This year’s Upcat rocks!By Julius Marlon L. Javellana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It was very challenging because it was so unpredictable. I focused my studies on math because it was supposed to be the hardest part of Upcat. It’s where UP gets you. They make the question sound complicated (“What is the perimeter of a triangle if…”) when it’s actually easy.
Science was supposed to be a cinch but it turned out to be the hardest. It became so infamous in online reactions. With the questions, you would develop a very deep and meaningful relationship with conjunctions, linking verbs and adjectives—those were the only words that made sense.
Consider this: When were the fossils of jelly fish and corals more abundant? There was a graph with scientific names of species and some variables “precambrian” and “arthropods.” Even the brightest in our class had to guess the answer.
To say that most of the 80 science questions were hard would be an understatement. So many of the terms I haven’t met in my life.
In language proficiency, I had a smile on my face because the questions were somewhat related to what our English teacher prepared us for. Questions on subject-verb agreement and on common expressions were practical. For instance, “Would you please take me to the library?” “Come again” would have been a crass answer, “Pardon me” had more class.
The reading comprehension part was lengthy and really tested our logical thinking. Good that my review classes at Ahead practiced us in speed reading with understanding and also shortcuts in solving math problems.
We, Upcat Batch 2013, made history and I was happy to be part of it. On Friday, before the weekend exam, one of our teachers told us that the Upcat would include an essay portion for the first time. “Congratulations, you are the first batch to be tortured,” our teacher joked.
Our class had mixed feelings, mostly apprehension. “Don’t worry,” our teacher said, and promised to pray for us.
After the first and second batches of examinees had taken the test (the morning and afternoon of Aug. 4), their essay questions were posted on Facebook and elicited all sorts of reactions. Those who wrote the Upcat questions were probably laughing.
I was in the last of four groups that took the test on the afternoon of Aug. 5. By then, I’ve heard three questions. Two asked examinees to describe what they often did or the activity they enjoyed doing best. Too underrated, I thought. The third question became the talk of the town: Describe your encounter with an alien!
That’s awesome, dude! I ardently wished I would get that question. I even formulated an answer in my mind. After minutes of brainstorming, I thought I would befriend the alien, take him to our house, cook for him and show him how we eat three meals a day.
When he’d had his fill of organic salad greens and bangus fillet, I’d ask him to tell me how he found our planet and show me where he hid his shuttle. I’d show him how he could be famous on YouTube and then ask him to teach us humans astrophysics as they knew it in their planet.
On my exam day, I was eager to get to the essay portion after battling the serious stuff. I was looking forward to the alien question. But instead I got: “Make an elaborate lie about yourself and provide details to make it believable.”
For a while I was disappointed. I had writer’s block and couldn’t decide what lie to tell. But my 15 minutes were ticking away. I had to find inspiration—fast.
Balikbayan rock star
So I wrote that I was a rock star in the United States who came back to get a degree in medicine from UP. Brain drain came to mind. Why not work in your motherland despite the low salary, instead of working in an alien country? Another was the importance of education. I traded fame and fortune in a foreign country—which could be temporary—for the best college education and the chance to give back to my own country. Lastly, I pointed out that we, 21st century youth, had really big dreams which were not hard to achieve because of technological advances and the power of mass media.
As we later exchanged thoughts about our Upcat experience, I became anxious. Some of the bright people I knew found the exam difficult. Well, I thought, I did my best.
I’m grateful to Claret School of Quezon City, our teachers and, most of all, my parents, who molded me not only to have knowledge but also virtues, who tirelessly prepared me for this day and who believed in me.
Despite the essay questions that excited and rocked, the Upcat isn’t a joke! The 320 questions would determine our fate.
Though I brought biscuits and some apples on exam day, there was hardly any time to eat. Besides, I was nervous. The exam had my heart beating fast.
One thing Upcat taught me was to really pray to God for guidance. It had me and my family on our knees praying the novena and asking that I pass so I would be an Iskolar ng Bayan.
The Upcat was like a magician that bedazzled my mind. I walked out of the UP Law Center, where I took the test, thinking: What new tricks will you have up your sleeve for the next generations of Upcat takers?