This is the final stretch before the big test next week. You have hopefully put in a lot of regular studying with your tried and true textbooks. If you haven’t been putting in some regular time for studying there probably isn’t a lot you can do to bring up your score in this next week. But, if you have put the time in and feel like you just about have it, there are a handful of things you might want to do to prep for the test.
Here are 5 things that will only take a little bit of time out of your rushed final week, but might just end up boosting your score enough to put you over:
5. Decide on Some Kind of Game Plan
Hopefully, you have had time to familiarize yourself with the kinds of questions and the different parts of each test. If you haven’t you might want to at least work through one practice test (N5, N4, N3, N2, N1) and check out my article on JLPT time to see how much time you should spend in each section.
After that, it is important to layout some kind of basic attack plan that you are going to follow for the test. Some people like to focus their time on a particular section while others go through it in order. There is no one correct way to take it as long as you are comfortable with the pattern.
For more details on different patterns for the test as well as creating your own personal game plan, check out the JLPT study guide kit.
4. Practice your Focus
We all lead pretty busy lives with plenty of distractions and so it can be next to impossible to always have good focus. For the test you might need to stay focused for around 3 hours for the higher levels or about 2 hours for the lower levels.
If you’ve been out of a school for a while or are just not used to staying focused for such long periods of time, this might affect your score. Especially in the listening section of the test, where if your focus falters for a second, you could easily miss a question or two.
So take the time to try to do some longer stretches of reading or practicing Japanese. For example, taking a good hour to go through a grammar or reading book without a break. Be sure to take a break though. Don’t burn yourself out before the main event.
3. Practice Taking Notes during Listening
This is a bit of a unique but handy skill. On the test, you’ll have to take notes and keep listening at the same time. It is essential that you be able to take good accurate notes about a conversation quickly, all while not losing focus. Needless to say it might be something you want to practice a bit before the exam.
Even re-listening to older listening passages can help you here. The point is practicing how to structure your notes quickly while listening. I’m pretty bad at this skill to be honest. I end up taking notes in a strange mix of romaji and kana, which seems to work for me, but any system will do. My only suggestion is that if you are not automatic at writing kana and kanji, skip it, take notes in romaji. Use what works quickly for the test.
2. Time your Reading
During the test you will be pressured to read fast, and comprehend quickly. Your mind naturally wants to slow down and take in as much as possible, so speeding up the way you read is essential. Timed reading is one way to put the pressure on yourself to read faster than before.
There seem to be different suggestions as to the kind of material you should be reading. You can try new material that you are not used to so that you can get used to applying patterns and guessing at meanings. Or, you can use material that you have already read and try reading through it again. This may seem like a waste of time, but it has been proven in some studies to be an effective way to make understanding automatic. The key is to speed read it, pressure yourself to go faster.
1. Sleep and Eat Well
This is probably a no-brainer, but you really need to get a good night’s sleep. The old metric of 8 hours is usually a good rule of thumb, but recently there has been some evidence that we actually don’t need that much sleep. Some people survive with just 7 hours. I personally sleep around 6 hours and always wake up before my alarm, so just listen to your own clock and do some experimenting.
The point is, don’t trade sleep for extra study time. It never pays off, you need sleep to save all the things you learned during the day. It’s like typing a 10 page report on your computer and then pulling the plug to shut it off. You did all that work, take the time to save it, and ‘shutdown’ your mind properly.
This goes for food as well. For some reason, nobody every recommends a diet full of junk food and McDonald’s. And it is a good thing, because eating poorly can drain your energy and make you feel like crap. Eat right and take of yourself. After all, it’s only test.
Make it Happen
I wish you luck with the big test this next weekend. I’m in the process of moving and so will probably have no time to study, but will hopefully be able to make an appearance for N1 (fingers crossed). Good luck everyone!
Photo by Moyan Brenn