Top 10 Things you can do Before the JLPT

Top 10 Things you can do Before the JLPT post image

The July test is next weekend for the lucky few that happen to have it in their country. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t feel like I had enough time to prepare or review for the big day. My life has gotten increasingly busier recently, and I don’t think it is going to get any better soon, but I still have a goal of trying to pass the N1 sometime soon.

But, what about you? I think you are probably in a similar situation. Everybody always feels like they didn’t have enough time before test day. So, what can you do to get a good score with just one week to go? Well, here’s 10 things you can do.

10) Be Aware of Distractions

The staff at testing facilities usually try their best to eliminate or greatly reduce distractions in the testing area. But, there will inevitably be some minor distractions.

First, heating and cooling always seem to be issues no matter where you test, so dress in layers.

Second, if you are taking a higher level test at the same location that they are testing a lower level of the test, test takers from the other levels might get out earlier than you. So, as you are finishing your test. You might hear people moving down the hall, chatting, and generally causing havoc.

Yes, the proctors are, in theory, suppose to stop them and issue red cards (in Japan). But, they rarely do. Red cards = immediate failure of the test.

Third, other people in the test taking room might be distracting as well. I’ve heard cell phones go off in the listening section (despite being warned a hundred times to turn them off). I’ve had other test takers cheat off me. I even saw someone with a cheat sheet. Although, I have no idea what you would put on a cheat sheet for N1.

9) Check the Schedule

Each level is administered slightly differently. There will be different times for breaks and even how many testing sections there are in total. This differs from country to country or what organization puts on the test.

Also, keep in mind that the times listed on your voucher include instructions, handing out the test booklets, and other general administrative tasks, and not the actual time you have to answer questions. I have a list of the different times for each level that you might want to check to see how much actual time you have for each section.

8) Scout the Location

Unless the test is taking place at the university you attend, you probably have no idea where it is or where to go. It’s best to scout the lay of the land before you head out so that you don’t get lost. Don’t 100% trust the directions on the voucher either. They can sometimes recommend buses that don’t run very frequently, and on top of that if you are going to a large testing facility (in Japan) most buses will be packed anyway.

You will probably want to check the location of the testing facility on Google Maps and maybe take a virtual stroll with Streetview before you head out. The last thing you want is to start off toward the testing site, get lost and then arrive in a panic to take the test.

7) Plan your Reward

Thinking about and worrying about the test can really wear you out. So, how about thinking about something fun instead? Plan something fun for yourself to do after you get the test done. Doesn’t have to be anything grand, just something special to look forward to.

6) Pack

Make sure you have everything you need for the big day. That includes things like 2 pencils, eraser and a simple watch. You may also want to pack a lunch if you are not familiar with the area and are not sure you can find a place to eat at. Japanese colleges are famous for not having any convenience stores close by just a cafeteria, which might not be very obvious.

5) Clear your Mind

You can easily clutter up your mind with just general every day stuff to worry about. These things can be distracting while you are trying to focus for the test. It’s best to try to resolve anything you are worried about, but if you can’t, at least write down on a to do list for later. My favorite way to clear my mind is watch a good somewhat mindless action movie the night before the test.

4) Don’t Freak Out

You may find yourself, at this late hour, completely unprepared for the test. Maybe you planned to study harder but something came up and you just didn’t get the time to get all your studying in. Maybe you got new neighbors that don’t let you sleep (or a baby). Maybe you met the person of your dreams and can’t resist spending every waking moment with them.

Whatever the reason, just relax and do the best you can. It’s just a test after all. And tests are suppose to serve as a diagnostic system to help you see your weaknesses and keep you balanced. That’s the best reason for you to take the test. So, take it and see how you do. Don’t fear failure.

I’ve failed the N1 twice already and there is a decent chance I’ll fail it again. It’s not about passing, it’s more about seeing how well you have improved, see what’s working, and what isn’t. So you can then change how you study.

3) Review

This final week is probably not the best time to start something new. It’s a great time to review and refine what you already know. This is a process that I like to call sword sharpening and I think it is essential to help you confidently get through the test smoothly.

2) Sleep Well

You’ve probably heard it before, but it is always worth repeating. Get enough sleep. If you are well-rested you’ll be able to focus more during the big test. Getting 8 hours of sleep is best, but you will be all right with 6 hours if you have to.

Don’t think coffee will be able to save you either. Drinking extra caffeine may make you more alert, but influences your focus. So, it isn’t a cure all.

1) Eat Well

Your brain uses a lot of proteins to process and recall information, so be sure to load up on protein rich foods like milk and nuts. Some people laugh at me for talking nutrition before a test, but what you eat will influence you more than you think.

For more details, be sure to sign up for the newsletter. I’ll send you a detailed report about what to eat before the big test.

Good Luck Everyone

I wish everyone taking the test next week the best of luck. I hope you do well, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your experiences here on the blog. If you are taking the July test, stop by the blog after the test and tell me how you did!

Talk soon!

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Hilary June 29, 2013, 11:04 pm

    Don’t freak out…
    Don’t freak out…
    Don’t freak out…
    It’s my mantra for the next week.
    Good luck everyone!

  • Paul June 30, 2013, 9:51 pm

    Thanks for article Mac! Helped me a bit as I’ve started to worry about Sunday 😉
    Good luck with N1

    • Clayton MacKnight June 30, 2013, 11:37 pm

      Thanks! I hope I can at least improve some of my trouble areas. Just took a practice test and pretty much aced listening, did pretty well in reading but bombed the grammar section. 🙂 We’ll see what happens this Sunday.

  • Valerie July 1, 2013, 12:31 pm

    I’m taking the exam for N4 this week on Sunday. I don’t have time to study. I’m Japanese Literature student. You don’t know how much i want to say “thank you” when i found this website. I’m just about starting study tonight. Thank You very much. so so so so thank you

    • Clayton MacKnight July 1, 2013, 11:46 pm

      No problem, good luck on the test and be sure to come back and visit and let us know how you did!

  • Victoria July 3, 2013, 3:02 am

    Number 4… always a challenge!!

    Will be taking N2 for the first time but realized about a month ago there’s no way I can pass it, so rearranged my study plan to work towards the next J.TEST in September and then hopefully N2 with better chances in December. Very frustrating after six months of work towards this test to be walking in with almost 100% confidence I won’t get the result I want, but I’ve paid for it and can’t get my money back. Guess it will be useful experience.

    If I wasn’t in this position, Number 4 would be an infinitely greater challenge so perhaps it’s just as well!!

  • Mitchell July 3, 2013, 9:53 am

    I’m in a similar boat to you!! Taking N1 in Tokyo on Sunday, and pretty scared right now. Passed N2 back in December, so it’s only been 6 months since so I’m probably crazy for taking it so soon after, but I thought why not? One question I had, that I’m not sure if you know the answer to or not, but I thought it was worth a try, was, do we get penalised for guessing? Say, for instance, we’re running out of time and there’s a couple of questions left, so we just colour in a random number just to answer it – do they take marks off if they think you’ve just done exactly that and circled something random? I thought I remember reading that they introduced this new scoring system to eliminate guessing or something, so it got me thinking, are they able to deduct points for guessing?

    • Victoria July 6, 2013, 1:50 am

      I haven’t heard anything about a system that penalizes you for guessing. It sounds impossible to implement, really. I mean sure, you could suggest that someone who has chosen fairly accurate answers for the first half of the paper “shouldn’t” have chosen answers that are much less accurate for the second half, but how would you know for certain that they’d guessed? How would you know they hadn’t just freaked out due to time or pressure? In which case, you’d be penalizing a well-meaning student who had an unfortunate exam experience.

      If you don’t know the answer, guessing is a very good idea. It’s standard good practice exam technique. No answer means 100% chance you get that question wrong, so writing something gives you at least 25%, right?

      Besides, if they had a system that could detect guessing, I probably would never have passed N3 😉

      Good luck with N1. You’re not crazy for taking it so soon after. I’m sure it’s possible to progress that quickly if you have the right approach (I just found that I didn’t, too soon before this exam to set that straight). If nothing else it will be good practice for December, too.

      • Mitchell July 6, 2013, 7:09 am

        Thanks for your response 🙂

        I thought it was kind of bizarre that there could be a system in place that detects, and penalises guessing. Some of my N2 answers last year were probably guesses too, but I managed to pass that so I shall definitely guess answers if I’m running out of time in N1 too.

        I’m feeling confident, but not at the same time in regards to tomorrow’s N1 test. I, at the last minute, on Friday, bought the 試験に出る読解N1・N2 book that was recommended on here, and worked through the entire thing yesterday and this morning. I would say it really has boosted my reading skills a little bit – probably not as much as it would have had I bought it and worked through it as it is designed (50 day program) but still a bit. I just hope that the level of the N1 readings in the book is close to the real test. I would ideally like to improve on my N2 reading score of 31//60 – I’d like to achieve around the 40 mark this time in N1. Listening was a nice big 58/60 in N2, but I’ve not been practising that as much this time around, so that may not be as high. Overall, I guess it will just come down to if the stuff I’ve studied will appear on the test – sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t.

        • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2013, 11:49 am

          No there isn’t really a system that penalizes for guessing per se. But according to what I can understand about how the scoring works, there are more ‘correct’ wrong answers, so it pays to make a slightly more educated guess than just random guessing. But I’m not sure how many extra points you’ll earn for guessing more correctly.

          I think though, if you were to put just all 4s on a particular section you would get more penalized than if you took some time to guess a little more logically if that makes sense. There is a long complicated story behind that, but that is the basic idea.

  • Lucy July 4, 2013, 8:06 am

    Prepared for N4’s grammar and listening but I can’t seem to remember enough vocabulary, after studying so much there are still many Kanji I haven’t seen before. This is my only problem now but hopefully the Vocab in the exam will be the ones I know.

  • Caroline July 6, 2013, 8:40 am

    Thank you for this article!
    I am taking the N5 test tomorrow and I am really scared, because it’s my first attempt!
    I am worrying about grammar and reading section…
    Good luck everyone!!!

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