JLPT BC 46 | July 2011 Test Results

July 2011 Test ResultsI just got my results back from my July JLPT. In short, I failed the exam, but not spectacularly. I feel like 75/180 isn’t terrible. At least it is better than some other attempts I’ve seen.

Also, due to the odd nature of the grading system they use for the test, it is hard to know exactly how many questions I got wrong. They use a system called IRT, which is an incredibly complex way to grade a test, but in theory it provides everyone with a fair score.

The N2 consists of 3 sections, language knowledge, reading, and listening. Each of them get their separate scores and in order to pass the test you have to score at least 19 in each section. I did succeed in scoring above 19 in every section, but unfortunately didn’t have the overall score to pass.

Language Knowledge – 27/60

This was my strongest section and I feel the easiest to prepare for. With a lot of Anki drilling and grammar study you can pretty much breeze through a few of these sections. Having the ability to quickly recall vocab and recognize kanji is big plus, because the quicker you get through this section, the more time you have for the reading section.

In this section I scored an A in the vocabulary, again probably due to Anki drilling. I also got a B in grammar. I felt like I was able to answer the grammar questions pretty well, but what probably kept me from getting an A and scoring higher were the scrambled sentences. Those things sent me in circles.

If you are not familiar with the scrambled sentences section of the test, you should be, because it can cause major headaches. Essentially, in this section you are given a sentence that has 4 blanks in the middle of it somewhere. Below it are 4 pieces of the sentences, these can be one word, a clause, or a particle. You must put these pieces in order in the blanks of the sentences, then mark the number of the piece that you put in the space with the star on your answer sheet.

These types of questions really require a good sense of sentence structure, which is something that I guess I don’t really pay attention to that much in Japanese. I guess I need to start paying more attention to it, so I’ll be doing a lot more intentional reading where I try to pick out the structure of sentences as much as possible.

Reading – 23/60

If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I always say that the reading section for N2 and N1 are the most difficult part of the test. And, I’m repeatedly reminded of that whenever I take a mock test or this real test. The reading is no joke.

On the July test, I didn’t have enough time to finish the second to last question on the test, which is the longest (~1000 characters) and probably most difficult passage on the test. I had to skim this passage and make some educated guesses which probably cost me a few points.

I have been doing a lot more reading practice lately. I recently picked up a really good and tough book called 試験に出る読解N1・N2, which is absolutely fantastic book, but make sure you know N2 vocabulary really well because the textbook definitely uses N2+ vocab.

I’ve also started reading a lot of native materials from a variety of different sources. I started reading PHP, which is kind of reader’s digest here in Japan. It is cheap and is full of the type of essays that you typically see in the reading section of the JLPT. Some of the essays are significantly more difficult than others, but you can usually find a few in each edition that could qualify as N2 level.

Listening 25/60

Ok, so, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never spent all that much time on listening. I figure I pick up enough listening being around friends and family and just overhearing the occasional conversation on the train or at work. I also watch a little bit of Japanese TV and movies from time to time as well and pick up some listening practice there.

But, alas, that isn’t enough anymore. So it is time to bite the bullet and focus a little bit on improving my listening skills needed specifically for the test. I’m going to be doing a lot more purposeful listening to increase my skill in this area.

One thing that tripped me up was the quick response section. A lot of people say that this section is easier because you only have 3 choices, but I find it to be a bit difficult and also mentally exhausting. The questions come at you pretty fast and if you linger to long on a particular question you’ve already missed the next question.

Another type of question I need to work on are the last 3 questions of the listening section. For these 3 questions, you must listen to a passage and take notes and then they will ask you a question about it. So, you have to take really good notes about what is being discussed. I’ve got to practice my mental focus for this section. I felt myself drifting off a little bit.

I’m thinking I’ll end up picking up 試験に出る読解‘s doppleganger 試験に出る聴解, which is the listening book for the N2/N1. I’ll let you know if it is worth picking up or not.


For the next 3 months I’ll be in a holding pattern with my vocab. I’ve finished off my Anki deck that covers most of the vocabulary for the N2 and now I’m just going to review until the December test. I might later on start gradually adding some N1 vocabulary at a pace of about 5 a day or so, but for now I’m going to try to beat down my ~150 card a day habit.

I’ll also be continuing to read a variety native materials including a new reader’s digest type magazine called PHP. Any new vocabulary that I get from there I’ll be slowly adding to my deck over at memrise.com.

I’ll also be doing a lot more purposeful listening. By that I mean, listening to a dialog several times to pick up all the details and language used, being sure to write down or ask about anything I don’t completely understand. Before I was doing a lot more casual native listening to podcasts and the like.

What about You?

Did you take the July test? What were your results? What would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. Are you studying for the December JLPT? You should join my newsletter!

P.S.S. Did you get an awesome score on the July JLPT? Then, you should leave me a comment on iTunes and leave me a review.  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

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Craig September 23, 2011, 12:25 am

    So, I have been following your website for awhile. I must admit I was curious as to your score on the N2 test.

    It seems you study quite a bit and you use lots of materials, but the return on those materials and time is not very high. Too, I bought some of your earlier book suggestions, and I found them to be well below the N2 (for example Nihongo So-Matome); although, you do later say this book was not as helpful as you thought it would be.

    My friend; for example, sat in a bar every evening watching TV, drinking beer, and overhearing conversations and got 118/180 (A in voc and B in grammar, 49 on listening). He picked up a N2 book less than one month before taking the test. And, he went to the test completely hung-over. And, he is not some super genius. In fact, he has only been in Japan for 4 years, takes Minna No Nihongo book 2 lessons twice a month, and teaches English all day long.

    He mocked me for spending time reviewing flash cards, Kanzen Master, listen CDs, and all the rest that most folks do.

    But, I realized that he had seen the forest for the trees, and I had been planting trees to see the forest. He passed N2 and I got a 76 despite private tutors and several 100 hours of studying.

    All that studying, money on books, and what-not, and I hope to BARELY pass? How long N1 going to take 10 YEARS?

    I would not be in a holding pattern on any part of N2. I have gone back to the very beginning of every N2 book I have with my now tutor(S).

    I got scores similar to yours in most areas. NONE of those scores show understanding let alone mastery of ANY area. Would you want a doctor who knew 40% about medicine operating on you?

    I am using this down time to take a loooooooong look at how I study.

    There is no way the hours you seem to put in should result in `hoping` to pass and getting a score like that. Trust me、I know, I have 3 FAILS for N2 taped to my fridge right now.

    • Mac September 23, 2011, 5:18 am

      I think the biggest hurdle for the N2 is inference and nuances. Also, performing under pressure, I’m usually pretty bad at tests. That’s a skill that I for one have a hard time overcoming. When I look at my practice tests that I took, I can usually figure out what I did wrong. There are a handful that I’m completely clueless about, but that’s just me.

      For me, I just need to stop making foolish mistakes, which I do quite often. I’ll miss a transition or just not apply what I learn. That’s why I think it is important to only do about 50% book studying tops, the rest should be reading native materials, speaking to natives and listening to some native TV shows now and then. I’ve been doing this recently and it has helped, but I still can’t shake my stupid mistakes.

      We all learn differently, so I think you should take a look at how you are studying and re-asses what is efficient for you.

      Thanks for commenting.

  • vivzilla September 23, 2011, 12:48 am

    Your friend sounds a lot like my boyfriend who also picked up Japanese through just going about his daily (drinking) activities in Tokyo for 2 years and almost got to N3 level. Since coming back to Australia he has struggled with remembering his new-found skills as he doesn’t have to speak and listen to japanese every day. I think there might be something for the immersion method here.

    Although, if moving to Japan and going to bars every day is what I have to do to pass JLPT then *sigh* I will be willing to take one for the team :-D!

  • Prem September 23, 2011, 6:30 am

    Hi Mac,

    I passed my N4. I am preparing for my N3 in December. Thanks for your website and all the good suggestions.


    • Andrew September 23, 2011, 8:45 am

      Hey Prem just curious what you are doing to study for N3

    • Mac September 24, 2011, 12:53 pm

      No problem Prem, thanks for the compliment! Keep up the studying!

  • Andrew September 23, 2011, 8:45 am

    I barely… barely… barely… passed N4 with a 90 out of 180, which also happens to be the BARE minimum required to pass. I scored a 32 in listening, and a 58 in Language Knowledge(Vocabulary/Grammar)& Reading. I too am studying for N3 now. I have been in Japan for 2 years, and I have another 2 years left here, so I am hoping to pass N2 before I leave in September 2013.

    • Mac September 24, 2011, 12:55 pm

      Wow! Just got in there with that score. Great job though! You can definitely make the N2 by the Sep 2013. It’ll take some hard work, but totally do-able. Hopefully, I can pass on some more tips to help you get there. Good luck!

  • Julian September 24, 2011, 9:59 am

    For you guys struggling with the N2, I had a similar academic approach to studying for it, but for me it paid off. I think I scored 120, with my main strength being the vocab.

    What I did was study material slightly harder than what is normally suggested for N2. Get books for N1 and read native material meant for adults that will push you harder and acclimatize you so that when you sit down for the real test, it’ll be easier than what you’ve been doing.

    Mac, I noticed in one of your posts that you said you purchased some Disney novelizations like Ratatouille. While I think any reading practice is good, books like this won’t prepare you for N2 and up because they’re so straight-forward. Take the plunge and get a real college-level novel and struggle with it. Once you get better at inferring what the author is talking about, the higher reading levels will come easier. Also, learning to tell what the differences are between the answer choices is key since it will often seem like two of them are correct.

    • Mac September 25, 2011, 2:50 am

      That is some sound advice Julian. I’ve started to come to the same conclusion.

      The reason I started reading movie novelizations is because of the extensive reading aspect of it. Extensive reading (material at your level) has been picking up a lot of steam lately as a popular way to naturally pick up vocabulary. I still think that it is a good way to do that. However, in terms of efficiency and getting ready for the test it is a lot better to do some intensive reading (reading material above your level).

      The 試験に出る読解 book I’ve been working through recently goes along with that. The vocabulary that is used is a more difficult than most of the lists and the questions are definitely difficult. I still think the So-matome Reading Comprehension book is good for when you are starting out, but the 試験に出る読解 is good for right before the test.

      Thanks for the invaluable advice Julian!

  • Andrew February 21, 2012, 4:27 am

    Hello all. It is going to be three years in Japan for me this April. In December 2010 I got lucky to pass N2 with a 107 or 108 I think.

    I took the N1 last December and failed w/ a 79. I got. 37 on 文字、語彙、文法 with an A in vocabulary and B in grammar. A 12 in 読解 which cost me the test, and a 30 in listening (which was harder for me than the practice tests).

    The reading on the practice tests I was hit or miss. I got high scores sometimes and other times bombed it like I did on the real thing. I can’t take it this summer so I’ll take it again in December. The long wait.. I’ve studied kanji via ssr

  • Andrew February 21, 2012, 4:35 am

    (button mishap)

    I’ve studied kanji via ssr on http://www.kanji.koohii.com

    I started that in Jan 2010 and highly recommend it.

    I studied grammar this time with Sou-matome and it was ok.

    My vocab will get better. Gonna do a little bit of review and do more reading for fun. The test being timed is what can bring down my reading scores so badly.

    Nothing to be ashamed of though and actually welcome the test again as a motivator and place marker to keep studying. Thanks for your enjoyable podcasts. I’ll continue to listen. But save some time for yourself to study too~


    • Mac February 22, 2012, 12:58 pm

      That score is pretty respectable though. Especially since you just pAssed the N2 last year. It’s great that you came close in a year.

      Yeah, reading always seems to be the most difficult part of the test at the higher levels. You definitely need to keep your reading speed up.

      More practice makes that easier though. I think my reading speed is slowly getting there. We all need more study time. 🙂

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