This Engineering Topnotcher Says Time Management is the Key to Board Exam Success

With only little time to prepare for the board exam, it pays to know how to manage your time while reviewing.


For engineering graduates in the Philippines who still have board exams to take, no time is wasted after graduation. The next scheduled exam should be taken right away – no ifs and buts.

Often, this means that they only have a few months to review. The least is two months, average is five.

Now how are they supposed to study all the necessary topics for their board examination and be able to pass with that time frame? Also considering that not all are taught in engineering school?

If you ask John Cyril Claur, he would say that time management is key.

“I have this schedule of things that I should do or study everyday posted in my laptop,” the first placer of the November 2017 chemical engineering licensure exam said when asked about his most effective study habit.

“Knowing that the exam covers a lot of topics, it’s important to have that organized schedule so that you will be guided on what topics you will study for that particular day and you will have progress each and every day,” he added.

John Cyril, who is a native of Bacolod City, believes that discipline is important while reviewing for the board exam. And because he was able to execute this, he succeeded.

The University of Saint La Salle graduate, who finished Cum Laude and with a Best Thesis award, got the top spot in the board exam with a rating of 84.60%. He shares the same place with Jared Philip Condez from the University of the Philippines Visayas.

I got talk with Engr. Claur and learned several things about his journey as an engineering student and a board exam reviewee. Read through the full transcript of your e-mail interview below:


Photo supplied

Student Life

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

Ever since I was a child, I always aspire to be an engineer but then I do not know yet which field of engineering I will take. Mathematics is really my edge and my strength, that’s why I believe engineering is the best course that best suits me.

When I was in high school, I already made up my mind that I’m going to take up Electronics and Communications Engineering in college. And then DOST came, I was very happy that I passed the exam but unfortunately, ECE was not included in the list of engineering courses that they offer in USLS. I have to choose between computer engineering and chemical engineering, but since I fancy chemistry in high school, I chose the latter.

My family is my inspiration and always has been. They are the reason why I’m working so hard in school and in life. I always wanted to give them a better life they deserve and that’s something that drives and motivates me to achieve greater things in life.


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

Definitely, all maths subjects are my favorite subjects especially Integral Calculus and Differential Equations. I also like Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics and ChE Calculations. My least liked subjects are Organic Chemistry, Engineering Drawing and my minor subjects.


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?

Fortunately, I never had a failing grade in any of my subjects. But during my first year in college, I once got a grade of 78 in our engineering drawing class. It wasn’t really a burden to me since I got it in prelim, I still had two terms to redeem myself from getting that grade. I just don’t dwell myself from that but instead, I focus on improving my performance and always practice.


Do you have any study tips or tricks that you think others should emulate from you?

Know your learning style that works best for you. Know the best time for you to study. In my case, I consider myself as nocturnal and I observed that my mind is very productive during night time. After school, I used to sleep first and then wake up in the evening to do my assignments or to study. One important thing also, is always practice solving problems. It will really improve your skills in problem solving with speed and accuracy. Through this, you will be exposed to different problems, solutions or methods. It somehow gives you confidence especially during quizzes or exam, that whatever problems that will be thrown at you, it would just be like a walk in the park for you.

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What is the best engineering school advice that you can give to other students?

Don’t give up. Failures, setbacks, problems will always be there, especially if you are in engineering, it’s normal to have a “line of seven” grade. Instead of not letting them enter in our life, embrace them, why? Because it makes us strong and gives us an opportunity to learn and redeem ourselves after a failure or several failures.

Push yourself beyond your limits. Five years in engineering is not a joke. It takes courage and determination for you to surpass all obstacles that you may encounter and eventually graduate with flying colors. It’s important also to know your strengths and weaknesses. Try to focus more on your weaknesses while still improving your strengths.


Engr. Claur was awarded for having the best thesis in his college. Photo supplied

Board Exam Experience

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

Pressure from peers, to live far away from home, budgeting of expenses and the review as a whole. I felt pressured in a way that I should perform well in the exam since people expected a lot from me.

Maybe three or two weeks before the board exam, I was a little bit anxious and worried that I still have a lot of topics to be covered and problems to be solved. I had that thinking that as much as possible, I have to finish those topics that I wrote in my “things to do” lists. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish study all of those, anyway, only 5-10% of those came out in the exam.

To live far away from home was really hard. I learned to be independent and rely all things on myself. I just keep on reminding myself the reason why I’m here or why I’m doing this and not let this feeling of homesick affects me.

The review as a whole was very stressful. I always find the time to watch movie every night before I sleep. Too much stress will kill you, that’s why it’s important to do some stuff that lessen the stress that you feel.


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 Manila Review Institute Inc. (MRII). I think it would really be an advantageous if you enroll in a review center because you will be given the chance to be taught by one of the best professors and lecturers in the field of chemical engineering. You will be exposed to different approaches in how to attack or solve a particular problem. Most of these approaches are much easier to comprehend and not time consuming in solving problems. Aside from that, you will be given a lot of review materials which you can use to widen your knowledge and improve your skills in problem solving.


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

I find it difficult especially Day 1 which is Physical and Chemical principles. I had the feeling that only 10% of the things I studied in Day 1 came out in the exam. Day 2 (Chemical Engineering Principles) was average and Day 3 (General Engineering) was easy.


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’m quite confident that I will pass the exam but I’m not quite certain that my name would be included in the top 10. Even I topped the pre-board exam that we took in our review center, I was still a little bit discouraged and my chances in topping the board exam diminished after I took the Day 1 exam, that’s why I’m not really expecting anything. I just got lucky that the other two exams were not that very hard.

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

I was actually at the airport the first time I knew about the result. I was totally shocked and I can’t fathom the feeling I felt at that time. It was hard also for me to celebrate with joy as I was with my classmates in which two of them did not pass.


Who do you owe your success to?

I owe my success to our almighty God who nourished me with knowledge, wisdom and good health. Even during the board exam, I always talk to Him and ask help from Him.

To my family, mentors, USLS, DOST and friends for all the encouragements and emotional, financial and spiritual support. I don’t think I could’ve done all of this without their help.


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

Cash incentives from our school and from MRII.


Share your most effective study habits.

Time management is the key. I have this schedule of things that I should do or study everyday posted in my laptop. Knowing that the exam covers a lot of topics, it’s important to have that organized schedule so that you will be guided on what topics you will study for that particular day and you will have progress each and every day. Discipline yourself, as much as possible, keep yourself away from distractions. Don’t indulge too much of yourself on social media (though I’m guilty of this), but if you can’t really avoid it just try to minimize it.

I really tried my best to repeat or study again all the things that we had during our proper review. Try to be resourceful, not solely rely on the review materials that were given by the review center. One important thing also, don’t forget to give yourself a break.


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

  • Pray to God every day. It freshens up your mind and soul. If you feel exhausted and tired, He will be there to ease the stress and pain that you feel.
  • If you think your mind and body needs rest, then rest. Don’t stress yourself too much, you may get sick and that’s not a good thing as you cannot concentrate on your review and it will just consume your time.
  • Don’t get tired in solving different problems. You will be exposed to different approaches and methods in solving problems and that’s beneficial since we know that the board exam covers a lot of topics and we’re not certain about the topics that will come out in the exam.
  • Always be inspired and motivated. Always remind yourself the reason why you are working hard, your goals in life, your family, those things are the motor that will drive you to push forward and not give up in any obstacles that you may encounter along the way.
  • Do not hesitate to ask help from your classmates or other people. It’s good to exchange ideas with your peers, it widens your knowledge and of course, it will always be a good thing to help other people in any way you can. I, myself, made a pre-board exam and let my classmates answer it. Fortunately, there was a particular problem from the exam that I made that came out in the exam.

You might also like to read:

“For This Engineering Topnotcher, It Pays to ‘Know Your Learning Pattern’”. Click here

“This Engineering Topnotcher Advises, “Don’t Settle for 3.0 When You Can Have 1.0”. Click here

“A Fisherman’s Son Emerges as Topnotcher in Engineering Board Exam.” Click here

Dion Greg Reyes
A young civil engineer finding his place in the industry. Pilipino.

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This Engineering Topnotcher Says Time Management is the Key to Board Exam Success

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