Phew! お疲れ様でした. That was hard work today. For the first time, I took the N1, which is a gruelling 4 hour ordeal (with about 3 of those hours actually taking the test). To top it off, it was pouring rain on and off all day. Such is rainy season in Japan.
The main reason why I signed up for the July test in the first place was to make me study and stay focused for the first part of this year. I figured if I waited until December to take it, I would kind of lazily study my way through it and not make it through all the material in time. I knew I wasn’t going to pass it that was for sure.
I’m glad I did take it though, because I found out that I was a lot closer to passing the exam than I thought I was. I walked into the test today thinking I had no chance of passing, but after taking the test, I feel like I did okay, at least not a complete fail. I want to almost say it was easy, well, easier than I imagined it would be.
I changed up my study routine a little in hopes of speeding up my learning. I think at least some of the things I changed actually really helped.
N1 Grammar Study
This time around, I decided to start off by building vocabulary and over-learning the grammar. The theory was that if I over-learned the grammar, I could get through the grammar section in pretty good time as well as increase my reading speed because I would be able to recognize and understand all the grammar being used.
And I can truthfully say that I’m able to easily translate any of the sentences in my So-Matome N1 Grammar book with relative ease, which is pretty good considering I just started it about a month and half ago. However, knowing the grammar (in the So-Matome book at least) didn’t help a lot in the grammar section.
Actually, for me the grammar section seemed a little strange. I didn’t really immediately recognize any patterns. There were a few things I could quickly answer, but a lot of the questions I just answered on hunches. So, So-Matome doesn’t cover you very well for the grammar section of the exam.
But, it really helped in the reading section where I was able to read the passages a lot quicker thanks to the fact that I could recognize certain grammar patterns. The reading was still hard, and I’m sure I scored lower in that section, but it was mostly due to vocabulary and not the sentence structure. So, I think So-Matome is still a good introduction, just not the cure-all.
N1 Kanji and Vocabulary
There is no orthography section on the N1 (where they give you the hiragana and you have to choose the kanji). So, you might think that you don’t have to study that much kanji for the N1, and you are pretty much right. I’m just about 33% through the N1 Kanji with my iKanji the iPhone app and I was able to recognize most of the kanji throughout the test.
Now, I do a lot of supplemental reading and some of the kanji I recognized because I studied the word or words that use it during my vocabulary studying, but I feel like you don’t really need to focus on kanji at this level as much as you do at other levels.
N2 kanji are the most valuable kanji and most useful for every day situations. N1 kanji (and above) or used a lot in newspapers and formal documents, but I haven’t really seen them in other places. Or if they do come up, they will have furigana with them.
Knowing kanji and their individual meanings did come in handy for guessing the meanings of vocabulary in the vocabulary section, which never seems to have words in it from the lists that circulate around the web. More often than not, you will have to guess the meaning of the word from the kanji.
However, there were more than a few words that I recognized from doing my reading and reviewing the vocabulary. That is always an amazing feeling when you recognize a word on the test from ‘real life’.
Reading and Listening
I felt like both of these areas don’t require too many new skills to master. Most of the strategies I learned from taking the N2 came in handy here. Although, I have gotten a little rusty with them and so I’ll have to be polishing them up for the next round.
The biggest thing I took away from taking the test this time was that it was ‘do-able’. Even though everything still seemed to be out of reach, it was just outside of reach and not impossibly far away. So, I feel like if I put my nose to the grindstone and keep working and studying I’ll at least come close to passing in December.
How did you fare?
Did you take the test? What level? Where? What was it like? What did you think was difficult? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.