JLPT December 2017 – Last Minute Advice

JLPT December 2017 – Last Minute Advice post image

So the test is coming up this weekend on Sunday, Dec 3rd. Some of you might be feeling a little anxious. Before the test, you might feel like your heart is pounding out of your chest, and an uncomfortable feeling that you shouldn’t be there. You might be navigating your way through a college campus you’ve never been to, wondering if you’ll ever find your testing room.

So, what should you do in a situation like that?

A) Take deep breathes and calm down before moving on.
B) Get excited about the challenge ahead, pumping yourself up with words of encouragement.

A vast majority of people will most likely opt for A. It seems like sound advice right? Get yourself under control before it all gets to your head and you mess up even more. And I thought the same for a long time. But, then I came across some interesting studies that point to another conclusion.

Alison Wood Brooks, a Harvard Business School professor, has studied pre-performance anxiety in a lot of different arenas from singing karaoke to making speeches. Her research indicates that instead of following the conventional advice of trying to calm down, you should instead, embrace the stress and tell yourself that it is excitement instead by embracing the stress.

How can you ‘embrace stress’?

In one study, Brooks divided participants up into two groups. One group was told to say “I’m calm” to themselves, while the other group was instructed to say “I’m excited.”

The anxiety didn’t disappear in either group. However, the group that was told to say “I’m excited.” were evaluated to be more confident in their ability to give a speech. They also felt more confident giving the speech.

Another experiment tested stress levels of students during the GRE. Jeremy Jameison, a University of Rochester professor of psychology, gave half the students taking the test a “Stress is good for you” pep talk, and told that if they felt anxious to remind themselves that stress is good them. The other half were simply just given the test without any further instruction.

Those students that received the pep talk scored higher on the practice and the real test a few months later. Saliva samples were taken to measure the level of stress hormones of students before they took the test. These saliva samples showed that these students also had higher stress levels. So despite having higher stress levels, they actually performed better.

Kelly McGonigal, author of The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, also has a great Ted Talk that sums it up pretty well. Avoiding stress is not really the answer, the way we think about stress is.


So, if you are feeling a little anxious about the test this Sunday. Remember to stop and rethink the way you interpret stress. It will most likely improve your score. And it might even add a few years on to your life.
Good luck everyone and be sure to come back to the site after the test and let me know how you did!

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • カイ November 29, 2017, 4:18 am

    Thank You! 🙂

  • Dec December 2, 2017, 1:45 am

    Last minute thoughts on time management.

    There is a very useful post elsewhere on this site that breaks down how much time you should be spending on each section in the written exams. I assume that most people reading this have already found it and have done one or more timed mock exams (either a full exam or section) or have some idea about how fast they are relative to how fast they need to be to get everything done in time. If not, there’s still time to do a timed test!

    As for me, I took the N2 last year without ever having seen a real-life (or mock/sample) exam paper. It was my first time taking the JLPT and I was probably a bit over-optimistic in my ability to study well and pass the exam. I wasn’t very confident going into the test, but I figured it would be good to test myself anyway and wasn’t overly-concerned about failing. Chalk it up, and all that. I only got 33% on the test, but I was reasonably happy considering that I hadn’t felt well enough prepared.

    After the exam, I didn’t actually do any more Japanese study for a while. In fact, it took another couple of months after the results came out before I got back into it. I bought some Shin Kanzen Master books (grammar, reading and listening comprehension) along with Tobira but I didn’t get very far with them in the early stages. They’re 100% in Japanese, so I still wasn’t really at a good enough level to tackle them, I think.

    Fast forward to when I applied to take the N2 again this December. I started regretting not diving into the Kanzen books, although I had been slowly getting through Tobira and enjoying it. By this stage, I’d forgotten the whole marking scheme for the JLPT and assumed that the bare-pass sectional scores (19/60) was all that was needed to pass (rather than an average of 90/180 across the three sections). I kind of faffed about figuring I didn’t have to be that much better than the last time around.

    Then I discovered my mistake and, worse, did some timed sample questions that showed that my reading speed was around 1/3rd of what it needed to be even able to read and answer all the questions. That was a pretty low point 🙂

    It took me another couple of months to realise that my calculation on reading speed was based on a misunderstanding of how much text there was to be read in the written part of the test. For example, there is only one 情報検索 text with two separate questions attached, rather than it being two different walls of text to pore over. That was a nice counter-balance to my earlier mistake of thinking that I was closer to the pass rate than I actually was.

    Still, it turns out that I’m not quite fast enough to get through all of the questions. However, all is not lost. I started playing the numbers. I started looking at two things:

    1. If you can’t read and answer each question fully, can you read enough to eliminate one or even two wrong options? (or, can you cherry-pick the questions that have the highest chance of being able to eliminate some wrong answers with the minimum investment in time); and
    2. Can you get reading speed and success rate on the questions you do read and answer up to the point where it gives you a pass grade assuming that you randomly select the right answer 25% of the time in the questions you can’t get to?

    I started this sort of “gaming” of the test back when I thought my reading speed was only 1/2 to 1/3rd of what it needed to be, so I favoured strategy 1 for quite a while. After much more reading and working through sample questions (Kanzen and japanesetest4you), I eventually found out that I would be able to answer enough of the questions honestly within the time limit, and that I’d probably have to guess on less than 1/3rd of the reading questions.

    So, let me go back and reiterate what I started with: if you haven’t already, time yourself on some sample questions. Extrapolate that to the full length of the exam to get an estimate of how many questions you should be able to honestly read and answer within the 105-minute time limit. If you can’t answer everything, you’re faced with the same kind of options as I mentioned above. It’s probably too late for you to develop skills in either quickly skimming for easy ways to go from a 25% random guess to a 33% or 50% one (option 1) or improve your overall reading speed much (option 2, though you can still apply a kind of speed-reading approach of skipping over stuff you don’t understand and marking up stuff you do). However, you can still estimate how many questions you will be able to read through and use that as a basis for time management within the exam.

    As for me, I expect to get through all the long questions in the reading, plus two 中文 and one 短文 内容理解 questions in around an hour. My vocab is pretty good and my grammar slightly less good, so I should be able to do all the vocab and the first two grammar questions in the remaining 40 minutes. Any spare time after that is going to be best spent on more reading questions because they’re short (best use of time) and I may need extra questions in the reading sections to bring up my hit rate (higher percentage of questions answered correctly) there than in the vocab/grammar part (which I’m pretty confident in).

    So, I’m going to take the opposite tack to Mac above and say: “don’t stress it”. Recognise what your limitations are and crunch the numbers. The biggest difficulty with N2/N1 is being able to read and answer the whole paper. However, if you’ve got a good handle on how fast your reading/answering speed is, you can go into the test with a coping strategy. Give yourself enough time to answer as many questions that you know you should be able to answer and just randomly pick answers for the rest. Crunching the numbers beforehand might just confirm that you’re unlikely to pass (unless you get lucky with the random guesses), but it’s not the end of the world.

    Good luck to everyone, and hopefully you’ll find something in the test to enjoy rather than it being an ordeal…

    • Clayton MacKnight December 4, 2017, 3:37 pm

      Thanks Dec again for some excellent advice. I’ve ran the numbers, and your reading speed needs to be about twice as fast for N2 as N3. You really need to have a good comfortable reading speed to get through the test.

      By the way, Here is that time management article if anyone else is interested.

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