The story of a sleepy civil engineer who once lost motivation but passed the Civil Engineering licensure exam November 2019 in one take.
I graduated last April 2019. After I got my diploma, I knew my next goal is to pass the board exam and earn that license.
Early May, the review center classes for Civil Engineering began. There are a lot of good review centers for the CE Boards, there is the oldest one, Besavilla Review Center, Padilla, the Caltech friendly Mega Review Center, the well known Review Innovations (R.I), the new ones like Esplana and so much more. Our school is somehow associated with Mega and R.I so majority of us went to those. Together with my friends. I made a downpayment at Mega Review Center as we were convinced by their calculator technique. Some of my friends went to R.I and Esplana though.
I was excited at first, enthusiastic in attending the review classes in Mega even if it was so damn early (7am classes y’all!). I was motivated as well when I did well on their evaluation exams and diagnostic exams. I had these small notebooks where all the necessary formulas are written.
I studied at different cafes around Mendiola after classes since our review class ends at 12:30PM but then around the mid of July, I began to feel unmotivated. I once missed a class and then it was followed by another absence and another until I found myself just sleeping and being all lazy at our apartment for two straight weeks. I felt lost and stuck. Everyone was studying and then here I am sleeping around.
I don’t want to go with them either just like what most people say that you should go with diligent people so you’ll be like them. No. That’s not it. I just felt off whenever they brag about how much they know that moment, sure you can review with that but it’s just not for me.
After then, I decided to revise my plan. I asked myself why do I feel lazy attending the review center, Mega was a great RC, the problem is it just doesn’t match with my ways. I felt bored with their super detailed lectures, I only wanted their caltech. I didn’t like how their evaluation exams are so hard, harder than the actual board exam because it was designed not to be back-solved, or be answered by caltech or be answered easily in general.
I attended our school’s refresher classes with my closest CE friends where the top 3 of CE board exam 2017, Engr. Hans Lawrence Dela Cruz is our lecturer hoping I’ll get motivated again. I did, but it wasn’t enough.
I wanted a review center that is straight to the point, I don’t want to know other things, I wanna know the types of questions that comes out of the board exam, teach me how to solve it, make me master it up to the point that when I see a question, I know how to answer it. Besides, this is about passing the board exam not knowing everything about Civil Engineering. That’s when I decided to finally stop attending classes and I studied on my own everyday, alone. I quietly studied on my own not letting my friends know which part I am on and where I study because it wasn’t necessary.
August 16, I went to Naga City, a pilgrim city, with my Dubredo friends and did a church hopping to pray for my board exam, wishing that I’ll pass. This served as my last vacation too for this whole review era.
My friend, Tyrone, then passed his licensure exam around August, he’s now a licensed Mechanical Engineer. I asked him for tips and he said it’s hard to pass without a review center. He said the board examinee really need an RC to be confident on. With his advice, I began to reevaluate things again, I needed a review center and in perfect timing, my mother texted me and said I should enroll on Besavilla Review Center even if it was quite late already, so I did.
After months of doing self review, I had my last months review and coaching at Besavilla Review Center in España. I really didn’t want my friends to know about it because Besavilla is really a big thing for CE and I didn’t want them to expect so much from me and bombard me with pahingi ng module niyo, notes niyo, reviewer niyo. I needed to focus but jokes on me, they still discovered about it.
Just like the early days, I was excited to attend my review classes on BRC but unlike in Mega, I didn’t miss a single class here. I took the weekend schedule, our classes run from 8AM to 5PM in the afternoon. Throughout the review, I had three repeating lecturers, Engr. Palma, Engr. Bachicha and Engr. Quizon who were really great.
October 3, days after our refresher course began, a horrifying announcement from PRC came out and really made us devastated. It was the banning of the Casio 570ES Plus calculator that we’ve been trained to use since college and they happen to decide to ban it just a few weeks before the board exam!!!! Then they decides to replace it with an older model Casio 82EX and Casio 350EX which doesn’t have shift solve, 3 equations 3 unknowns, differential, integration and vectors. NAGULANTANG KAMI LAHAT.
Simpleng reservoir sa Hydraulics Engineering aabutin ka ng siyam siyam kung walang shift solve what more yung sa design? Moment capacity? Finding ‘a’? Finding no. of bars given the axial capacity of column? It will take us several minutes without shift solve and take note, we only have 5 hours for Mathematics, Surveying and Transportation Engineering, MSTE (75 items), 4 hours for Hydraulics and Geotechnical Engjneering (50items) and 5 hours for Structural Engineering and Costruction, SEC (75 items). Time matters in board exam. It would be fine if we’ll be given less number of items but no.
Once again, I felt weak and unmotivated and disappointed. I continued solving past board exams and I noticed how the new calculator is making me so slow in answering the questions and I can’t be fine with that. The board exam has time. TIME MATTERS.
I visited my soul mommy, VP Leni at her office early in October and ranted about the sudden calculator change just to ease the tension inside me a bit and she sympathized but she focused on motivating me by saying that she’ll be praying for me and she’ll be proud if I pass and even if still haven’t, she’s still proud. I’m so soft for her.
Because of her words, I recalibrated things and stopped complaining about the calculator and thought it’s just between deal with it and pass or give up.
I asked myself, what do you really want? To become a topnotcher, to pass, I replied. I tried to motivate myself but I must admit, it didn’t feel quite enough.
Good thing, I was lucky to be able to be lectured by the super lolo legendary Engr. Venancio Besavilla Jr., himself. He taught us design topics, slabs and foundation design. He taught us everything he knows and gave us his own lecture notes for us to study to be able to counter Ma’am Praxy’s SEC exam. He also told us that he flew from Cebu to Manila in order to send a request letter to President Duterte about the calculator because it’s just a few weeks before the board exam and the stocks of the newly allowed calculator turned zero despite that there are still a lot who doesn’t have it. He also encouraged our class to take the personalized coaching classes because that’s BRC’s most powerful weapon among the other review centers. Only BRC has the strongest coaching for MSTE. Most review centers rely on teaching everything under Mathematics, Surveying and Transpo but BRC have their special method for this, they have the most accurate predictions and topics to teach. BRC’s MSTE refresher and coaching are really the sharpest weapons vs MSTE.
(Ma’am Praxedes Bernardo, by the way, is the PRC CE Examiner for SEC which is known to be the toughest enemy of the aspiring civil engineers. She was a graduate of Mapua Institute of Technology, a CE topnotcher during her time, Engr. Venancio Besavilla Jr was the top 2.)
After Engr. Besavilla’s lecture and motivation period, I swear to God, I mastered the topics he taught, I was highly motivated. I felt powerful, I felt half ready. Kahit anong calculator pa yan, I’m ready.
Our refresher course continued and because I was highly motivated, I finished all the topics covered on the past licensure exams and I decided to focus resolving the refresher quizzes over and over with the assistance of Besavilla’s CE Licensure Examination book and Gillesania’s CE Reference. I did it at home in Cavite since my classes are only during weekends.
I went back to Manila at October 25, Friday and passed by St. Jude Chapel. That’s when I pledged to God that I will be doing a fasting of not drinking any milk tea, no samgyeupsal and I will be lighting a candle at St. Jude everyday no matter what happens, rain or shine. I even bought my own lighter because there were times at night that there were no lit up candle left in the chapel and I had to light up my own. It was my voluntary sacrifice to resonate my wish of passing the board exam to the higher.
I continued this routine and as our refresher ended and holidays came, I scheduled myself to wake up at nine in the morning EVERYDAY, take a bath and study at Just In Time study hub in Mendiola from morning up until 5am the next day because they offer a P180 all day pass for all board examinees that will take their exam in less than a month. I made the most of it. It was a new study hub in the place, it was near our apartment, just one jeepney away and it was really conducive for learning. I can also take naps there when I feel exhausted or drink free coffee if I feel sleepy. I am so grateful for their cheap rates, I mastered the topics well in this place.
As per my schedule, November 4 should be the last day of my self review. I should have covered all the topics and mastered it by that time. The next days will just be browsing and mentally thinking of how to solve the pass board exams by just looking at the questions and the given. Luckily, I managed to achieve that and follow my schedule.
November 4 was the beginning of our coaching in BRC as well. EJ and Rex enrolled on BRC’s coaching and it was thrilling for me to have my friends on the same class because ever since I entered BRC, I didn’t have close friends though I managed to have new friends like Bea and Iana. It was intensive and specific. The questions were answered faster than the refresher (more bc the lecturers assume we know it already and passed through it over and over because it was on our review modules and refresher quizzes and CE Licensure Book) and it’s just the past board exams and the May 2019 board exam (most recent) questions being answered over and over. It’s really impossible for you not to master the ways of the examiners with the number of times we solved their past sets of questions.
After I finished covering all the topics, I felt ready and powerful but after our classroom coaching, I felt even more powerful. I knew from the last day of our classroom coaching that I will pass the board exam. Our lecturers made me feel that and this must be the effect of BRC’s way to me. It made me confident.
November 7 was our last day of classroom coaching. November 8, 2PM, we were called at Madison 101 in Quezon City for Besavilla Review Center’s Hotel coaching. EJ, Rex and I passed by St. Jude Chapel in Malacañang to light a candle and ask St. Jude our wish for the last time since we won’t be able to visit him again once we enter the hotel coaching, going out is strictly prohibited.
BRC’s hotel coaching is where they teach the most accurate predictions for MSTE and Hydrau/Geo. All our phones and gadgets were confiscated the moment we entered the hotel so there will be no leakage of the coaching happening inside. It’s like we’re in PBB house lol. But it was nice because we were highly focused on the board exam without our phones with us and it kept us away from distractions. No emotional, mental or intellectual distractions from the social media and texting world. It’s just us and the review materials and our comfortable rooms. Included in the coaching package is transportation transfers from our hotel to our designated testing centers, our meals, exclusive of lunch since we’ll be on our testing centers during lunch time but for our breakfast and dinner? BRC got us some good homemade meals.
My room assignment was on St. Jude College in Sampaloc, Manila, room 403 at BED Bldg.
Room assignments were announced Thursday and the moment I knew my room assignment, I searched for some horoscope (lol) and it was such a coincidence that the lucky number of rat for this year is 23 and I am no. 23 on the room list. Woah. I felt even more powerful.
After then, BRC staffs knocked on our doors at three to wake us up since we had no alarm clocks and gadgets. After I took a bath and dressed up, I went down to get our breakfast. You might wanna ask if I wore the famous red undies as part of the beliefs of the exam takers, my answer is YES! Lol! I did wear red undies on my first day of exam hoping it will make me feel more confident and ready. Wala namang masama ‘di ba?
Friday night was really a tough one. I don’t know if I’m excited or nervous or what but we all struggled to sleep. I was able to sleep for an hour or two but it wasn’t that deep but this is normal, I guess?
BRC drove us to St. Jude College, there were different vans for each school/room assignment. I arrived at the place around 6am. There were policemen in the entrance checking our NOA and calculators before we head up to our rooms.
I took the MSTE exam at 8am. It was inevitable not to tremble or feel nervous once you see the questionnaire being distributed. As soon as I got mine (set A), I skimmed through the pages trying to look for the easy and familiar ones first to build up my confidence and ease my anxiousness. At first I was intimidated by the long problems but then I continued answering the easy ones first and faced the long ones after I built myself, I barely noticed how I already answered over 50% of the questions and I am certain of all that. I felt empowered. At this moment, I began answering the tough questions then I told myself “Jam, I believe in you. This one’s for you, God.” Then naturally, I lost all the nervousness and worry, I finished answering an hour before the time I was able to take a careful nap because I was sleepy(careful nap means napping without folding my paper lol) and whenever I feel drowsy in the midst of answering, I eat my snacks (Meiji dark chocolate bar and Chips Ahoy Chewy Cookies). Then just a few minutes before the time, our proctor said we can pass our papers already if we’re done. Then I did and I went out to have my lunch, I had Sinigang at Lakay Restaurant for only P60. Yum!
I went back to the 4th floor and took a nap again outside our room assignment. I was hell of drowsy after the MSTE and even before our Hydraulics and Geotechnical Engineering began. If I remember correctly I fell alseep for about ten minutes during this period. I panicked when I woke up because the exam is only good for four hours and the questions looked quite different from the past board exam questions, it wasn’t situational that you can easily back solve. Yet, I didn’t let this fact bother me, I told myself, I mastered Hydraulics and Geotechnical engineering a long time ago, nothing scares me. Then my mind absorbed that instruction.
I managed to answer the questions well and even the new and unfamiliar ones. I admit I wasn’t sure of everything but again, I made sure that I am sure of at least 50% of my answers and yes, I was sure of half the whole exam. I finished earlier than the due time again so I took a nap again. I wonder what the proctors think of me that time. Wala na ba ‘tong masagot kaya natulog nalang? One can only speculate. I went home confident that I did well though.
For the second day of my exam, I prepared myself for the toughest one. Ma’am Praxedes Bernardo’s Structural Engineering and Construction. It’s always intimidating because structural is very technical and code based topic and our exam consists of 34 pages — the hardest but then again, I had to condition myself. I cannot let anything intimidate me, I told myself “Kaka-master mo lang ng design, fresh pa yan sa’yo. Si Engr. Besavilla at Engr. Palma ang nagturo sa’yo niyan sa review center. Si Engr. Delima ang prof mo sa RCD at PCD, si Engr. Sarzaba ang prof mo sa Mechanics, TOS at Strength nung college. Plakado ang mga nagturo niyan sa’yo. Halos six months mong inaral yan, anong ikakatakot mo?” My confidence began to rise.
I skimmed through the pages looking for the easy and familiar ones then I managed to build my confidence again. I admit that there are problems in the exam that I never encountered before and are purely code based and I clearly have no idea of how it goes but I told myself that if it was based on the code and the code is attached on the exam questionnaire, I could use it to find the answer. I calmed myself down and thought it was my way during the time I was self studying. I didn’t know anything, I relied on the books and resources and this time. I simulated my mind and imagined I was just reviewing. I studied the tables and codes given and then suddenly I just knew how it works. I felt resurrected, I continued answering and then I realized I managed to surely answer 50% of the questions again. This time, I was confident that I’ll make it.
The ones I can’t understand and had no idea of can be counted by fingers, I told God that I really have no idea of how it goes. I apologized in case I answer it wrongly because I told him that exam was for him and I didn’t want to give him so many wrong answers. I owed it to him.
Again, I finished earlier than the other again. I rested my mind for a few minutes before I decided to pass my paper and leave the area.
As I leave the place, I fathomed about my whole examination experience. I evaluated myself and I was 85% sure that I will pass and it was enough. I went back to the hotel to get my things and went home to Cavite right away since the exam ended at 1PM. I wanted to see my family immediately so that I get to see the people who believed in me before I did.
Today, November 14. Just a few minutes before 12AM, the results came out and I saw my name on the passer’s list.
Out of the 15,075 civil engineers who tried, only 6,510 passed and I am one of them.
I knew I’ll make it.
Though I failed to make it to the topnotcher’s list. Yepp, I was that confident of myself that I thought I’ll make it to the top but sometime’s you just got to believe in yourself, believe that you can be at the top so that if you go a little lower, you won’t fall towards failing the whole examination. I don’t regret anything and I am proud of myself. Aim high!
As for my review center recommendation, I suggest you take Mega’s review classes and then take Besavilla’s refresher and coaching sessions. Perfect combo with your self reviews. Mega’s detailed review might just be the perfect foundation for you and Besavilla’a refresher and coaching are the greatest source of confidence for your last days. Tapos na lahat ng review, refresher at coaching ng ibang review centers pero si Besavilla hanggang sa huling araw ng exam mo, hindi ka iiwanan.
Lastly, this may sound really cliché but believe in yourself. Calm down and DON’T let anything intimidate you during exam.
Less than 45% passing rate? One of the hardest board exams? That’s nothing to an examinee with a will to pass, a faith to believe and a trust to one’s self.
Do your part, study well, pray to God and a day before your exam, tell yourself:
And you will.
Now that I am officially a registered Civil Engineer, it’s my time to serve our country and contribute to our industry. Once I start earning well, I promise to help people in need.
Good luck to the next batches of Civil Engineers to take the licensure board exam! You can do it!