Also, due to the odd nature of the grading system they use for the test, it is hard to know exactly how many questions I got wrong. They use a system called IRT, which is an incredibly complex way to grade a test, but in theory it provides everyone with a fair score.
The N2 consists of 3 sections, language knowledge, reading, and listening. Each of them get their separate scores and in order to pass the test you have to score at least 19 in each section. I did succeed in scoring above 19 in every section, but unfortunately didn’t have the overall score to pass.
This was my strongest section and I feel the easiest to prepare for. With a lot of Anki drilling and grammar study you can pretty much breeze through a few of these sections. Having the ability to quickly recall vocab and recognize kanji is big plus, because the quicker you get through this section, the more time you have for the reading section.
In this section I scored an A in the vocabulary, again probably due to Anki drilling. I also got a B in grammar. I felt like I was able to answer the grammar questions pretty well, but what probably kept me from getting an A and scoring higher were the scrambled sentences. Those things sent me in circles.
If you are not familiar with the scrambled sentences section of the test, you should be, because it can cause major headaches. Essentially, in this section you are given a sentence that has 4 blanks in the middle of it somewhere. Below it are 4 pieces of the sentences, these can be one word, a clause, or a particle. You must put these pieces in order in the blanks of the sentences, then mark the number of the piece that you put in the space with the star on your answer sheet.
These types of questions really require a good sense of sentence structure, which is something that I guess I don’t really pay attention to that much in Japanese. I guess I need to start paying more attention to it, so I’ll be doing a lot more intentional reading where I try to pick out the structure of sentences as much as possible.
If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I always say that the reading section for N2 and N1 are the most difficult part of the test. And, I’m repeatedly reminded of that whenever I take a mock test or this real test. The reading is no joke.
On the July test, I didn’t have enough time to finish the second to last question on the test, which is the longest (~1000 characters) and probably most difficult passage on the test. I had to skim this passage and make some educated guesses which probably cost me a few points.
I have been doing a lot more reading practice lately. I recently picked up a really good and tough book called 試験に出る読解N1・N2, which is absolutely fantastic book, but make sure you know N2 vocabulary really well because the textbook definitely uses N2+ vocab.
I’ve also started reading a lot of native materials from a variety of different sources. I started reading PHP, which is kind of reader’s digest here in Japan. It is cheap and is full of the type of essays that you typically see in the reading section of the JLPT. Some of the essays are significantly more difficult than others, but you can usually find a few in each edition that could qualify as N2 level.
Ok, so, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never spent all that much time on listening. I figure I pick up enough listening being around friends and family and just overhearing the occasional conversation on the train or at work. I also watch a little bit of Japanese TV and movies from time to time as well and pick up some listening practice there.
But, alas, that isn’t enough anymore. So it is time to bite the bullet and focus a little bit on improving my listening skills needed specifically for the test. I’m going to be doing a lot more purposeful listening to increase my skill in this area.
One thing that tripped me up was the quick response section. A lot of people say that this section is easier because you only have 3 choices, but I find it to be a bit difficult and also mentally exhausting. The questions come at you pretty fast and if you linger to long on a particular question you’ve already missed the next question.
Another type of question I need to work on are the last 3 questions of the listening section. For these 3 questions, you must listen to a passage and take notes and then they will ask you a question about it. So, you have to take really good notes about what is being discussed. I’ve got to practice my mental focus for this section. I felt myself drifting off a little bit.
For the next 3 months I’ll be in a holding pattern with my vocab. I’ve finished off my Anki deck that covers most of the vocabulary for the N2 and now I’m just going to review until the December test. I might later on start gradually adding some N1 vocabulary at a pace of about 5 a day or so, but for now I’m going to try to beat down my ~150 card a day habit.
I’ll also be continuing to read a variety native materials including a new reader’s digest type magazine called PHP. Any new vocabulary that I get from there I’ll be slowly adding to my deck over at memrise.com.
I’ll also be doing a lot more purposeful listening. By that I mean, listening to a dialog several times to pick up all the details and language used, being sure to write down or ask about anything I don’t completely understand. Before I was doing a lot more casual native listening to podcasts and the like.
Did you take the July test? What were your results? What would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below.
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Music by Kevin MacLeod