We are now moving into the final stretch before the July test. I’ve switched a lot of fun studying into more aggressive drilling and practicing vocabulary and grammar. I think it is important to get into that mindset of answering questions. One of the necessary evils about a test is that the test makers have to work in a bag of tricks in order to really test what your level is. So you need to readjust your thinking a little before the exam.
I’ve been making slow, but steady progress on Game of Thrones. I took a break from it over the Golden Week holiday because I couldn’t find enough concentrated free time to study it. So far it has been an enjoyable read. I do like eBooks, but it can be a little difficult to read and take notes on them. With my Japanese books, I like to mark them up and add notes where I can, especially if I bought it used. That’s a little trickier with an eBook.
I also finally finished off watching and practicing Hanzawa Naoki. Overall, it was an interesting series. I can see why it was so popular in Japan. There are a lot of people that would love to tell their boss off here I think. It didn’t have that much reusable vocabulary to be honest, but I hope it honed my guessing skills for listening. It was at least a lot more fun than going back through my listening drills again, so I hope it boosts my listening score a little bit.
One of the biggest changes this time around for the test is my free time. I really don’t have much of it. I’ve taken on a few extra teaching gigs, and my wife has taken on some extra work as well, which means I’m doing more chores and things around the house. It is a tough time to get a big block of concentrated time available. So, I have turned to doing more listening and vocabulary drilling which can be done in those spare moments waiting for the train or during my daughter’s naps.
The Race is On
I finished off the short course I made a while back for N1 words that were giving me some trouble. I’ve since moved on to a list of ~2000 words from one of the more popular vocabulary books for the N1. I thought I would run into some new words that I hadn’t seen before, but about half the words are review, which is good and bad. Good in the sense that I can review some things I know, bad in the sense that vocabulary was one of my weak points last test, so I need to learn some more words to pass that section.
I still recommend doing that course if you are taking the N1. It has a lot of great vocabulary and the course creator has done a great job with making clean and clear definitions. Users have also contributed a lot of mems with mnemonics and example sentences to help you get a good idea of how to use the word and remember it.
I’ve been on Memrise for quite awhile, and have managed to rack up an impressive point total, so it is often hard to find competitors. Luckily, Memrise has a cool feature where it shows you the leaderboards for just points earned that week or month. I’ve turning to that and trying to find some other users that have a good pace for me to race against. I’ve managed to find two other users that are just ahead of where I usually am, so I have been following them closely, trying to keep one step ahead. It has kept me going at a good pace. I’m already over 10% done with the N1 course and I just started it a few weeks ago.
There is always a lot of talk in teaching circles about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation being some outside force that makes you do or study something, like your boss telling you to get a certain score on the test in order to get promoted. While intrinsic motivation is something internal; you have the desire to learn the material because you are curious about it, or just like the challenge. As teachers, encouraging intrinsic motivation is generally considered the best course of action because students that are learning for themselves are much more likely to go the extra mile and really focus on their studies. Whereas extrinsically motivated students are just there to put their time in and go home.
Gaming learning, like what Memrise does, is a bit of both, and there have been mixed reports about whether gaming actually encourages real learning or not. However, I’ve found it can help you get out of bed and start studying on those days when you would rather just watch a movie or play the latest smartphone game to pass the time. The tallying of points shouldn’t be your main focus, but it does help to stand back and see how much progress you have made.
This bulking up of vocabulary has helped with my ability to memorize and build mnemonics as well. It is good sometimes to bulk up in a particular category and just drown in it for a while so that you can perfect your vocabulary (or reading, kanji, etc…) study skills. I’ve gotten a lot more proficient at learning words at first glance, with only a few needing a little bit of extra reinforcement.
I pulled out my dusty old 一級 exams that I have been saving for a rainy day. I haven’t gotten into them that much before because I was studying Kanzen Master and So-Matome reading books, but now I’m going to try to hone my comprehension skills over the next couple of months before the exam. I’m especially bad at inference, even in English. This has always been my nemesis, I have never really been able to find a cure for it, other than to read and read and then answer questions to double check my comprehension.
I’m practicing an old method I’ve used in the past with some success of reading a paragraph, stopping, trying to summarize it in my head, then continuing on with the passage. This makes for some slow reading, so I usually change this strategy out with speed reading, to keep myself reading and skimming at an optimal speed. The common problems keep popping up though. Passages that have a topic I’m familiar with, I cut through like a hot knife through butter, but if the topic is unfamiliar to me, it’s more like a blunt butter knife through a baguette.
I haven’t done any serious timing of myself quite yet though. I do want to get a good reading speed down before the main event. That is usually the difference between having a little while to double check your answers and slamming your pencil down at the very last second. You really need to be a good fast reader at the N1 and N2 levels. That is one of the key differences between N3 and N2.
The only other problem is finding a good place to read. I usually do my casual reading on the train, but reading and answer questions on multiple pages can get to be a little troublesome with a train that is rocking back and forth and limited lap space. So, I need to get into the habit of doing some reading during my breakfast and lunch. I’m not exactly a big fan of cutting into my lunch, but you have to do what you have to do.
Are you Ready for this?
The July test is just around the corner, how do you sharpen your sword in this final stretch? Let me know in the comments below.