JLPT BC 53 | Sharpening the Sword

sharpening the swordI 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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P.S.S. Do you spend your weekends walking around with a katana in your belt?  Really, me too! 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!

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Music by Kevin MacLeod Photo by Robert Couse-Baker

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Azanea November 9, 2011, 1:04 pm

    A Month Before the JLPT: (basically a list-drill-list pattern)
    While travelling, I go over all the grammar patterns (170+) with its usage and one example sentence every single day. I’m using the old Kanzen Master for N2 so I also try to go through each mini section in detail per day (Patterns 1-18, 19-35 etc.)
    I also go through a Kanji list every day.
    I have the past question papers from 2002 to 2008 so I solve one every Sunday and spend the rest of the week going through vocab, where I went wrong, etc.
    I have my cheat sheets ready and use those for vocab, and I speed-read all the reading materials I have while estimating how much I’ve actually understood.
    And yes, listen to any sort of Japanese everyday to get my ears trained to the language.
    Two Days Before: MOCK TEST
    One Day Before: Run through all my lists and pray that I pass
    Test Day: I carry glucose water (for a section 105 minutes long), the brain needs glucose to concentrate and snack on energy bars in the break. Get to the test centre early, and see what others are doing. If there’s a decent discussion/ study session going on, I join it or just keep calm and ignore everyone around.

    • Mac November 12, 2011, 12:28 pm

      That’s some pretty sage advice. Especially, about the glucose water. I think it’s really important to think about nutrition on the day of the test. A lot of people totally forget about this aspect of taking the test.
      Also cheat sheets! Cheat sheets are really important and go along with the whole idea of sharpening the sword. Because you go back through all your textbooks and write down what you don’t know and focus just on that.

  • Mark November 14, 2011, 1:51 am

    I know it’s just being picky, but you say P.P.S as in post post script, not Pss.

    That’s good advice on the water!!

    • Mac November 17, 2011, 3:26 pm

      I guess the whole extra couple of post scripts is a bit ridiculous to begin with. 🙂 I’ll fix it in the next couple of posts.

  • Barbara November 14, 2011, 9:04 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’m still plodding on with N5 prep but I was wondering do you know how many questions for each section? I’ve plenty of N5 practice books but I want to do a ‘mock’ test but am unsure how many questions to set myself. I’ve found on one website that Vocab is 35 questions (25mins), Reading 32 questions (50mins) Listening 24 questions (30mins). IS this right? The times certainly fit.

    • Mac November 17, 2011, 3:33 pm

      I think that’s right, there are actually 6 reading questions, and 26 grammar questions though. Everything else seems right. You can get a mock test for the N5 now. You might want to consider taking that as well.

  • Dood November 30, 2011, 5:05 am

    Last week before the JLPT…
    I am redoing all the text books and 問題集’s that I bought just to make sure I remember everything.
    However, compared to the past months I’ve been decreasing my study load so that I can relax and not feel too stressed. I’m a gamer so rather than playing Japanese games I’ve been playing English games so that I don’t feel frustrated if I see some Japanese I don’t know which leads to more stress.
    If I’m not doing questions or exams, I’m reading short novels and it has boosted my confidence in the reading section of the exam.
    I’m going to do my last mock exam tomorrow and afterwards on Saturday, I’m not going to study and just relax and have fun before taking the N2 exam on Sunday.
    And that’s my last minute plan.
    I’m still a little stressed but I’ve only been in Japan since April this year so taking the test this Sunday will be my last chance taking it in Japan before I return to Australia in January so wishing everyone a big good luck and pray that fortune shines upon us.
    Take care…

    Btw, I live in Nara so I don’t far away from you at all. =)

    • Mac November 30, 2011, 3:58 pm

      I’ve also been going through all my 問題集s as well. I’ve put my iPod on shuffle of all the 6 CDs of JLPT N2 stuff I have.

      I can agree with the cooling off period. I think you need to un-Japanese right before the test to clear your mind. Especially at the higher levels.

      Only in Japan for a year? That’s a bummer. Take a load off and stay awhile. 🙂

      Good Luck Dood!

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