Science high school entrance exam tips : Preparing your child for science high school admission tests
If your sixth grader is considering studying in a science high school, he or she will need your help in preparing for the competitive admission tests. Every year, more and more graduating elementary students are taking the entrance exams to gain admission to the country’s prestigious science high schools. The thought of competing with thousands of Grade 6 students for a coveted spot in a science high school can be quite daunting, but preparing your child for the test can go a long way towards boosting his and her confidence and improving his or her chances to make the cut.
Here are my ten tips for parents who wish to prepare their children for the science high school admission tests:
Tip # 1. Know the exam application dates
Entrance exams to science high schools typically start in September or October, when the the country’s premiere high school, the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) conducts its National Competitive Examination (NCE) at various testing centers across the country. Pisay, as the PSHS is fondly called, starts accepting applications as early as May and closes the applications in August or September. The country’s first-ever science high school, the Manila Science High School, holds its admissions test in January, as do Quezon City Science High School and Makati City Science High School. The application dates for the aforementioned science high schools vary, so it’s best to check with the school’s admissions office.
Tip #2. Prepare the requirements for application
Science high schools ask for generally similar requirements from exam applications. These are: (1) Original and/or Certified True Copy of School Form 9 (Report Card) for the present school year (Grade 6) showing grades for the 1st and 2nd Quarter. Because it starts accepting applications in May, Pisay requires the Original and/or Certified True Copy of School Form 9 for the recently concluded academic year (Grade 5). No grade for Science, Math and English should be lower than 85, while for all other subjects the lowest grade acceptable is 83. (2). 3 to 4 copies of a 1×1 ID photo of the student in school uniform with name tag (when my son, Motito, took the Pisay exam in 2018, the name tag was not compulsory. I don’t know if this has changed since then.) You’ll need to have many photo IDs handy if your child is taking exams at more than one science high school. (3) Certificate of Good Moral Character. This is pretty self-explanatory (4). Duly accomplished application form. The application form for the NCE can be downloaded from Pisay’s website, while for other science high schools, you will have to secure the application forms at their respective admissions offices.
Tip #3. Purchase science high school exam reviewers
You can buy Pisay’s official reviewers at the campus itself, while there’s plenty of science high school reviewers available at regular bookstores. For Motito, I purchased the Pisay reviewers when I went to file his application at the main campus, as well reviewers by MSA and Newton from National Bookstore.
Tip #4. Start reviewing
The earlier your child starts reviewing, the better. I came across a parenting forum post wherein one parent had recommended starting the preparation as early as when the child is in Grade 4. While I don’t suppose she meant reviewing from fourth grade, I believe she wanted to emphasize the importance of the student having a solid foundation in Math, Science, and English early on. If the child struggled at these subjects throughout his primary years, he or she will have plenty of catching up to do. The school summer break before the sixth grade would be the ideal time to start reviewing if Pisay is in your child’s sights. This will give ample time to polish skills in math, science, and reading/vocabulary without the added stress of regular academics. Being homeschooled and not saddled with homework, Motito started reviewing in July, which gave ample time to review core concepts.
Tip #5. Practice test-taking skills
Most science high school review books are actually written as mock exams, in the style of multiple-choice questions. Here’s a tip based on how I planned Motito’s review: have your child skim through his grade 5 textbooks in Math, Science, and English, focusing on the areas where he or she needs extra practice. If your child is taking the PSHS NCE, it’s useful to practice on answer sheets called OMR (optical mark recognition) or Scantron sheets. These are answer sheets typically used in multiple-choice type exams where the test taker shades the chosen answer with a pencil or pen. Next, have your child take the mock exams (in the reviewers) using the answer sheets and time each test accordingly. This your child get the feel for the actual test taking conditions and develop strategies such as pacing himself or herself, skipping a very difficult question then coming back to it later to maximize the time available, shading (and erasing, if necessary) correctly, and minimizing shift errors wherein the test taker marks the answer for, say, item number 9 on the number 10 choices. Shift errors can be dreadful when the test-taker realizes after having marked, say, 10 or more questions. Imagine having to carefully erase the previous answers, to say nothing of the anxiety it cases.
You may download OMR/Scantron sheets from these links:
Note that exam formats may vary for different science high schools. While the PSHS supplies a separate answer sheet for the NCE, others may require answers to be marked on the question sheet (like in a typical school exam).
Tip #6: Strengthen any weaknesses
To get a clear idea of where your child’s strengths and weaknesses lie, I recommend doing a pre-test to evaluate the student’s strengths and weaknesses. For this, have the pupil answer the mock/practice test on the reviewer, score it, but don’t discuss the correct answers yet. Instead, identify which areas your child struggled with on the test. Is it the word analogies, solving fractions, or interpreting food chains? Next, your child can brush up on the weak areas and attempt to solve the problems again after revision. Doing so can not only help improve their chances on the entrance tests, but also strengthen their overall grasp of what is taught in school.
Tip #7: Take the mock/practice test
As stated in Tip #5, taking a practice test before starting the review is ideal, in order to evaluate the child’s strengths and weaknesses and strategize the review accordingly. When the child feels he’s ready, have him take the mock/practice test on the reviewer again. I recommend using OMR/Scantron sheets and timing the test. Afterwards, he can check the exam himself and have him go through the questions he missed, or you can do it together. If you have more than one reviewer, you can give the mock test on one reviewer, correct any mistakes on that test, then take the mock test on another reviewer, and so on, until errors are minimized.
Tip #8: Relax and take it easy one week before the exam
The week before the exam should be spent cramming and needlessly stressing over it. If your child has thoroughly reviewed his lessons, taken the mock/practice tests, and addressed any weaknesses, then really all that’s left to do is to be on his best physical form on the day of the exam. That means he has to take enough sleep, eat well (avoid foods that may trigger unexpected bowel movement problems), and play a sport/instrument/exercise to take the pressure off. Your child should wake up refreshed on exam day and not sleep-deprived.