I recently switched to reviewing my So-Matome grammar book for N2. This a bit of a departure from the old kanzen master grammar book I was studying. Mostly because it has the scrambled sentences, or what the official JLPT website likes to call ‘Sentential grammar 2 (Sentence composition)’ questions. By the way, sentential doesn’t really seem like word, but I guess it is. I actually looked it up.
I don’t know about you, but these particular questions drive me nuts. I’ve developed a bit a love / hate relationship with them. I kind of like the puzzle aspect of them, but find it really annoying to try to find out what goes where sometimes, especially when they deal with specially phrases I’ve never heard of before.
Essentially what it boils down to is that I’m extremely prone to careless mistakes, as I think we all are. My biggest enemy is just being able to stay focused for the test and not wonder off while I’m working my way through the questions and the monolithic 105 minutes of unadulterated test taking that you have to sit through for N2. Losing focus causes me to make a lot of careless mistakes.
Sharpening The Sword
We currently only have about 25 days left before the test in December. And with any luck, you’ve probably spent a good portion of the last year studying Japanese and possibly preparing for the test. You’ve gone through all the lists of kanji, vocabulary, and grammar. You’ve sharpened up your listening and reading skills in preparation for the big day. In other words, you’ve absorbed a lot of stuff.
And to use an analogy, you can say that you ‘built a sword’ of Japanese language knowledge that you can use to ‘slay’ the test. (Forgive me for the somewhat violent reference I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy books lately)
Now, having a sword is all fine and good everything, but a dull sword isn’t something you can kill a lot of things with, much less the mighty and ferocious JLPT. So it is also important to give that finished product a good sharpening and polish. That way you can really kick some serious JLPT butt if you know what I mean.
Now is the Time to Review
If you learn something new now, it might be of much use on the test. This might seem a little contradictory, but it is true. The test can be one of the cruelest, most demented things ever created to test Japanese. The will torture you with sentences that are a bit rare in the wild. It will prey on your weaknesses and trick you into giving the wrong answer.
OK, so maybe I’m being a little over-dramatic, and I guess I am. This is only true for the higher levels N2, N1 and a little bit N3. As for N4 and N5, they are comparatively straightforward, but don’t expect any gimmes.
So it pays to really know what you know, not sort of know what you know if that makes any sense. It’s important to know the difference between ~と and ~たら. Yes, both can mean if ~, but they are not 100% interchangeable. It is important to know more than just the definition in English. You need to know how to actually use it.
Also, if you use this time to really hone your skills and your knowledge you will be more confident with your answers. This might not seem like much, but if you are more confident answering the questions you will A) answer questions faster, giving you more time on more difficult sections of the test and B) stay more focused because your mind won’t be wondering back to that answer that you filled in 10 minutes ago.
Lastly, if you are studying Japanese in a less JLPT-centric way, you will want to switch to being fairly JLPT-centric in this last month. At the very least, walk through a practice test before the real thing in order to get a feel for the questions and how they ask them. Then, you won’t be caught by surprise on test day.
How can you do this?
You can start by going back through your drill books and go over the questions again if you have a drill book. You might think that you’ve already done the questions and that it would be a waste of time, but you’d be surprised how easily you forget specific questions and you’ll surprised when you actually make the same mistakes again.
When you go back through your drill books, make cheat sheets of anything you get wrong. And study those cheat sheets going forward. What is amazing is actually the simple act of writing something down can help you remember it so much more easily, even if you don’t study it that much.
And finally, don’t leave a single stone unturned. If you encounter a question and you don’t know the exact reason why it is wrong, be relentless in tracking down a reason why it is. Whether you have to ask in a forum somewhere or bug your native-speaker friend, or heck ask me, don’t stop until you’ve got the answer and reason.
Let me Know
What do you do in the final month before the exam? Let me know in the comments.
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