Passing the Board Exam the SMART Way

Usually, in order to practice your profession, you need to pass some kind of licensure exam. Like the one given in the Philippines - the Board Exam.

For fresh graduates of civil engineering, the next step is preparing for the exam. This preparation takes about 6 months. At first this seems a lot but believe me, without following a strict plan, 6 months is a very very short amount of time.

Yes, just like thousands of others, I also took the exam.

It was a nerve cracking experience, the time pressure is real. Not just on the exam itself - but the days even weeks before the exam.

But I endured. I did my best. And now I am a licensed engineer here in the Philippines.

I was top 7.

In this post, I’m giving you a basic outline of what I did to be successful at the board exam.

Here’s a secret you should remember:


Outlined below are some of the general steps I took before the board exam. It worked for me, I hope it does for you.

Build a Study Library

The first step I did was to get all the review materials I can get my hands on.

Books, hand-outs, notes, problem collections, sample exams, and specially copies of the past exams, whatever year they may be.

I do not try to answer them at first. Just collect and categorize them.

Spend time to organize the materials that you have.

If you have copies of the pass board exams, you can list and identify the vital topics and analyze the trends as suggested by Engr. Virata (top 10) here.

I started this step when I was still in 2nd year of college.

Collecting study materials is not a one-day event. It’s a process. It takes time to build your library. Your library should grow with you.

Preparing for the board exam does not start after you graduate. Nor it starts when the review center you enrolled on starts their classes. You decide when to do it. And starting early is key.

Schedule and Plan your Review

Time is not infinite. You don’t have 25 hours a day. You cannot even use all 24 hours. Time is a non-renewable resource. Use it wisely.


Failing to plan is planning to fail.

After categorizing the materials I gathered, I block off time slots for my review.

You don’t have to plan all 6 months of your review. You can do what I did. For 15 mins before I go to sleep, I write down the things I want to accomplish for the next day.

Focus on your Tasks

Research shows that mastery of a skill takes 10,000 hours of dedicated training. That means doing it 8 hours a day for more than 3 years.

I didn’t have 8 hours a day just for reviewing for the exam. And 3 years is not really practical for most of us.

I needed to prioritize.

Here’s a technique I did while reviewing:

List the three most important tasks of the day. Yes just three. Then do them. Get a calendar. Whenever you complete a day, put an x-mark on the date.


For example, I would:

  • Answer 30 problems in Engineering Surveying
  • Answer 30 problems in Engineering Mathematics
  • Review my mistakes from my review session yesterday

One by one I would accomplish each of these task. It won’t matter if I finish the three tasks early. As long as I did all three then my day is complete. What ever time remains, I consider them as bonus time for other things. Or maybe an extended review session.

The goal here is to consistently do the three most important things of the day. To build a habit. To mark all calendar dates with x’s.

This is my challenge for you, how many complete-day streaks can you do?

Another important thing is to eliminate factors that diminishes your focus. One of the biggest time waster is your social media account. So here’s a pro (yeah I’m a pro now ) tip:

Deactivate your facebook account when starting to review. After the the board exam, you can reactivate and your first post should be anything along the lines of “I passed the board exam! Hooray!.” This should be one of your biggest goals during the review.

Join Study Groups and Like Minded Communities

I did not learn everything by myself. No one is an island after all.

But my friends are, err…


If you think about it, peer pressure is really hard to counter. When all your friends wants to play video games (ehem, dota anyone?), you’ll find it very hard to say no. No one wants to be a kill joy right?

Yeah, peer pressure.

What if I tell you it’s not all bad at all? Use it to your advantage.

When you enroll in a review center, you are placing yourself in an environment where everyone has a common goal - to pass the board exam. It is common for review centers to give regular assessment quizzes. Everyone prepares for them. Everyone wants to get a passing grade on these quizzes. Everyone around you wantsto answer all the problems. This kind of peer pressure is the good kind that you want.

Now I’m not saying enrolling in a review center is what you should do. No. That’s just one option.

Here’s another one.

Create a new facebook account.

Hey, but you said facebook is a nuisance right? You even told me to deactivate my account.

Yeah, but this is different. You will not use this new account to connect socially with others. It will be purely for educational purposes only. How’s that you say?

Use this account to exclusively join study groups. There’s a lot of review groups on facebook. There’s a group about review books. Another about calculator techniques. And there are groups which constantly post past board exam problems and their solutions.

By doing this, the only notifications and content you see on your newsfeed would be about the board exam only. You won’t get birthday invitations of your friends (you’ll miss one special day, but the board exam can define your life). You won’t be bothered by your pals looking for another player. And you won’t be attracted to endless pictures of cats, dogs, and funny videos - very effective time wasters.

Here are some of those groups, be sure to check them out:

This is by no means a complete guide to pass the board exam. These are just general tips. You are still the master of your fate. Goodluck future engineers!

There is no sure way to pass. But you can be sure to prepare well.

I hope everyone who reads this is able to pick up one thing or two. Share this to your friends. Let me know your comments below. Thanks for reading!