JLPT BC 35 | First Reactions to N2

JLPT N2 July 2011

Awww! My brain hurts!

I’m just fresh out of the test, and to tell you the truth, it was exhausting.  For the N2 level, there are only two sections, a 105 minute language knowledge section and a 50 minute listening section.  The first section can be a bit daunting because you are given all that time to finish it and you really have to manage your time well.

I can say that the facilities were quite a lot nicer this time though.  I took the test at 京大 (kyodai), or Kyoto University.  If you are not familiar with Kyoto University, it is one of the Ivy League schools of Japan, so it is a very  big school that has a ton of buildings.  It was a bit of maze and absolutely nothing was clearly marked which is completely different to all of my previous experiences with the JLPT.

Other than that, the rooms themselves were actually quite nice.  I’m use to taking the test on uncomfortable wooden seats with barely adequate heating and cooling, so I was relieved to see cushioned seats and reliable climate control.  They also had a speaker system instead of the lovely CD-boombox they had at my N3 test.  I guess I’m moving up in the world.

What went well

I think studying vocabulary and kanji with Anki really boosted my vocabulary and kanji scores.  But, I do think it is key to have good example sentences and clear definitive definitions of the words you are studying.  Make sure there isn’t any ambiguity between a couple of words in your deck.  There has been a few times when I knew the ‘meaning’ of the word, but wasn’t able to choose the right sentence in the usage section because I didn’t know how to use it.  If you have a good example sentence and a clear definition then you can avoid this problem.

What didn’t go so well

I felt the scrambled sentences were really tricky this time around.  I can usually sort out how a sentence comes together by just looking at the particles and making a few educated guesses, but that was not the case this time.  There were some torturous sentences.  I think it is best to do some more reading in order to see more sentence patterns and get more familiar with them.

Another problem I ran into was that I ran out of time in the reading.  I wasn’t able to properly read the thematic comprehension question (second to last passage).  This was a bit of first for me.  I’ve been really practicing reading exercises and even doing 20~30 minutes of reading on the train, but because of some difficult phrasing, vocab I didn’t know, and being a little exhausted, I couldn’t get through it in time.  I guess I need to keep up the reading and try to bump up my speed a bit.

The listening section also seems to be the easiest section of the test for those living in Japan.  I thought it was actually just N2 level this time.  The speakers seem to be speaking incredibly fast, but it might just be that I haven’t actually ever studied for the listening section because it is usually my strength.  I can’t really say it was my strength this time though.  The quick response section gave me a bit of trouble.  It’s just a bit hard for me to think that fast I think.  Definitely something I will have to practice for future tests.

Going Forward

I feel like I either just passed, or just failed.  Either way, I think I’ll be spending the next few months patching up holes in my grammar and vocabulary that I need work on.  I’m also going to move toward more ‘natural’ ways of studying Japanese with books, movies, and jDramas and things like that.  I’ll be experimenting with a couple of different study methods over the next few months and letting everyone know how/if they help.

I’ll, of course, be coupling natural studying with a lot of Anki work to remember new words that I pick up from reading, dramas, and just chitchat.  I feel like if you just study for the test, and don’t expand your Japanese into other areas, you start sounding a bit bookish and I personally get a bit demotivated.  So, I’ll be spreading out and doing more fun studying.

How about you?

Did you take the test in July?  How was it?  What was easy and what was difficult?  Would you do anything differently to prepare for the test?

P.S. Did you miss out on the big test in July?  Need some weekly tips to help you for the December test?  Sign up for the newsletter for all the latest tips and tricks.

P.S.S. Do you think you aced the listening section of the test? Go tell iTunes about how much JLPT Boot Camp helped you.  Or if you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, by all means let me know in the comments below or contact me and let me know what I can do to improve the show.  Thanks!

Music by Kevin MacLeod, photo by Daehyun Park



{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Geckomayhem July 9, 2011, 2:46 pm

    “The listening section also seems to be the easiest section of the test for those living in Japan.”

    I don’t agree. Not that I am anywhere near N2 level, but I’ve been living in Japan for 3 years and it has been a constant struggle to try and improve my listening. Maybe listening is easier for people in Japanese jobs or who live in towns and cities. I don’t know. But out in the middle of a rural area, even though I hear Japanese spoken every day, my world is very English and so my listening skills are something I really, really have to work on. Still trying to find non-boring ways of improving. 🙂

    The test sounds very daunting. I hope that between now and December I will find methods of moving forward that will equip me for N4 and it’s three sections. 😮

    • Mac July 10, 2011, 2:05 am

      I have a harder time than most on the listening section as well (at least at N2 level), but I suppose I should say statistically speaking the listening section is easier for those in Japan. Typically, people taking the test in Japan score 6~9 points (out of 60) higher on the listening section than people taking the test outside of Japan, according to the latest statistics (July 2010)

      You have to consider that this covers everybody though including a lot of college students and people here at Japanese schools as well as people working in an all Japanese environment. You still have to actively improve your listening skills even if you are in country, I think it is just easier for some.

      Do you ever have the chance to overhear conversations at work? That’s where I get a lot of my listening practice from, except a lot of the conversations are in Kansai-ben or sometimes Kyoto-ben (what my wife usually speaks).

      To get a lot of ‘standard’ Japanese listening, I rely pretty heavily on JapanesePod101, just for the variety and different kinds of situations.

      Ondoku (lit. reading out loud) seems to help a lot of people with listening as well. I haven’t been doing it recently, but I’m trying to make it a point to get back into it.

  • Craig July 11, 2011, 8:24 am

    Just my opinion, but your site seems to focus on the JLPT, but your actual Japanese study goal seems more general in nature.

    The JLPT is by design a finite set of kanji, vocabulary, and grammar. If someone is strictly interested in preparation for this test one should be very careful about what books, movies, and other non-JLPT specific materials they spend a lot of time using in the name of `studying.`

    It might make for an enjoyable study afternoon to watch a drama or two, but none of the non-standard Japanese is going to appear on the JLPT.

    This is also true of grammar study. There are several JLPT grammar points that are rarely used in practical speaking and several at the N2 and N1 levels that are used in very formal writing situations only. The average foreigner; even living in Japan, will likely never see.

    Nothing is black and white on this matter. But, I don`t think the average desperately needing to pass the JLPT, person is going to benefit much from movies and manga if they are lacking in the key components of specific JLPT kanji, vocabulary, and grammar.

    As to the last N2 test, I thought the grammar was more difficult than the previous test I took. But, I also thought the kanji, vocabulary, reading, and listening were easier than before. I supose it was just the luck of the draw.

    • Mac July 12, 2011, 12:29 am

      I guess like I said in the article, if you JUST study for the test, your real ability to use the language (in casual conversation and such) will start to falter or you’ll just get bored and demotivated. And, jDramas and books and other such native materials aren’t completely void of JLPT vocab and grammar.
      I like to talk to people and be able to communicate and joke around at work, at the store, and at home with family. So, studying a broader range of things is useful (for me). If you are someone who is desperately needing to pass the JLPT, I’d recommend just sticking to the books and hope for the best definitely.

      But, you’ll find that if you use some native materials in your studying it’ll start to ‘synergize’ with your grammar books and anki lists. For the first part of the year I did a lot of logical reading, a business book and book about studying in Japanese. These did actually contain several grammar points from N2 as well as a lot of the vocabulary from that level, so they weren’t a waste at all. I was able to see the language in the ‘wild’.

      I’m hoping to find something similar with jDramas. Now, if you pick up the latest gangster drama, or a high school drama you might find that it lacks a lot of JLPT grammar/vocab, but it is still useful to practice the SKILL of listening, paying attention to responses, and seeing how the language is naturally used. At the very least, if you listen to it actively (with say a script or subtitles) you’ll be building up listening stamina.

      My ultimate goal, you could say, is to be able to use Japanese fluently and that involves understanding it in its natural form, not just take and pass a test about it. The tests are excellent benchmarks and also force you to be a balanced learner, so that you can adapt to a new situation quickly. I think that is their true power. If I didn’t have the test, I wouldn’t be able to read as fast and as accurately as I can now or be able to pick out details in a conversation as well as I do now.

      Anyway, yes, if you are in desperate need of passing the test, I would recommend sticking to JLPT books, Anki lists, and the standard studying tools. For example, A Korean friend of mine had to pass the test (before her visa expired) in order to go job hunting so that she could stay in Japan. That would be useful. But, if you aren’t in that situation, I think it’s important to have a broad study base to draw from so that you see the words and grammar from the test not just in lists and textbooks but in the ‘wild’.

      Wouldn’t you agree?

      Thanks for commenting Craig and bringing up a good point!

Leave a Comment

JLPT Boot Camp - The Ultimate Study Guide to passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test