Sentential questions, I bet you didn’t even know the word sentential existed before reading about the JLPT. I definitely didn’t. These questions are a major pain to deal with. Who knew you could come up with such a demented way to test sentence structure?
These questions are also new to the post-2010 tests so you don’t have any past tests to fall back on in order to help you study and prepare for this level. This makes a lot of older materials obsolete and narrows your practicing material sources.
Anybody taking the test is going to want to at least look at a few of these practice test questions before going into the exam. Otherwise you are likely to freak out at the sight of them. I know I definitely did.
Back in the summer of 2010, I thought I was totally going to ace the test. I walked in after having prepped the week before with an old practice test for the 二級 test. It was like getting smacked in the face when I opened the test booklet and looked at the new types of questions. I was pretty stupid to be honest.
But, you, luckily, don’t have to be stupid. You are in fact probably quite smart. I mean, anyone that is reading my blog has to be at least a cut above the rest, don’t you think?
How these Questions Work
For those of you that aren’t familiar with these sentential questions, they are sentences that are all scrambled up. On the test they will give you a sentence with four pieces missing. You must unscramble the pieces they give you in the answers below the question.
Once you’ve unscrambled the questions, you need to mark the part of the sentence that goes in the space marked with an asterisk *. This is the answer that goes on your answer sheet. You don’t have to actually do any writing.
Outsmarting these Questions
At different levels, you are going to be dealing with different things they will be testing you on. N5 will test you on particles basically, and then you will slowly move up to N1 which will be testing you more on phrases and structures that you should have picked up in your studies.
Let’s just take a short tour through all of them, shall we?
Sentential questions for N5
JEES has kindly made a shortened practice test available to the general public. You can pick up a copy of the N5 Practice test for yourself if you want to see the whole thing, but for our purposes today, I’m just going to take one question from the sentential questions:
これは きょねん わたし ＿＿ ＿＿ ＿*＿ ＿＿ しゃしんです。
１ が ２ で ３ とった ４ 海（うみ）
As you can see, they are really testing your knowledge of how to use が and で. が should be used as the topic marker in this sentence for わたし and then で should be used to mark where you took the picture, うみ (the beach/sea). Finally, とった describes the しゃしん making it a ‘taken picture’. So the final sentence all together would read:
これは きょねん わたしが 海で とった しゃしん です。
(This is a picture I took at the beach last year.)
So, the answer to this question would be 2 for で. Be sure to review your particles, and watch out for the tricky は vs. が and で vs. に dilemmas.
Sentential questions for N4
N4 will test you over more of the same, but with more particles to deal with. They will start to introduce more sentence patterns that you must be familiar with as well. Don’t let the phrases being sliced apart fool you. Try to quickly combine the parts to see if you can find a matching pattern.
山田さんは ＿＿ ＿*＿ ＿＿ ＿＿ です。
１ 上手 ２ ギターも ３ ひけるし ４ 歌も
Here is a good example of using clues to ‘glue’ some pieces of the puzzle together one by one. First, ひける means ‘to play a stringed instrument’ usually a piano or guitar, but can be a violin. We can attach that to ギターも because that is what you do with a guitar. Then, 上手 belongs at the end because it has no particles (like に or な) so it isn’t modifying anything and can’t attach itself to an action or noun.
As a quick side note, the test makers seem to be in love with ひける meaning to play guitar or piano. I seem to see it a lot in practice tests and pre-2010 tests for the N4 level. Something to look out for definitely.
That just leaves 歌も. Where does it go? Well, since the particle し at the end of ひける is a particle that notes one of several reasons for something, it can’t be used at the end of a phrase. It needs to be used in the middle. In other words, it requires something after it because it sort of means ‘and ~’. So, we have to put 歌も after ひけるし. If we do that, we have:
山田さんは ギターも ひけるし 歌も 上手 です。
(Mr. Yamada is skilled/good at playing guitar and singing.)
The answer to this would then be 3 for ひけるし. This gluing of words together will become more and more handy as you go up in levels and the questions get increasingly more difficult to untangle.
That is it for this week. I’ll be back next week to talk about N3 and N2. I might try to tackle N1 if I’m brave enough, but no promises.
Does this Stuff make your Head Hurt?
What particles drive you nuts? What helps you remember the differences? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. Do you get thrills from unscrambling sentences in Japanese? Hey, me too! Sign up for the newsletter!
P.S.S. Not such a big fan of scrambled sentences? Then try joining my Facebook Page for all the latest updates.
Photo by fifikins