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Upcat No More Essay

The UPCAT is administered to the largest batch of examinees thus far. The number of takers exceeds expectations of the Admissions Office.

MANILA, Philippines – This year's UP College Admission Test (UPCAT) examinees are the largest batch of students to take the test, Professor Marvin Sabado, assistant director in the Office of Admissions in UP Diliman told Rappler on Saturday, August 3.

From 75,000 last year, the number of UPCAT takers this year rose to 83,000, exceeding expectations of the Office of Admissions.

“We were ready for only 80,000 examinees. ‘Yun ang expectations namin, basing from the trend ng examinees for the past years,” Sabado said. (We were only ready for 80,000 examinees. We based that expectation on the increasing trend of examinees for the past years.)

The Office of Admissions had to resort to distributing test permits other than the computer-generated ones.

The average passing rate in UPCAT falls between 16-17%. With the increased number of examinees this year coupled with the fixed slots in the whole UP system, competition for a UP education has become even tighter.

According to Sabado, one of the possible reasons for the large number of examinees this year is UP’s affordable tuition fee.

“Yung tuition fee natin sobrang napag-iwanan ng mga ibang tuition fees ng ibang universities around us,” Sabado explained. (The tuition fee in UP is a lot cheaper compared to other major universities around us.)

LARGEST BATCH. UPCAT takers this year exceed the expectations set by the Office of Admissions in UP. Photo by Mark Demayo

No essay portion

This year, the university also returned to the exam's old format and removed the essay that was introduced in 2012.

According to Sabado, the UPCAT essay portion was removed after a thorough assessment conducted by the group that administered the test.

Last year, the UPCAT takers found the essay questions hilarious. It included non-objective questions that aimed to test the students’ command of language, grammar and creativity.

Essay questions from the previous year’s UPCAT included: “Write an elaborate lie about yourself and make it believable” and “Pretend you encounter an alien from another planet. Narrate what happens.”


On Saturday morning, emotions ran high as the students queued at their building assignments in UP DIliman. Preparations for the test ranged from virtually nothing to months-long reviews for the UPCAT.

Shandy San Miguel, studying in Malate Catholic High School, took it easy. Applying for the quota course BA Accountancy, San Miguel decided to spare herself the stress and pressure caused by having to take the UPCAT.

Buong week, petiks,” San Miguel said with a laugh. (For the whole week I was relaxed.)

On the other hand Julia Andrei Malicdem, studying in Laguna Bel-Air School, took a summer review class, enrolled in a refresher course and studied religiously for two weeks before the UPCAT. Malicdem even skipped school one day before the exams to scan her reviewers.

While their preparations varied, most of the students said they are taking the exam because they want quality and affordable education offered by UP.

UPCAT Reactions

At the end of the day, many students who took as long as 5 hours to complete the test, had mixed reactions.

Ang sakit sa likod, saka ang sakit sa ulo kasi sobrang dami niya, and sobrang time-pressured,” Krystel Alcantara said. (My back and head are aching because the exam was long and I felt the time pressure.)

On the other hand, some of the students like Jessa May Recote felt nervous afterwards.


“Syempre po kinakabahan ako kasi marami nagsasabi na mahirap yung exam. Pakiramdam ko po negative na papasa ako. Yung iba hindi ko po natapos eh,” Recote said. (I am nervous because a lot of people are saying that the exam is difficult. I don’t think I am going to pass the exam since I didn’t finish all.)

Most of the students also complained about the time pressure. “Kapag madali yung subset, maraming oras. Kapag mahirap naman, kulang yung oras,” Cherry Anne Rosales, an aspiring engineer, told Rappler. (If the subset is easy, we are given a lot of time. But for subsets that are difficult, there's not enough time.)

Results of the exam are expected to come out in February 2014.

After taking the UPCAT, examinees agreed that the most difficult question they had to answer at the end of the day was whether they would pass the UPCAT or not. - with reports from Mic Villamayor, Regie Ucang and Mark Demayo/

The new UPCAT will be able to assess higher skills of senior high school graduates

MANILA, Philippines – As part of its K to 12 roadmap, the University of the Philippines (UP) is set to "reinvent" its College Admission Test (UPCAT) to assess higher skills of senior high school graduates.

"UPCAT, our admissions exam in UP, will be reinvented to be able to assess higher skills: knowledge, values, skills and competencies of our senior high school graduates from grade 12," UP Vice President for Academic Affairs Gisela Concepcion said on Tuesday, April 14.

UPCAT is considered one of the most competitive college entrance exams in the country, and tens of thousands of students each year vie for a coveted slot in the country's premier state university.

With the signing of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, two years have been added to the basic education system of the Philippines. (INFOGRAPHIC: 10 things about K to 12)

About 1.2 million to 1.6 million students under the program will enter senior high school's grade 11 in 2016, and grade 12 in 2017.

Because of this, higher education institutions expect a drop in enrollment during these two years all the way to school year 2021-2022 when things are expected to normalize.

Reviewing UPCAT

The review of the admission system is one of the medium-term goals in UP's K to 12 roadmap.

During consultations with UP constituent units, the following suggestions on admission came up:

  • Conduct a two-stage admission through UPCAT and a track test.
  • Conduct a program-specific exam on top of the UPCAT.
  • Prepare a position paper for the government to re-establish an assessment exam for K to 12 graduates beginning 2018

There is also a proposal from UP President Alfredo Pascual himself to review UPCAT and its questions to make it "less achievement-based and more aptitude-based to identify geniuses from all walks of life...the bright students from poor families."

It was announced in 2014 that UP will offer an online UPCAT review this year to give more aspiring Iskolar ng Bayan (state scholars) a chance to get quality state education.

Aside from its K to 12 roadmap, UP has also committed to help train public school teachers who will teach in senior high school starting 2016. –

Published 12:14 PM, April 17, 2015

Updated 12:14 PM, April 17, 2015