This Civil Engineering Topnotcher Tells Future Board Exam Takers to ‘Master the Basics’

It is an important yet underrated reminder.


“Master the basics so you’ll have a good foundation.”

That statement is what struck me the most after conducting an e-mail interview with the May 2017 Civil Engineering Licensure Examination first placer, Hisham Sacar. He mentioned that when asked about study tips or tricks he does which are worth emulating.

Having taken the same examination two years ago with a late realization of learning the engineering basics, I believe this piece of advice should be reminded among engineering students from time to time in college. Because it is an important yet underrated reminder.

During board exam review, it is expected among reviewees that they should only be recapped with the engineering topics previously discussed in college. After all, it’s a “review.” For that, review centers discuss the lessons comprehensively and with a lot of shortcuts, considering the wide range of topics and the short amount of time. Consequently, many basic principles are left out just to cover all the topics.

This is a problem because in most cases, reviewees already forget the core principles in math and physics, which apply to many advanced engineering topics, during review. It is no wonder why Hisham wants all future board exam takers to master the basics if they also want to become topnotchers.

Perhaps that is also one of his secrets in winning so many academic competitions in college as a civil engineering student of Far Eastern University – Institute of Technology. The 21-year-old revealed the long list of awards he got from university- to national-level quiz bees, in chronological order:

  • Champion, 2016 National CE Wizard Quiz-Clash of CE
  • Champion, 35th PICE National Engineering Quiz Show
  • Champion, 2016 PICE Regional Engineering Quiz Show
  • 1st Runner-up, 2016 UP ACES National CE Quiz
  • Champion, 2016 PaCEkatan
  • 2nd Runner-up, 2016 JPICE-LNM Students’ Quiz Show
  • 1st Runner-up, 2016 MSP Annual Search for Math Wizard
  • 2nd Runner-up, 2015 Intercollegiate AggregatES Quiz
  • Champion, 2015 MTAP-Math Count Challenge
  • 1st Runner-up, 2015 Search For Outstanding MATHlete
  • Champion, 2015 Astrophysics Quiz Bee
  • 1st Runner-up, 2015 UP ACES National CE Quiz
  • Champion, 2015 National CE Wizard Quiz-Clash of CE
  • 2nd Runner-up, 2014 PUP Mathmax
  • Champion, 2014 UPCES-AutoMATHic
  • 2nd Runner-up, 2013 MSP Annual Search for Math Wizard

To top it all off, he marched on his graduation day in February 2017 as Cum Laude as well as the Batch Valedictorian. Later in May, he topped the board exam with a rating of 94.60%.

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Photo supplied.

Other than the ‘master the basics’ tip, Hisham shares many more about his student life and board exam experience in the full transcript of our interview below:

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

Hisham: My first choice is actually a pre-med course and later take medicine, but due to lack of money, I decided to take CE. Fortunately, I have found a good scholarship to maintain my financial need. My inspiration is my family.

Hisham is a Muslim-Filipino belonging to the Maranao tribe, hailing from Lanao del Sur. He is one of the 14 children of Engr. Rakiin Sacar and Minang Adiong who are both traders. Many of his family members are doctors and engineers. Photo supplied.

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

Hisham: I like Mathematics and Design Subjects. My least liked subject is Environmental Engineering.

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?

Hisham: I almost failed a subject (Environmental Engineering). I had plans of transferring to another school but I decided not to because they considered my scholarship.

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

Hisham: Always pray and do everything you need like eating or taking a bath before studying then focus. Master the basics so you’ll have a good foundation.

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

Hisham: Never give up. Be hardworking and have faith that you can do it. It will be hard, but it is surely worth it.

Photo supplied.

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

Hisham: My issues were on getting finances, giving time to my loved ones, and maintaining my good health. I had fever several times over the course of my review.

What I did is accept that these problems will always come. I just kept praying and held on to my faith that I can do it despite of these problems.

Did you enroll in a center for your review? Do you recommend doing so? 

Hisham: Yes. Enrolling in review center will really help you.

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

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Hisham: Difficult at start but after you finish the exam, you’ll find it easy and realized that you are really prepared in taking the exam.

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?

Hisham: I had a lot of errors in answering the exam, so I just hoped that I could pass. Honestly, I did not even expect I could pass because I realized those errors after the exam. Moreover, I did not expect that I will be a topnotcher.

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

Hisham: I was eating at a fastfood restaurant until someone informed me about the result through chat. I hurried home to share to my family the good news. I called the people who helped me and thanked them.

Who do you owe your success to?

Hisham: To Allah (SWT), to my family, friends, advisers, lecturers, teachers, coachers, and everyone who supported me.

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

Hisham: Cash and job offer.

Share your most effective study habits.

Hisham: Always pray and do everything you need like eating or taking a bath before studying. Then focus. Master the basics so you’ll have a good foundation.

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

Hisham:

  • There are no magic and instant success, you have to work hard for it.
  • Watch your health.
  • It is not really important how long you study, what is important is how you study. Always focus!
  • Ask for guidance from God. If ever you feel giving up, talk to the people you love and ask for encouragement.
  • Never give up and do your best! Tell yourself you can do it!

You might also want to read:

This Former Working Student Topped His Board Exam Despite Being Unable to Finish the Test. Click here

Being a Topnotcher is This Electronics Engineer’s Way of Redeeming Himself from Failures in College. Click here

Try and Try Until You Succeed: The Story of a Filipino Engineer Who Passed His Board Examination on His Fifth Take. Click here

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

This Civil Engineering Topnotcher Tells Future Board Exam Takers to ‘Master the Basics’

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