A guide to the UPCAT and other college entrance exams


Posted at Jul 31 2013 06:41 PM | Updated as of Aug 03 2013 04:02 AM

MANILA – ‘Tis the season for college entrance exams again, starting with the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) this weekend.

Thousands of young hopefuls will once again vie for slots in academic institutions in the Philippines and abroad. With the tight competition for the country’s best schools, what do potential entrants have to do to get into their ideal university, aside from doing well in elementary and high school and getting good grades?

There has been a slew of advice given by review centers, parents, teachers and university graduates to examinees throughout the years. However, the best pieces of advice remain true throughout the years, no matter what schools examinees are applying to—study, rest, and have faith in their god, their education and themselves.

They should also consider bringing food, plus an extra pencil or three, just to be on the safe side, and remember to bring their exam permits.

Other practical advice not eating anything that may cause indigestion or allergies the night before and on the day of the exam, going to the bathroom before the exam starts, and arriving at the venue early to avoid any hassle.

Also, aside from reading exam instructions carefully, applicants should listen to the proctors or test administrators, and not be afraid to ask questions.

There are also the little things that examinees may find useful to know, such as that UPCAT takers can eat in their seats while the exams are ongoing. Ateneo College Entrance Test (ACET) takers, however, can only eat during break times.


Scheduled on August 3-4, the UPCAT is again going to be a cause for traffic in and near campuses of the University of the Philippines, as well as testing centers scattered around the country.

In 2012, the Office of Admissions said there were over 74,000 applicants. Due to the competition between applicants, some have even opted to go to review centers to gain an edge.

The UPCAT is a multiple-choice exam with questions in Filipino and English. Unlike last year, essay questions will not be included. Its four subtests cover Language Proficiency, Science, Mathematics and Reading Comprehension. Examinees are given a set period of time to finish the UPCAT.

An applicant’s score in the UPCAT will only be part of the requirements for admission to the UP system. UPCAT scores will be combined with the weighted average of final grades in the first three years of high school to determine if a student will be admitted or not.

According to the Office of Admissions, examinees must be at the test venue by 6:30 a.m. for the morning session, and 12:30 p.m. for the afternoon session. This means it would be best to leave home early to cope with heavy traffic and other unexpected things that can happen.

Examinees must bring their Test Permit, pencils, a sharpener, rubber eraser and snacks, as the exam proper can last for as long as five hours. They are not allowed to use cellphones and calculators. If caught, an applicant can be disqualified.

‘Iskolar ng Bayan’

While among the most hyped and anticipated college entrance exams in the country, those who have taken the UPCAT and passed said examinees should not worry too much, as they will surely pass if they are well prepared and are confident in their answers.

According to officers of the University Student Council of UP Diliman, those who want to become an “Iskolar ng Bayan” should sift through the many pieces of advice about taking the UPCAT and find what works for them.

Despite what some say against cramming the night before the exam, for example, USC Vice-chair Jules Guiang said it worked for him. “Cramming works. It worked for me, and I guess [it can work for] thousands of Iskolar ng Bayan as well.”

Dan Nieva, Engineering Representative to the USC, however, insisted that resting the night before the exam is important.

USC Councilor Carla Gonzalez said it may be good to avoid skipping questions. “[Try to] answer everything,” she said. Fellow councilor Arjay Mercado meanwhile advised examinees, “Don’t stay long in one problem.”

This was seconded by Social Sciences and Philosophy Representative Chris Alquizalas, who said examinees would do well to manage their time and keep the time limit in mind during the UPCAT.

Public Administration and Governance Representative Lui Angeles summed up her peers’ advice: “Huwag ma-pressure sa mga katabi, just focus and do your best.”


The Ateneo College Entrance Test (ACET) is scheduled at the Loyola Heights Campus in Quezon City on September 21 and 22; at Provincial Testing Centers on September 21; and at International Testing Centers in October this year.

According to the Office of Admission and Aid, the ACET is “skewed for above-average students”. However, it is not impossible to pass, as long as students prepared well.

In an online guide, the Ateneo de Manila University said the ACET is not designed to be finished, but it is possible for applicants to answer all the questions.

Like the UPCAT, the ACET is only part of the requirements for admission in Ateneo de Manila University. Other factors include high school grades, recommendations of teachers and an essay submitted as part of application.

The ACET also contains multiple-choice questions and essay questions in English, and covers several areas of study such as Mathematics, English and General Intelligence.

The Ateneo has several official tips for exam-takers: sleep well the night before the test and don’t be late. The university also advises against cramming the night before the test, and said examinees should eat a proper meal beforehand.


The University of Santo Tomas Entrance Test (USTET) this year is scheduled on three dates in the Manila campus: August 25 (first batch), September 29 (second batch) and December 1 (last batch). Schedules in Provincial and International Testing Centers vary, and will be from late August until November.

Like its counterparts, questions will cover several areas of study including Mathematics, English and Science. Aside from USTET scores, admission into the country’s oldest university will depend on high school grades.

The USTET, unlike the UPCAT, is not a right-minus-wrong exam. Despite its reputation for being less taxing than the ACET and UPCAT, it should not be underestimated, especially as it also tests abstract and logical reasoning.

It would be useful for entrants to arrive early for exams, as Manila traffic conditions can be tricky, especially in rainy weather.


Scheduled on September 29 and October 6, 2013, the DLSU-CET is part of the requirements for admission into the De La Salle University, along with an applicant’s high school grades and recommendation letters from teachers.

In addition to multiple choice questions, the DLSUCET has a reputation for containing challenging essay questions, which examinees have to answer in Filipino and English under time pressure. The exam covers multiple areas of study including Math, Science, English, and also tests abstract and logical reasoning.

Like in UST, applicants may also want to arrive early, to avoid getting stuck in traffic or worse, lost due to newly-implemented traffic schemes.