There are some battles where we come prepared but there are some that we don’t even know how to prepare for. This is one of the latter, the Level 3 Written Exams of the Foreign Service Officer Exam. For our batch, it was held from May 7 to May 9, 2019, at the Bulwagang Apolinario A. Mabini, DFA Bldg., Pasay City. Yes, Level 3 was a grueling three-day exam.
I remember that I left Bataan around 2:00 am so that I won’t be late for the 7:00 am call time. What a struggle that first day was! I felt the air running out in my brain because of sleep deprivation. So, I suggest, if you are coming outside of Manila then better get a place the day before. I actually booked a place near the venue, a good 8 minute walk away only. It was a dormitory-style room so I get to share it with strangers. I didn’t notice the fine print that it was a mixed dorm though. The bed was clean, the bathroom could be cleaner, the dining area was spacious, and there’s WiFi. It’s only fair at the price that I got it. Downside? I don’t get to control the AC in the room and during the second night, there was a man who kept on asking me to go out even if I turned him down already. Good thing, new travelers came and that made him stop.
Back to the exams. Was I ready to take these exams? I don’t think so. Will one ever be ready? I’d like to think that the answer is yes. There will be people who will be so ready for this level. Then there will always be people like me who will just wing it. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. What is the scope of these exams? Day one is English and International Relations. Day two is Filipino and Philippine Condition. For both days, the exams will be from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The third day, which will only be from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, will be about World History and Foreign Language.
How do you prepare for them? Is there an outline of things that one can study? Any reviewers online? What books are best to read? Honestly, the best way to get ready is to read. Read a lot. Read profusely. It felt like the questions were anything under the sun, really. But, like what my friend said, you can look at those questions from another point of view. That the tests were designed in a way that people from various backgrounds will be able to answer the required amount of items from each test. Just look at our batch! We have engineers, programmers, those with media background, some from the sciences, military men, online sellers, teachers, lawyers, etc.
Want a tip for the exams? Ask around. I’m lucky that I have friends who already took the exams. They were nice enough to share their experiences with me. A friend told me that it was like our comprehensive exams for our Masters and that I can benefit from reading about an International Relations theory or two. Another one told me that I should be articulate and build good arguments. There would be parts of the exams that are objective like a True or False and Multiple Choice part and then there would be the hand-numbing essays. My right hand will never be the same after those exams! Another friend told me about some questions she remembered. This helped a lot because some of those questions actually resurfaced.
It also helps to talk with your co-examinees. Exchange ideas and arguments with them. What topics do you think will pop up in the exams? We thought of the West Philippine Sea, Federalism, EDSA Revolution, World War I and II, Terrorism, and many more. We talk about them and some points about those topics. For me, this was so helpful because I retained those pieces of information more and I got to use them on the exams. As for the Foreign Language part, we also anticipated a short descriptive essay so I got ready for that by practicing an About Me and About My Home essays. *winks*
Maximize the use of technology. I stored PDFs on my phone so I could read them at night. I downloaded Duolingo so I can practice my Spanish. I watched different episodes of Crash Course about World History on YouTube. I used Pocket to save and read, even offline, articles that I think would help me. I read the news online and articles from eastasiaforum.org and thediplomat.com. Good thing, their articles are for free!
Lastly, ready your body too. Find ways on how to feel good. For me, I indulged myself with good food during dinner. I ordered my college favorites via GrabFood. LOL. I didn’t stay up late too. I go to bed early instead of cramming until late hours. Have a positive mindset. We saw that some examinees didn’t come back for Day 2 and Day 3 of the exams. It is easy to get discouraged but just bite the bullet and continue. Fight for your dreams.
Was I ready for Level 3? Not fully. Up until now, I felt that I just got lucky with it. There was just this calm during that three-day exam that surrounded me. That even if I wasn’t confident with my knowledge, somehow, deep inside I know that I can finish this level. Waiting for the results was agonizing. There are more days where I felt I flunked the tests. The sigh of relief when I finally got the news that I passed was unforgettable. Deep down, I knew I could do it.
Can we stumble upon our dreams without being ready for it? Yes. However, we will eventually lose it. Without preparations, we are destined to do horrible at it. Remembering the process, I see now that I did prepare for it. That my preparations were enough. Luck may have gotten me far but my preparations were the ones who really pushed me to the top. Dear reader, dreamers should be good preppers too.