So, this weekend I journeyed up the street to 京大 (Kyoto University) to take the N2 test again. I took it back in July and didn’t pass, although I came somewhat close. Is 13 points away fairly close? I think it is.
Anyway, between July and now, I had done a lot more studying for my weaknesses. I really focused on reading, which seems to be everyone’s weakness as well as some grammar and listening practice. I feel like my listening has especially improved mostly because this is the first time I really put forth an effort to study it.
Still, the test seemed just as difficult as before, which is a little disheartening to experience. After all, if you are intensively studying for 5 months, you’d expect the darn thing to be a little bit easier. But, on the contrary, it seemed a bit more difficult than the test in July for a few reasons.
The Reading Section Seemed a bit more Abstract
The reading sections for N2 are notoriously abstract, and this year’s test was no exception. I had a trouble wrapping my head around the essay about how dogs greet each other. I understood the essay for the most part, but then had issues deciding on what answer to choose for the questions.
Some of this was due to a few of the key words were defined at the bottom (using the ※ mark) when this happens it always tends to throw me off because I can’t picture the word clearly. Maybe I should do more practice with Japanese definitions?
The long essay (the second to last passage) was a bit of a nightmare. What a remember from it was that it was about what a novelist should be and the responsibility of the reader. Other than that I didn’t get much out of it. I always have trouble understanding those types of passages.
The integrated comprehension passage was about two individual’s advice on how to run a 100 meter race. It was mostly difficult because again, I couldn’t seem to find the most appropriate answer. Maybe I’m not able to read as well as I thought I could.
Tried Out a New Strategy that I think Worked
For this test, I attacked the reading first, then went back and did the kanji, vocabulary, and grammar sections. The theory was that since I was a little slow at reading and it is a weakness of mine I could go through those questions first then go back and tackle the (relatively) easier sections of the test.
This strategy worked all right. Mostly because this put a small break for my mind in the middle of the test. I find kanji and vocabulary a little easier on the noggin to answer than, say, the scrambled sentences or reading sections. This proved to be a decent strategy until I made it the grammar section…
Longer Sentences in the Grammar Section
It seemed to me that the sentences you have to fill out in the first grammar section were quite a bit longer. Some of them were actually two sentences. I don’t think there were so many longer sentences on the July test. And the sentences in drill books are definitely shorter than what was on the test.
This made doing the grammar section take a little bit longer, which of course takes time away from other sections. I was especially in a bind because my test taking strategy involved doing the reading first than the grammar and kanji sections. I was filling in my last answer when the proctor called time.
The New Kanzen Master N2 Grammar Book did really help me out in this area. There were definitely more than a few of the questions that I at least had a better idea about thanks to that book. I feel like the New Kanzen Master series is more in line with the actual difficulty of the test than the So-Matome series.
The Listening was a Bit Mixed as Well
I typically score really well on the summary comprehension questions (section 3 of the listening) and the integrated comprehension questions (section 5). These are usually my strong points for whatever reason. However this time, I felt like I didn’t do as well. I actually did better on the first two sections of the listening.
I can say with the utmost confidence that the New Kanzen Master Listening Book really really helped with this section. The vocabulary and phrases were pretty good from this book, but the real gold was the strategies that they went over. I think if you properly use them while taking the test you can definitely come out ahead. Definitely worth picking up if you have trouble with listening!
How did you do?
I’d like to know how you did on the test. What did you find difficult? It doesn’t matter what level you took, let us know in the comments below.
Photo by Zach Klein