For students, taking entrance exams can't be any more nerve-wracking. From months spent juggling time to revise bundles of reviewers to counting the days before finally taking the test and waiting for the results to come out, it's a rollercoaster of emotions all throughout the process.
But the COVID-19 pandemic struck any tinge of excitement and anticipation that students could get from the entire admissions process as universities shifted to assessing students largely based on their credentials instead.
The sudden shift in the admissions process left both universities and students scrambling to cope with the unprecedented times.
In 2020, the Office for Admissions (OFAD) resorted to the University of Santo Tomas Admission Rating (USTAR) in screening applicants where acceptance will be based on scores computed from academic performance and records.
"During the application for USTAR, there were a few things that were unclear to some of us," Michaela Javier, a College of Accountancy sophomore, told TomasinoWeb.
Javier shared that since some of the requirements needed were yet to be released by the University, they were provided with an alternative for forms 137 and 138 along with their respective batch or class ranking.
Despite having an "unclear" process, the 19-year-old sophomore said she felt confident after hearing that her classmates qualified for USTAR.
"The school included on the site that students from UST-SHS are their priority since it is tough for us to get high grades in the institution," she added.
When asked if she thinks USTAR was unfair in assessing students, given the laments of other applicants in the past, Javier reiterated that USTAR had unclear admission standards.
"Since some schools have different standards when it comes to giving grades to their [students], at some point, it's unfair if they only look at [their] grades," she said.
Having heard of the same issue surrounding this, USTET applicant Alexandra Garcia shared with **TomasinoWeb **that she also deemed it unfair considering the "obstacles" previous USTET takers had to go through to pass the test.
"They make efforts talaga para makapasok sa UST," she said.
The STEM student from Centro Escolar Integrated School Manila added that the USTAR simplified the application process.
"Parang an easier way para makapasok ka sa UST*.* Like*, ayun nga naka-*base lang sila sa grades mo," said Garcia.
Garcia also said the revival of USTET would remove any sort of complacency among students who were solely dependent on their grades and instead challenge them by testing how much they've improved throughout the course of high school.
"I still think USTET is better since it challenges me as [an aspring] Thomasian and because I believe that the test shouldn't be only based on my [previous] grade. I believe it will be beneficial to understand how far our understanding has progressed," she added.
Emma Vilvestre echoed the same thoughts as she shared with **TomasinoWeb **that despite the importance of grades in certain subjects being assessed through the application, there were factors that could contribute to grades being inflated.
"They are also averages that can be earned over time, including extra credits and favor from your teachers in some cases," Vilvestre said.
Prior to taking the exam, she would have preferred USTAR as it would take a lot of weight off her shoulders in terms of the stress brought about by reviews and the exam itself.
But having recently taken USTET, Vilvestre said preparing for the test built resilience in her --- something that she'll carry with her in senior high school and future examinations.
"USTET [tests] your knowledge under pressure. With no help from classmates, teachers, or time, you are on your own. I think that's why the USTET is useful for determining a student's aptitude in general," added Vivlestre.
According to the University's website, the final rating for USTET will be composed of the entrance examination score (80%) and the stated computed average grade (20%) in Math, English, and Science, based on the USTET Application Grades Form.
The OFAD said approximately 40,000 students took the admission test for the academic year 2023 to 2024. The results are expected to be released in April.