Engr. Onde, who was a topnotcher in the CE Board and now a mentor in a review center, shares tips. Note: he did not graduate with honors.
Here are board exam tips from a topnotcher review instructor.
Suppose you are an engineering student in the Philippines pursuing a profession that the government regulates. In that case, the odds are that you are already thinking about whether or not you could pass the board exam after graduation.
This is a common mindset since it is not the college diploma that is the ultimate measure of being an engineer in the country, but the engineering license earned after conquering the board examination.
While some seek to meet the bare minimum, i.e., to pass the board exam and get the license, others dream of becoming topnotchers for the glory and prestige that comes with it.
More often than not, the cream of the crop is the one expected to have this ambition because of their capacity.
But let me tell you this: you do not need to graduate with Latin honors to become a topnotcher.
You, who is an ordinary engineering student who finds difficulty in studying engineering and fails from time to time, could achieve the same success.
Take, for example, Engr. Francisco Onde Jr., is known as France to his friends.
He marched for his diploma in civil engineering in April 2014 at Cebu Technological University (CTU) – Main Campus without an honor sash, only to place second on the topnotcher’s list for the CE Board Exam a month later.
That’s because he prioritized learning far more than getting good grades.
When asked about which study tips engineering students should emulate from him, Engr. Onde mentioned studying for knowledge, not for grades.
With that kind of learning principle, it is no wonder that he was very successful as a quizzer in various civil engineering competitions.
Here are some of his significant recognition below:
Of course, there was pressure on him to ace the board exam being a champion quizzer. And as mentioned, he delivered.
Engr. Onde got a rating of 94.9%, which is a point away from first place in the board exam. Still, he is grateful.
Right after he topped the board exam, he served as a topnotcher review instructor at Gillesania Engineering Review and Training Center in Cebu, which was his training ground as an aspiring civil engineer.
The 25-year-old engineer keeps the same job as of posting.
According to him, he finds so much delight in his work. While preparing the reviewers for the board exam is a struggle at times, Engr. Onde feels that it is his calling to turn dreams into reality.
So far, he has mentored thousands of engineering reviewers who are now registered, civil engineers.
I came upon Engr. Onde and asked him questions about his life as an engineering student, a reviewer, and a topnotcher review instructor.
This exchange transcribed below is for all who need tips on not only preparing for the board exam but on how to become a topnotcher just like him.
I first wanted to be an architect. But CTU (which has the cheapest tuition fee in Cebu) was not offering the course, so I chose BSCE, the same as what my older brother had taken.
It was my TLE teacher during my second senior high year who inspired me to be an architect or an engineer.
I became a math lover after I experienced a failure during my first senior high year.
So since my first year of college, math subjects have been my favorite subjects.
Aside from being a math enthusiast, I also love structural design subjects.
I was not attentive to minor subject lectures, especially in the Spanish class.
I had a struggle with Geotechnical Engineering and even got a 3.0 or 75% grade.
I was too focused on preparing for quiz bowls by studying late. It made me miss my classes until I couldn’t cope up anymore.
Prior to the board exam, I gave most of my time focusing on it, even from the basic principles, to understand the more complicated topics.
Because of it, I got a high score in the subject, which is my highest score among the 3 board exam subjects.
For engineering students, especially for working students like I was, be diligent in your studies. Give more time to study even if there is no major exam coming—study for knowledge, not for grades.
Lessen time for pleasures, but enjoy college life at the same time.
Be principle-based, not formula-based, or at least understand where the formulas come from and when and how they should be used.
Be resilient to different kinds of teachers you could encounter. There are tough ones, there are also boring ones, but to any of them, listen to their lectures. Learn from them.
Aside from the Geotech, I had a struggle in our Project Study.
For us to take the May 2014 board exam, we had to graduate in April 2014.
So while getting to the review class in the morning, we had to go to school to attend the classes and finish our studies and prepare for the panel defense.
It did not end well but got a passing rate, just enough to march on April’s commencement exercises.
I also had to represent the school to compete against other great universities in quiz bowls.
I missed many review days because of these.
After graduation, I only had one month left to prepare. During these days, I focused on the most possible problems that may come out.
I dedicated most of my time to solving the past board exams using the CE reference books by Engr DIT Gillesania.
There were nights that I couldn’t sleep, and my mind was full of questions and doubts. I did have nightmares prior to the exam.
It did go on every night until my fellow Christian, Kuya Enoch, prayed to God for peace in my mind. He quoted the bible verse from that day on, which became one of my favorite bible verses.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God with thanksgiving.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
From that day on, the restless nights turned to nights full of His peace and assurances that He is with me and will never leave me.
Yes. I did, and I do. It is in review centers where you can get guidance on what, where, and how you should study.
I went to Gillesania Engineering Review and Training Center.
I also went to Review Innovations (a partner of GERTC) to take the pre-board exam and ask for guidance from topnotcher review instructor, prof, and teacher.
But it mainly was Engr. Gillesania, who guided me in the preparations.
Difficult. It was the most challenging exam I have taken since the review.
Aside from problem difficulty, the place and clothes I wore were factors for me to feel uncomfortable. Also, the number of pages of the questionnaires made me slower in solving the problems.
When I was still taking the Math subject, I felt like I couldn’t top the board.
I had many unsure answers and thought that many could get higher scores than me.
Same as well when I was taking the Hydraulics and Geotech exam.
I was so disappointed with myself that day and even did sleep right after going back to my room.
It was during Structural Engineering that I could say to myself that I had a significant chance of topping the exam because most of the problems were discussed by Sir Gillesania during our refresher times.
Yes, I did feel like my name will be among the list of top placers but not within first to fifth but among the rest.
I was speechless when a friend of mine called me to say that I got 2nd place. My siblings, who were also waiting for the result, asked me if I passed or topped the exam.
I calmly said I got the second rank, and they yelled, rejoicing on my behalf, and called my parents right away to tell them the result.
I was about to attend our church service at that time.
So, I did go to the church and praised and worshiped God because of that wonderful gift he gave me.
I felt a slight disappointment that I was not able to get the first rank which would be possible by having at least one more correct answer from any of the subjects.
But after thanking God through prayers, He made me realize that it’s more than enough.
Even just passing the exam is more than enough as long as the glory goes back to Him.
God. Without Him, I am just nothing. He was my source of hope, strength, and wisdom during that time, and until now, still, He is. He made everything in order, giving me everything I needed at His exact time.
He was the one who brought people to help me in my review journey. He was the one who led me to people that would guide me.
He has given me a family that supports me, friends who also bear my burdens, and mentors in the school and review center who were so selfless in helping me in that journey.
So glory to Him and Him alone!
Now to Him who can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-21
Do not study hard, but study wisely. The subjects are so broad but know the limits of the subjects, the boundaries from where they start to where they end.
No need to study all but just the probable topics.
Understand principles well and understand where the formulas come from. Derive them as much as possible.
Have a consistent time in studying and enough time to sleep. Eat well and do not drink too much coffee.
Have leisure time like playing basketball or any game that relaxes you from stress.
Listen and sing worship songs while practicing problem-solving (It was indeed effective to me, praise God!).
Notes and exam preparations.
We are providing them with the exact questions or topics they must master. The problems that must be given must be updated as much as possible by analyzing the type of problems the recent examiners have been giving—research what reference books the examiners are using.
Helping the students to reach their dreams, knowing some of them have been struggling for at least 5 years just to be licensed engineers.
With more than thousands of students I’ve helped and knowing the joy they felt when at last they become engineers, it motivates me more to help even thousands more of them that are to come.
Many great men of God in the Bible had experienced failures. Even great people who are known today also experienced failures in their lives. I motivate them not to surrender.
Then I asked them what the topics were that made them fail. I guide them to focus on those engineering topics and advise them to be more diligent in understanding them. Help them allocate more time for complex subjects and give less time to easier ones.
Be engineers for God. Let it be that your works glorify God and are pleasing to Him. Avoid being engineers who seek for own pleasures and greed like corrupt people.
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” – Colossians 3:23
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Light it up like dynamite, Whoa!
Familiarity of the problems presented is key
Thousands of engineers can attest that these methods work in helping you improve your problem solving skills in engineering.
Try and Try Until You Succeed
This is my love letter to all aspiring engineers, heck to everyone who experienced that feeling of never being enough for someone or something.
I was an overconfident and happy-go-lucky engineering student.