Well, the results are in. And I am a little embarrassed to say that I failed it, which I kind of expected. What I didn’t expect was an absolute pounding. This was my worst score yet on the test. Even when I took it for the first time and hadn’t really started preparing for it at all, I did better than I did this last round. And I am a bit perplexed as to why.
I could chart it up to simply not being on my game that day or just getting a bunch of topics that I was not really all the familiar with for whatever reason, but I actually didn’t feel that bad about the test. I wrote about my initial reactions before, and although I was a little weary about the results (I was pretty confident I had failed) I didn’t feel it was that difficult. The section that I thought I did the worse in, listening, I actually did the best in.
So what gives? Well, I am not entirely sure. I kind of had these types of moments in high school where I thought I had done pretty well on a test only to find out later that I had failed it miserably. It looks like it was one of those moments for this test. I can’t really explain what went wrong, I obviously either misjudged the entire test or skipped a question on the answer sheet. Either way, I guess it is back to the drawing board.
Time for an About-Face
Some might say that the answer is in more books and more drilling. But, I’m pretty sure I have the question formats down and what is being asked of me. I might still hunt down a book or two toward the end to check my level again, but that is probably not something I am going to start with. Instead, I’ll be trying a new mix of production and some more native materials that I’ve been fishing around for.
I’d really like to get comfortable listening. I still have to ‘focus’ to listen. This causes a lot of problems when I’m talking to friends and the conversation suddenly turns Japanese as it sometimes does and my brain doesn’t quite switch with it. For some reason, I have to ‘warm up’ to listening in Japanese. It doesn’t really take that long, but long enough that it can cause problems at work, out with friends and obviously the test. I got a score of 24 on the listening this time, which is absolutely abysmal. Especially since listening has never really been a weakness of mine until the N1.
So, I will continue to listen to the Jane Su podcast that I mentioned earlier, but I’m going to try to go through it with more of a fine tooth comb. I’m going to keep individual episodes that sound exciting and re-listening to them a few times until I can discern almost everything that is being said. I can usually get the main gist the first time around, but I want to make it more natural and automatic instead of what it is now, which is at times a bit forced.
I’ll probably step up my reading of articles from magazines like Aera. I will miss reading Game of Thrones though, so I might have to read a few pages here and there every once in awhile. I have been getting into Aera as well though. The articles are pretty interesting and pretty easy to get through.
I want to throw some production in there as well. I would love to be able to read articles, summarize them and do a little bit of discussion so that I can practice some of the vocabulary that picked up in the article. I’m not sure how feasible that is though because my schedule has become next to impossible of late. My wife is back working full time, which basically means that any free time we have we just want to relax and chill out, which often means sleeping in. Raising an extremely genki 2 year old takes a tremendous amount of energy.
A little Too Eager to get it Over with
I’ve started to take the test a little less seriously because I just want it to be done with because I have other projects I would like to jump into. That is putting a bit of a dent in my motivation to be honest. I just don’t have the gung ho-ness that I once had to pass the test. It’s not that I am giving up. I still need the test for various reasons. I just want to take my studies in a different direction that may or may not give me a higher score per se, but will improve my overall language skills.
In a perfect world, I would go to Japanese classes or get a tutor that can help me push through this and get it over and done with, but my schedule is incredibly erratic at the moment. Some weeks I have a somewhat empty schedule, but most weeks these days have been packed with translation requests and additional private lessons, which is great for me financially I suppose, but not the perfect solution for my sleep schedule.
A Note about Results
If you registered on the JEES site and took the test in Japan, your results are available now online. The official results will be mailed out next week. For everybody else, check this page for information on how to get your results online. For most people they will be available on Aug 28th at 5pm JST (about 16 hours from when this post went live).
How About You?
How did you do? Did you get the score you expected? Were you disappointed like me? Let me know in comments.
Be sure to let us know what level you took, where, how you studied, what you think was the most effective, least effective thing you did in preparation for the test so that you can help your fellow JLPTers. Thanks for helping everybody out!
Photo by jsellger2
I passed the JLPT N3. Now looking forward to working with the Meguro Language Center to help me get the N2, but do you think there will be enough time for me to prepare for the N2 for this coming December?
I think it depends on your reading speed/ability. N2 requires you to read a lot faster. There is also a pretty big jump in vocabulary. I think it is possible with intensive study though. It depends on how much time you have to dedicate to it.
I will probably just take it anyway in December, even if I am not ready for it, just to get a feel for the exam in a real environment. You still gonna continue that monthly strategy guide?
By the way Mac, your website had been absolutely invaluable to my test prep/strategy for approaching the JLPT. You are doing an absolute service to a lot of people for doing this. Keep you chin up about your scores man. Mori Motonari (Daimyo of Aki – Modern Day Hiroshima) once said “Potential must not be stifled, it must be nurtured”. You will get it soon!
Thanks Mike! I’m not too down about it really. To be honest I just want to get it over with because I love running this site. I learn a lot more teaching and talking to people than sticking my nose in books. And it’s great to hear from everybody around the world.
I am going to continue the monthly guide. Month 8 is due up next week. I go over diagnosing some JLPT problems.
Speaking of JLPT problems – how about talking about the differences in how Japanese and Western authors structure their writing? (I finally found the Google search term – “Japanese rhetoric.”) Western authors use the standard essay format – thesis, arguments to support it, summary, while Japanese sort of talk around the point until the end, when you’re supposed to draw the desired conclusion for yourself, as I understand it. If this is how JLPT passages are structured, the Westerner is probably looking in all the wrong places for the main idea, for example.
A book for Japanese students on how to write might make this clearer – or maybe something by a ESL teacher who tries to teach Japanese to write according to the Western style. In any case, this sounds like something that would not bother Chinese JLPT-takers nearly as much, and would probably start bothering Westerners only at the higher levels, no matter how many kanji or grammar points they’ve learned. If there is no helpful written info on this, maybe a tutor would be the best idea for help in preparing for the reading sections.
I will take the N5 for the first time in december.
Your website is great!
good success in your studie for the next text 🙂
Thanks and good luck!
I plan on taking the N4 in December. And its a crushing fear to fail, but yet an expectation as well. I’m certainly not use to rushing into failure.
I took the N5 two years ago – only 6 months after I started initial studying. I could barely read the test, and felt like my Japanese was improving as I took the test. It is truly a well constructed test, ne?
So two years later I havn’t really studied as well or as hard as I would like. I don’t have a tutor or even a friend that I can speak Japanese with. But I feel that after 2.5 years of studying casually I should be able to pass the N4. After all, I only missed passing the N5 by 20 points, and that was after 6 months of study.
Anyways, I commiserate with you over failing. I don’t ever view failure as some – I mean its not like you’ve LOST an opportunity or LOST in life. You measured your progress and found in lacking and below your own expectations. Truly, shooting for the N1 is an amazing accomplishment in its own right – one that I hope to match one day.
The language center of our brain is incredibly important and the science of learning a new language is hella interesting. I work retail and can sell in Spanish. Took me five years of studying and years of selling to be truly conversational and its only in that setting. I have experienced moments where the second language function just “shut off”. Similar to your warming up. I’m not sure what you have to do to increase that speed of warm up… And I’m well familiar with standing in front of someone seems to be way different than listening to pop music or even watching Spanish television (a past time I don’t actually do.)
Anyways, seems my comment turned into a blog post of my own. But good luck and good studying.
It sounds like N4 will be a good challenge for you. Maybe signing up and taking the test will put a fire under you to get some studying done and get up to a good level. I think N4 is all you need to get conversational and get to practice the language. N3 and above is mostly for reading Japanese. N1 is basically for being able to understand Japanese in every general situation you will find yourself in.
I think one of my biggest issues is context. I really need context in order to understand what is being talked about, and there are so many questions on the test that lack any kind of context at all. The listening questions hardly set up anything and the reading is very similar.
Anyway, good luck with the N4, let me know how you do.
Passed N1! Can’t believe it!
Thanks to heaps of study, this site, my friends, and everyone involved!
Awesome! Can you tell us how you studied? What worked for you?
My weak point was (and still is) reading.
I got some books (unicom) and just read random stuff online to and from work on the train. Just about every word that was new to me, I would take note of and either add to my deck, or just make a note of it on a piece of paper. I think the action of doing so alone helps you remember… even if you don’t even end up revising it ever again. Also keep reading the same passage over and over until you understand everything in it, and until you can read it smoothly and quickly. It sounds (and is) boring as hell, but I have a firm belief in this system.
I also used Sticky Study and completed the N1 deck… started it about 2 or 3 months before the exam and did around 20-30 minutes every day.
Common grammar I am fine with… so for all the obscure stuff… I went to j-gram, and made my own table on excel. To be honest, I did not spend much time on this… I would simply gloss over it if I got bored reading or just felt like doing something different. If you’re just aware of them, and know the gist, it’s usually enough.
Listening, I can’t really give any advice because I didn’t study specifically for it at all. Living in Japan and hearing the language all the time, as well as actively spending time with Japanese speakers outside of work etc obviously helps.
I did 4 simulation tests – 1 book I bought had 3 tests, and the other was the “official” one which only had one test. I did one a week leading up to the exam. Before doing these mogi tests, I thought they would prepare me content-wise… but that wasn’t the case. What it did do, is help me with time management. If you can go through the exam knowing when to stop and move on, know what to do first/last… it is a HUGE help… do not underestimate this. If it weren’t for careful time management, I am pretty sure that I had a big chance of failing… or only just passing.
I think to improve chances of success, it’s good to not just focus on one area, but to make sure you are doing a bit of everything in your routine… and… even though speaking is not covered in the exam, it will do you a bunch of good to practise speaking as much as you can too. It cements things you have learnt, and also makes your study more rewarding.
I’m pretty sure you have mentioned this somewhere before, but make sure you get sleep, and make sure you aren’t hungry (or too full). For my break between reading and listening, I purposefully had very little to eat – just enough to not be hungry. Being in this state keeps you more alert (yet composed). Eating too much will make you sleepy, and not enough will rob you of your concentration. All common sense things, but easy to neglect if you put all your effort into remembering words and kanji.
I can’t think of anything else for now but will post again if I do.
Thanks John! That is a gold mine of useful info. I like the idea of re-reading passages especially. There has been a lot of research about that actually that has proved that re-reading passages can help the speed of your comprehension with similar passages in the future. It makes sense, but it also seems a little boring and strange to re-read the same stuff a few times just to get it down pat.
I think the main thing about speaking is that you are using the language not just trying to magically absorb it. Also, it helps to teach others Japanese that you have learned. When I do research for the N5 videos that I do, I end up bumping into a lot of really complex questions that I would have never really thought about if I hadn’t been making those videos. They have been a big help to me as well as everything else. Granted a lot of it I already now extremely well, but there are few exceptions and odds and ends that I either didn’t learn correctly the first time or obviously glossed over when I first looked at it.
Although I knew I wouldn’t make it, it feels even worse to be that close to passing N2:
Language knowledge 30/60
Well, more focussing on reading for sure 😐
It is always tough to get results like that. It seems like picking up a few native books and doing some regular reading would help prop up that score. Did you have enough time to finish the test or were you hard pressed to get everything answered?
Yes, I need to get into the habit of reading… my least favorite way of spending time 🙂 I already picked up the 新完全マスター読解 for N2, hopefully that’ll get me through it in December. Last time I didn’t have enough time and I had to randomly mark some answer in the last minute of the test.
Can u drop me a pm on my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Will share with u some tips on how to pass. =)
Joost, if you spent more time to practise your grammar, i think you would make it.
Hey Clayton! Sorry about that man, Im actually waiting for my results to come in the mail next week, I just prefer holding/looking at a piece of paper. Its silly but oh well. I took the N1 in July and I think I failed too, but I completely understand what you mean by listening. I actually took the N2 last December and barely missed the passing score, but I felt really bad about my listening so I decided to up my listening practice. I do feel that it is a skill that just requires practice, case in point, when i started doing more listening practice, I would write down `new` words, but then later realize that I already knew that word! In fact, I had studied that word for the past 6 months! But when I heard it, I didnt recognize it. So I knew I needed more listening practice.
But listening practice is tough to come by, I want native materials, at native speed and I want the ability to listen at my convenience. What I found, and what I started listening to after the N2 last December was the NHK news. In fact, every night before bed I listen to the 7:00 to 7:30 NHK Radio News (they usually post it on the website by 8:30) and when I first started, I got my butt kicked by it. It was news stories ranging from (at the time) kidnappings from North Korea, ballistic missle tests from North Korea, from STAP Saibou problems etc. But I could hear the words I knew and the words I didnt know, write them down and later check the dictionary, and I would end up with 20-30 new words each time I listened. Ive been listening to the NHK news now for the past 8 months and I feel EXTREMELY confident in my listening ability compared to when I started. The amount of new words I get has dwindled but I feel like its a good sign. I feel more at ease when I listen and generally understand about 75% when I listen to it.
In the morning, I generally listen to the NHK news stories, which are VERY nice, because not only do they have video to accompany the audio but they also have a summary as well on the side, so it ends up being listening and reading practice, which is very nice.
This is the NHK news story website I use in the mornings, https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/. If you look in the middle, you can scroll through the different videos/news stories.
This is the NHK radio news I listen to every night before going to bed, https://www.nhk.or.jp/r-news/. I listen to the 7:00 to 7:30 one every night (though it isnt posted to the website until around 8:30 the night of). The radio news is harder because its pure listening, you have no idea what they are going to say so its completely on the spot and you have no other clues like kanji or video/pictures to guess the meaning. You have to get the meaning purely from the words which has really trained my ear to better understand/listen to Japanese.
Recently, a lot of people have been recommending NHK news. I think it is time I start giving them a good listen on a regular basis so that I can improve my listening skills. I can pick up pretty much any daily conversation, but it is the more involved topics that tend to throw me off guard. Thanks for the links to the great sites!
I’m looking forward to hearing about your results next week. Let me know.
N2. Didn’t make the cut, but didn’t expect to – this time was more to get a realistic feel for the test. First time taking the test in a year and half (N4 pass in Dec 2012…skipped N3). I think I can make the cut in December. Next July at the latest.
I’m actually pleased with the results considering the amount of JLPT-specific study I put in – I was expecting somewhere in the mid-50/low-60s range so to come up with a 76 is a win.
Until December my friend…
Sorry to hear about your result, Mac. But I think the key is perseverance. Just keep keep trying until you get the big prize! 🙂
For me, I couldn’t believe that I’ve passed N1! Really a fulfilling accomplishment 😀
Like you, listening was tough for me but it’s where I got my highest mark. I think it’s due to the “score adjusting” system JLPT is using.
Strategy-wise, I hit the drill books since April & started first with vocabulary because it’s my weak point. Then, started with grammar (my 2nd weak point). Because I’m pretty strong with listening, I started this quite late, about 2-3weeks before the exam. All the drill books I’ve used are from the Kanzen master series. I particularly liked the 語彙 book because it’s packed with new words I’ve never seen before.
Other than drill books, natural exposure to the language is also helpful. This is possible for me because I’m now living in Japan (I’m a uni student here for 5 yrs). Using particular words and expressions during conversations & listening to them in context from dramas/movies really helped me to remember them better + how to use them properly in the right context.
Overall, a combination of high motivation, ample time & more, more practice either through books or natural-exposure is a big plus to pass the exam.
Also, this site is very helpful for me! The content here has helped me passed N2 & now N1, and I’m very grateful to Mac and fellow jlpt-boot-campers. Thanks a lot & I hope my comments here can be helpful 🙂
Thanks Liling for the kind words! It is always encouraging to hear about other peoples successes and how they made it happen. I will be increasing my natural exposure to slightly more broader topics like news and such. I’ve been reading some novels and I can understand novels and stories pretty well now, the only problem is that is not what is on the test.
Anyway, I’m going to keep studying. The best thing to do with a failure is to learn from it.
I passed the N1 on the first try(judging from your experience I think it may be an advantage to have taken the test fewer times. I was full of adrenaline taking the test, and that probably helped me focus. Why don’t you try skipping a round?) , and my highest score was the reading. It could have just been luck, but the one thing that I have barely ever done is use books made for the JLPT. All of my studying up to this point has been my minor in Japanese at college(I had virtually no Kanji knowledge even after that), and reading/listening every day. DVDs – if there is a Japanese dub, I watch that, Video Games – I look for games with lots of dialog(bonus if the characters are voiced) and always play them in Japanese, Books – Were my weak point. I love reading in English so much. But I read a few in Japanese as well. I also extract my favorite bits from audio clips and film audio, trim them to a manageable length, transcribe what is being said, and then turn them into Anki cards.
During the last 2 months, I used a tutor from iTalki, and we focused solely on reading, and I think that gave me the few extra points on reading, but I could have scored a bit lower and still passed. Vocabulary was definitely my weak point like I said in my comment on your other post. Just so many words you will be hard pressed to find in the wild.
My advice would be to ditch the JLPT books, and just do more things in Japanese. Also, stop wasting your money on the test when you’re not ready for it. I only took the JLPT a grand total of 1 time. Be more patient, and spend that money on Japanese media that you really want to consume. You said that you re-listen to whole podcasts. That’s too big, you’re going to space out. It’s good to do sometimes, but sometimes, you should re-listen to a single section or even a single sentence over and over again. Transcription gets a bad rap, but it will improve your listening immensely. VLC media player can slow down audio so if it’s too fast to transcribe you can use that, but always try without that first. It takes more than knowing the words to be a good listener. You have to be able to automatically predict what’s coming next. The words and patterns that go together.
Better luck next time.
That’s some great advice. I seem to notice a trend of a lot of people that have passed N5~N3 without that much real world use, but hit a wall at the N2 level. A lot of the people I have talked to that went on to pass N1 seem to have a few things in common. They do a ton of real world practice, or they are taking a lot of one on one Japanese class (basically tutoring or something similar, not a traditional class). Or, to be honest they are Chinese and look at me puzzled as to how the N1 could possibly be so difficult :).
I think it is time for a grand re-focusing of my studies. I really feel like I have gotten everything out of the books that I got for this level, which were helpful and worth the price, but not enough.
The Jane Su podcast is actually quite easy to get through. I can usually understand about 70% or so on the first run through, and then the second time through I pick up all the small details that eluded me. The main reason why I listen to them in their entirety is because I do a lot of walking on my commute and it is an easy way to study and not have to fiddle with a repeat button or something else. But, I might end up doing some chopping to boil down some of the better segments that I have trouble with.
Transcription, I get so lazy with that, but I’ve seen a lot of my students use it to great effect. I guess it is time to join the band wagon with the cool kids.
One quick question, were you good at languages? I mean (I assume your native language is English) did you get good marks in English class? For me English class was my worst subject (and now I teach it, oh the irony).
I was always good at English, but did terrible in Spanish in high school. I don’t think that has much to do with it as much as the massive amount of time I have spent with Japanese. Most of it is second nature now.
Honestly, though, I cannot believe how high my score was considering how little I prepared for the test specifically. I had to have had at least a few lucky guesses.
One on one tutoring does help a lot, and is really not that expensive. iTalki has a lot of great tutors. I would only suggest it for working on your reading and/or conversation skills. Talking with Japanese friends is all well and good, but they will very rarely give you objective criticism and call you out for your mistakes. I took trial lessons until I found a teacher that gave criticism instead of only encouragement.
I have a wireless headset that has enough range so that I can walk anywhere in my house while listening to something. You could get something similar and up your passive listening time to also include the time that you are doing dishes or cleaning house.
Yeah, I have one of those wireless headset things actually. I use it a few times to do listening here and there, but more often than not I have to be paying attention to the wife and kid because they will inevitably need me for something, so I always have to be alert for them.
Anyway, thanks for the heads up and good info. I will look into those options. I just need to do more surrounding myself in Japanese, but I have too many things I want to do/listen to that are only in English. conflicts.
Rereading sounds like what little kids use in learning their native language – that is, having the parent reread the same bedtime story over and over for maybe weeks on end. Some researcher looked into this and says that it’s actually a slightly different story they hear each time, as they learn different words at different times and that alters their experience. It seems to work for them, anyway. And then they learn what they need, and move on.
BTW, I remember you were put off stride by the lack of a clock in the exam room – maybe just getting a cheap wristwatch especially for exam days would be an idea? Taking a break from the whole thing for a while sounds like a brilliant idea, though – trying to learn anything to the highest level while riding the train to your “real” job(s) seems too exhausting even to think about. Anything is possible, but not everything at once.
I do have a watch that I use actually. I just, guess, it would be nice if they had an official one, if you know what I mean. I don’t see the harm in having that.
Yeah, passing this test would mean that could take different assignments that involve more Japanese use at work. More Japanese use at work would help me pass though, so, it is that whole Catch-22 all over again.
Finally I passed N1 in my 3rd attempt. I took the test in Vietnam. The score is not very high, but I feel so relief that I can stop drilling for N1 here and start doing something else.
My score is:
Language knowledge: 41
My 1st attempt I got 76, 2nd is 97 and now 107. The 3rd time is not a great improvement as the first, this time I think the test was much harder.
So sorry for your result, I’ve followed you since your 1st N1 attempt and it’s great to have a companion on the test.
Wish you luck next time.
Thanks Umeko and it is great to see a solid score like that. I think I remember seeing that 97 last time and thinking how close it was. Good to see you made it through.
What do you think helped you the most?
Hi Mac, hi everyone,
I passed N3 – I am quite surprised, because I actually only took the test in order to gauge my current level and find out which areas I am weakest in. The result is not overwhelming, though:
Language knowledge: 39/60
Now I do not really know what to do: Keep practicing and retaking the N3 in order to get a better score? Or take the leap and start learning for N2 right away? The thing is that I am pretty sure I do not know all the grammar you ought to know for N3. But maybe I will also get to learn this grammar (and all the vocab etc.) when learning for N2?
What’s your opinion on this?
You have to know a lot of the N3 grammar for N2. In a lot of cases, since textbook writers aren’t really sure what is in N3, the grammar books for N3 have a lot of grammar points that should probably be in N2. I’m sure when you start to study for N2 and crack a few grammar books, you will see a few familiar grammar points.
I would say you passed it, so move on. Go for the next level. The N2 means a lot. N3 is important and some situations, but N2 is what will get employers’ attention (that and pretty good fluency with Japanese).
If you need the N3 grammar, you will see it again and have another chance to go through it.
75/180 for my first N1 attempt (27+19+29). Not surprised by the overall mark, neither in a good nor in a bad way. I could have expected much worse but it’s a long way to 合格。 Getting the highest score in listening says it all, this has always been my weakest field, from N5 to N2. Pathetic 19 in reading annoys me a bit because I really drilled it and had less time issues than during N2. On the other hand, knowing about the tight time probably makes me answer too quickly. Now I haven’t stopped learning since July and I think I’ll take the December test all the same to see if I do better, but if it doesn’t improve I’ll definitely take a longer break.
That is a very respectable showing for your first time out. You should be able to nail it in December with some good reading practice between now and then. Reading is such a crap shoot on this test. A lot of test takers that I talk to mention that their reading score will fluctuate wildly depending on the subject matter of the essays on the test.
After passing the N2 back in december 2010 I decided to take the N1 with only 4weeks of serious preparation time. Actually I got motivated after reading some of your posts and comments!
Miraculously I passed it even though my reading comprehension was pretty mediocre.
Key for me was that I kept on watching a lot of doramas and TV shows. Also skyping and meeting with japanese friends was certainly helpful.
Great! So you didn’t put in that much JLPT-specific studies or books? Do you do any kind of regular reading?
Since my last JLPT was 3.5years ago I did buy the official text booklet to become familiar with the test format. Apart from that I read some books written by Haruki Murakami and had a look at some online newspaper articles from time to time.
Good luck for your next try. 為せば成る。
Passed N3 with 118/180. Read very less from text books did more general readings on net. Listened to a lot of online Japanese radio and watched dramas. Want to apply for N2 in December just to get the feel and continue studying. Also planning to take Kanji Kentei 8th level in October..love Kanjis 🙂
118 is a very strong score. I wouldn’t be surprised if you make the N2 in December. Can you tell me where you listen to the online radio? Seems like it would be a good resource.
Recently I saw what the Japanese use the N1 certification for – admission to ordinary Japanese college work plus the work requirement. Maybe reading in in some college-level texts in whatever you majored in outside Japan could be useful, since you’d be forced to concentrate on how arguments are presented – getting the point – and not just the vocab, which should be familiar. Somebody said after the previous results came in that scores outside Japan tended to be higher. It could be that people studying Japanese formally are forced to read the type of language that is tested on the JLPT, in addition to being more comfortable with test-taking in general.
Getting a single textbook here in the US could mean the equivalent of a number of exam fees, of course, although after the new, professor-required edition comes out a book’s value falls to zero . Do used college textbooks show up in second-hand bookstores in Japan?
They should be available somewhere. There are 国語 exams that you can pick up if you look hard enough as well that would contain things like this. They are pretty pricey though and bit of a bore to get through. My biggest hurdle with them has been that they have a lot of academic vocabulary which the JLPT doesn’t really use.
It’s kind of like the difference between the English tests TOEIC and TOEFL. The TOEFL can be incredibly difficult even for natives because it is crammed with academia and you have to think fast.
I`ve debated posting since the test results came out. But, after reading the ongoing dialogue about the test, I thought I would, at least, give people something to consider.
First, let me say, there is such a thing as being `bad at the JLPT.` I`ve lived in Japan for almost ten years. I`m married to a Japanese woman. I have a 3.5 year old daughter who speaks primarily Japanese at home. I live next door to my mother-in-law who speaks no English. And, I work at a school that requires me to use 99% Japanese to communicate with staff and students (ages 3-5 years old). And, I do study every single day of the week. And, I function and I survive.
For all of that, I failed the JLPT N2 for the sixth (6th time) this week, 84 points. That must be some kind of record. I own every prep book you can imagine. I`ve spent thousands of dollars on a big time Japanese school. And, I use most of the materials popular among JLPT-study folks. And, it is not a lack motivation to pass as a passing score would get me a new job not teaching English. But, I fail.
Now, I should say the first couple of times I took N2 I had no business taking it. I had spent five years in Japan sort just studying with housewife volunteers using Minna No Nihongo. Really, only the last couple of test times would I honestly say there was a realistic chance of me actually passing.
For the hours of study I put in, I never quite seem to see the bounce in score that other folks get from far less studying. My good friend never studied, sat at the local bar drinking and watching TV and he passed N2 with about 119 points.
I will say that taking more practice tests and quizzes did increase my scores over the previous tests. I spent a lot of time doing that before the last test. I went from 72-73 to 84. Too, I bought a listening book (with CD and scripts). I disagree with general listening practice as a test preparation tool. I think the JLPT listening section, at least the N2, is filled with misdirection of relatively simple daily conversations. The daily CD practice helped me to catch more of the tricks and misdirection cues the test makers offer up. I had been relatively flat in terms of raising my listening score. To tell the truth, I thought, “I live in Japan. That`s enough.” But, it wasn`t or rather it isn`t.
The friend I referenced to earlier earned 51/60 on the listening. When he got that, there was very little he had to do in the other sections beyond the minimum scores to get a passing mark. The test has changed, but in my opinion there is a hack still available to folks like me who just are never going to be very good at taking the JLPT, and that is crushing the listening section along with presumably doing better over time in the kanji and vocabulary which basically contain a finite number of words. (I did get B and B on the last time.)
Anyway, I`ve gone on too long. But, I thought this might help people to keep studying. I`ll be at some test site in July taking it again to be sure.
Sorry to hear that you’re having a hard time Craig. It might seem like some people pass with “no effort”, but if you really grill them about their day to days you will find out that they do more than they let on. Most people want to hide the amount of effort they put into things. I remember in college nobody would ever admit to actually studying for a test at all. I remember a girl that brought in a ridiculously detailed portfolio of work for the final project of one class, and she said over and over again “I didn’t spend too much time on it”, even though with the sheer number of pages just TYPING it would take a while, let alone coming up with what to type and doing the research.
I don’t think you’re bad at the JLPT itself. I think if you read a book all in Japanese, just one book cover to cover(not a children’s book) your score would skyrocket. I absolutely guarantee it. If you really read it, and try to understand it, there is no way your reading score will stay where it is now. I recommend non-fiction, but fiction is good too. Get a Japanese translation of a book you read and loved in English, and have at it.
I think your problem is that you’ve gotten so comfortable at your level(good enough to live and work here as a teacher) that you don’t really have a great reason to improve other than the test. Don’t even think about the test when you study from now on. Paint a picture of the type of person you want to be in Japanese, and apply a study method that fits that. Don’t prepare for the test. Prepare for all the job interviews you’re going to have once you pass.
I’ve showed JLPT questions from books to some Japanese people who are renowned for not being too bright, and they had no problem getting through them. The JLPT is the bare minimum. It is not the end all be all.
You’re really close. I hope you get it next time.
Thanks. Me too.
I`m entirely too JLPT focused. Funny, when I first came to Japan, I spent far more time in bars with my little phrasebook trying to just talk to people. But, then, it was clear that I was in Japan for the long haul. And, I shifted into the JLPT arena. And, too, I got
really focused on finding work here in Japan. I work a lot 75 hours plus a week. But, you just don`t turn down work when you are a married foreigner with a kid. You just don`t.
I`ve never really read anything in Japanese outside of practice JLPT articles (except work stuff). I did get into the Tensei Jingo from the Asahi Shimbun. I bought a couple of those books. They have Japanese on one side and English on the other. I like news and current events, so I thought it might help me. But, I got sucked right back into kanji, vocabulary, and standard JLPT preparation.
I score much, much higher on practice tests at home. I score well above 80% on quizzes for N2. But, I only got B on the test that means I didn`t even clear, what? 64% max. But, yeah, my test score reading has remained flat about 25-27 despite more studying. I have little trouble reading them, but I stink at answering questions about what I read.
Too, even if I barely passed, I have a long way to go before I would really feel comfortable working in a Japanese company. I am, at least, going to spend a month focusing on reading and see what happens.
I agree that there are a lot of people that are just bad at taking tests and inference, which is by far my greatest weakness. I was that guy in English class that had no clue what the secret meaning was of the book we were being forced to read. I was never good at comprehension in English and I have a problem of overlooking the little stuff with language, which is key for the test I think.
Anyway, yeah, I agree with what you have to say. Listening has always been strong for me (except for this last test). So, maybe its time to focus on that and pull grammar and vocabulary up by brute force. I think I just guess wrong, a lot. I’m always able to knock out two answers as completely wrong, and then guess, but the guess always seems to be a little off.
Anyway, good luck on the next attempt!
Craig – Your most recent post – the one mentioning the Tensei Jingo – showed up in my mailbox but I can’t find it here, so I’m just adding my thoughts on it o an accessible post.
The bit about not turning down work when you have a kid hit home. I’m a freelance translator (RU, CS, SK, HU) – which means for years I was always in the middle of changing gears: RU biotechnology to HU economics to Czech whatever with no downtown except to worry about where the next job was coming from. After a long break (usually in my weakest language, HU) it would seem like I’d have to relearn how to read the language before I could even start the job. I stole and modified an idea from a professor – the 3 readings method : step 1 to figure out the vocabulary (divided, when there was time, into job-specific terms and those I’d like to add to my general vocabulary), 2 to get the grammar down and the relations between the parts of the sentence/paragraph, and 3 to concentrate on meaning and English terminology / phraseology in the field (by reading in English on the topic). For non-work-related languages I now substitute multiple readings or listenings if there is audio available for step 3.
Dual-language sources are a God-send for general learning, but you really have to tear them apart to get the most use out of them. Back-translation (from the English to the original language) is really helpful at making clear where the languages differ (and in my case, where my productive ability is weakest). Before, when I was always working under a too-short deadline, I skipped and combined steps as best I could, but by the end of a longish-job, I found myself wondering what all the fuss had been about. Although I have to say, starting Japanese is helping to bring it all back.)
I don`t sweat it too much. It`s not like I am going anywhere. I get really worked up about taking the test. I`m much closer to N1 than N2. But, if you saw me sitting in the
test room, you would think, “Dang, that guy is in trouble!”
I need more confidence in my Japanese ability. Until I do that, I`d expect to continue to struggle to pass the test. I mean almost 10 years, I`d have to be a moron not to pass N1 by now. I know several people who passed N1 in less then three years. And, I know one Indian woman when went from zero Japanese to N1 in a year.
Clearly, I have or I am doing something wrong.
Craig, can u drop me an email at email@example.com with your breakdown of grades. See if i can help you. =)
Hey Clayton and other posters.
Thanks for letting me know the test results were available. I failed N1 this time with 80/180. It’s considerably lower than I was expecting, but I knew I was not going to pass this year because of the rough situation I had going into the test. I was unable to sleep at all because I was so nervous about failing the test… and that is probably the only reason I really failed. I had so much riding on passing this test it was just too much for me to handle. I had quit my job in the English teaching industry, hoping to get into a Japanese company… And now I guess I had better start thinking about moving back to my home country. Having a major in Japanese from University really doesn’t mean anything in the job market here.
I can tell you that after going through the 新完全マスター series for Grammar, Reading, and Vocabulary, it was not nearly enough for this test. I am starting to think that they have revamped the difficulty once again, because after all of my studies I was able to pass the 模擬試験 from all of the prep books and I came very close to passing 2/3 full 模擬試験 books I had, and well over passing on the remaining book.
Congratulations to all of you that passed the test.
Good luck next time to those who failed. It’s hard to stay positive when you are crushed so badly from the results… but failure is the first step to success!
If you never fail, you aren’t trying hard enough has always been my motto.
Is your fluency pretty good? Usually with good fluency and an N2, you can get SOMETHING. At least in Tokyo, and usually in Osaka. Anything that deals with Japanese will get you some daily practice that you are getting paid to do, so to speak.
I think they up to the listening difficulty a little. The reading, grammar, vocabulary seem similar to all the other tests I took. Of course, I was obviously fooled by them, so what do I know? I thought the grammar was easy and the vocabulary so-so. I did get B on grammar, but a C on vocabulary, so obviously I guessed wrong.
Failed N1 here as well! And I totally feel you. My score fell by one point compared with last year 2014 and I felt like shit when I saw my score.
Vocab Grammar: 28/60
However! Thanks to STUDYING for the test, my overall skills have improved regardless of the score. I can read about 80% of the material in books, but it takes time. And the 20% of words I don’t know I can search up in a dictionary. But, thanks to the improved skills I got from studying almost 6 months for the exam, I am now able to do things a lot more easier in Japanese compared with last year such
– Attend courses like this
– Watch TV Dramas and Comedy shows such as Hanzawa Naoki and London Hearts
– Read magazines about fashion
– Understand if my house is going to be consumed by rain
And most importantly, I have the confidence know to be able to support my company even more. The test is behind me, and the future lies ahead.
But my advice to those who are series about N1 and N2 is the following: you must drop absolutely everything and spend almost 300-600 hours just for this test. My friend passed N1 with an 80% because he read 10 newspaper articles everyday like crazy for 3 months, went through almost all the Shin Kanzen master series. Almost all of his friends are Japanese, and if he can’t speak Japanese, he must, and has worked for a Japanese company before.
Another friend got a 90% on N1 without studying and has better Japanese to the point where HE WAS CORRECTING OTHER NATIVE SPEAKER’S. His secret was that he cut out the sound files from the dramas he liked and listened to them everyday on his iPod for almost 2 years. He was smart and determined.
Anyways, the exam is behind me, and I would rather focus on learning skills in Japanese, than learning Japanese itself.
That is the one good thing about this monster of a test – it forces you into good habits like reading quickly, guessing at vocabulary, getting the overall meaning of listening passages, etc… Even if you don’t pass, it is a great boot camp for your skills.
Thanks for those two tips there at the end. 10 newspaper articles a day! Wow, that takes a lot of determination. I have listened to some jDramas but I didn’t feel it gave me that much of a boost, maybe it is time to cut them up a little more.
Anyway thanks for the advice!
I had a go at N1, it was my first try and I passed 😀
I’d never taken JLPT before, I actually wanted to do N3 3 years ago and even registered, but in the end could not attend the test.
But this year I spontanouesly applied again and since it’s a quite a long way to the test center, I just went for N1 (I actually thought my level was somewhere between N2 and N1 back then).
I had bought the N1 新完全読解 book a while ago and worked through it a year ago. And that was definitely something that helped me a lot, it really helps you to read faster and prepare for the real reading part in N1. I’d even suggest people trying to do N2 to take the N1 book, it may be a bit too difficult at first, but you’ll improve a lot more once you get used to it.
Once I applied for N1 in March, I went through some Japanese Grammar books (basically all 3 of the Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese Grammar books), looking for grammar I still hadn’t seen before and created my own sheets with short explainations and examples. And I tried learning all 常用漢字, which was definitely a lot of work, since I knew about 1200 漢字 back in March and really wanted to know all of them (I actually have that big poster from White Rabbit Press that contains all of them and made a habit out of coloring each 漢字 I know, and now it’s a huge block of blue 🙂 )
The biggest concern left was vocab, as I hadn’t really actively learned new words since my time in Kyoto over two years ago. But due to a severe lack of time, I couldn’t do much about that and just hoped it would somehow work out.
Oh, and one very important thing: 模擬テスト. I bought three of them (the ones from 3A) and did each one twice (with a few weeks in between, so I forgot what I had answered the first time). On the last 3 weekends before the test, I forced myself to do one each. And the most important thing: I took them as “real” tests, so time limits like the real one and not looking up things even if I didn’t have a clue at all.
Though there were a lot of questions that belonged in that category, I ended up passing, usually with 115-120 points. But as I wasn’t sure whether the real N1 was as “easy” as the fake tests or a lot more difficult, I took that with a grain of salt – the 3A tests are definitely more difficult than the few sample questions you can do on the official JLPT-website, though.
Well, when I travelled to the test center, I was pretty sure I had a realistic chance of passing, nontheless. Until I saw the real test: The vocab/grammar part went alright, but reading and listening definitely seemed a lot more difficult than in all of the 模擬テスト. There was the additional difficulty of taking the test in a very hot room with almost no circulation (JLPT staff somehow were afraid of opening the windows), but especially some reading questions had me reread passages again and again and I almost went out of time, which had never happened to me before, and during listening I often had the feeling of being mislead in some questions because I didn’t get a detail.
So my expectations were a lot lower when I left the test center… but when I looked at my score a few days ago, it stated: 128/180
If I didn’t know that the results are password-protected, I’d probably think it’s some kind of a mix-up^^ Especially since vocab/grammar always was my weak spot and reading my favorite part.
I feel compelled to write after reading of Craig’s frustrations with the N2 exam. When I read your message, it was like reading my own biography – so much in common, not least the frustration with JLPT! Well, I just got the little postcard that confirms I finally passed N2 after 7 years in Japan and on my 3rd attempt (or 4th if you include my first effort at level 2 just before they introduced the “N.”) One thing I know first hand is that there is a significant difference between the old and new level 2. I did a month and a half cram-study before taking the old level 2, back in 2010, with no real expectation of passing. In the end, I didn’t do too badly and was encouraged to study properly for the new N2 exam. After a year of dedicated study, my Japanese reading ability was at a totally different level and I approached the exam with real confidence. Result? I got a lower score than the previous year! The two times I’ve taken the N2 exam since, it feels like the standard has been edging up further, which can be a bit frustrating if you’re trying desperately to get over the line.
So what changed this year? Well, for me I didn’t really set out with the intention of taking the exam again, but I’d joined an informal Japanese class where the teacher brought along topical magazine articles and we’d read through them and discuss the issues. Although my spoken Japanese was good, I was the weakest reader in the group and this forced me to learn to read faster to keep up. I know Clayton’s said this a few times, but upping your reading speed really is the key to cracking N2. It doesn’t just help you with the reading section, but enables you to read all the exam questions faster and even helps with the listening where you have to quickly look over the possible answers. For anyone frustrated with JLPT, it may be worth just stepping away for a while to focus on general reading material for a bit. The articles that the teacher used were largely taken from R25, a Japanese language magazine. You can download an app for free and read new articles daily.
Well, I plan quit JLPT while I’m ahead, but for all those with greater aspirations, the very best of luck.
Hello, is it possible for you to let me know the maker of the app and/or more descriptions? I searched R25 and loads came up! I assume it’s the first one, but…
It sounds like it’d be way beyond my level for now, but I am an embarrassingly addicted resource-collector!
Took the N2 for the first time and failed it.
Language Knowledge 24
Not bad for the first time. I guess if I improve a little in each area, I should pass it. I feel I struggle the most with vocab usage and grammar. If anyone has any advice on how to deal with that, please let me know).
I ran out of time with the reading and found the listening much more difficult than expected.
In the months leading up to the test, I studied 30 minutes a day on weekdays and 1 hour each on Saturday and Sunday and holidays. I don’t know if I want to continue that routine. I would miss days and spend the next days cramming for hours to make it up. Hated it. Maybe I was asking too much of myself. I work as an ALT at a junior high school and like to spend time at the gym as well.
Anyway, if anyone has any advice on where I go to from here in terms of study methods and how much time I need to invest in making up those 10 points, I would really appreciate it. Cheers.
And this website is a gold mine 🙂
Steve, can u drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your breakdown of grades. See if i can help you. =)
I posted my grades above.
Oh my scores… I don`t have to e-mail them to you.
People are free to know.
I got an 84 on the N2.
22/60 language etc.
Basically, I am good enough to be not good enough.
All of those scores are pathetic for the time I put into studying.
But, I have realized that I should just be reading and listening.
My friend just passed N1 with 107 and he studied exactly ZERO minutes.
BUT, he has job translating and he often goes to the bars to chat and hangout.
Those JLPT books just make money for the the people that write them.
I`m spending this study term focused on reading and listening. That`s it.
No stupid flashcards.
No test-like quizzes.
No `most often` used word lists…etc.
Nuts and bolts studying and I AM going to pass.
Well, I passed N2, but my score is:
Which is amazing, since all of them combined makes 90 points, exactly the passing mark…^^ Well, this June test is really surprising, I thought I’ve done best at Language and Reading, and it’s the worst in Listening… But turns out, it’s the other way around. Back then, I was quite nervous I might failed in listening…
I’m starting my first conversation in Japanese this month at my new job here, hopefully, I’ll get used to it more than learning it all by myself. I’m planning to take N1 in December, are there anyone willing to share their tips? ^^ (I’m not looking for practical theory, just your experience regarding differences between N2 and N1)
Completely taking a wild leap here, but from reading these messages old and new alike, it seems that of the Lifers in Japan who ‘should be doing better’, married men who don’t socialise with their peers/non-family members much, those who work teaching children and those who find little time to read native, natural material are struggling with the N1/2 the most. Of course there are exceptions.
I have no idea where I’m going with this, but that’s my observation. You are not learning [efficiently] enough from your wives, toddlers, elderly in-laws and the children you teach and need to be moving well away from your comfort-zones. Obviously you can’t just leave your families or jobs, but maybe non-self-study, highly concentrated sources of real Japanese that you *must* focus on (i.e. if listening, non-passive) or socialising with a variety of lively people of working age would help.
Your JLPT books should maybe be an exam-prep thing, not a daily aspect of your lives thing. You are not living for the exams, but the life you live should make passing the exams easier.
And if you take the test once ‘to get a feel’ and again ‘for real’ 6 months later and you miss passing by more than ~20%, give it a year before doing it again (unless you’re in a rush or not working). Otherwise you’re spending too much time preparing for the exam and not enough time learning-forgetting-relearning-recalling-remembering. Exam-prep, revising, cramming… all these things feel very different to proper learning, which takes time if it is to last.
This is just the opinion of a N4 level, non-teaching person not living in Japan and learning only their first self-taught (i.e. beyond-school) language, so feel free to dismiss!
All the best to you all!
Very interesting to read your comments, because I had the EXACT SAME FEELING. I failed last December, so I read Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro and studied a lot more grammar. It was really tough for me to do this with a full-time job. I worked really hard and actually, I thought I would pass…
And I got the EXACT same score as last time, a 94. The subscores were all passing and almost identical to my first scores! It was pretty traumatizing. I actually don’t have the time to be working on this test and like you there are things I want to move onto now, but I can’t because I feel I’ve come too far.
So, I’m signed up again, but I’m confused as to what I should do. For now I’m rereading Soseki (that helped me a lot), but I guess I need more reading/listening practice.
Emotionally I am very done with this test. I wasn’t going to study for it, but I just can’t help it, I hate failing. I dislike even playing into Japan’s obsession with tests, but living here I don’t have much choice, and even fi I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t have anything to show for my years here without it.
Back to the grind stone. Would love to hear anyone’s advice on SPECIFIC things that are good reading material.
I hereby recommend the crap out of Kokoro. It contains SO MUCH N1 grammar. I use it on a tablet and that helps with the super-obscure vocab.
I barely managed to pass N2 this time. Having been a fan of Japanese anime I enrolled in a Japanese language intitute in 2012 and started learning the language as a hobby. But soon I realised that it takes much time and dedication to learn it – especially when you have a job which has no connection with the Japanese and you get to speak the language in weekend classes only. Anyway I still take pride in being able keep on cracking a level starting with N4 in July 2012 to N2 this time and of course N3 in July 2013. In fact I was the only student to clear it from institute this time. But N2 result showed me that I should have prepared more, specifically Reading. Well the results are:
I studied from So Matome and some useful material I got from Japan Foundation library. I did not study from Shin Kanzen Master as that is not available there. As it is too late to register for December test, I can target July 2015 only. But now I am wondering if I should prepare to improve my N2 Reading score or I should attempt N1. Can somebody help me decide?
I want to add that after N2 I’m trying to get into a fulltime job where I can use and improve my Japanese.
I have passed N5 in july 2014 but i have lost my certificate due to earthquake . How can i get new one . i have my examine registration number also.