Engineering Topnotcher Survived on a 15 Pesos Allowance Meal
In elementary school, Dino thought of himself as an average student – not quite the best or the worst in class.
He was inclined to merely comply with his class requirements and just play computer games if he was free from academic work.
But this version of Dino lasted until the recognition day in his second year in high school.
What made Dino want to change his ways as a student is the sight of his classmates’ parents being proud of their sons getting awards.
Dino’s mother, who was in attendance at the ceremony, noticed her son’s reaction of having no medal and uttered these life-changing words, “That’s all right, son. What’s important is that you have passed.”
This was Dino’s first awakening. Feeling that he disappointed his parents, he knew at the time that he could do better.
And so he strived to perform better in school, but this did not translate overnight.
An experience marked Dino’s destiny as an electronics engineer.
It was a failure in an exam prior to his third year in high school, which he considers as his second awakening, leading him to take the Electronics Technology course for his TLE subject.
He originally planned to take Computer Technology but was unable to get the required score.
All’s well that ends well for Dino. While it seemed like a bad experience for him at the time, settling for the Electronics Technology class became Dino’s foundation in taking electronics engineering in college.
He also realized his strength in math and science subjects in that class.
“We cannot truly grow if we have not tasted the setbacks of failure,” Dino shared in an e-mail interview.
“If it wasn’t for the failure and the desire to make my parents proud, I would not have achieved this success,” he added.
Dino refers to his recent topping of two board exams as his success. He is now living exactly what he had imagined back then – as Engr. Dino Dominic Ligutan.
A proud alumnus of De La Salle University Manila – Laguna Campus, he placed first in the electronics engineering board exam having a rating of 94.40%.
Dino also ranked second in the electronics technician board exam with a rating of 94.00%.
Now 23 years old, Dino showed signs of greatness in college. He is quite a late bloomer, finishing high school as an honorable mention and becoming a consistent dean’s lister.
Eventually, Dino graduated in his electronics engineering course as magna cum laude.
To say that destiny is what’s solely responsible for Dino’s successes is an insult, as the guy worked hard to reach where he is now.
He paved his own way to become a board exam topnotcher after experiencing some unfortunate events way back.
The Calamba, Laguna-native has a lot more to share other than his rise from being a regular student to an achiever.
In this transcript of our e-mail interview, we learned about his struggles in his family and studies, his styles in preparing for exams, and his board exam experience, among others.
Here’s the full transcript interview with Engr. Dino:
Why did you choose this course? Who or what was your inspiration?
Becoming an electronics engineer is my childhood dream.
When I was a child, I was amazed by how electronic things and gadgets work and most of the time I open them up and try to look and understand what are inside.
During my high school years, I had the first chance to be educated formally about electronics technology because the school offered it as part of Technology and Livelihood Education curriculum.
It provided me the practical knowledge of doing electronic circuits and that gave me an advantage later on.
With this technical knowledge as well as the curiosity about electronics and how things worked, I came to realize that electronics engineering is for me.
I was also inspired by my parents’ achievements in life despite the fact that they both did not have a 4-year bachelor course and managed to send me in a prestigious school by working overseas.
My parents were very supportive of my decision to take up engineering and that’s when I decided that I’ll do my best, get through all the struggles that engineering studies may bring and make them proud.
What are your favorite subjects in your entire engineering study? How about least liked subjects?
All engineering mathematics as well as electrical, electronic circuit devices and design are my favorite subjects because I was eager to learn more about electronic circuits.
Other than the minor subjects that is not related to engineering studies, the subjects I liked the least are those related to communication systems technologies and design because sometimes I had a hard time to understand and memorize concepts and terminologies.
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?
I did not have any subject failures during my studies, but to the very least I could say that I had a disappointing academic performance during the term in which I was not able to get any major subjects.
Since I was an irregular student (because I enrolled the 2nd term), I had the struggle to have my study plan approved for each term.
On that term, I risked to take up a major subject so that I could catch up with regular students, only to find out that I was not yet eligible and was asked to drop that only major subject.
Consequently I lost my only chance to catch up with the regular students at the moment.
Despite that loss, I tried my best to focus on those minor subjects. That term, I got the least number of units and lowest possible grade point average just to be in the Dean’s List.
A year later, an opportunity came along when a planned academic year shift was implemented, thereby creating the so called “Special Term.”
Since the regular students are not required to enroll on that term, I took the chance to enroll as much major subjects as I can.
Eventually, I was able to catch up with the regular students beginning on that term until I finished my studies.
Do you have any study tips or tricks that you think others should emulate from you?
The first thing that I tell my colleagues when it comes to studying is to avoid procrastination as much as possible.
In that way, you can have enough time to understand the concepts as well as giving yourself enough time to prepare and give your best when doing tasks or projects.
When it comes to understanding the concepts taught in class, it is best to always have a critical and curious mind that is eager to learn new things and open to new ideas, because it really helps to retain knowledge when it is appreciated.
To provide a concrete example, I do the following: if I am to study for subjects that are mechanical in nature, (i.e. mathematics or physics) I make it sure that I redo the calculation taught in class by myself.
Yes, you may say that is common sense to do so but I do more than just that: as I do the “crunching of numbers,” I try to find some sense or interpretation of the results of calculation.
Asking yourselves simple questions like “Is the result reasonable?” or “Isn’t the answer too large or small for this case?” is enough to provoke critical thinking skills and it helps to solidify the concepts so that the procedural nature of certain computations becomes second nature to you.
Re-deriving the formulas being used in the equations (if you have time and capability) will definitely strengthen your memorization of a certain formula or even to the point that you need not to memorize them but produce them on hand.
If in the case I am studying for subjects that required familiarization with concepts and memorization of terminologies, (i.e. modulation techniques or standards) I do a two-step process.
First, when I try to understand a concept, I try to make a sense of it by connecting or making an analogy of the idea to real/physical object, idea or phenomenon or anything that you can easily imagine
I.e. analogy between oscillator tank circuits and mass-spring systems or analogy between frequency and colors of the rainbow.
For me, that is the most effective way to familiarize with the concepts and it promotes critical thinking as well as creativity.
With curiosity in mind, I take these analogy of concepts to the limits and note where it fails to hold and then try to find a better one.
However, when I cannot find a suitable connection or analogy to certain concepts and it involves heavy memorization or enumeration, I too, resort in doing my own mnemonics to help me remember those terminologies.
It certainly helps to try finding out the meaning from the etymology of a certain terminology to create powerful mnemonics.
Personally, I am more inclined on doing the first step; the second step is my last resort in case the first step fails.
When it comes to laboratory classes, take it as an opportunity to delve deeper in understanding the concepts being taught in lectures.
If time permits, try to experiment beyond what is being asked from laboratory reports.
I.e. what happens to circuit I built when I try to increase the input voltage… because it is the true process of experimentation by which one learns deeper because of one’s curiosity.
What is the best engineering school advice that you can give to other students?
Be inquisitive! Enjoy what you are learning and let yourself be amazed by the wonders of engineering.
Everything else will follow and eventually you’ll find yourself feeling great being able to use your acquired skills and knowledge into something practical and useful.
Once you found yourself in the momentum, do something even greater, exert your utmost effort to give more than what is expected, be it in a simple homework, exams and projects.
Always, always aim for the sky high!
You’ll bear the fruits and get the hang of it to push yourself even further into greatness and that trait may be valuable as you go into the real world.
In the times that it may seem not to go well as you expect it to be, seek for the advice of your family and friends to get an encouragement.
Try to find and talk to a colleague whom you think is good at your course and ask for his/her study tips and tricks.
Reflect on what you wanted to achieve after you got your engineering diploma and from there have the inspiration to push past the difficulty.
Most of all, ask for Divine guidance and have faith in Him.
Board Exam Experience
What were the greatest struggles that you experienced while preparing for the board exam? What did you do to overcome them?
I couldn’t recount any great struggles during the review period, either financially related or location-wise because I already set aside some budget and settled on a dormitory near the review center.
Since my budget is set aside already, I have to ensure that I do not exceed my daily expenses.
To achieve that, as much as possible I bought food that just costs me as low as 15 pesos per meal during the first three months and settled on borrowing books from my colleagues instead of buying a new one.
Perhaps the “struggle” to the very least that I could say is being able to make it at the top place during the evaluation exams administered by the review center.
In those evaluation exams, I was really hoping that I could top them at least once but failed to do so, however I was able to make it still within the top 5 places.
What I did was to answer more practice problems every day to improve the speed of using the calculator and understand deeply the concepts that I have trouble comprehending by answering objective questions found in review books that I borrowed.
Eventually, the work paid-off and I was able to top the pre-board exam.
Did you enroll in a center for your review? Do you recommend doing so? Which one did you go to?
I was guided by my thesis adviser to enroll in a review center at the time when I was doing my last thesis subject in order for me to review in advance.
My adviser recommended me Smart Edge ECE Review Specialist.
I highly recommend those that are planning to take the board exam to enroll in a review center. It is very important and one big success ingredient.
I realized that it is one of the major factors that will help you truly pass the board exam and even better land you to a top position.
They will help you narrow down the topics that you need to study, will give you the best materials and most importantly, the encouragement to keep going.
How did you find the board exam? Easy, average, or difficult?
In general, I find the board exam’s difficulty as average because some of it are easy and other are really difficult not computationally but conceptually.
The ECE board exam is composed of four 100-item exams categorized into: Mathematics, Electronics Engineering, General Engineering and Applied Sciences and Electronics Systems and Technologies.
I found Mathematics to be the easiest among them all but it can be time-consuming if you are not well versed to calculator techniques.
Electronics Engineering came out to have easy computational problems but notable conceptual questions are really difficult because I have not encountered them during my review.
General Engineering and Applied Sciences turned out to have average difficulty of computational problems because some of them are intractable.
Either you need to know some constants beforehand or the needed values are not given on the problem or even worse, your calculated answer does not belong to any of the choices, not even a numerically close one.
Most of the concepts asked are familiar to me but also had a fair share of questions that came from out from nowhere.
Electronics Systems and Technologies appeared to be the most difficult for me because it has more conceptual questions than computational problems.
Even worse is that some computational problems produce answers that appears to be reversed digits from the choices!
The conceptual questions are very tricky and you have to be wise enough to spot the keyword and be able to differentiate the choices to pick the best answer.
Truly, in answering the board exams, you have to pick the best answer, not necessarily a correct one.
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 already had the feeling that I will be able to make it at least on any of the top 10 places despite the fact that I discussed with my colleagues in review center and found out my mistakes.
Of course, all of us hoped to be at the top but after I discussed with them the questions, honestly, I lose my hope that I will be at top and I was ready to accept that at least I belong to the top 10 placers.
As I was on my trip to my hometown, I still believe and very hopeful that I will be at the top. I prayed really hard and conditioned myself to accept whatever the results maybe.
What did you do the first minute you discovered you topped the board exam?
It was the late evening of October 27 that I came to know about the results from one of my friends in college because I cannot check it on my computer due to internet connection problem.
I wondered why he called that night and to my surprise he told me that I was top 1, together with words if I recalled them correctly, like “Hayup ka, ang galing mo!”
It didn’t sink in first at the moment and I rushed to my computer to check it for myself.
Later, my thesis adviser called me, congratulating me on my success.
Then it came to me what my friend was talking about and it felt unbelievable because still I am unable to check the results myself.
Immediately after that call ended, one of the administrators of the review center, whom I called Mam Yu, called me and told me words of how they saw it coming and how she saw my struggles to achieve it.
That moment it hit me hard very well and had little tears, realizing all the efforts that I made finally bear fruit.
I told my mother about it and she also had tears of joy, telling me the same words as Mam Yu told me.
After that, I checked again my computer and now able to see the results by myself, then I checked my Facebook and was flooded with congratulatory messages and posts.
Who do you owe your success to?
First of all, I owe my success to my parents for supporting me throughout my life journey for without them, I could not have achieved this success.
To my alma mater for equipping me the relevant skills, knowledge and attitude to endure and be successful.
To my thesis adviser for guiding me throughout finishing my thesis and pointing me into the right review center.
To Smart Edge ECE Review Specialist, its administration and instructors for giving me the best review materials and the encouragement to believe in myself, and…
Most of all to Almighty God who has given me the wisdom and guidance in answering the board exam questions.
What incentives did you get from your university and review center (if any) after your board exam success?
The night that the results came out, the review center asked me to come to their office the next day.
After we had picture taking, they treated me along with my topnotcher colleagues a dinner, eat-all-you-can buffet.
We came there at 4 pm and waited for them until about 8 pm. After that, the director, gave us our incentives in a form of a check and awarded us one-by-one.
Share your most effective study habits.
I find it really effective the application of the cliché “practice makes perfect”.
Indeed, what I do is to answer at least 20 items of math problems, be it multiple choice or not, a day so that I can get used to doing calculator techniques very fast.
I also make a schedule of what subjects to study on a particular day so that I do not get lost on what is next to study – it is easy to get lost on the enormity of the subject scope of the board exam.
Besides practicing math problems daily, I also make sure that I can read on textbooks the concepts that needs more clarification.
It depends on the person but I do problem solving in the afternoon and read concepts in the evening after the review classes in the morning.
Whenever I cannot wrap around on a certain concept, I do some few problem solving as a side task to ease some stress of being unable to comprehend, because I found myself a bit relaxed when I try computation problems and being able to solve it.
Being able to solve computation problems adds up to the confidence that you can retain information as well as comprehend the concepts later; being able to recall the steps in computing certain problems demonstrates that you can do it for concepts as well.
Sometimes, when I read books to understand concepts, I also felt the need to sleep (since I do it in the evening) and I let myself do it because it will be difficult for most of us to comprehend when sleepy.
The next day that I wake up and preparing for the day, I reread the book for that concept and most of the time I am able to comprehend it.
What I wanted to show here is that when you felt the stress of comprehending the concepts, always find a way to rest because that would definitely help, but still instill discipline to yourself not too get too much rest than what is necessary.
As I try to understand the concepts, I keep beside me a notebook or a scratch paper where I could write anything related to the concept.
I write on the paper what I read between the lines of the book such as related concepts, ideas, analogies, mnemonics and so on.
Lastly, it is also invaluable to have someone to ask or discuss with because doing the review alone would make it even harder for you.
Most of the time, I initiate group study sessions with my colleagues in college and I teach them the concepts that I have just learned recently.
That for me is the most effective way to assess yourself if you did comprehend the concept. It is a win-win situation as it promotes the exchange of ideas so that any misconceptions can be corrected and everyone involved gets to learn and comprehend new things.
Give 5 important tips for future board exam takers who aim to become topnotchers.
Be curious and have an open mindset to learn new ideas; combine your knowledge in creative ways to generate better ones.
Be smart in choosing a review center that you believe is passionate to help you get through the desire to be on top.
Be systematic to organize and stick to your schedule; do self-assessment besides those being done by the review center.
Share your Knowledge
Be generous enough to share your knowledge to your colleagues to assess yourself for board exam preparedness.
Believe in God
Believe in yourself that you can be on top, be faithful and never forget to ask for Divine guidance.
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