Winning the Mental Game

Winning the Mental Game post image
JLPT anxiety

Are you feeling a little jumpy about the test?

This is it!  The final blog post before the big test next week.  All this month, I’ve been going over a few of the key things you can do before the exam that can make a difference.  Things like sword sharpening and a checklist of all the key things you need to have for the JLPT.  But with just one week away, I want to switch to something that sometimes doesn’t get a lot of press.

And that is the mental aspect of taking a test.  Not just the JLPT, but taking any kind of test.  The mental game can be something that can sneak up on you and affect your score without you really realizing it.  Again, just a few points (even 1 point) can and has sometimes meant the difference between passing and having to wait until next time to pass.

The good news though is that preparing mentally for the exam is a lot easier than studying all the grammar and vocabulary you need for the exam.  It is actually something that can be done in these last few days we have before the test.  And the majority of it just takes a little bit of planning.  Here are 10 tips to help you win the mental game:

Over-studying – okay, so this is no-brainer.  But it is worth repeating that you should over-study and over-learn the material before going into the test.  I usually do this for the whole last month before a JLPT.  I’ve started calling this stage of learning my sword-sharpening phase.

This over-learning is useful for test-taking and for real use.  You want the language to be automatic, you want to be confident because in the real world, there isn’t going to be someone there to help you.

Food  – Eating right and well before the test can be big factor on your brain.  Your brain can actually burn up a lot of calories when it is working through a test, so it is important to keep it fueled.  I go into more detail about the kinds of foods that are best in my 5 Biggest Mistakes People Make on the JLPT guide.

Positive Talk – Try to stay positive about your chances when taking the test.  Tell others about your progress.  Post a few positive comments on social networks (but of course not too many).  Try to surround yourself with positive folks that can help pump you up for the big day.

Arrive Early – I constantly forget things.  At least once a month, I forget to bring something to work and I either have to go back to the house or buy it on my way (like lunch or an umbrella).  So, I tend to leave early for the test and make sure I know where I am going before the day of the exam.  Be sure to factor in some extra time if you’ve never been to the test site before.

Take a Deep Breath – Stopping and taking a few deep breaths during the test or on your walk to the exam can help you calm down if you feel a little unwanted anxiety creeping up on you.  If are starting to feel a bit anxious you might want to try this before the anxiety gets out of control.

Pack up and Lay Out Everything – Before the day of the test, make sure you have all your pencils, eraser, wristwatch and test voucher ready and in a place that is very obvious.  On test day, you’ll just want to wake up, chill out, grab your stuff and go.

Resist the Temptation to Cram – Cramming really has little to no effect the day before or day of.  Some people of course swear by it, but I have a complete moratorium on studying the night before the day of.  As matter of fact, I try to take a mental vacation the day before.  Eat a nice meal, and then watch a movie or something before going to bed.

I think this becomes easier to do the higher up you go, because let’s face it, you’ve probably put a good 2 to 3 hours a day, 10 to 15 hours a week for 50 or so weeks, working towards this goal, so what is 2 or 3 more hours going to do for you?  Get some rest, and relax your brain.

That’s all my nuggets of wisdom for you to master the mental game for the JLPT.  I wish everyone luck on the big test!  Be sure to come back and tell me how you did.  I’ll have a reactions post on the day of the test, so leave me a comment and tell me how you did.

Make sure you leave me a comment on this post and tell me how you cope with the mental game.

You might just give someone else that boost they need.

But, now I want you to do two things:

1. Do you know someone that gets test anxiety?  Or that is taking the JLPT and might need a few extra points?  Maybe a friend or classmate?  Send them a quick email with a link to this post and help them out!

2. Did you see #1? Make sure you do it!

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Enrico November 24, 2012, 5:44 pm

    I agree with all your tips, and would like to submit one of my own which I found useful in my exams (admittedly not the JLPT, but an exam is an exam, right?).

    Not talking to other people waiting with you before the test. This might seem like a good idea at the time, because instead of worrying, you pass the time together, but it can have bad results.
    First of all, some people are cramming even at the last moment, when waiting for the test to begin. This is bad, because all it does it make you tense — like you mentioned yourself when you said not to study the day before. I add: don’t study the day itself, either.

    Other people won’t be cramming, but they’ll be talking about what they know, or reviewing in some other way. And if you talk to them and find out that there’s something they know that you don’t know, it can be a huge blow to your confidence. And a blow to your confidence can make the difference between passing and failing, sometimes.

    • Mac November 25, 2012, 2:07 pm

      I totally agree with the not talking to other test takers on the day. I usually just sit in the corner and chill out until the test starts. Try to think about nothing, haha…

      • Rotsac November 27, 2012, 2:41 am

        I agree on you Sir Mac. As much as possible after the first half of exam (文字・語彙 and 読解) make sure not to talk about that with your friends. Because it have a big effect on the next exam (聴解). Just sit and relax during the break time and don’t forget to eat. 😀

        I’m taking N2 on Sunday and I’m hoping to pass the exam.
        Good Luck!

        • Mac November 27, 2012, 3:19 pm

          Good luck! N2 is where it is at. It is tough test, but it teaches you a lot of the higher level skills you need to master Japanese.


  • Rotsac November 27, 2012, 11:48 pm

    Good luck to you as well Sir Mac. Your Blog helps me a lot for my preparation. It boost my confidence prior to the exam.


  • Jade November 28, 2012, 2:29 am

    Good luck for your JLPT Mac!

    So glad I found your website and podcast this year. It has done much to improve both my study regime for JLPT but also for my university study in general 🙂

    Jade from Australia!

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:43 am

      Thanks Jade!

      I hope you did well on the test (if you took it :)).

  • Joseph December 1, 2012, 12:46 pm

    “I usually do this for the whole last month before a JLPT. I’ve started calling this stage of learning my sword-sharpening phase.”

    Hmm, considering that I’ve only been studying for the exam for a month and a half I think I may be in a considerable lesser position than I first thought!

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:45 am

      Haha, everyone has their strategies, if you are going for some of the lower levels or are pretty experienced with Japanese I don’t think you need to do too much sword sharpening 🙂

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