JLPT BC 124 | Boiling Down the Grammar

JLPT BC 124 | Boiling Down the Grammar post image

After the July test, I’ve been moving toward more natural study methods and keeping my nose out of drill books. I started doing some reading of PHP, a small magazine with short essays that have relatively short essays that have relatively simple themes. I found it to be fairly easy actually. A good magazine for people studying for N2 I think. It’s shorter and literally smaller than regular magazines, so it can be pretty handy.

Since PHP was not challenging, I decided to graduate to ‘real’ magazines. I chose one of the ‘weeklies’ or 週刊 (shuukan). There are actually at least 3 different weeklies put out by different publishers, and I chose 週刊文春 (shuukanbunshun) pretty much at random. So far it has been at least a decent choice.

These weeklies generally combine a variety of reading in one bound edition. For example, they will have some somewhat newsy items like news about the Tokyo getting the Olympics and some stories on that theme.

Or something of interest on the current hot topic. For example, in my edition they have an article about how most people in China don’t believe in Chinese history books, which is apparently relevant because a lot of Chinese also don’t believe in Japanese textbooks? It must have been a slow news day.

Anyway, I’m finding it to be a bit more difficult to understand than PHP. It is a little faster-paced and concentrated. Also, it seems like they use more colorful idioms along with the occasional rare use kanji without any furigana to help look it up. Another difficulty is the heavy use of names in the news stories. These can be difficult to find out how they are pronounced and harder to keep track of.

I’m going to continue to work through it as well as do some reading review before the big test. I want to practice answering some comprehension questions because I feel like figuring those out is half of the difficulty of doing the reading section.

Boiling Down the Grammar

I’m pretty familiar with most of the N1 grammar, but I’m still not confident enough with it. In the past, I’ve simply kept buying more and more drill books until I’ve gotten very comfortable with everything. And I still might end up doing that, but I thought I would try another approach.

Mostly, I got sick of answering question after question, and lots of drilling doesn’t have that much of an effect on your ability to actually use the grammar point in real life, which is usually the whole reason why you study a language in the 1st place. Although I will be reviewing the last couple of chapters of New Kanzen Master N1 Grammar so that I can be really comfortable with some of the key points from N1.

But, the new thing I’m trying this time is a process of boiling down the most difficult grammar. This process helps me save a little time with my studies, because it narrows down the exact points I’m weak at. The whole process has taken a long time, but I feel like I’m really able to master each point I need.

A Month and a Half to Go

It’s almost gone now, but I’ve spent the last week and a half battling a nasty cold that has put me behind a little bit. I’m finally getting back on schedule for the final stretch to the finish line.

My, now, epic quest to find the perfect house has intensified a bit, I feel like we are getting closer and closer to actually moving in soon. Buying a house in Japan is a lot more complicated than I imagine it to be in America. There are a lot of pitfalls that we’ve avoided and learned about along the way. I’ll have to write something up about it soon.

My main goal for this December test will be to recover my grammar and vocabulary score that took a hit during the July test. I also want to slightly improve listening and reading to comfortably score above 30. I keep thinking about the 100 points that are needed to pass the test. It seems like a tough hill to climb at the moment, but I’m hoping for some more dramatic results this time around. We’ll see what happens.

What are your Goals?

The test is coming up soon. What do you need to improve before the big day?

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Bart October 18, 2013, 12:11 am

    Hi Mac,

    The test is coming really quickly! I barely passed N2 last year and am trying for N1 this year. Unfortunately with me finishing school and being a little burned out from studying for last year’s test, I didn’t really study as much as I have in past years.

    Like many people, reading seems to be my weak point. I’m reading a lot of Japanese non-fiction books and the occasional novel here and there. I like the Shin Kanzen Master reading series, but I seem to do better with those books than I do on the actual test. It’s probably a function of me losing focus after being in the actual test for an hour or so.

    I’m behind on N1 grammar, but I think I will catch up by test time. Reading your experience with the last N1 test, I decided to also brush up on my N3 and N2 grammar as well. My main issue with grammar is telling when to use certain forms. Different forms may have the same meaning in English, but have different connotations in Japanese, or can only be used with certain verb conjugations. I’ve bought a couple of grammar dictionaries, but the differences in usage can still be pretty tricky.

    How did you feel about the Reading and grammar section of N1? Did you think it was fair, or did you feel they were trying to trick you a lot of the time? (I’m not asking about Listening Comprehension, because I know they’re trying to trick you). It seemed like with N4 and N3, for most of the questions , three of the answers were definitely wrong and one answer really stood out. With N2, it seemed a lot of time 2, and sometimes 3 of the answers could be correct.


    • Clayton MacKnight October 24, 2013, 11:35 pm

      The N1 is about the same as N2 in the sense that there are multiple answers that seem pretty close to the mark. It usually comes down to the wording, and they will try to trick you with things that you assume would be said in that type of passage, but weren’t actually mentioned, so you have to really narrow it down to what it could possibly be. That is tricky to do in a limited time span. I always agree with people that say the test wouldn’t be a problem if they had enough time to read everything thoroughly.

      I need to practice reading faster and more accurately, but these days I’m generally half asleep when I practice so I’m not sure how much progress I made. 🙂

      Anyway, good luck!

  • lazuli April 5, 2014, 8:02 pm

    I think 週刊文春 is a nice pick^^ I’ve tried to read some novels presented in the 新刊ラジオ podcasts you’ve once presented on your blog because I have no idea what I should read…the novel was interested I bought the other volumes XD
    I think Aera too is interesting but back them my Japanese level was too low to feel comfortable reading it^^;;
    I remember I had some issues of a English-Japanese bilingual magazine back then but not sure I can remember the name of it…I found some bilingual magazines googling though: Hir@gana Times and The Japan Times NEWS DIGEST.

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