I am happy to report that I have passed the JLPT N2 exam. No one is more surprised than me.
My score was as follows:
Vocab: 45 / 60
Reading: 47 / 60
Listening: 38 / 60
Total: 130 / 180
I was surprised my reading score was so high while my listening score was so low. I expected the opposite. Just as with the N3 exam, listening was my Achilles Heel.
So what did I do to pass? Pretty much the same as last year for the N3 exam:
- Reading lots of adult manga such as セイントお兄さん and 宇宙兄弟.1 Both had a lot of vocab words that showed up on the test.
- Watching Disney movies in Japanese with my daughter plus podcasts.
- SRS training through Anki for grammar and vocab.
- Months of drills.
For the N3 there were few published materials at the time but for the N2 I had more resources by then. By far the most useful book was 合格できる workbook by ALC. I spent half of 2011 going through this book and I feel it helped. The test is much harder than practice exams and books imply. It’s much harder than the old JLPT2 exam. I did buy other books, probably too many, but I never finished them because they were too focused on one subject or another. Or they simply weren’t that good.
To be honest though, once I finished the Gokaku Dekiru book above, I kind of stopped studying. The second half of 2011 was quite stressful due to work, and I was running out of time. I spent the rest of my time mostly just reading manga and watch Japanese TV/movies with wife and daughter. I passed the N3 without almost no textbooks at all, so I think I might passed the N2 without them too if I invested more time in just exposure to Japanese. It works for AJATT and others.
So what’s next? I’ve been thinking about that. I am glad I won’t have to take the N2 again. So that leaves a three options:
- Focus on the N1 next. However, the N1′s focus is on very adult, scholarly Japanese, and covers less common vocabulary and grammar. The JLPT, afterall, is a college-entrance exam for Japanese literacy.
- Go back and fix my day-to-day Japanese. I’m particularly disappointed with the listening score. My goal there is to suck less. Contrary to what many people believe you don’t have to live in a foreign country to get good at listening skills. You just have to simulate the environment at home at all hours of the day.2 Between Tae Kim’s excellent website and AJATT there’s plenty for me here.
- Switch gears and go heads-down on Korean. I’ve been greatly enjoying a new Korean-language resource called Talk To Me In Korean (TTMIK). The free lessons are well-done, and the site is more approachable I think than other sites. There is even an official Korean Language Proficiency Test (TOPIK).
I admit I would like to try the JLPT N1. I feel I’ve come this far (JLPT 4, N3, N2) I should finish. However, the N1 will take 2-3 years of time invested, and frankly I am more concerned about my day-to-day communication skills right now. Also, my Korean language skills are so basic right now, I can barely say “I would like X”, so I don’t feel like I want to try the TOPIK for a while until I master basic grammar (basic verb forms, adjective and adverbs, etc) and vocab.
So, for 2012, I think I will take a break and just go back to basics.
One last thing. Two years ago when I decided to undertake the N2 (via the N3), I remember making a visit to Yushima Tenmangu shrine in downtown Tokyo, and left a large donation and a prayer to Tenjin to help me pass the exam within 2 years. Having accomplished this goal, I am grateful to Sugawara no Michizane‘s inspiration in helping me study long nights and during lunch breaks at work. I remember reading about his long nights and days studying for the Imperial Civil Service exam in Japan and figured I could do the same. Needless to say, I will make a visit to Yushima Tenmangu on my next trip to Japan and leave a thank you gift.
So for now, I can rest easy and stop checking the mailbox obsessively every day. The task is completed, and there’s plenty more to go before I croak.3
1 I’m thrilled that they’ve made a movie about 宇宙兄弟 and it will be in theaters later this year. I probably won’t be in Japan at the time, but I’ll be eagerly waiting for the DVD/Blueray. The story really is awesome and well worth the effort to learn Japanese for it.
2 I’m actually trying AJATT’s idea about listening to Japanese in my sleep. Didn’t work the first night as it kept me awake. I’ll try again tonight.