Your Calculator = Your Board Exam Bestfriend

It’s already 2011 and there are still so many board exam tips that I have to give. I think this is my fourth post on the subject; I have already lost count, but you can always check out the board exam tags. I might as well start by talking about the calculator, the “flippers” and the planner. For aspiring licensed engineers, your calculator can make or break you. If you plan to start your new year and review with a new calculator, my advice may be a little useful to you. I’ll try to keep it short, because the last post was a bit too heavy.

When I was in college, I had this sticker-happy Sharp calculator. It was my favorite because it’s immaculately white (well, off white na siya since I used it!) and it had my favorite Disney characters in them. Nobody gets too old for Disney!

I prided myself in having a unique calculator. Few people actually use it in school. I guess they did not know that my Sharp calculator has the ability to work with 4-by-4 matrices, or that the keys are so soft, or that the Disney characters helped me get through the most abysmal exams in UP. After graduation, I realized that my Sharp calculator was very cute and functional for college, but not enough for board exam use.

If you want to top the boards, you make sure the little things do not get in the way. You make sure you get the best of everything. But you do not just rely on the little things; you work your ass out to make sure they are maximized for your benefit.

So, during my review classes in Review Innovations, they were really recommending that we switch to Casio ES 991. It was, at the time, the most advanced calculator approved by the PRC. Actually, one of our RI instructors told us that Casio’s representatives went to the Philippine Regulation Commission (PRC) during the 2009 board exam and asked that the Board ban the Sharp calculator models for being “too smart”. The funny part was that the Board actually listened to Casio’s representative. And the unfortunate Sharp calculator users found themselves having to buy a Casio the day before just to take their board exam. This is the most recommended calculator during our time. If they have not changed the list of approved calculators (such sh*t can occur before you take your exam, just so you know), you can still use this neat calculator:

In case you have not yet reviewed, this switch of calculators the day before the exam is a real disaster. Because, if you want to top or get the best score possible, you need to be very comfortable with your calculator. Before the actual exam, you have to practice a lot with your calculator–even for adding stuff on shopping lists or computing something that’s not board exam related. You make it so second nature that you will not have to hesitate typing up those equations when the big day arrives.

What I liked about my new Casio ES 991, even though I sorely missed my Disney friends and the white Sharp calculator, was the SHIFT SOLVE function. It has this function for basic linear equations (to put it simply, it’s the FIND X Algebra question we had to do manually in high school and college) that lets you plug in the entire equation and it will solve X for you. The only drawback was that I got so used to finding X using shift solve. But in the board exam, it does not matter if you found X from shift solve or from your human calculator brain; what matters is that you shade the correct answer and save as much as time as possible in each item. I made a decision early on that I will devote my time to difficult math questions and leave the find X items to Shift Solve’s power.

Oh, and another thing: if you have values or upper/lower limits of a function, you can already get the derivative and integral of a function using this neat Casio ES 991 calculator. It will give you answers in decimals, which may not be comfortable for some. But for me, I managed to get good estimates.

The gripe of PRC-approved calculators is that they do not have a graphing function. But to compensate, the Casio ES 991 has this TABLE function that will generate a table of X and Y values based on a function that you will input. How useful did I find it? There were some moments in my board exam where I got mentally inept for a couple of minutes, since I had LBM and that literal shit bugged me like crazy! Some basic questions were harder than usual; so I sometimes used the table function of the calculator to visualize what the graph of a function will look like and I will already get a lot of additional information from it. For example, I wasn’t sure that if I simplified a complex function, I’d get a parabola, so I had to plug in some values to plot X and Y values and see for myself.

I did discover a lot of other techniques that make solving so fast because I used it so much; I can’t really divulge everything here in detail, but I am most open to helping people who want to know what those techniques are, especially if they will be using the same calculator I used for the 2011 board exams. Just click the Contact button up there so that you can reach me. Best way to reach me is via email, by the way.

I’m not endorsing Casio or Sharp; they have worked well for me at different phases of my life. I believe it’s the brain of the person using the calculator that will still determine if you maximize your calculator’s functions, no matter how kickass they may seem when you buy them from the electronics store. I may have done well too if I used my Sharp calculator, but I wanted to make sure that I get the one with the highest level of necessary functionalities that will save me as much time as possible, so I invested in buying that neat Casio model around three to four months before the exam. And I used it EVERYDAY, even on Sundays.

If you can afford it, buy two calculators so that you have a backup in case your calculator breaks down during the exam. Lastly, make sure your calculator has fresh batteries loaded on them at least 3 days before your actual board exam. In case you have calculator troubles, you will want to experience them during the review and not on the actual exam itself, like this guy here:

Coming Soon for board exam tips this month: the use of “Flippers” and planners, choosing the right review center and simulating the board exam.

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28 thoughts on “Your Calculator = Your Board Exam Bestfriend

  1. I also use the fx-991ES. I always ask my students to keep the manual (whatever model or brand they use); I’m always surprised at how few people actually read the manuals of their calculators.

    1. haha so true; i personally found reading the manual quite useful especially for the board exams. i like the design of the Fx-991+ ES. The only difference to what we are using is its ability to get solar power and some other statistical functions.

  2. nangyari narin po sakin yung can’t solve! buti nalang hindi during exam. haha

    I’m so happy to see another Inhinyero on the blogosphere! marami ako matututunan. 🙂

  3. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. Thanks for this wonderful resource!

    1. Hi! I’m a civil engineering student here in Pangasinan. Can you share some of the techniques that you know with me? Please e-mail me…
      Thank you very much!

  4. Hello. pareho po tayo calculator, ung Sharp. ganun na ganun rin po ung akin. haha ako lang po ang may Sharp na calculator lahat ng classmate ko nkaCasio. 5th year college n po ako next school year, pero ngayon pa lang magrereview na ako haha.

    1. Hi Kevin, naku I suggest kumuha ka ng mas malupit na calcu. Much as I love my Sharp calcu (at ginagamit ko pa rin siya sa office ngayon, haha!), hindi ko yan ginamit nung board exam…

      1. haha. napamahal ka na rin po sa Sharp calcu. ako rin po sobra, marami na akong napasang exam dahil sa kanya haha. sige po bibili na ako nung Casio 991es. hehe thank you.

  5. Very nice page 🙂 im a civil engineering from national university. Please email me for another information for calculatof technique. Im 5th yr standing 2nd sem 🙂 Godbless

    1. Hi Eruel! It’s been so long since I wrote about board exam tips. I think this is just about it for the calculator I mentioned. I did hear some recent news that there are better and new calculators available but I have not tried them yet. I suggest that you do not limit yourself to just one brand but take time to check out different models and see which one you are comfortable with before the exam. I suggest you take a year to master the usage so you will be super comfortable with it come exam time. 😉 Do focus on graduating first, though. THe techniques will follow later during review season. 🙂

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