This is the fourth part of my board review series. Since the EnP boards are very hyped, I’m sharing things as clearly as possible in this post.
There’s quite a lot of talk on the EnP board exam. Many say that it’s the most difficult exam, because planning is an art itself and is not absolute. Even some lawyers who have taken the exam have said that it was even more difficult than their bar exam. Passers and SURP alumni repeatedly say that you can never really prepare enough for it.
I’m going to go with the third one (because I’m not a lawyer and I haven’t taken any other board exam): you can never really prepare enough for it.
How so? Several things:
- Too focused on details instead of looking at the essence. This is when a question that is too particular comes up from a recommended reading, but it’s something you did read through but need not have memorised, because it was supposedly the gist of the article that was needed.
- Subjective questions. These come in “double multiple” choices, which are subjective given different cases, so in the exam, you make your own assumptions and create your own situations, since the context is not given.
- Questions outside the Philippine setting. Something like the geographic nature of somewhere in the United States, which isn’t really familiar to most of us in the Philippines.
- Questions where all answers can be correct given different justifications, but are not detailed in the choices. Again, there’s a lack of context. If you have the choice “All of the above,” then good for you, but it’s difficult when different voices debate inside your brain and there’s no one right answer for you.
- Law numbers. This is something I’ve long said to be irrelevant, because law numbers are only there for reference. Also, this forces you to blindly memorise the laws by number, which I believe to be inefficient, because memorising a hundred of them and retaining only ten in the next few months seems useless. But since this gives you extra points if you get them correctly, go ahead and memorise. In my case, repeatedly reading the laws made the numbers stick. Oh, and by the way, the article numbers also come up. Same comments, same advice.
- Questions on repealed laws. Given that our laws and guidebooks are updated, some questions still look at the old versions of the policies. So when you review, don’t just review the newest laws, also take a look at how the laws evolved through the decades. This is actually helpful in looking at the trends and changes that influenced planning in the Philippines throughout the years, but it takes a lot of patience to research and read through all of them and study the differences, which are sometimes just a paragraph or two.
- Too wide a range of topics for coverage. There are 150-200 questions per exam subject, and the topic changes every two to three questions, which means you cover too many topics in one subject. For example, Daniel Burnham covers questions 1-3, by question 4, it’s already about politics, and move down another question, and you’re supposed to think of logarithmic frames.
And there was a wrong math set given during our exam, which caused us confusion in solving our population projections, and cost us our precious time in reviewing our other answers.
You’ve been warned. If you studied comprehensively but still get frustrated because of the questions that come up, welcome to the club. But you’ve also got to understand where the exam is coming from. The reason it’s like that is because it’s designed to see if you can grope at whatever strings you have, at whatever resources you can remember and use.
And that’s actually how planning feels like in practice. You have to work with what you have. Planning is also a little bit of everything, and is central to the five development sectors. Think of how a C/MPDO is central to all other offices in the local government, connected to engineering, connected to social welfare, connected to employment, connected to education, health, the administration, the budgeting, and all that. The exam feels like that. It gives you how practice feels like. (And that’s why in the application requirements, years of experience matters.)
I’m not saying it’s perfect. I believe there are a lot of flaws, and that it should be improved for the next batches who will take it. But until that time, there’s no use just complaining, so let’s work around it.
The best advice is for you to cover as many topics as you can. Cover all the topics, don’t just focus on one subject and not know anything about the others. The computer generates the questions, and what if it leaves out that one topic you’re good at? Doom. But if you at least covered many of the materials, you’ll have a fighting chance. Remember, even if you just read through an article once, if you fully understood what it said, the information will easily come back when you need it. It’s just stored in your head. So reach out and read everything you can read for now.
That’s as far as the expectations go. Push forward.
- Part 1: Why take the exam, getting the right mindset, and preparatory activities
- Part 2: Exam overview
- Part 3: Your application
- Part 5: Planning bibles
- Part 6A: History and Principles
- Part 7: Laws governing environmental planning
- Presentation on Planning and Information Management