I always enjoy my twice a year journey to Kyoto University. It’s a pretty big campus and has some unique buildings on it. Although the buildings are all named almost the same thing on the Yoshida campus, where the hold the test, it is generally a nice facility as long as it is not extremely hot or cold outside. And today was almost perfect temperature-wise. The rain at the end was a bit of a bummer though. Especially since I totally forgot to bring umbrella, despite the fact that it almost always rains when I take the test.
I noticed some of the testing process has changed a bit. Kyodai (Kyoto University) was sporting some hastily made signs this time, which is huge improvement over the lack of any signage at all like previous tests. They also made us put our cell phones in envelopes this time. Normally, we just have to switch them off and throw them in our bag, but this time we had switch them off then stick them in these plain envelopes, fold over the end and set them on the desk. I’m not sure how much more efficient this is at catching cheaters, but whatever.
I also had an bumbling, over-eager proctor this time around. Whenever someone was doing something even remotely against the rules he would run hurriedly to the front and whip out his trusty yellow card (a warning, two of them and you are out of the test). Then, he would mischievously laugh to himself and mutter something like ‘もったいない’. He even stopped to get my attention in the middle of the test to ‘shhh’ me for some mysterious noise I must have created.
As usual, there were no clocks anywhere to be seen. Still not sure why this is. They even cover the temperature controls with a pink sheet. Are they afraid we are going to get answers off the thermostat or something? Anyway, what about the content?
Vocabulary and Grammar
I felt that these were pretty much what I expected. Everything was just about at the level it should be. I especially loved the text grammar questions at the end. It was about fairly approachable topic of telling stories to kids. Sometimes that section can be a huge bore. I think I did better with vocab and grammar this time. There were a lot more, ‘oh, I’ve seen that before’ moments compared to other tests. Did I get those questions wrong or right? Well, I’m really not sure.
Reading was right on target too. Although, I must have been starting to lose focus at this stage because there were a few articles that I read. I understood the vocabulary and the grammar, but I couldn’t get an overall picture of what was going on with it. The vertical reading passage, where the writing is written like a newspaper or novel, was tough to get through. It was really figurative and just had a hard time organize that information when it was written in columns like that.
I was glad to see business letter on the exam. The one question I can answer easily from experience. The fourth to last reading passage really tested my concentration though. For some reason, I could not really understand the first two paragraphs. It was something about new technology and communication and how we are interconnected now. I could understand the words, and kind of the grammar, but the whole picture was just really cloudy.
The reading where you have to compare two passages (third from the end) should have been easy. It was about reading manga. But, for the life of me, I had a hard time fishing out the main points of the two passages. I had just end of guessing out of elimination, which made me feel kind of dumb.
Speaking of feeling dumb, I think I bombed listening. Why? Well, I’m not sure. The only thing I can think of is, is that I didn’t spend really anytime with listening drilling at all. I spent almost all of my time reading, mastering grammar, and pumping up my vocab this time around. I did start watching more jDramas, but I’m pretty sure that didn’t help so much.
The first section of listening was fairly easy, I’m pretty sure I got those right. The second one, there were plenty of tricks in the listening and more than a few of them that I thought were too easy, which probably means I got them wrong. The third section was a nightmare. I don’t ever remember being so lost in that section. 4th listening was quick response, which ended up being a lot of quick guesses by me. Maybe it is my age, but my brain doesn’t seem to process information that fast to answer those well.
But, I really hit a dead end on the last question, which should have been easy. It was about travel plans, and I must have misheard the final question, because I can almost swear that they asked the same question twice (for the last listening passage, there are two questions about it). I mean travel plans are easy, I used to travel a lot, erghh.
Anyway, did anyone else do the N1? How did you feel about the listening? What do you do to study listening?
If I had to bet on myself. I would say I didn’t pass this time because of the listening. I was really lost in the middle of it. I think it might have been a little fatigue or test anxiety that sneaked in there and threw me off course. I’m optimistic that I did bring up my score, but I could have also totally tanked it. I was really focusing on grammar and vocabulary this time around because that score hasn’t been where I want it to be. But, it looks like I might have to do some more listening. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to master quick response. This is a skill that I have a hard time with in daily conversation as well.
Your Reactions to the July 2014 JLPT
I want to hear what you thought about the test. Tell us your impressions. Where did you take it? What level? What section did you think was the hardest? How did you prepare? I’d love to hear about it all!
Oh, if you are wondering about when results will come out. It all depends on where you took it. But, for those that registered online in Japan (and took the test in Japan), the results typically appear online the last Tuesday of August and are mailed out to all test-takers (who took the test in Japan) the following week.