“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.” —Sun Tzu
Of around twenty-eight thousand examinees who took the Licensure Examinations for Teachers (Secondary), what were my chances of passing and topping the LET? It felt like a game on probability, and to increase my chances, careful calculations must be made. But the calculations, the preparations for the big day—the Big Battle Day—were not easy. I knew I had to fight my daily small battles.
One of the hurdles that I faced was the fear of dreaming. I wanted not only to pass but to top the LET. But somehow, I was afraid to aim higher because I might just fail. I was thankful that many encouraged me to dream and believe that I could make it: my coaches in Mindgym who armed me with knowledge, testmanship skills, and lots of encouraging words which boosted my fighting spirit; my friends, colleagues and parents who prayed for me and supported me when the going got tough. Through them, I knew that I wouldn’t have to face this battle alone.
Finding time to review was another stumbling block that I learned to overcome. For two months, all my weekends were blocked and reserved for my review sessions in Mindgym. I managed to squeeze in three hours of review every weekday while juggling my time for work, commute, family and friends. Each second counted, each minute, precious, and I couldn’t afford to waste it. That meant answering the drills while commuting, missing my favorite TV programs, declining some party invites, limiting my online activities, and many other little indulgences that I sacrificed so I could find time to study.
Every day was a challenge, and some days were just very taxing when my to-do list was filled with work deadlines to meet, drills to answer, facts to memorize, and topics to read in advance. This hectic schedule made me wish I could get over this tough period soon. It wasn’t easy, but this experience taught me some of the most essential things in life: hard work, discipline, faith in God, optimism and genuine love for learning. These values may sound abstract, but those who had gone and would undergo the same journey would know all these by heart.
My love for learning enabled me to enjoy the learning process that I went through while reviewing. It was fruitful to learn new concepts and relearn old, forgotten ones. I got reacquainted with concepts that I buried in my memory (who would expect that I would solve for X again?) But this time, I had more patience and zeal.
Because I was working against time, I learned to develop efficient study techniques. The formula that worked for me: store ideas efficiently + recall ideas wisely. How did I store ideas efficiently? Focus is the key. I focused when I listened to lectures, read notes, simplified concepts or memorized names and theories. I read and practiced more on areas that were just too broad (like literature). The drills helped me practice recalling ideas wisely and develop testmanship techniques which proved helpful in the actual exam. I also read helpful tips from topnotchers and LET passers.
This had been my life a couple of months before the exam.
Here comes the Big Battle Day. Imagine the pressure: I prepared and studied for sixty days just for this one-day exam, an exam which was powerful enough to make or break my dream.
The exam was a timed test against oneself. I had to fight the anxiety that was settling in and guard against my tendencies to overlook important details. I had to cleverly utilize my armaments — the knowledge I stored and the testmanship skills I tried to master for months. My pencil was my sword, the questionnaire was my intellectual battlefield, and the answer sheet I treated as the most delicate thing on earth that I had ever held. I used the spaces on the questionnaire for my diagrams and computations, crossed out options that were obviously incorrect, underlined keywords, rephrased questions, and wrote my tentative answers before the item number. When I was sure of my answer, it was only then that I carefully shaded the corresponding box on the answer sheet. I was very cautious in figuring out the answer and in shading the boxes, for each question could spell the difference between passing and failing. When I felt like giving up on a tough item, I reminded myself that I shouldn’t resort to guessing as I might misfire. It was an inch-by-inch battle, one question at a time. And I really took the time to answer each item that I was the last examinee who left the exam room. When I submitted the questionnaire and the answer sheet, I surrendered everything to God.
After 30 days of waiting, the verdict was announced. I made it, I won the battle. All the sacrifices and hardships I went through were all worth it.
To those who will have to face it again, remember what Margaret Thatcher said:
“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
In retrospect, I see the exam not only as an opportunity to be a licensed teacher. It also hones educators to be goal-driven and hardworking, to be more courageous in setting higher goals and in reaching them, so they can go the extra mile to light the path of others.
The battle does not end after the oath-taking. There are still more battles to be conquered — the fight against ignorance, indifference and mediocrity, the struggle to give quality education to our students despite all the inconveniences we face, and the challenges of the present education system.
Are you ready for this battle?