First placer of November 2021 Civil Engineering Board Exam reveals secret to success

All topnotchers in the board exam have a powerful secret and tips on how they achieved their position, which they may not share with all board takers. However, if they choose to share and reveal them, it will undoubtedly be a great blessing.

Just like Engr. Rajiv Nooh D. Amil, who emerged as the national topnotcher in the November 2021 Civil Engineering Board Exam – securing the Rank 1 position with a rating of 93.25%. He graduated from Ateneo de Davao University, completing his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from 2014 to 2019.

First placer of November 2021 Civil Engineering Board Exam
Photo courtesy: Engr. Rajiv Nooh D. Amil

In an exclusive interview with The Summit Express, Engr. Rajiv revealed that he was on the president's list of their school for 2 consecutive semesters. During the 1st semester (3.88 out of 4.0 QPI) and 2nd semester (3.90 out of 4.0 QPI) of the academic year 2015-2016. It's worth noting that the President’s List comprises students with a semestral QPI ranging from 3.70 to 4.00, and their grades are without failing mark and debarred (too many absences).

He was supposed to take the May 2020 Civil Engineering Board Exam but it was postponed thrice because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He mentioned that even at a young age, he already developed an interest in Mathematics and Science.

“My love for math and science began at an early age. I recall my mother telling me that I loved solving puzzle blocks when I was a year old. I was a consistent honor student in elementary school and graduated as First Honorable Mention,” he said.

“In high school, I attended MSU Science High School in Tawi-Tawi. I excelled in Physics, Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus. I also became a quizzer and won some math contests, some within the school, others representing my school like at MTAP (3rd year level).”

However, he expressed that college life was not enjoyable for him. In fact, he faced numerous setbacks and failures. Because of this, realizing that he wouldn't graduate with flying colors, such as earning cum laude honors, he decided to make up for it in the board exam.

“Unlike elementary and high school, college was NOT fun for me. After my excellent performance in my 2nd year where I got to the president’s list, my life as a civil engineering student went downhill. Most of the time I was exhausted.”

“Granted, I was also distracted by computer games; I did not like my class schedules, and I found it difficult to adjust. My 4th year in college was the most challenging year for me, academically and mentally. Still, I wanted to graduate with flying colors but unfortunately, I was a few points shy of being a cum laude.”

“These setbacks in college were the fuel to my fire to top the board exam. To top the board exam is to redeem myself.”

Due to his success as the 1st placer in the board exam, the term 'Notebook Summary' gained recognition. He mentioned that this was one of the secrets that contributed to his passing the board exam and even securing the top spot.

“Here is the story about it. Around 2018, nag-pre order ako ng isang book, it was titled “Outsmart the Board Exam” by Engr. Rucel Virata – a CE Board Topnotcher as well. I got it around early 2019. The contents of the book were very helpful – lots of useful tips (backed up with evidence from research) – I must say the author put so many sleepless nights to make that book,” he said.

“Anyways, when I read it, it motivated me. Nakakarelate kasi ako sa mga struggles na namention doon sa libro, sa board exam kasi, it comes down to preparation and of course plus na if matalino ka.”

“Not to brag pero alam ko sa sarili ko na may potential and matalino ako, I still remember what my professor in statistics said to me way back October 2016, he sees me being a top 1 in the board exam in the future – glad it came true. So when I was reading the book, I said to myself, eto nalang pala ang kulang, ang mag seryoso and mag exert ng effort consistently. I applied almost everything I read sa book na iyon sa pag review ko.”

“Let’s go to the Notebook Summary – I also found out about this doon sa Outsmart the Board Exam na book. Well, the board exam has a very wide scope of topics, yung iba doon is hindi pa naituro noong college and believe me, most students/reviewees struggle to retain these lessons/concepts/formulas by the end of the review period. So it is important to be prepared and have a very good and effective strategy.”

“Basically, yung notebook summary, ang gagawin mo dito is after ng lessons sa review center and nakauwi ka na, you try to recall the lessons especially yung concepts and then isusulat mo s’ya sa isang big notebook. Hindi kailangang isulat lahat, yung mga important details lang, and yung mga formulas as well as limitations nila – hence, notebook summary.”

“I know lots of people are doing this on manila papers na dinidikit sa walls, or sa index cards, but for me, mas effective yung big notebook kasi compiled na lahat doon and madadala mo kahit saan – mas madaling mawala kasi yung index cards for me.”

“I-emphasize ko rin na this Notebook Summary is useless if you do not use it. Ang point ng notebook summary is for us to retain the lessons for a long time so hindi lang pag sulat sa notebook ang gagawin. You should read, review, and rehearse the lessons in the notebook summary, nag vavary ung frequency eh, as for me, 3x a week ko sya nirerehearse, basically binabasa ko ung lessons and recall ang concepts as well as yung formulas. It is tiring and very repetitive, but you will see the results in the end. When I was at my board exam room, I still remember that I could still recall my algebra lessons in my mind (it was the first lesson in the review – so it was delivered 5-6 months before the board exam!) – amazed ako sa effectiveness ng notebook summary technique.”

“Overall, the notebook summary technique greatly affected my board exam preparation as well as the results hehe. Sabi ko pa nga, if I knew about this in college, baka naka honor pa ako haha.”

Finally, he gave wonderful tips and an inspiring message for upcoming and aspiring board takers, who wish to also not just pass the board exam, but to secure a top spot.

“The board exam is only difficult if you do not prepare for it very well. I think the most challenging part of any reviewees right now is the number of distractions surrounding them. From reels, tiktok videos, ML, etc. you name it, these are the things that will make your review journey rough. Don’t get me wrong, from time to time kailangan pa rin naman mag-de-stress and mag unwind pero dapat alam mo pa rin ang priorities mo.”

“I know these challenges because I’ve taught review classes for 1.5 years. Maraming takot sa board exam pero do not think that the questions are mostly difficult, it is the other way around. Siguro nga around 20% lang yung mahihirap na mga tanong sa board kasi most questions stem from the basic concepts. I think important din itong advice ko na ito, based kasi sa mga nakikita ko, mas eager ang mga students or reviewees na aralin at kabisaduhin lang ang formula pero hindi iniintidi ang CONCEPTS – mali ito, one should not blindly memorize any formula, dapat aralin and intindihin if saan nanggaling at ano ang limitations para kahit may konting twist na lalabas sa board exam questions, hindi ka mag papanic kasi alam mo kung ano yung gagawin.”

“Lastly, if you are going to take the board exam. Be serious about it. Know your “why”. Alamin mo if bakit ka mag-iistruggle para dito, bakit mo ilalaban ito. We might have different “why”s or reasons, but the end result that we want is the same – that is to become a licensed civil engineer.

“‘Match you desire with effort’ – Engr. B.M, 2016 – this quote helped me whenever I felt down during the review,” he added.

He is currently working as a Structural Design Engineer in R.B. Sanchez Consulting Engineers in Ortigas Center, Pasig City. Aside from this, he is also a Review Instructor (Civil Engineering) at MegaReview and Tutorial Center for 1.5 years.

Keep it up, Engr. Rajiv!

— Noel Ed Richards, The Summit Express


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