There are a total of 6 different types of questions that come up on the JLPT. Each of them tests a different aspect of listening that you will encounter in real life. Different levels have different types of questions and a different number of questions to challenge you.
All of the questions are going to be using spoken Japanese (thank goodness) and of course not written Japanese. These make them slightly easier at least in vocabulary as well as grammar. However, if you aren’t prepared for the different types of questions you are going to see on the test, they might throw you for a loop.
It’s important to know the directions and what is going to happen on the test so you can focus purely on answering the questions. On most of the questions, they don’t give you a whole lot of time to think about it. You have to answer and keep going. If you don’t, you might find yourself halfway through the next question before you realize you haven’t made a decision yet.
So let’s get to it.
1) Task-based comprehension
In this listening section, you’ll be asked to listen to a dialog between two people and solve a particular problem, which is a question they will ask you. You will hear a very brief description of the situation and the question. Then, you’ll hear the dialog and then the question again.
You won’t be given any real time to look at the answers. So, a good idea is during the time they are reading the instructions for this part of the test, skim through all the answers for this particular section and maybe make notes if you can. That way you’ll know what is coming up.
|# of questions||6||5||6||8||7|
2) Point comprehension
In this listening section, you’ll listen to dialog and have to retrieve some points. Again, these are conversations between two people, and you’ll be given a brief description of the situation and question. These descriptions usually only identify the people talking for example a man and a woman and whether they are on the phone or not.
After the description and question, you’ll be given time to read the answers in the test booklet. This is a big help as you don’t have to read the answers while the conversation is taking place.
These questions will mostly have a lot of information in them and your goal is to pull out the one piece of information that applies to the question. They are different from the task-based questions in that you have to listen to the entire conversation for the task-based questions where as for the point comprehension questions the answer could be in one sentence anywhere in the dialog.
|# of questions||7||6||6||7||6|
3) Summary Comprehension
Okay, I’m going to be honest with you on these. These questions are fairly scary. There is nothing written in your test booklet for these questions, so you don’t have anything to go on. You’ll hear a question and then a dialog that can go on for about 1 minute or so.
The main idea behind these questions is for you to get the main idea of the conversation, so you’ll need to take notes! Don’t feel like you need to take notes in Japanese either. This isn’t the time to be showing off your Japanese skills. Play to your strengths and scribble down notes in a way that you will be able to decipher them later for the question.
|# of questions||6||5||3||X||X|
4) Utterance Expressions
These are bit like the kid sister to the quick response questions that are in the next section. Here you’ll see a picture with an arrow pointing to the person that is doing the speaking. You’ll hear a one or two sentence explanation of the situation and then a choice of 3 potential phrases that the person could be saying. This is to test your ability to determine what phrase is appropriate in what situation.
|# of questions||X||X||4||5||5|
5) Quick Response
In this section, you’ll be given a sentence or question and you must choose the correct response out of 3 possible responses. Sounds easy right? Well, not quite. These can be one of the harder questions because they come at you hard and fast. Be sure to answer quick and don’t look back. Try to remain calm and keep focusing.
|# of questions||14||12||9||8||6|
6) Integrated Comprehension
These are by far the grand daddy of them all. Here you’ll be given a description of the conversation and then the dialog begins. These are usually somewhere around 1 and a half minutes long and involve 3 people. To make matters worse the question and the answers are only at the end of the dialog (for the first two questions). For the last two questions, you are luckily given something in your test book, but it usually isn’t much to go by.
You’ll be given two dialogs with two questions each with no answers written in the test book. Then, the last dialog has two questions and the answers are written in the test book. However, the last problem is split into two answering spaces on the answer sheet.
|# of questions||4||4||X||X||X|
JLPT Listening Can be Easy, Can be Hard
In general, those inside Japan find this to be an easier section of the test for obvious reasons (especially the first two sections), but that doesn’t mean it’ll be a cakewalk. Be sure to stay focused and build up your listening stamina before the exam, so you don’t end up daydreaming during this section.
Are you prepared for the listening section? Have you listened to any native-speed conversations lately?
Let me know in the comments below!
Photo thanks to Travis Isaacs