From time to time, I get asked about how I study and how my progress is going. So I’d like to start a new series here on JLPT Boot Camp that gives you a little insight into my study plan and habits. Hopefully, by sharing my monthly progress you can learn from my mistakes and victories and be able to improve your studying habits as well.
I think it is important for anyone that is studying a language to keep track of their progress and assess what is effective and what isn’t it from time to time. Different people study in different ways, so there is no singular method that is going to help you pass the test. You have to try out a variety of methods to get to the one blend that is right for you.
Anyway, I hope this report helps you and gives you some insights.
I always use Anki for a lot of vocabulary building also grammar review, too. I find it to be an easy mechanical task that I can do to build and strengthen my vocab more and more. Currently I’m adding 30 cards a day. This is quite a burden. As you can see from my study time chart:
I’m currently averaging about 40 minutes every day of raw drills just in Anki. Generally speaking, I think this is way too high. Most people recommend only doing about 20 minutes a day of drilling like this. However, I’m trying to cram in all the necessary vocabulary for the N2 test in July.
I also do about 10 to 20 minutes of Japanese Flip on my iPhone at lunch time. I’ve been able to go through about 20 more cards on that every work day. I actually find it quite useful to have two separate SRS decks running. If you have two different decks the cards come up at different times making it good review.
Overall, I find my vocab practice to be invaluable. I put the vocabulary to use almost immediately sometimes, so I feel like it isn’t a burden to my overall language learning. In other words, I’m not learning words for words sake, they are of actual use in daily conversation.
The only thing I’m really doing to study grammar is So-matome’s grammar book for N2, which I recently walked through. I find it to be very useful, although sometimes I have to pick up another book for reference or to get more examples.
I’m currently about to finish week 6 of the book. There are 8 weeks total, so hopefully by this time next month I’ll have finished it off.
What I’ve found effective for studying this book is to try to time yourself. I give myself about 20 minutes to study the grammar points, review them and then take the short quiz each day. Timing myself really helps to keep me focused for that time.
One of my weak points (and I think a weak point for most people taking N2+) is reading. The essays on the test can be incredibly difficult. They are generally quite ambiguous and usually abstract.
On the old test (pre-2010) you could do really well on vocabulary, kanji, listening and grammar and be okay. However, for the new test you must have a minimum score in each category to pass. So this strategy no longer works.
In the past, I read a lot of novelizations for movies. These are usually written in simple language because they are adapted from a movie. They are usually written for kids as well, so the language is easy to understand because of that too. Although these movie novelizations are interesting to read, I don’t think they improve your reading skill. The essays on the test are usually about a general topic (like friends, haircuts, conversation, etc…) but include a lot of connectors and grammatical terms that you can easily get lost in.
So, I decided to pick up a business book (well sort of a business book). I figured some of the structures in the book would be similar to the essays on the test. I’m currently reading the Secret, which is a bit difficult to explain, but is actually easy to read because it repeats a lot of the same words over and over again.
I’m currently on page 70 of 296 pages. I’m trying to keep to a goal of reading at least 2 pages every work day. I hope to speed this up a little bit, but we’ll see.
I’m not sure if I’m on track to pass the N2 this July or not. I know I will probably be able to ace the vocabulary section, but I’m a little afraid of the reading. I have both the old and new so-matome reading books. I practiced the old one and found it to be too easy, so I’m hoping the new one will be a little bit more difficult.
1) What is your progress looking like?
2) If you are taking the test in July, do you feel you are prepared?
Let me know in the comments below.