This is a special podcast specifically about the reading section (読解) of the JLPT N2. If you have already taken this test or are studying for another test, you might want to skip this episode. I’ve previously published podcasts on the reading section for N5, N4, and N3. So, if you are studying for any of those tests, you might want to go back and check those podcasts out. I’ll be covering N1 next week.
The N2 Reading Section has 21 questions. It starts off with 5 short passage questions of about 200 characters in length. Then, there are 9 medium passage questions (3 passages/3 questions each). These passages are about 500 characters long (around 2 or 3 paragraphs).
New to this level are the integrated comprehension questions. There are two questions that go over 2 or 3 readings and the point is to test your ability to compare and contrast two different readings with a similar topic. There is one long passage (thematic comprehension) passage of about 900 characters with 3 questions after that. The thematic comprehension will be asking about summary information of the passage. It’s important to read this passage quickly, but throughly. 900 characters is a little more than a page of writing. There will also be a few words that aren’t ‘N2 Level’ that will be defined in Japanese for you.
This is all finished off with 2 information retrieval questions about one piece of reading. On the N2, you’ll see brochures, business documents, advertisements, and other such materials that they will be asking you about.
Tactics for the N2 Reading Section
The first two types of questions, the short passage and medium passages, the tactics are the same. Be sure to read the questions first before reading the passage so you understand why you are reading the passage. This will help focus you on the main ideas of the reading.
For the integrated comprehension questions, these can be a little bit more difficult to answer. The idea behind these questions is to compare and contrast two pieces of information. Examples of this are a bit difficult to find in the ‘wild’, so you might want to check out a practice test or reading comprehension practice book. Alternatively, you could take a look at the practice questions on the JLPT site that go over these as well, so you have an idea of what you are going into. These questions don’t exist on past, pre-2010 tests, so if you are taking these old tests to practice for the N2, be aware that this question wasn’t on those old tests.
The second to last question you need to worry about is the thematic comprehension questions. These are 3 questions about one passage of about 900 characters (roughly a little more than a page). These passages will be written with logical composition, so they will include connectors and references to other parts of the same essay. This is where you will have to read quickly, but throughly too, so a good reading speed will come in handy for this section.
The final two questions will be information retrieval. For these two questions, be sure to read the question first and then skim through the reading to find the answers. You don’t need to read all the information. However, do be sure to look for exclusions or exceptions that could be written in fine print somewhere that will change the correct answer. Look out for the ※ (こめマク）, this mark called ‘kome mark’ or ‘rice mark’ in Japanese signifies that the writer wants to add some extra information.
How do you Prepare for the N2 Reading?
At this level, you have to start reading native materials. I would recommend a balance of fiction and non-fiction reading. The non-fiction will include a lot of logical composition which will come in handy for the longer passages in the reading section. The fiction will build your vocabulary and overall reading speed to help you skim and speed through this section so you don’t get bogged down.
You can pick up books at a variety of used book stores as well as new bookstores. Be sure to find something that you are pretty interested in, so that you will stay motivated to finish. This isn’t the time to work your way through war and peace either. Find something a tad shorter (around 200 to 300 pages) and about a somewhat light topic. The N2 doesn’t cover specific subjects, so reading something a little more general would help you with vocabulary and give you an idea of what to expect on the test.
For information retrieval questions, be sure to try to pick up some brochures and flyers and try to skim through them from time to time. If you are out of Japan, I’m going to try to start scanning flyers I get in the mail and posting them up. I promise I’ll try to get to that soon!
You may also consider picking up some books that specifically focus on reading comprehension. There is only one good book for this level (that I’ve been able to find anyway), Nihongo So-Matome N2 Reading Comprehension, that I just recently did a full walkthrough of. This is a good book for not only the test, but general reading comprehension, too.
This will probably be the most difficult section of the test (at least for most people). So, at the very least, be sure to look at the practice questions before going into the exam.
Have you taken the N2? If so, what kind of topics came up on the test? What did you find difficult about the test?
Let me know in the comments below!
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