Opinion Stage

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Why students/reviewees fail the CE board exams?

By: Dindo F. Mojica, C.E., M.Eng

(Civil Engineering Board Exam Review Tips and Guides Series)

Written: July 6, 2013

The PRC Civil Engineering Board Examinations can be very tricky and difficult to pass for most CE students/reviewees. This is because some/certain crucial factors are ignored or overlooked. Passing the CE Board Exam has been, and still is, and will always be difficult. Each year, about 6,000 CE candidates sit for the CE Board Examinations. Most of them do not make it. The passing statistics are known to be only about 30% to 35%. This means, of course, that the mortality rate is 65% to 70%.

There are many excuses that are cast when we see CE students/reviewees fail. Most students/reviewees seem to always want to find someone or something to blame. But the major factor why students/reviewees fail the CE board exams is that they are LAZY to review. The following is a list (according to my observation and experiences) of some reasons why CE students/reviewees fail the board exam.

1. Poor Planning/Preparation: Many CE students/reviewees usually fail to prepare for the CE Board exam test properly. If you ask them why, they will be quick to defend themselves, telling you that CE board exam is no big deal but just an ordinary board examination, especially those who have spent the better of their academic life receiving classroom lectures and teaching in Civil Engineering. It is very common to hear reckless responses like this, because most of them are ignorant of the CE board exam test content and structure. Little wonder how CE students/reviewees in this category slip-up at the test and they end up failing the  CE board exam. Most of them does not have proper study schedule for review.

2. Scattered Focus (PROCRASTINATION) - Some CE reviewees/students do so many things that they end up doing none of them well. Then try to do many things that they lose focus and fail to settle priorities like playing online RPG games, playing basketball, hanging out with friends, etc.; Whatever activity that strikes their fancy at a given time is the one that they would attend to. The solution to this is to refocus, sort what one does best; to recognize their limitations and establish their priorities – all these are essential to success in the CE board examinations. A CE candidate who falls into this trap should make up his mind. He should know his utmost priority, that is, the review preparation for the CE Board Examination. Having too many extra-curricular activities is procrastination in reality. You should not engage yourself in any major activities that would utilize your time “wastefully” in so far as your preparation for the CE Board Exam is concerned. Most of these CE candidates made a mistake by diverting their attention to other activities like engaging too much in church activities, clubs or organization activities, etc. "Mamaya na" and "Bahala na" syndromes are the most prevalent traits of a procrastinator.

3. ABSENCE OF COMMITMENT - If an engineer readily admits that he really has not achieved his expectations, he cushions himself against failure by never really trying. Lack of self-esteem is a basic cause of failure. To be committed, indeed, to be successful at anything, one has to believe he can do it.

4. LACK OF EXAM STRATEGY (BAD EXAM TIME MANAGEMENT) - Some CE board exam candidates spend almost all of their time in analyzing and answering questions which they do not know. They forget that the weight grade of the difficult question is the same as that of the easy questions. So you should scan first the test papers then you should answer first the questions that you can easily answer and later spend your remaining time to answer difficult questions. A good time management is required of a serious examinee. The CE board exam is time-bounded, so every examinee must be conscious of this and work towards finishing within the allotted time for the test. Unnecessary slowness should be dispelled.

5. Lack Of Willingness/Enthusiasm To Succeed In The ce board Exam - For some students/reviewees, the will and eagerness required to strive for success in their CE board examinations is missing. This could be caused by sickness, family issues, poverty, indecisions, emotional stress and many more. Just always remember that: “Your decisions, not your conditions determine your destiny.”

6. Over-confidence – One of the most common reasons why CE reviewees/students fail the board exams. As much as this might not look like a real problem, the truth is, it has caused the failure of several intelligent students/reviewees (some honor students) in CE board exams. Try to approach the board exam with some level of humility and self-confidence, also do not rejoice or boast until your results are out. Over-confidence in students/reviewees is not encouraged rather self-confidence is the key to pass the board examinations.

7. Inability of Students TO deal thoroughly with past Exam/Test failure Experiences -  Students who fail at the first CE board exam at some point in their lives are likely to think low of themselves (Mababa ang tingin nila sa sarili) when they are required to take another one again. The fact that you have failed once the board exam does not make you a failure, it only provides you with another opportunity to learn much better and perform better in future CE board exams.

8. Refusal (OR LAZY) to attend a ce REVIEW/REFRESHER/Coaching Class - It is never enough for students to prepare for the CE board exams alone. Experience over the years has shown that students who attend review/refresher/coaching classes perform better than their counterparts who studied on their own. Experience they say is the best teacher, why not create time to get tutelage from reviewers who can help you develop mentally and succeed on the CE board exams. Just remember when attending review classed, you must take note that a principle missed will lead you to an erroneous answer. It is important that you should prepare yourself for all possible topics rather than gamble on the appearance of certain questions. Lack of required knowledge of the material tested may make the candidate not know how to start answering the exam.

9. Examination Phobia Caused by Sad Tales and Ugly Experiences of Previous ce BOARD EXAM Test Takers: Many test takers have been fed overtime by some lazy students/reviewees of how tough and tasking the CE board exam test can be and these unpleasant stories are registered in their minds and brains. The implication of this is that students become disoriented towards the examination and this will negatively affect their performance on the test day.

10. Don’t be a mediocre. A half-baked preparation is very dangerous. Don’t stop with “just getting the idea”. Be sure that you can work and solve problems without the aid of the book. Practice by teaching the material to someone else. Study groups of two or three students work well for this purpose. According to my former mentor (Engr. Padilla), the reason why students fail the board exam is mediocrity. Students are satisfied doing a so-so work. Just like he said before (according to the Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:10), "Whatever your hand findeth doing, do it with all your might. Whatever you do, give it your best shot.

Pag nagtrabaho ka, regardless of time, regardless of compensation, give it your best!
Nagrereview ka na rin lang, itodo mo na... Mag-e-aim ka na rin lang, aim for the top!
Basta, do your part and do it best and God will take the rest..."

This is what I remember during my review days.

11. NOT READING THE PROBLEM (MISUNDERSTANDING THE TEXT OF THE PROBLEM) - When taking exams, many points are lost and questions are missed because the student doesn't read the problem. This is especially true with multiple choice questions. Read what the question is really asking, not what you think or want to ask. Some good students fail because of wrong interpretation. Most of the time, they make unnecessary assumptions in approaching and solving examination questions. Often, they feel for the answer, not think of it. Don’t base your answer on your feelings. Stick to the rule, stick to the principles.

12. Failure TO DOUBLE-CHECK YOUR ANSWERS - You must have a guide in proofreading or double-checking your answers when you attempted to present your solutions in good form. Just remember that the PRC is very strict in erasures for shading, so you must shade your answers properly if it is correct and final. Please read the rules of PRC for test-taking.

13. AVOID SLOPPINESS/CARELESS ERRORS - Some CE students/reviewees fail because of careless errors, maybe through calculation (solving through scratch paper or inputting data on a scientific calculator), not following board exam instructions, too much assumptions, etc. In each board exam, assume that you have made several careless errors and allow enough time at the end of the exam to look for them. Just remember that every item in the present CE board exam problems, you must answer it within 3 minutes or less.

14. Inability to apply the solutions approach - Some CE candidates do not have a systematic problem-solving methodology which is intended to assure efficient, complete solutions to CE Exam problems, some of which are complex and confusing relative to most CE undergraduate engineering problems. Although the Philippine CE Board Examinations are of the multiple choice type, it is necessary for you to put in writing and in good form your solution before attempting to choose to arrive at a logical basis of your answer.

Let me share with you an inspiring poem from C.W. Longenecker and it says:

C.W. Longenecker

If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will.
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You’ve got to think high to rise,
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man.
But soon or late the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can.

As a concerned civil engineer and a former reviewee/student, I recommend to prospective CE board exam test-takers and re-takers that you must consider the above list so seriously so that you can prepare well for their upcoming CE board exams and achieve desirable results. Just always remember that: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”


"A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame others for his failures. He doesn’t become a failure until he is satisfied with being one. Here is an observation that saddens me: Some people retire in life too early. They just give up. DON’T!"
—  Francis Kong

Ok, so you have failed. Move on. Do not let time to creep in and allow that particular failure to define you. The time that elapsed between the “failure” and the time you start moving is crucial.
—  Francis Kong

Failure is not my enemy. Ziglar says today’s failure is fertilizer for tomorrow’s success. Do not be afraid to fail. Be afraid that you have not even tried. Learn from each episode and become stronger and wiser in the process.
—  Francis Kong

Take Note:

As my former Sensei shares to me this thought:

"There are three things that will make you fail in your exams. One is LACK OF PREPARATION, Two is NERVOUSNESS, and Three is LACK OF CONCENTRATION. The first and the third factor can be eliminated by diligently solving the problems in your textbooks/review books. The second, you alone have the ability to eliminate it."

Good luck future fellow civil engineers!

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