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

“Always go the extra mile.”


It doesn’t matter when there are engineering students who refuse to acknowledge the importance of grades. At the end of the day, it is still the current measure of academic performance, but of course not necessarily intelligence.

If you ask Jonel Vernante, he would say that getting good grades is still crucial as a motivation for learning. When engineering students persevere to do good academically, they are bound to learn more rather than those who do not try at all. It just happens that some focus too much on the grades rather than the knowledge acquired which puts academic achievers in bad light.

This is why when asked about which study tips he could recommend to others, he mentioned, “Don’t settle for 3.00 when you can have 1.00 and always go the extra mile, after all it is never crowded.”

Jonel is the first placer in the Geodetic Engineering Board Exam given in October 2017. Getting a rating of 89.0%, he bested 749 others who took the exam. There were only 372 of them who made it.

An alumnus of Caraga State University – Butuan City, he graduated in his engineering course as cum laude. The 21-year-old, who hails from Plaridel in Libjo, Dinagat Islands, is also a civil service exam passer. Jonel is a proud son of an overseas Filipino worker.

I got to talk with Jonel via e-mail. He shared many things about how he got to choose the geodetic engineering course, the many difficulties he experienced as a student, and his pieces of advice to future board exam takers, among others.


Photo supplied

Check the conversation below:

Student Life

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

I chose this course because of my scholarship from the DOST. Since high school, I really wanted to take up BS in Accountancy but my scholarship grant did not include BSA in their list of recommended courses for their scholars. Besides, since I am a math lover, my sister’s parents-in-law suggested that I should try an engineering course, BSGE to be specific since they know a number of successful land surveyors.

The circumstances seemed to favor BSGE as the course to be taken by me since it is included in the DOST’s list of recommended courses and the said program is offered in Caraga State University – the nearest university in my hometown that is listed by DOST. I don’t want to be very far to my families especially that time that’s why the location of the listed universities was one of the factors that I considered in choosing.

My family is my greatest inspiration. It was year 2006 when my father died so since then, it left my mother to be the only one working for us. She is an OFW. I know the pain of watching my mother leave us to take care of other children just to earn money and send us to school that’s why I worked hard to achieve my goals.

I have my elder sister and a younger brother who were also studying by that time. I grew up learning how to live in a farm, planting sweet potatoes and cassava for us to have an alternative source of food whenever we don’t have enough money to buy rice. The three of us grew up in my father’s house in Plaridel together with our grandparents. It was also one of my dreams that my grandparents could witness me become an engineer. I would also want my father Joel to be proud of me even though he is no longer with us.


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

Math, physics, and every subject which involve numbers are my favorite subjects. I mean, I grew up loving mathematics above every other subjects.

The subjects that I like the least are subjects that require memorization. Subjects that were to be only understood only if you read lots of paragraphs about the topics. Such subjects are related to social sciences and law.


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 haven’t tried to fail in any subject in my student life. But I have a disappointing academic performance. That was in a programming class. I like programming but it doesn’t like me. I think maybe because of the fact that I only learned to use computers later in college. When I took that subject, almost every lab exercise where we were tasked to make a code, I wasn’t able to run my program three-fourths of the time that’s why I am so disappointed with myself.

In order to cope up, I asked my sister to borrow her laptop even for that semester only. I practiced how to program, I studied the techniques and asked my IT and ECE roommates to help me sometimes because if I fail, it would mean goodbye scholarship. Then after months of struggles with coding, I just barely got a passing mark. Yes, my only grade of 3.00 to be exact.


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

Yes, and I think it is the attitude to be not be contented on school discussions alone. Explore things and read books. Solve every problems on books as long as answers or solutions were provided to be compared with your solutions later.

Don’t settle for 3.00 when you can have 1.00 and always go the extra mile, after all it is never crowded.

Also, when someone asks for help, as long as you are not so busy and you know the answer or solution to the problem, just help. One day you’ll realize, the things and lessons that you have shared with others would help you a lot in the long run.

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

Once you’ve entered an engineering school and you’ve dreamt of being an engineer, prepare yourself to be the strongest you can be emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Once you’ve started your quest, always explore things, always face books not Facebook, and always do your best in every exams since there are small rooms for errors.

As much as possible, keep your notes in every subjects since you might use them for future references especially for board exams. Ask God for help when you feel like giving up, cry your problems out and keep believing that you can do it. Lastly, always remember that when engineering seems to be very easy, then you’re doing it wrong.


Board Exam Experience

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

The broad coverage of the Laws and Geodesy subjects plus the opinion of previous exam takers from our school that in the board exam, 60% are terms, 40% are problem solving. Also, questions about laws are situational which made me feel more nervous especially that I am aiming to top the board. I always had a huge fear of the upcoming board exam due to the fact that my strengths (problem solving) are fewer compared to my weaknesses (familiarization and memorization of terms) all in all.

In order to overcome these struggles, I disciplined myself to focus on my weaknesses. As much as possible, when I study, I would always prioritize such subjects. When I read provisions of laws and its rules and regulations, I am writing down summary notes for me to understand them better. I am always staying up late at night to read concepts and latest trends about geodetic engineering. I tried to love reading books even without numbers on my sights for hours almost every night.


Did you enroll in a center for your review? Do you recommend doing so? Which one did you go to?

Yes, for me it is highly recommended. Considering that the instructors are one of the experts in your chosen field, it would be a huge help for your preparations. Besides, studying alone without someone to ask to, without guidance and techniques from someone who is successful in your chosen field would be very difficult. Treat your expenses for the review as your investment for your future, after all, when you pass the board exams, it is all worth it. I enrolled in Review Innovations, Inc. in Sampaloc Manila.


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

Some subjects are easy, some are difficult so as a whole, I would say it is average. Besides, even though the problem solving was relatively easy, the fact that it comprised only about 40% of the points earned made the board exam as a whole to be not easy, not difficult, but average for my assessment.


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?

Since at least about 70% of the ideas and concepts behind the questions on the actual board exam were taught to us by our review center, and I think at least 20% of the remaining were familiar to me through my countless almost sleepless nights of reading lots of references, and since I’ve topped the pre-board exams in our review center, I already presumed my name to be included at the top 10 at the very least. I did not expect to be the top 1 since some reviewees are not taking the preboard exams seriously, and according to our elders, it is normal for them since the questions there are very far from actual, according to them again.

I had the feeling of being the top 1 since I knew that I gave it all the best that I can, with guidance from above since I have always been asking for His help especially when I am about to just guess the answers for the questions that I don’t have any idea.


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

After thanking God for what have been the greatest achievement in my life, I cried a lot thinking that every efforts and sacrifices on my part and my parents were all worth it. I jumped with joy then chat my mother since I could not call her because she’s in Dubai UAE working as a domestic helper. I called my sister and my uncle to inform them about the success of my licensure exam.

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Who do you owe your success to?

I owe my success to my mother, Nenita Vernante, who never lost hope despite working overtimes just to support our daily needs. I always dreamt of dedicating every achievement for her because she is the main reason for my hardworks and perseverance.

To my sister Jenelyn, my brother Jason, and my girlfriend Ritchelle, for all of the support that they have given to me especially during my entire college life.

Of course, I owe my success to our very supportive and loving God. Without Him, I could not do anything. It is for His will and timing that I am able to top this year’s GE board exam.

I also owe this success to Plaridel National High School for their constant support during my high school life, especially during MTAP Competitions. Those times were probably be the best contributor for me discovering and enhancing my potential especially in Mathematics. Mrs. Mariza Babayson and Ms. Shirley Compe, as my coaches during those times, deserved every credit that they should get for my success.

I also owe this success to Caraga State University, especially to Engr. Broddett Abatayo and Engr. John Cabilitasan, and to all faculty members especially from Engineering Department. The Department of Science and Technology also has contributed a great part to my success, they helped me reach this goal through the monthly stipends, book allowances, and tuition fees from them which helped me a lot in making my college life relatively easier; making financial problems disappear.


Share your most effective study habits.

Know yourself. Know what time of the day your brain is so active and conquer your weaknesses. Study all the subjects involved in your exams. Always write down notes and summaries for it would be a great help once you’ve written it down. Practice solving and think of the shortest way possible to solve those since time pressures are really distracting during the exam. Install Merriam Webster on your phone since strange terms would definitely come on your way during the review. And never forget to eat regularly. Also, no matter how smart are you through your assessments, never be shy on asking questions to your classmates, it would help the both of you.


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

  • Master the basics. It is not so helpful to proceed studying the most complex problems without mastering the fundamentals. Memorize basic conversion of units and familiarize every buttons and functions of your calculator. Study all the topics included on your program especially the hand-outs that were given by the review center. Don’t underestimate the capabilities of your review center. They are way more expert than the previous takers who are saying that review centers don’t help that much in your preparation.
  • Aim high and hit the mark. Attend review classes regularly and take every evaluation and pre-board exams seriously.
  • You might not get enough sleep the night before the exams, so it is better to have Medicol (200mg) by your side. Take one after breakfast and take one after lunch, it would clear your mind and would help you remember the things, concepts, and formulas that you have studied. For me and my classmates, it was very effective. You might want to take energy drinks per exam day for you to be wide awake.
  • Before every subject starts, pray. Before guessing the answer for the remaining questions that you have no idea of which is the correct answer, pray. You need every bit of advantage that you can get during the exams so seek help from God. After all, you can’t achieve something big on just relying on your own capabilities.
  • On answering, don’t shade directly. Answer first the questions and encircle/underline your initial answers on the questionnaire. When a particular question is difficult, skip it and proceed to the next one. Remember, each question is 1 point each so it is better to answer the relatively easier ones. After the first attempt to answer all the questions, go back to the items that were skipped. Also, verify to yourself if your initial answers to the easier ones are really your best answers then if yes, start marking the letters in your answer sheets that corresponds to your answer. Just put a mark and don’t shade yet since shading could take minutes from your remaining time. I suggest that you must first try to answer all the questions first and when all are already answered, then start shading. Start shading at least 10 minutes before the submission time. When you do this, time pressures would affect you less since you are only shading for the last minutes, no more analysis. At least you do not have to worry anymore about answering since you are already done.

You might also like to read:

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

“Trust God’s Plans: The Secret of This 2016 Industrial Engineering Topnotcher.” Click here

“Filipino Topnotcher Shares His Secrets in Topping the Chemical Engineering 2016 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 Advises, “Don’t Settle for 3.0 When You Can Have 1.0”

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