Friday, September 12, 2014

More advice for those taking the Philippine Psychometrician Licensure Exam

With permission from and gratitude to both Dr. Enrico Paolo C. Banzuela and Dr. Vincent M. Varilla, this blog post is an excerpt from their (tweaked, reworded some parts of the original for it to be more applicable to Psychometrician) - TOPNOTCH BOARD PREP PRIMER TO THE PHILIPPINE PHYSICIAN LICENSURE EXAMINATIONS VERSION 2010.

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Final Advice

1. Most of you will never feel 100% prepared. You may study for 3 months or 6 months, read thru many review books twice or thrice, answer sample exams for weeks, but in the end, there  would always be the feeling that you still don’t know enough --kulang pa. Don’t be too hard on yourself. As long as you have a well-written plan and you have carried out that plan to the best of your abilities, have faith in yourself and have faith in God.

2. Most of you will feel that you have flunked. Whether it’s the entire Med Boards, or just one or a few subjects, most of you  will feel that you have flunked the Boards right after taking the exam. Understand that this is a natural reaction due to the difficulty of the exams, and take comfort in the fact that colleagues must be feeling the exact, same thing. Hope for the best and pray.

3. The Boards is an imperfect exam. There will be some typos, grammatical errors, and repeated questions in the board  exams. Expect these and do not be distracted by them too much.

4. Rumors distract you from the goal. There will be plenty of  rumors before, during and after the exams regarding exam “leakages”, list of passers even before the actual announcement by the PRC, ‘patok’ resources that should have been read because questions were lifted from them ‘word for word’, etc. We suggest that you ignore them. That’s right: ignore them. In almost every case these rumors are untrue and unfounded, and they serve as a distraction. Pray and hope for the best after.


1. Set your goal – do you want to merely pass the exams or be one of the topnotchers? Set your goal, make your plans to reach this goal and execute the plan with die-hard determination. Topping the Boards is not impossible – you could have average grades in med school and still top the boards by studying earlier (start during internship) or longer (take the February Boards). If you make this your goal in your own board exams, don’t think you’re being too ambitious. Dream, plan and then execute.

2. Analyze how you learn – be honest! Ask yourself the following questions and conduct your review in a manner most beneficial to you:

➢ Do you learn better if you’re alone or with a study group?
➢ Are you a “visual” person who can absorb more information by reading books or an “audio” person who can absorb information better if there is another person who lectures to you or verbally quizzes you?
➢ Are you the type of person who gets better exam scores whenever you read voluminous material once, or do you get better scores if you read simpler books several times?
➢ Do you study better if you’re in a noisy room full of gorgeous people (e.g. in Starbucks) or in a quiet library?
➢ Can you retain more information if there’s music in the background, junk food in front of you, and bright lights in the room?
➢ Are you, like some people, unable to concentrate and study at home? Do you find your home and your family roles just too distracting for this kind of intense, serious review?
➢ Do you feel unprepared about the Boards, to the extent to which that you would prefer hearing lectures about the Board Topics again within the structure of a formal review?
➢ What are the possible distractions during your review? Write them down along with your plans on how to respond to them.

3. Make your plans based on your goal and learning style.

Create a schedule and stick to it – this consists of a daily routine and schedule of subjects to be studied.
A daily routine for the board exam depends on you and your learning style. Put whatever you think would help you pass the boards in your daily routine e.g. exercise, going to mass, yoga, answering reviewer everyday. The rationale for a daily routine is to keep your body clock as regular and as predictable as possible so that you’ll be at your most attentive yet relaxed state during your review and the exam itself.

After planning for your daily routine, make a schedule of subjects to study. The study schedule you have made, you’ll realize soon enough, will not always be achieved, as things have a way of not going according to plan and you would sometimes finish earlier or later than you have planned. Look at your schedule and make changes accordingly.

There would really be days when you would get burned-out. Relax, watch a movie or sleep the whole day. Burn-out is expected, and you would really have to take a rest for awhile. But bounce back as soon as possible.

Don’t forget the basics in studying -- eat well, sleep well and pray hard.

Some tips regarding schedules:

1. Most of us will be following a schedule that we ourselves created for the first time. Create it well and be as specific as possible. (e.g. time for going to the restroom, time to fix hair, time to text family, etc.)

2. Post your schedule where you can see it everyday. (e.g. in your study table, in your bed, in your restroom, or in all of the above)

3. Your alarm clock and wrist watch will be your bestfriends. Make sure you have these two and use them very well.

4. Your roommates (if applicable) may help you stick to your sked or veer your away from it. Adjust accordingly.

Choosing Your Study Material

If you have read them before, and you want to increase your chances of topping the Board, use your  textbooks. Textbooks are the “Gold Standard” for board exams. They will always beat review books in terms of content.

Supplement your review books with sample exams.

Answering Sample Exams Everyday

One of the most difficult things to do is to convince reviewers  to answer sample exams daily. Most would rather read first rather than answer questions. By answering sample exams everyday, you’ll be able to know which things are relevant and which particular facts you should focus on. It would also enhance your test-taking skills.

Let us repeat that: test-taking skills.

The board exam is not merely a campaign to read as much material as possible as many times as possible.
While it’s useful to learn content, be aware that you won’t be reading textbooks or review books in the boards, you’ll be answering multiple-choice questions. Just like taking free throws during practice, the more you do it, the better your performance when it’s “game-time.”

Just have the correct attitude with regards to answering sample exams. Most students answer sample exams hoping that the questions and the actual answer will come out in the exam. The chances of that happening are slim.

When you answer exams, look at the other choices aside from the correct one. Discuss why they were included in the first place; find out why they are wrong. Then write why the correct choice is such. This ability to distinguish right choices from the wrong ones and to discuss why is the purpose of answering these sample exams.

In the exam you will be doing precisely that– eliminating wrong choices before you arrive at the actual answer.

Remember to answer at least 100 sample exam questions everyday – 50 in the morning upon waking up while having breakfast and another 50 before you go to sleep.

Dealing with your Family, Love Ones and Friends

Communicate with your parents your fears and concerns about the exam. Solicit their help and understanding no matter what the outcome might be and pledge that you’ll be giving your very best.

For your significant other(s), tell them that you’ll need to focus on the exam and that they need to understand that you have to spend less time with them and more time hitting the books for the next three months (few days!!!).

For your friends, especially those whom you consider to be good influences, make the board exam your great adventure. Bunk in together, conduct small-group discussions, emotionally support each other. Study together, have fun together and ultimately, be licensed physicians together.

One important social commandment that that you should follow: Be kind to everyone.

The board exam will bring out the best and the worst in people, which includes you, your parents, your love ones and your friends. Like what was said in the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

So be the first to understand why people sometimes act crazy while you’re busy preparing for the board exam– and be kind to everyone!

Preparing for the Board – Exam Days

Some people would take the exam whether they feel prepared or not, but other people would like to assess their chances before they take it.

There’s no hard and fast rule that will tell you whether you’re ready to take the boards or not, but we think that these guide questions will help:

1. Did you have good grades during college days? If not then you definitely should have studied harder after your internship. If, after honest introspection, you haven’t studied that hard, and in fact have failed to finish some subjects, maybe you should open yourself up to the idea of studying longer in preparation for the next exam.

2. Were you able to stick to your schedule (which has to be well planned) more than 90% of the time?

3. In the sample exams that you are answering now that the exam is near are you getting scores at least 60/100 consistently in almost all subjects?

4. Are you physically and emotionally ready (psychologically fit?) to take the licensure exam?

Be honest in answering the questions above and use them as guide in making your decision. If you have decided to take the licensure exam, let us plan for the Big Day itself.

First, make sure that at least two weeks before the exams, you have adjusted your body clock to fit the board exam sked – meaning you should stop taking siestas from 7am-4pm. A week before the exam, start sleeping as early as 9pm or 10pm.

You can also go to your testing site a day before the exam so that you’ll know whether you should bring a mini-fan or a jacket during your Boards (depends on the temperature of your room). You are required to take the exams in your school uniform although in our experience this isn’t strictly enforced.

The night before the exam, prepare to bring the following PRC- mandated materials:

1. Notice of Admission 2. PRC Official Receipt 3. Application Stub 4. PRC Official Receipt 5. Black Ballpen 6. Two Mongol Pencils No.2 7. One Long Brown Envelope 8. One Metered-Stamp Window Envelope 9. One Long Transparent (clear) Plastic Envelope

It’s also useful to bring the following on your exam day (need to verify this):
10. Water
11. Baon (sandwiches, fruits, etc.) - transparent container/ziplock
12. Certain meds – painkillers, antidiarrheal meds, etc.

Stop studying and make sure you’re in bed by 9pm the night before your exams. Remember that you have to wake up very early the next morning.

Come to your site around 6:30AM. Make sure that you are never late for the exams! Do some last-minute pep talks with your friends and classmates.

You have one hour breaks between subjects. You can eat during these breaks - separate rooms are provided. Attend to your restroom needs since you won’t be able to go out of the room once the exam starts. While taking the exams, maintain your focus and never panic.

Preparing for the Results of the licensure exam

First things first, prepare for any eventuality. Don’t ignore the various possibilities regarding the results of the exam. The more you bring these emotions out into the surface, the better it is for you and your loved ones.

Reflect on this long before your exam: what will I do and how would I react in these situations:

A.) I top the Psychometrician licensure exam
B.) I passed the Psychometrician licensure exam
C.) I failed the Psychometrician licensure exam

Prepare your parents, love ones and friends for the best and the worst.

Some tips: if you pass, pay it forward and help other people. If you fail, don’t do anything stupid like hurting yourself – assess what you still need to do, keep your chin up and know that you will be a licensed Psychometrician/Psychologist, it will just take a little longer. Have faith in your GOD,  and have faith in yourself.

Be informed that the results are released 2-3 days after the last day of the exams. People text or call those who have passed immediately. You can tune in to the radio or view the following websites to confirm: this blog, Inquirer, BomboRaydo, PRC website, etc. to confirm.

For those who have flunked the exams, your grades are mailed to you as soon as possible. For those who have passed, your grades are mailed to you 1-2 months after.

The oathtaking is set 2-4 weeks  after the last day of exams (December?) and is usually held at the PICC. Your PRC card is given immediately after the ceremonies; however, it’s advisable to just get them a week after to avoid the stampede.

Those who have taken the exam know that the licensure exam is neither a good indicator of the knowledge one possesses nor will it predict whether or not one would be a competent, ethical and caring Psychometrician/Psychologist. Thus, those of us who have passed the exam never look down upon those who have flunked it. However, the problem is that the public (which includes our relatives, friends and lower classmen) mistakenly think otherwise – thus there is so much pressure to pass on your very first try. In reality, one can flunk the exam even if one has good grades during college days and adequate preparation during the review.

More than a test of your knowledge, the licensure exam is a test of your character. The best tip we can give you is this: in the end, it doesn’t really matter what particular review books you have read; motivation, dedicated study, discipline, concentration and faith in God – these are actually what you need to pass the licensure exam. Give your best, study harder than ever before and always think positive thoughts.

Good luck to you, and may you pass the first ever Philippine Psychometrician Licensure Examinations!

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About the Authors
Enrico Paolo C. Banzuela, MD Vincent M. Varilla, MD

Dr. Enrico Paolo Chiong Banzuela is part of Ateneo de Manila High School, Class 1998. He graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, Class 2005, Intarmed Program. He is a Clinical Instructor at San Beda College of Medicine teaching biochemistry and physiology. To improve his teaching skills, he is taking up his Master’s in Health Professions Education at the University of the Philippines- National Teachers Training Center. When he was starting his career, he was also a University Researcher under the PhilHealth Research Study Group, UP Manila - National Institutes of Health. He co-authored a book entitled “Survival Guide for Doctors, and Non-Doctors Too” with Dr.Willie Ong.

A seasoned and excellent reviewer for the Med Boards, teaching Physiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Pathology, Dr.Banzuela created this primer to help as many medical graduates as possible pass the most difficult exam of their lives – the Med Boards.

Writing the current version of the primer with him is Dr.Vincent Maranan Varilla. Dr. Varilla graduated salutatorian of Philippine Science High School in 1997. He was then accepted as an Oblation Scholar of UP under its INTARMED program. After much thought, he decided against taking up Medicine and chose to take up Management Engineering in the Ateneo de Manila University instead. He graduated cum laude with a double degree in Economics-Honors, and took a short diplome course in International Relations from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) in Paris, France, graduating with High Distinction. He was active in student organizations throughout college, and became president of the Ateneo HPAIR (Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations) Union during his senior year.

He then worked for three years with Unilever Philippines. He had just received a recent promotion, and was also accepted for a fellowship in International Political Economy in New York, when he decided to finally fulfill his destiny and become a doctor. He was accepted at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in 2004 and graduated in May of 2009. Along the way, he managed to present a research paper in the Netherlands, take a clerkship elective in the United States, become president of a medical fraternity, and was awarded as an outstanding clerk/intern in several clinical rotations. He had done all these as a working student, supporting himself financially throughout Med School. Currently, Dr.Varilla is a lecturer in Pharmacology for the Med Boards.

Authors’ Note
The authors have attempted to make the contents of this primer as accurate and as up-to-date as possible. However, it is possible that the PRC or Board of Medicine have changed certain policies since this writing. The authors will gladly make corrections as these errors are brought to their attention, and you are highly encouraged to get in touch with them for these amendments. Thank you!

For God, our Country, Our Family and Our Friends...For you! May this primer inform you, help you, and inspire you...


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