Okay so the test is just a few small days away. Hopefully you have worked your way through all your major drill books and have worked your way through all the necessary materials. If you haven’t, don’t stress out too much, as long as you have covered a good chunk of it well, you should be all set.
But, there is a short list of things that you can do in these dwindling few days to prepare for the main event. They all seem pretty basic if you think about it, but its good to have a simple checklist before you go in.
5. Buy your gear, and Pack it
The requirements for what you need for the test differ from country to country. But basically you need a good ole no 2 pencil or mechanical pencil. If you do have an old fashion pencil, make sure its sharpened and you have a backup. If its mechanical, you still aren’t off the hook. Go through a dry run and double check stuff like does the lead actually fit in the pencil you have?
I also personally prefer getting a nice eraser to use as well. I don’t want the dinky one on top of my pencil breaking off and I leave my test all smeared. You will probably be erasing at least a few answers, so it is definitely worth it to pick one of these up.
Pick up a simple wristwatch for timing purposes. This especially important in Japan, where they seem to never have clocks anywhere in the testing rooms. I have no idea why this is the case, because in other locations they seem to have pretty prominent clocks to look at and to keep track of your timing, but alas, clocks have not made it to Japanese college classrooms for some reason.
Take all that – pencils, eraser, and wristwatch along with your test voucher and pack it in the bag you are bringing to the test. If you sometimes get the jitters days before a big exam, packing and prepping everything like this in a bag that you are going to only use for the test is a good way to put some of those jitters behind you.
Yes, it sounds stupid, but there is nothing more frustrating than showing up and not having something, or what you have malfunctioning in your face, and then you have to waste precious time asking for pencil or frantically running to the nearest convenience store to buy something. Take some time now to get it all sorted, so if something comes up between now and then you got it.
4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
There are probably hundreds of things you can do to get a good night’s sleep from making sure you have good blackout curtains to not drinking caffeine within 6 hours of going to bed. The one thing that I recommend you do that is relatively low impact and what cost you a lot of time and money is to eat a small snack of low glycemic index foods about 30 minutes before you hit the sack.
You might have heard that eating right before bed is a bad idea, which is true if you are planning on wolfing down a large meal right before bed. But, a simple snack is enough to fill your stomach and keep you from getting up in the middle of the night. Your body will take more time to break down the food, and by the time you wake up the sugars will be ready for you to use, so you’ll feel refreshed.
If you ever have that feeling that you are still tired even after 8 hours of sleep, this is one way to combat that. It should also improve your quality of sleep a little more. I’ve been trying this out over the last few weeks, and I’ve noticed it is a little easier to wake up in the morning.
The night before, I always recommend just letting your mind drift. Give it a little vacation before the big day. You’ve been studying for a good while now hopefully; if you haven’t learned something by now, chances are you aren’t going to master it in those couple of hours you happen to have the night before. Free your mind so that you can sleep easily. Studying for the test might cause you to do too much forward thinking and result in monkey brain (having way too many random thoughts).
If you are looking for some more high end tips, check this article by Tim Ferriss. I think he has a lot of great tips. However, some of them are a bit difficult to implement because of money or time.
3. Make sure you know the Test Sections
At this stage, I hope you have had the time to go through a good mock test so that you know the overall flow of the test. If you haven’t, the official practice books are a great free resource that you can use to familiarize yourself with the different test sections. Here is a list of the practice tests (very short if you don’t have the time):
And here are the official workbooks (fairly close to the same size of the test):
One of the biggest sections of the test that cause new test takers headaches is the sentential questions part 2, or what I call scrambled sentences. These are in the second part of the grammar section on most levels. They are typically hard to answer because you usually don’t think about the language in this way. Try a few out to get the feel of how to unscramble them.
2. Practice your Focus
From time to time, I take English tests for my job so that I understand how they are conducted and what to look out for. Even in my native language, these tests can be a bit tricky because of the need to concentrate for such a long time, especially in the listening section where letting your mind wonder just a few seconds could cause you to miss some key information.
Focus is a huge factor in the test, especially if you are not surrounded by Japanese. Being able to concentrate for a solid 2 hours or more can help you earn a few more points. Perfecting your focus can be very elusive these days in the face of the omnipresent smartphone and other garbage that distracts us. Meditation is one tool (and probably the by far the best tool) to achieve better focus.
You don’t have to climb to the top of some far off mountain to talk to a guru to perfect meditation either. It is actually quite easy and something you can pick up without much effort. You just have to put effort toward it. It is very personal, and different forms of it seem to work for different folks, so you might have to try out a few things to see what works.
One book that gets recommended a lot for newbies that are interested in getting started with meditation is Wherever you go, you are there. I gave it a read recently have to say that it is tremendously eye opening. It really explained everything that you should expect when meditating and busts a lot of myths attached to it.
1. You are Ready
You have put in numerous hours studying and prepping for the big day. At this point, you might be searching for that one little thing that can push you over the edge. What else can you do to be just that more ready?
Well, if you have followed the last 4 steps and have been putting in regular practice. You are ready. Or at least, as ready as you are going to be for this round of the test. And it is very possible that you might indeed fail, statistically speaking only 37% of those that take the test pass, but that’s okay, you did your best to get ready. Don’t be second guessing, worrying about what you could have done. You studied the best way you knew how and now it is time to test that.
So, I want to know how you felt about the test. After you finish on Sunday, come on back to this post and let me know what you felt about it. Tell me 3 things – what level you took, how you studied, what you felt was the hardest section. Post those 3 things below and help out your fellow JLPTers.