In about 36 to 48 hours, a lot of you will be walking into the December JLPT. The test is conducted twice a year, but the locations that put on the summer test can be limited. So, this might be the only chance for a lot of you to take the test until next year. Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten a lot of emails about the test and how to study for it so I thought I would address some of the major concerns and questions that kept coming up.
What to do Now
With only a day or so left, you might be wondering if there is anything you could possible do to improve your score at this late stage. Although language learning is more about focusing on the long game, there are a handful of things you can do that can help you reinforce your knowledge so that you can get the best possible score.
First things first, if you haven’t already, take a practice test. There is one full-sized practice test that the JLPT organization provides for free. I have linked to them at the bottom of the page. These will give you a good feeling of the level of the test as well as how long you have to complete each section as long as you time out the test. I wrote up a blog post about how long each section is that can help you with this.
If you have taken a practice test. It’s time to focus on your weak points. How you do this depends on what your weak point is.
Grammar – If you are weak at grammar, it’s time to crack open a grammar book like the Kanzen Master series (tougher, truer to the test) or the So-Matome series (easier to get through, not as difficult as the real test). Look at every grammar point and, to yourself or someone else, explain how you use it. Think about what kind of situations you can use it in and what situations you can’t use it in. If you struggle to explain how to use the grammar point, do some additional research. The point is to reinforce it until you can confidently use it.
Listening – If you are weak at listening, you can help your score out by building up your listening stamina. On the JLPT, you will be required to sit and listen to Japanese for extended, uninterrupted period of time. If you are not use to this, you will benefit from simply practicing your focus. Listen to as much Japanese material as you can in one session. This needs to be focused, intentional practice, so you won’t be able to listen to this while walking or working out. Just sit there and listen. It’s best to try to do this without headphones since you won’t have them during the test.
Reading – If you are weak at reading, you can also benefit by building up your reading stamina. Again, if you are not use to reading Japanese for an extended length of time, this is a good time to sit down and practice your focus. For levels N5~N3 you will need to practice reading prepared materials like a textbook, but for N2+ you can pick up a lot of native materials to read. Even if you have read the material before though, re-reading can help increase your speed and comprehension.
Kanji and Vocabulary – If you are weak at kanji or vocabulary, it’s best to go on a vocabulary binge. There are several good decks for various levels available on Memrise.com or Anki’s shared decks that can help you on your binge. Basically, vocabulary and kanji are one of the only things that can be drilled into your head pretty easily. This is especially true for the lower levels. As you move higher you will have to switch to more reading to build your vocabulary.
The Night Before
It should go without saying that the night before you need to get a good night’s sleep. That generally means a good 8 hours of sleep, although some survive on less. But getting a good night’s rest also means eating a pretty plain dinner. The night before the test is not the best time to try green curry for the first time.
I personally try to empty out my mind the night before and try to forget completely about the test, so that I can sleep without worries. I often watch a movie or play a video game. The point is, you don’t want to keep cramming things into your head at the last minute. Try to empty your head as much as possible before so that it’s not busy processing all that at night. Instead, your brain can kick back and take a well-deserved vacation.
Good luck everyone! I hope you do your personal best on the test. Remember that it’s only a test. And remember to come back here and let me know how well you did in the comments below.