I finished up So-Matome N1 Listening in 3 weeks. I’m currently going back through it and reviewing all the difficult dialogs that I couldn’t listen to completely, but for the most part I’m finishing up with it and have already started on the New Kanzen Master N1 Listening book.
Overall, I felt like it was a pretty challenging book. I consistently got about half the questions right, but amazingly only got about 3 wrong on most of the final test. For some reason I completely bombed the quick response section; I only got 3 out of 7 right during that part. I think I’ve just gotten a lot better at guessing and test taking strategies because I only partially understood a lot of the listening.
I kind of feel like the listening for the N1 is relatively easy, at least for someone that is living in Japan. I’m not saying it is a cakewalk, you still need to have good listening skills, but if you worked hard to improve them for N2, then N1 is just a small little jump up (in my opinion).
I’ll be doing a full review of the So-Matome N1 Listening book in a blog post, so be sure to check that article out if you are interested in picking it up.
I have also been keeping up my relentless learning of vocabulary. I’m trying to average around 100 words a week between StickyStudy and Memrise. That almost seems completely ridiculous, but it is what you have to do to learn all the vocab for the N1.
What Gets Measured Gets Managed
I’m a fairly analytical person. I liked numbers growing up. For example, I was a lot better at math than English when I was in high school. Now, I happen to teach English so I’ve gotten a little bit better at it, but I’m still a numbers man at heart.
This is why I especially get into using memrise to learn vocabulary. I love the fact that I can see how many words I’ve learned, how many points I’ve earned, and what rank I am. And even before I started using memrise, I was using Anki with its full suite of stats to keep track of absolutely everything.
And I think a lot of people that are taking the JLPT have pretty much the same mindset. The JLPT pretty much lends itself to it as a matter of fact. I mean, it gives you a solid concrete goal to aim for and it is pretty obvious whether you have reached that goal or not.
Not Everything is Measurable
So, memrise and Anki can easily keep track of how many words you’ve learned; you can go through a grammar drill book and check off all the grammar points you know; and you can cross off the kanji you’ve mastered on your giant wall chart, but what about reading and listening?
It can be a real problem trying to get a grasp on whether or not you have weak listening and reading skills or if you have improved them or not. The problem comes from the fact that I lot of things can affect your reading comprehension. For example, if the essay is about a topic you are not familiar with you are not going to be able to understand it as well as one that you are familiar with.
Even the actual test itself is a bit of crap shoot. I’ve heard from several people that they have passed the reading tests they took before the exam, only to walk into the exam and fail the reading so they have to take it again. Supposedly the new test has a waited grading system that is suppose to prevent something like this from happening, but it still does.
And reading and listening are definitely vital skills for the test and for real life use. It is also good to just get solid feedback on whether what you are doing is effective or not. After all, if you are doing drills every day and they aren’t improving your reading skills then what is the use?
How to Measure the Un-measurable
So how can you measure your listening and reading skills? Taking different practice tests isn’t the best indicator because you run into the problem of having material with different topics that you are not familiar with. Even the actual test can vary a lot in this respect.
Then what about testing over the same material? This seems like an effective way to judge if you have improved or not. After all, it will be the same topic and same vocabulary. But, you might be thinking to yourself that this is kind of a dumb idea because you will already know the answers.
And that’s true, if you take it again a short time after you take it the first time, but what if you take it 6 or so months later? I’ve found that if you don’t review the practice test at all for 6 months, when you take it again later, you’ll have pretty much forgotten all the answers and the reading and listening topics.
Granted this is a bit unconventional because the first thing you want to do after you take a test is go back and review what you missed so that you can learn from you mistakes. But, if you can hold off on doing that and instead not look at it for 6 months, I think this can be a great way to judge your level and discover your weaknesses.
What do you Think of this Strategy?
How do you take a practice test? Do you go over it and review it until you know it? Or do you just grade it and check your weaknesses? Let me know in the comments!