Passing the board exam is one of the biggest milestones in the life of a young engineer here in the Philippines.
There is no right or wrong way of preparing for it. It depends on each individual. Here’s the plan I adopted when I was preparing for the board exam.
The 3-Step Process
I learned this process during our engineering management class. It is a relatively simple exercise and involves answering 3 questions:
1. Where are you going? 2. Where are you now? 3. How do you get there?
I used it as a guideline during the review for the board exam.
Step 1. To Pass or Fail. Where are You Going?
Of course, everybody wants to pass the board exams. Who wouldn’t want that?
But, I’m not asking your words here. No. What you say is sometimes different from what you do.
Your actions speak louder than words.
Are your actions in line with your goal of passing the board exam? Do you practice solving problems every day? Or, do you say you want to but end up texting and surfing Facebook instead?
Be clear on your goals. Write them down. Spend the first 15 minutes of your day to remind yourself of the things you want to achieve. Start your day knowing where you’re headed.
Step 2. Test yourself. Where are You Now?
What is your current ability? Regular diagnostic tests will help you. Actively track your progress.
Everyone wants to show-off their strong points. But I find it more effective to concentrate on your weaknesses. Make a conscious effort to know your weaknesses.
That’s why I did the track your progress thing a little bit different. The normal progress tracking is to list you score then see if your score is getting higher. What I did instead is to track my errors and mistakes. So I can go back to them later, and fix it.
Step 3. Work on Your Weaknesses. Practice. How to Get There?
This is the longest step. It is also the hardest.
Review centers often follow a two-phase plan, the review course, and the refresher course.
During the review course (usually the first 3 to 4 months), concentrate on understanding concepts rather that the quantity of the problems you solve.
Prioritize quality. Gain more knowledge and new techniques.
Follow a problem-solving strategy like what I did. It’s really effective.
1. List the givens.
Have you ever experience answering a problem, getting a wrong answer, searching for hours why only to realize the number you used at the start was wrong.
I did. Many times. It was frustrating.
I wanted to avoid doing this all the time. So I got into the habit of circling the givens. You can even list them if you want. This simple tasks will help you avoid the pitfall of using the wrong number.
Also, by listing them, I can compare the units of each measure if they are consistent with each other. Always work with consistent units of measure.
2. What is asked?
I remember during my early school days, we always answer this question when solving math problems. Understand what your goal is. When you know where you are headed, it becomes easier to visualize your path to get there.
Knowing the goal will help you do the next step.
3. Recall a key concept or strategy.
Will you use the quadratic formula? Should you set the calculator in radian mode? Will drawing figures help you?
When writing your solution, be organized and neat. It will help you to easily track your mistakes later. Clear your thought process and think about the problem in a logical manner.
Always ask yourself why. I always believe that the correct way to solve a problem is to understand it first. Understanding the essence of a question is different from knowing how to solve it by following a strict instruction set.
Are you familiar with this kind of instruction: 1. Press mode 3-2: 2. enter the 0 and n in the x column 3. enter the first cost then the salvage value 4. press AC 5. press 7 then shift-1-5-4 6. press equals
This is the calculator technique for linear depreciation. I know I got the right answer. But I do not understand (BTW, I actually know now).
5. Evaluate Intuitively.
Do not look at the correct answer at first. Check you answer by talking to yourself internally. Ask - Does it make sense?
You have to get a feel for how should the answer look like.
For example, the problem gives you 5 pieces of paper. How many should you use to blablabla. Then you solve it and got 7 pieces. You’re confident your solution was right. But wait, I only have 5 pieces. This can’t be right!
Or when designing an isolated footing. You computed the required steel area for the reinforcement is -25.45 square mm. A negative area? Really? I must have missed something.
Make sure that your answer makes sense to you.
This should always be your last step when using review books. Do not look at the answers and solutions at the back of the book unless you have tried solving the problem.
Always try to learn actively. Active learning starts when you try to do it yourself. You will remember more of the things that you did yourself than passively reading what others did.
The refresher course usually starts when the exam is near (2 to 3 months before the exam). During this time. Focus on gaining experience. Mastery is your goal here. This is the phase where quantity prevails.
By now, you should have gathered a plethora of review materials. It probably consists of past board exam problems.
Write a schedule. Try to finish answering all of the past board exam problems that you have. Practice, practice practice.
It is also a good time to simulate the actual board exam conditions. Set a time when you’re reviewing. Answer 100 problems in 3 hours. The board exam is a time pressuring event. Be ready for it.
But always remember, concentrate on your weak areas. Borrowing from Einstein’s famous quote, I present you my board exam version:
When all your weak points have been addressed, whatever remains, however improbable, is passing the board exam.
What, where, and how.
I presented here a simple and effective plan to prepare for the board exam. But just reading what I wrote won’t guarantee a passing grade. It is your hard work and dedication that will make your dreams come true.
Goodluck! I hope I affected your journey in a good way.
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