I have about 8 months for the JLPT N2 coming up, and although I’ve been studying (mostly vocabulary), I wanted to see how prepared I was for the N2, and where my weak points are. So, I took an old version of a mock test for the JLPT N2 (now out of print, new version linked here) one Saturday night.
…it was a disaster. I managed to score high enough on kanji for some reason, but every other section, I scored well below. In some cases, I only got about 1/3 of the questions right, particularly in listening and reading comprehension. Grammar was just dismal, because I hadn’t studied any of the material yet.
As the title says, sometimes it takes an intervention to set things straight. The “intervention” here was taking a mock test.
So, now I have 8 months left and I need to improve:
- Vocabulary, usage (always a struggle for me…)
- Listening (I got 5 out of 15 questions right here)
- Reading comprehension (I got 1/3 correct)
I decided to tackle grammar first, since the other two kind of depend on it. Starting that Sunday, I opened an old JLPT2 book I had on grammar, by Unicom. I am glad I did because even after 20 pages, I know what I was doing wrong at least with grammar. It’s a relief to know that I can learn from these mistakes and improve upon them with some time and effort.
Anyway, I hope to at least get through the book by end of April, and then bear down on Listening and Reading for the next few months. I have an old Unicom listening practice book I hope to use too, but meanwhile, Unicom has come out with updated books for grammar and reading/listening. I found the reading/listening book (combined) at the local Japanese import store (Kinokuniya in Seattle), and I was pleased to see that they combined both. These two are probably the harder skills to learn in the long-run and having a single book is nice. The book, having skimmed through it, includes multiple “mini-tests” for practice and listening, and copious info on both, so it’s a good start. Once I finish that book, I’ll update the blog with a review.
The plan here is essentially: cram for anything I can cram for, then practice the hell out of the rest for the remainder of the year. It worked taking the old JLPT3 (N4), but this year there is a lot more material to learn in the same amount of time. Let’s see if this works…
I showed my wife the mock test, and she was somewhat surprised. With all the time spent on reading manga and such lately, her and I both agreed it wasn’t quite the right content. It’s still very useful for building reading skills, but to her, the essays in the reading section sounded more like editorial columns in a respectable newspaper (e.g. Asahi Shinbun). So she suggested I pick up some imported copies of the newspaper (also available at Kinokuniya) among other ideas. I think she’s right because the reading essays in the N2 aren’t conversational style Japanese, but rather literary style, so things are more complex, formal in a way.
As for listening, well, the usual study methods still apply. Interesting story on that. My daughter has some Disney story CDs we listen to in the car in Japanese. She likes Sleeping Beauty, and we listen to that over, and over, and OVER again. I noticed that each time I listened to it, I understand a bit more than before, the grammar used in the story becomes that much easier, and I can follow along more and more. The problem though is that this is only for a single story. If you can apply this to a wider number of sources, then repetition balanced with variety seem like a good approach.
Also, the JLPT in particular makes the dialogues a bit tricky while practicing with a wide variety of sources, it also helps to have at least one book focused on the JLPT so you can get used to the style of questions. I like the fact that the JLPT includes a wide variety of topics in their listening section, so you should be able to demonstrate good listening skills in a wide variety of subjects, not just the ones you like. This also means you have to work harder, but that’s a good thing in the long-run.
I guess, one positive thing, is that I did get 1/3 of the questions right, even in difficult sections. In some cases, I guessed, but in some cases I just intuitively knew. For example, some listening questions just seemed really easy to me, so I could answer without thinking too hard, in addition to some grammar question (since I passed the N3 previously). So, I am not starting entirely from scratch, but the mock test gave me a good wake up call that I need to shift priorities and I need to make considerable progress before I can pass the real thing.
My plan, in addition to studying as described above, is to also start taking mock tests regularly to track progress. The mock test above has a 2nd test intended to be taken after reviewing the first one (and I will follow that course of action), but I also have the old 2004-2006 JLPT 2 exams and will test each one of those before December. The JLPT2 exam is a somewhat different format than the JLPT N2, but the general content, and level of competency are roughly the same. So, I don’t think it’s time wasted. if I can pass the JLPT2 old exams comfortably, I should be able to do the same in the new N2 exam.
So, let’s see how things unfold over the next 8 months/32 weeks….