This is the first entry on the series of board review posts. I shared here some thoughts on taking the exam, having the proper mindset, and some preparatory tips.
Going through the Environmental Planning Licensure Exam review was one of my most defining experiences. I’m lucky to have had a close and supportive circle of students, teachers, fellow UP Plano members, and alumni from the School of Urban and Regional Planning, as well as my very supportive family, love, and officemates who encouraged me every time I felt drained from reading volumes of environmental laws and practicing all those statistical planning techniques. But I can’t say the same for someone who doesn’t have that planning circle, and who doesn’t have the resources or guidance to review. That’s why I’m going to make a series of blog posts that can serve as a guide for those who are planning to take the exam.
Why take the exam?
Ask yourself this question, before anything else. This is what will drive you to study and learn as much as you can during the review.
When I was in PRC, about to submit my file for the book of registry of professionals, the person next to me, who had just passed the real estate broker exam, asked if the EnP exam was easy, and if he could take it without studying. I was taken aback at that time, but it dawned on me that some people choose to gather licenses for higher credentials or to lead them to covering a whole range of documents they could sign by themselves in their respective businesses. That’s up to you, if you’re into selling lots and developing estates. But holding the title of an EnP has a much bigger responsibility than just selling and profiting from condominiums and residential units. It entails understanding of the law, appreciating environmental conservation and protection, studying international- to local-scale spatial plans and frameworks, working for general welfare, and looking into the complexity of human behaviour. An CLUP or CDP that you will sign will determine the development or the downfall of entire cities or regions. You will have to master process flows of assessments. Those responsibilities are things you have to understand throughout your review process. Once you understand that, then you would know if you’re up to taking the exam or not. If you’re willing to be responsible for big things ahead, congratulations on taking the challenge.
Set your mindset
This is equally important with having to know why you’re taking the exam. You have to have a determined mindset. You will encounter many moments of doubt and discouragement in your review period because of the exam’s scope, which seems like a whole universe in itself, and your mindset is what will hold you together. What worked for me was Nike’s slogan:
If you’re not a reader, you might rant about heavy reading. If you’re not a math person, you might get discouraged by planning techniques and statistics in projections and transportation basics. Keep going. Push. Get excited to learn, instead of thinking you’re doing something dreadfully frightening. Move forward. Just do it. You can do it.
First things first
There are things you have to work on before your review. Some things that helped me get things in place:
- Set your timeline. You have to review ahead. I started reading leisurely six months ahead of the exam, but with my many work trips, field work, and multiple meetings, the six months became, in actuality, a little bit more than a month. If you’re a newbie in planning (masteral freshie or a planning officer but with no educational planning background) or you’ll have to read books and reference materials for the first time, setting your review timeline at six months or more before the exam will give you enough time to read leisurely and take a second or third look at your books. That’s if you’re taking a leave. But if you’re combining your review time with other engagements, such as work and school, like what I did, set it earlier, because you’ll always face emergencies and distractions that will force you to deviate from your study schedule. Remember, this is your board exam, not an entrance test, and not a school test which you might be used to taking with overnight cramming. Your board exam will help determine on your being a professional. Take it seriously. And again, it’s just right thing to do if you’re going to prepare properly.
- Set a study schedule. This will help train your mind on studying every day. Do what has worked for you in the past. If you’re a student, you can allot extra time to your current study schedule, and plot out your study topics. If you’re working and/or studying at the same time, you’ll have to make an effort to insert study time into your busy schedule. In my experience, early mornings, lunch breaks and evenings, as well as weekends, were dedicated to studying.
- Choose your study places well. Find your comfort spots that are conducive to studying. Choose places which have less distractions. Coffee shops will do, since these provide an internet connection, which is very helpful when you’re researching about different topics, and you get to concentrate. The library is a good choice as well. Your own bedroom could also make some room for your review, since you can stick review notes and posters all you want on your walls, and you can easily grab resource books and reviewers, but make sure to have a comforable chair and wide table because you might end up craving for the bed, which is the ultimate source of comfort when you’re tired from reading or when your back is aching. But you should sleep too, to get your brain recharged.
- Keep healthy. Speaking of having a recharged brain, you have to keep yourself healthy. As cliche and basic as this sounds, this is still in the preparatory list because it’s so easy to skip your running habits and resorting to coffee overdose when reviewing. Remember, when you’re down, it’s no good. You wouldn’t be able to concentrate and it will take a toll on your stress levels. Get enough rest, and eat the right food to keep your brain at maximum power.
- Get organised. With the numerous laws, books, guidebooks, notes and presentations that you’ll be using, you’ll might have the tendency to get scattered or forget which resource you read about a particular topic. It will be helpful to separate your work documents and novels from your review materials. It will also be very helpful to have filers if you’re going to compile journals and presentations. Keep a shelf row for your review books. Use tabs, sticky notes, and highlighters close to your study table. A notebook where you dump all your thoughts would also help, just so you don’t forget your eureka realisations. When I was reviewing, my whole bedroom was “wallpapered” with poster-sized flowcharts, sketches, and measurements. The only uncovered areas were my ceiling, windows, and the floor.
- Take care of your posture. Heavy reading hurts beyond the eyes and brain. Stay up in a sitting position, you get back and neck pains, lie down and you fall asleep. What can work is a book stand (the one where the Bible is placed when on top of the mass altar), so you don’t have to stoop and strain your neck. Also get a comfortable chair.
- Have a study buddy or study group. Although concentration is the key, conversing with people who are on the same boat as you are in will keep you encouraged, and will be your hotline if you want to discuss a topic or if you’ve suddenly gone blank and had forgotten this study topic you’ve already gone through. Choose your study buddies or study group well.
- Talk to board passers. They’ve been there and done that. Ask them to relay their experience and ask for their advice. Don’t be shy on asking questions or giving clarifications, even if you think they’re too basic, and even if you know you’ve covered them in your URP core courses. It’s the way you learn and understand what you need to know.
- Schedule your review sessions. Review sessions are helpful especially when you’re finding difficulty in comprehending a topic because you only know it by theory or you haven’t encountered it in the past. They also give you the convenience of having a structured program, which you can use as your guide in covering the many topics. The review sessions I’m familiar with are the ones conducted by UP Plano and Ecopolis. UP Plano taps the most recent board exam passers to lecture about the exam coverage, and charges a minimal fee to cover the venue rental expenses of the coaching sessions. Last year, a total of six sessions were conducted every other Saturday for two months, where participants were charged at PhP100 per person, per session. Ecopolis, on the other hand, is conducted by consultants and long-term professionals in the urban planning field. Their sessions are held on four consecutive days on a whole day schedule, and charge participants a total of (at least) PhP8,000 per head for the entire review course, inclusive of snacks. Both provide a comprehensive scope of topics, provide their attendees with review materials and application documents, conduct Q&A for session clarifications and mock exams, and give tips on taking the boards. In my experience, I attended the UP Plano sessions (being the organization’s Vice Chair for Internal Affairs at that time), and I found the lectures and discussions very stimulating. Friends who have attended the Ecopolis sessions also gave good feedback and described their review there as very comprehensive.
That’s as far as Part 1 of this series will cover. Read my other posts on the board review series to take you further.