THE COLLEGE entrance exam is supposed to be the test to beat for high school graduates to get into top universities like UST. Supposedly, the exam is meant to admit only the best students and the cream of the crop.
But is that true of the UST Entrance Test (Ustet)?
No, said several incoming freshmen. Yes, said the Office for Student Admissions (Ofad).
“The Ustet was really easy since most of the questions were just basic knowledge in high school,” Michael Dy, an incoming Medical Technology freshman, told the Varsitarian.
Also, every start of the academic year, Thomasians, mostly freshmen, would discuss the Ustet in the Thomasian online forum www.ustexchange.com. Many would comment how the Ustet is easy to pass compared with other college entrance exams.
“The Ustet was easy when I took it,” Communication Arts junior Michelle Lopez said. “And it seems until now that the University’s entrance test is the same.”
Teachers and professors said that based on the quality of freshmen admitted to UST, the Ustet might not be doing its job.
Faculty of Arts and Letters and Graduate School Prof. Florentino Hornedo said he has doubts about the quality of Ustet.
“Most of the freshmen that I have handled were very poor in language proficiency and they do not even know how to read properly,” Hornedo said. “The quality that we strive for must show in the true abilities of students who are admitted in UST because any lack of quality somewhere along the line is a point against the entrance test’s quality.”
Hornedo explained that UST had a different process of admission during his time in the 60’s. There was no entrance test but the applicant was required to submit his high school credentials.
“This was called the ‘non-selective admission’,” he said.
But then the students underwent very competitive “selective retention” which was non-negotiable. A subject must not be failed twice by a student or else he would be debarred from the University no matter how high his grades were in other subjects.
Now, the selective retention is not as demanding, Hornedo said. Only a student who gets failing grades corresponding to nine units or more could be debarred. This nine-unit rule would also not apply to freshmen during their first semester of residency in UST. There are now more chances being given by the University to recover a student’s academic deficiencies and prolong his degree programs.
“Ustet applicants these days are spoiled,” Hornedo said. “Now we wonder if the University’s criteria are good enough by which to judge a future Thomasian.”
Don’t sweat it
An applicant’s admission to the University is based on his performance in the Ustet, and his high school grades in Mathematics, English and Science with a 40 per cent cut-off. The quotas and other requisites are required by the specific programs are set by respective dean’s offices and integrated in the evaluation of the applicants.
Ofad director Lucila Ortiz-Bance said that the system ensures that only quality students are admitted to UST.
“One of the objectives of our office is to assess the applicant’s mental and academic characteristics and to guide his development in the University,” Bance said.
The Ustet questions are compiled by a board composed of educators from different faculties and colleges in the University. The questions are derived from high school text books mostly authored by Thomasian teachers. The selection of questions is determined through a series of tests answered by high school and college students that should represent certain academic and psychological proficiencies.
Bance explained that unlike the other college entrance tests, Ustet focuses more on the intelligence quotient, an indication of the applicant’s general ability to adapt to academic situations.
Bance said that if the scores of the applicant’s achievement tests are lower than or not consistent with the results of his mental ability test, he can be characterized as an underachiever who may not be able to maximize his potentials; he may be denied admission to the University.
In addition to the Ustet, an applicant’s average grade in Math, English and Science during the first three years in high school is a factor, as specified in the Admission Policy Guidelines and Conditions in the Student Handbook.
“Ustet would never give the applicants what they have not learned just to make things difficult,” Bance added. “What they have learned in high school is very important to serve as guidelines for them when they enter college.”
The moral appraisal of an applicant is also required and some colleges such as the College of Nursing and the Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management would set interviews before or during the confirmation of enrollment.
As an additional requirement, applicants to the Conservatory of Music, College of Architecture and College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) are required to take special ability tests.
“These colleges could not only depend on the results of Ustet for the University to produce progressive artists in the future,“ Music faculty secretary Antonio Africa said.
Africa explained that the special ability test of Music is composed of two sessions: first is the specialized and “sight-seeing” audition, which would require an applicant to sing or play a musical instrument of his choice and read musical notes. The second is a written diagnostic test that covers basic knowledge in music.
“An applicant must pass the special ability test to be admitted in his preferred program in the Conservatory even though he has already passed the Ustet,” Africa said. “Because it is the special ability test where an applicant can be evaluated closely if he really deserves to be in the program.”
CFAD and Architecture have a similar concept in determining the applicant’s admission.
“Architecture’s ability test focuses more on structures while CFAD deals in designs and abstracts,” Sanchez said. “But both colleges are in the branch of the visual arts in which the creativity of the hand is a primary requirement.”
Global by 2011
Currently, UST has 19 provincial and four international testing centers. Philippine schools in China have invited the University to install an international testing center in Beijing, where a fast-growing number of Filipinos and Filipino-Chinese have expressed interest to enroll in UST.
“The University is continuously promoting the Thomasian vision and mission of education not only locally but also internationally through a dynamic and systematic orientation program,” Bance said.
Ofad, with the assistance of the Santo Tomas E-Service Provider, has also been preparing the on-line Ustet application that may be available for the academic year 2008-2009. This, according to Bance, would be a way for applicants to be given convenient means of applying for admission.
As Ustet goes global, Thomasians like Dy and Hornedo hope that the exam’s gate-keeping role would allow only truly deserving students to enter the University and maintain its global standards.