up on. Of course, that item is for the girls. You might also consider putting on some make up but please, do yourself a favor and spare yourself from heavy make up. Again, you’re not attending a debut. You’re attending an interview. I don’t advise the not-so-girls to wear make-up though. For the guys, just keep your face shine and perspiration fee and you’re good to go.

2. Wear something decent

By wearing something decent, I mean you should avoid being over or under-dressed. The rule is pretty simple, you just have to wear a simple top, simple pants, and closed shoes. You don’t really have to go to UST wearing a semi-formal attire. Also, please do consider that you are applying in a pontifical and Catholic university, therefore, the rules of conservatism apply. Do NOT wear micro-mini-skirts, slippers, plunging necklines, and ultra-high heels. Again, be simple.

3. Observe courtesy

Those simple words and expressions do really mean a lot. Don’t forget to greet the panel with your  good mornings, good afternoons, etc. Be sure that you also include the magic words “po” and “opo” when talking to the panel.

4. Observe Manners

GMRC 101:

  • Knock at the door before going inside the room.
  • Wait for the panelist’s cue to tell you to sit down.

5. Maintain eye contact

This part is also very important. Maintaining eye contact actually shows how sincere you are to your answers. Even if you have award winning answers, lack of eye contact actually kills it. After all, the interviewers are looking for substance, not your answers itself.

6. Smile

Now who could not be convinced with an applicant that smiles a lot? Smiling actually shows how confident you are. When I was being interviewed, I still pulled on with the smiling thingy even though the interviewer is already asking me tough questions. Its like being in a beauty pageant, be graceful even if under pressure.

7. Know the course you’re applying

This is actually basic preparation for any interview which is know what you’re applying for. Know how your course works, its relevance, and how it can help the society in general. Do not also limit yourself with what you actually know about the course, so do your own research.

Say for example, BS Nursing. All the while, I though nurses were just “helpers” of the doctors. After researching, Nursing actually covers a lot of areas such as community health, pharmacology, and so on.

8. Be prepared for questions regarding yourself, your faith, your family and current events.

Since you are applying to the Pontifical Catholic University of the Philippines, expect questions that would pertain to yourself, your family and your faith. Some questions I was asked during my interview were “Describe your family.”, “How would you describe yourself?”, “How do you develop faith?”, etc. Brush up also on the different contemporary social issues such as premarital sex, divorce, etc.  and be prepared with your stand regarding these. (Of course, you also have to know the Church’s viewpoint regarding these issues.)

More or less, you now have a sneak preview on how they formulate questions.

Knowing the current events may also help since some of the questions may require you to relate your answers to these topics. Also don’t forget to prepare your answer on the why-did-you-take-up-this-course questions, they’re inevitable.

9. Be consistent with what you say

This is self explanatory. Be consistent with what you say. Be firm with your stand and what you believe in.

10. Never admit that you were just FORCED to the course you applied.

This is one thing that could either make or break you. As much as possible, never resort to admitting that you were just forced to take up the course you applied in, unless of course if you want to fail the interview.

One of my professors who used to conduct interviews herself once shared that once an applicant shares that he was just FORCED to take that course up, she automatically fails the student. Of course, they have to prioritize the ones who are really interested in the course and those who could pursue with the challenges the course has to offer.

What to Expect from the USTET

what to expect from ustetIt’s amazing what you can get from cartoons.  For example, one of the programs I remember watching as a kid was the animated version of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.  In it, main protagonist Phileas Fogg utters the memorable line, “The motto of the wise is:  be prepared for surprises.”

I never forgot that line, and I believe it’s something that can be applied to real life as well.  Take the USTET, for instance.  If you know exactly what you’ll be getting into, facing it on exam day will hardly count as a surprise.  If that’s exactly what you want, then read on.

USTET Subtests

You may be interested to know that the USTET actually tests your stock knowledge more than anything else.  Surprised?  If you’ve been paying attention in your high school classes, chances are you’ll do pretty well.  And if not, well, there’s always time to review.

As with most entrance exams, the USTET is divided into five main portions:  Mathematics, Science, Language, Personal Information and Mental Aptitude.  Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

Challenging the Challenge

The Personal Info section is pretty self-explanatory.  If you know your own name, your own school, and a host of other important bits of data about yourself, you should be able to clear this section in no time at all.  Unless you’ve been stricken with amnesia, this is the least of your concerns during test time.

Mental Aptitude is where things start heating up.  If you’ve taken any IQ tests in the past, this is what the section will feel like to you.  It consists of about eighty-five items worth of general stuff and lasts for approximately an hour, so don’t dilly-dally.

The one-and-a-half-hour Science section is one of the more focused aspects of the USTET, yet is still general enough to draw upon your stock knowledge.  Around sixty items will be thrown at you here.  Don’t worry, you won’t get anything like rocket science or quantum physics.  Summon your high school lessons in biology, chemistry and physics to your aid and you should do fine.

The Language portion contains the same number of items as the Science section and lasts for the same amount of time.  Have you been reading the test questions carefully so far?  If you have, then well and good.  Do so especially for this section, as reading comprehension is the in thing here.  Some of the sections will involve identifying errors, while others will consist of grammar and vocabulary.  Don’t let the nosebleed-inducing words intimidate you—keep at it!

Finally, the Mathematics section is the longest section in the entire test.  It still consists of sixty items, but the computations you’ll need to do will require additional time.  You have about two hours for this, so keep calm and keep going.  Expect questions related to algebra, geometry and basic trigonometry, among others.  Don’t worry about anything like calculus, but don’t get complacent, either.

A Final Word

If there’s one other thing you should expect with regard to the USTET, it’s the horrendous amount of vehicular and human traffic on the day of the exam.  You also, unfortunately, may end up in a room designed to freeze your socks off, so be sure to prepare accordingly.

Finally, keep those all-important testing permit and USTET brochure handy.  The former item will authorize you to take the exam (duh!) and will note your room assignment, while the latter item will tell you exactly what you need to bring on the day of the test.

Now that you know what’s coming, taking the USTET need not be scary endeavor anymore.  Ready yourself in mind, body and spirit, and then, get out there and knock ‘em dead!

Writer’s Disclaimer:  The information that follows is the most recent information that the writer was able to acquire with regard to USTET content.  It is entirely possible that the said content may have changed sometime between the time of the research and the writing of this article, so be warned.

Increasing your Chances of Passing the USTET

increase your chances of passing the ustetThere’s word going around that the University of Santo Tomas Entrance Test is relatively easier when compared to certain other entrance exams out there.  That may or may not be the case depending on who you ask.  One thing’s for sure, though:  you’ll still be up against hundreds of thousands of other applicants vying for slots, regardless, so it’s never a good idea to rest get complacent.

As with other things, it pays to not only work hard, but to work smart as well.  Here are a few guidelines to help you pass that exam with flying colors and increase your chances of landing that much-coveted university slot.

Preparing for USTET


Repeat after me one hundred times:  I will not cram a few days before the exam.  Seriously, winging it a day before the big event will get you nowhere.  The real preparation time for the test starts months – even years – before the USTET day.  If need be, and if you have the budget for it, you may wish to consult a review or testing center.  There’s no shame in for asking for assistance whenever and wherever it’s warranted.

Start adding stuff to your stock knowledge as early as possible, as the test draws primarily upon that.  You may want to review a few weeks before the testing day, just to keep things fresh.  The only time I’d advise you not to review would be the day before the big day, and there’s actually a very good reason for that.

The Law of the Lid states that even when you do your best, there’s an absolute limit to how much you can accomplish on your own within a specific time span.  There will come a point wherein feeding cramming every available bit of into your brain won’t help.

Instead, take it more slowly and get the things you’ll need in order:  a couple of Number 2 Mongol pencils, an eraser, a watch, and your test permit (a jacket is optional for testing rooms with temperatures below zero.).  You’re allowed to nibble on something while you’re taking the exam, so pack water and some brain-boosting snacks like fruits or nuts to keep you in the game.

Once those are out of the way, take the time to do a relaxing activity.  Meditate, watch some inspiring movies, play games – do whatever it takes to get you into that optimal mental state for the following day.  Finally, pray for wisdom and get a good night’s sleep so that your brain will be primed and ready.


Make sure you stock up on fuel adequately before the exam.  Depending on the time of your test, though, you may wish to avoid wolfing your meal down (save that for afterward).  Pigging out before an afternoon exam isn’t recommended, as the blood your brain needs will sink to your stomach.  If it’s in the morning, however, a good breakfast will go a long way.

If you want to get the worm (figuratively, that is), leave early to avoid the rush.  It’s never a good idea to get caught in a sea of human traffic or otherwise en route to the testing center.  Time your departure so that you can arrive about an hour before the test and psych yourself up.

Now get ready:  the tricky part is just up ahead.

The key to successfully completing the exam is to answer the questions as quickly as you can without sacrificing carefulness in the process – that’s why your watch is there to help you budget your time.  Immediately go for the questions you feel most confident about answering.

Once you’ve breezed through them, go back and answer the ones you’re not quite sure of.  If need be, take your best guess.  Do your best to set aside time to review your answers and stick with that.  Chances are you’ll probably change a wrong answer into a correct one.

The Aftermath


Congratulations.  You made it!  Stretch and breathe a prayer of thanks to your Maker.  Since you’ve run the gauntlet, take the time to relax.  And whatever you do, don’t worry about the results.  If you’ve seen the movie “The Secret”, then you understand why this is important.

In case you haven’t seen the film, its basic premise states that what you visualize and focus on in your mind eventually manifests itself in reality.  If you’ve done your best to prepare for the test, and you’ve done your best during the test, and you believe that you have done well, that is exactly what will happen.

Now go out there and conquer that exam!

USTET Schedule and Important Dates

There are dates that we simply cannot forget.  It may be as romantic as a wedding anniversary or as melancholy as a funeral.  If it’s one thing a college hopeful shouldn’t forget, it’s the date of an entrance exam.

Fortunately, various universities have set up schedules that include all the important dates that any applicant should remember.  For those of you who are interested in attending the University of Santo Tomas, here are a few dates you can’t afford to be ignorant of.

The USTET Application Period

The first thing to do is to get the application process rolling.  It’s an awfully simple task, considering that UST already started accepting Metro Manila applicants last July 1, 2009. It will continue to dog so all the way until December 5 of this year.

Just drop by the UST Admissions Office anytime from eight in the morning till five in the afternoon.  The office itself is located in the Tan Yan Kee Student Center, Room 104 inside the UST campus.

USTET Testing Dates:  Metro Manila Applicants

August 23– 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 nn and 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

October 5, 2009– 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 nn and 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

December 6 2009 – 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 nn and 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

That’s right; all three dates fall on Sundays.  Better get your rest and relaxation the day before if you want to do well.  Also note that the above schedule does not apply to potential students in the provinces.  They’ll have their own schedules to follow, as shown below.

USTET Testing Dates:  Provincial Applicants

Baguio City, Benguet – October 4, 2009

Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija – November 7, 2009

Dagupan City, Pangasinan – November 8, 2009

Legazpi City, Albay – September 27, 2009

Olongapo City, Zambales – September 5, 2009

As you can see, each and every provincial testing center has its own schedule.  Due to the sheer number of places available, I’ve listed only a handful of them above.  If you’d like more info on your particular region, check out a more comprehensive list available here:

Just for the record, the University also offers the USTET to international applicants.  As with the Philippine provincial testing centers, the exact exam dates vary, so kindly consult this site for more information.

Releasing of Results

As with any entrance test, you’ll need to wait for the powers-that-be to finish checking papers and tallying scores.  Fortunately, the kind folks at the UST Admissions Office have told me that the results will be out sometime during the middle of January 2010.

No exact date has been given, so check back with them every so often for updates.  If you like, you may get in touch with them at 406-1611 local 8276 or 309-7211.  If you prefer to use a mobile phone, they’re also available at 0917-8156323 or 0919-3522634.  You may also send them e-mail at

For those of you who may be reading this in the province or in another country, simply visit the official UST website for more details.