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Flunked His 1st Year Exams & Bounced Back as Engineering Topnotcher

A high-school valedictorian, he entered UP Engineering and failed multiple exams on his first year. He bounced back and became top 7 in the licensure exam

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UP Engineering Topnotcher


Preparing for an engineering board exam is no easy task, especially when you think about it as fitting all the lessons from your five-year degree into a typical six-month review center program.

But this Electrical Engineering graduate managed to pass the board exams and grab 7th place, all with less than three months of review! Here is how he did it.

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Jake Michael Cruz grew up in a family of engineers. Ever since he was a kid, he had looked up to the profession and was fascinated by the work that they do.

His parents heavily encouraged him to study engineering, too, so from the start, Jake already knew what career he wanted to take.

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But in choosing his major, the 22-year-old from Balanga City, Bataan was actually influenced not by his parents but by his love for science fiction movies and shows.

Watching the futuristic technological advancements featured in the shows and thinking that someday, they wouldn’t be “fiction” anymore inspired and excited him.

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That was why when he enrolled at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, he didn’t think twice about taking up Electrical Engineering, believing that this would be the first step to helping the Philippines achieve such technological advancements.

However, college life at UP was not kind to Jake at all. Just like most students in the university, he experienced academic hardships throughout his entire stay in the college.

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He had a lot of failed exams starting from the very first year, something that was unusual for him, who graduated valedictorian in grade school and 3rd honorable mention in high school.

But even though things are looking dim for him, Jake did not even think of quitting. Instead of treating his failures as disappointments, he took them as a sign of room for growth and development.

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He would research harder after every failed test and promised himself that he would do better the next time. Having a reliable support system greatly motivated him, too.

Whenever he felt like giving up, he would head to his friends and the university consultation office for advice and encouragement. He also maintained a positive outlook in life to keep him going.

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When asked what study tips he developed during his college years, he said that aside from eating healthy and getting enough sleep, he also found it very effective to have a study buddy or group.

By doing so, he had someone to fill him in on the topics that he didn’t know and someone to share his knowledge in return, as well.

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By the end of his five-year stay in UP, Jake finally graduated in June 2019 and brought home a Cum Laude medal as his reward for all the hard work.

However, his engineering journey didn’t end there. After his graduation, he immediately enrolled in a review center to prepare for the upcoming September board exams that same year.

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Saying that this was a struggle was an understatement. You see, because of the academic calendar shift in the UP system, Jake and his classmates only had less than three months to review and get ready for the exams.

He didn’t have time during his last year at the university, as well, as they were more focused on their thesis.

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But despite the time constraint, Jake decided to cast away the negativity and pay attention to creating a study guide.

His strategy was to note the things that he still didn’t know and study them at a later time.

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He also practiced answering 100 questions on a particular topic with a given time frame to mimic the actual board exam.

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Once he finished, he would shorten the time frame the next day to improve his speed and accuracy in answering the problems.

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Jake also relied on the organized refreshers and materials that his review center provided to help him get a better gauge of the topics that he needed to focus on.

On the day of the Electrical Engineering board exams, Jake was a bit nervous when he entered the room.

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But the moment he read the questions, he became more confident and at ease.

He shared that although he did find the exams average, he was challenged by the time pressure and the number of questions that needed to be answered.

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At the end of the two-day exams, Jake was confident that he passed them all.

However, he wasn’t sure about making it to the Top 10 as he felt that many other examinees had done their best, as well.

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So when he heard from his mom that he one of the topnotchers of their batch a few days later, he couldn’t contain his excitement and happiness.

He managed to squeeze an interview with me on Facebook, and he shared his tips and tricks in the full transcript below.

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Student Life

Why did you choose this course? Who or what was your inspiration?

My family are composed of different engineers, I grew up idolizing them over the things that they are capable to do.

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I am also inspired by different shows that features technological advancement and I thought that by being studying under this course I would be able to help achieve this in the future.

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What are your favorite subjects in your entire engineering study? How about least liked subjects?

My favorite subjects when I was studying are logic circuits, system protection, and machine characteristics.

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What makes them my favorite subject is that they all have hands-on experiments and I do enjoy it when the theories that we study inside the classroom could be applied in real life situation.

My least favorite subject would be English due to the number of papers that should be passed.

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Have you had any subject failures or disappointing academic performance to the very least? If yes, what did you do about it? How did you cope?

If disappointing academic performance also refers about failed exams then I have a lot of it throughout my college life starting from the very first year.

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I never treated them as a disappointment or something that would let me down, I view them as a sign of a room for more growth and development about myself.

I do research about them to get some answers but what I do love about my friends and my university is that they do encourage consultation.

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I also believe that it is better to ask something today and lower oneself rather than being a fool in the future for being afraid to ask something.

I also believe that maintaining a positive outlook in life is very important.

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Any topnotcher study tips or tricks that you think others should emulate from you?

For me studying in a group or having someone to study with is very effective because you could fill the gaps of each other by doing so.

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And it is also important to eat healthy and to sleep well to have a proper health. Also never forget to enjoy life while doing so because the board exam is just a part of life not the end of it.

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Board Exam Experience

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What were the greatest struggles that you experienced while preparing for the board exam? What did you do to overcome them?

My greatest struggle for the preparation of the board exam would be the time due to the calendar shift.

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We only have a few months to study because we are focused on our thesis in our last year in college.

What really helped me is having a defined study plan to follow throughout the period before the exam and also noting the things that I am lacking so I could focus on them.

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Did you enroll in a center for your review? Do you recommend doing so? Which one did you go to?

Yes, I did enroll in one of the review centers and I recommend other students to do so.

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It really helped me in organizing and refreshing the things that I needed for the upcoming board exam.

I am really thankful to Multivector review center for helping reach this achievement

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How did you find the board exam? Easy, average, or difficult?

I find the exam average. It is not hard to the point that you will be at your wits end but it is challenging due to the time pressure and the number of questions you need to answer.

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What were your expectations after you took the board exam and before the results were out? Did you have a feeling that you will be at the top?

I expected that I already passed after I took the board exam because I can estimate that I at least answered questions correctly that would give me a passing score.

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I was hoping that I would be included at the top because I also know that there are other amazing people who have put a lot of effort to the board exam.

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What did you do the first minute you discovered you topped the board exam?

My mother told me about it while I was taking a bath so the first thing I did was wash my body to be with them to celebrate it and thank God for giving us that present.

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Who do you owe your success to?

I owe my success to God and to my family for giving me a never ending support and for understanding me while I am reviewing. They gave me a solid support and helped me in every way possible.

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What incentives did you get from your university and review center after your board exam success?

I got some cash from the review center and a congratulatory letter from my university hahahaha.

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Share your most effective study habits.

My most effective study habit was simulating the board exam by answering 100 questions about a certain time limit.

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I always do that and always try to improve my skills and accuracy in answering those questions. And also as much as possible I try to shorten the time I take to answer those 100 questions.

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Give 5 important tips for future board exam takers who aim to become topnotchers.

~ Never sacrifice sleep because your brain will not be in a good state if you always lack in sleep

~ Do strengthen your weak points because you do not know what will be given in the exam and every point count but never forget to pay attention to your strong points

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~ Be time efficient, balance your review time and the time for you to relax and relieve some stress

~ Always be calm in answering the boards and a hard question should only shock you for at most 3 seconds.

~ Always aim for the top while keeping your feet at the ground!

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Family & Love Life

Describe your family, parents, siblings (and children if applicable)

We are a family of four. My father works as an OFW since I was grade one and through his sacrifice and endless effort, he is providing us with all the things that we needed.

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My mother left her career to take care of us and with her support and care I am proud to say that we grew as someone who knows how to be thankful to what we have and respectful to others.

I only have one brother; he is someone who goes along with me and supportive to the things that I want to do. I am really thankful that God blessed me with my loving family.

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Did your parents encourage you to study engineering?

Yes, they did though I already had my own interest regarding the field that I am practicing.

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Are you in a relationship? Or it’s complicated?

Yes, I am in a happy relationship.

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Describe engineering in one word.


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Why engineering is important in our society?

Engineering is important to our society because of the services that it offers. It makes the lives of people more comfortable and easier.

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Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Ten years from now I see myself with my master’s degree already and hopefully I already have my PEE license. I also see myself serving my country to provide a more efficient and clean energy to the people.

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Engr. Marinel Sigue
Electronics Engineering graduate whose first love is writing. She is obsessed with anything pink and dreams of living the van life in a renovated school bus.


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