It was a bit of a draw this time. I feel like the level of the test was fairly on target this time. Some people say they make the July test a little easier, but I didn’t feel that way at all. It was a fairly well-balanced test all around.
I took the N1 at 京大 (Kyoto University) again, which has to be one of the most poorly organized places to take it. There is one building with 3 wings (that are actually kind of 3 separate buildings), but that isn’t very obvious from the test vouchers. They could, you know, put a sign with a basic map that showed what voucher numbers are being tested where but they seem to prefer to have large numbers of people asking volunteers where their rooms are.
For this test, I set a loose goal of passing the reading section after getting an abysmal 9 for the last two outings. I also wanted to obviously keep up or improve upon my listening, kanji, vocabulary, and grammar score. I can’t really say for sure if I reached that goal, but I tried.
I mostly wanted to take the test as a basic diagnostic of my studying. I’ve been watching a lot of jDramas, reading Japanese blogs, and studying more naturally instead of specifically for the test. I’m really not sure if that helped my score or took away from it. I know my Japanese has improved. I can do a lot more with it, but it’s still not there.
Kanji, Vocabulary, Grammar, and Reading Section
The vocabulary for this round seemed to be a little tougher than usual. I can usually identify about 60% or so of the vocabulary pretty easily, but this time I did a lot of guessing. Maybe I read through the section a little too fast, but it seemed like a lot of the vocabulary was stuff I had never seen before, which is pretty rare.
I tried to speed through grammar pretty quickly to have more time for the reading section. I had the hardest time with the Text Grammar section (the last of the 3 grammar sections). This was mostly cause the topic was pretty bland, talking about a tree at a temple (if I remember correctly). It seemed a little difficult, but mostly because I just couldn’t get into the essay.
I had plenty of time for the reading, which was good. The smaller passages seemed a lot more difficult than usual, but the other passages were a bit easier so it all seemed to average out. The information retrieval (last passage) seemed too easy. It was basically about how to sign up for medical tests. Here’s to hoping that I didn’t make an idiot mistake on that one.
The listening seemed to be dead on to me. Not too difficult, not too easy. As usual, I’m pretty sure I almost got all the questions right for the 1st 2 sections. The 3rd section of the listening (where they don’t give you the question ahead of time) always trips me up. Mostly because, since I don’t know what to listen for, I sometimes lose focus.
The quick response section seemed fairly tricky for some reason. A lot of the answers I had to just go with my gut on what I felt like the answer was. There was the typical 擬音語 (giongo, onomatopoeia word) question as well as some trick intonation and negative questions. Pretty typical stuff, but some of the vocabulary I didn’t quite recognize fast enough.
I can proudly say that I think I have mastered the 5th section though. This is a pretty difficult listening section that pops up on N2 and N1. For all of the questions, you don’t get the question beforehand. You just have to listen to the whole thing and then answer. The first two usually involve somebody selecting something (in today’s test a television) and a shopkeeper lists up all the features of 4 items and then the shopper buys an item based on their preferences.
The last question usually involves one person giving information about 4 choices of some kind and then two people arguing over which one they want to choose. This N1, they were talking about different kinds of watches and the benefits of each one.
This last section just involves good, fast, note-taking, and if you prepare for it, it can be fairly easy. It is also suppose to be worth the most points because it is more involved than other questions.
Biggest Enemy → Focus!
I really could not clear my head for today’s test. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe I just haven’t been getting the sleep that I should this last week, or the 6 day workweeks are finally getting to me. Either case, my concentration really started to fade just about the time I started the reading section. I feel like the longer passages were fairly easy this time, and if I had had more focus I could have pulled off a better score.
Of course the heat didn’t help at all. The insufferable Japanese summer managed to sneak in a couple of days early. It wasn’t too hot, but definitely humid and air conditioning seems to be a precious resource at 京大. I started the test with a nice slimy layer of sweat, never a good thing.
This time around two students were actually stopped from entering the classroom for the listening section even though they were just about 30 seconds late. The one student managed to talk his way back in, but unfortunately the other one wasn’t able to make it, which is an automatic fail. The break is only 35 minutes (to eat, drink, go to the bathroom and high-tail it back) that also includes the time it takes for them to count the answer sheets too.
The moral of the story is pack something you can inhale and get to the bathroom ASAP, because it might cost you the test.
I guess I should add that this is for Japan, is it like this in other places? Do you only get 35 minutes break between the two testing blocks?
I Want to Hear from You!
How was the test? What level did you take and where? I’m always curious to here about the different testing conditions in other countries. Let me know in the comments.