The more I study for the JLPT, the more I feel that I already gained a lot by studying all the Shin Kanzen series books (almost finished!) and that this reward is more important than actually pass the JLPT.
But passing the JLPT with a good score (did I say “perfect” at the time? 😳) was a goal I set for myself in August, so I am still working hard to achieve it.
Now that I have almost completed all the Shin Kanzen books, I can focus on practising. I use several books, all by ASK publishing, the publisher of the So-Matome series, another very good series to prepare for the JLPT. There are 4 practice books that I recommend for N2 (links go to the publisher’s website):
The first two books are composed of 30 sessions of “drills”, that is, typical JLPT questions concerning the “vocabulary” part for the first book, and the “grammar” part for the second book.
The last two books are each composed of two complete tests with answers and detailed explanations.
Benefits of practice
The first reason why I bought practice exams was to get used to the JLPT structure and questions type. But in fact, the benefits are much bigger than just getting prepared for the test.
Grammar is my weakest point. (I thought it was listening, but it is grammar). I still have to study a lot because if I were to take the test today, I would score enough in the grammar part to pass, but not enough to be proud of myself.
There are still a lot of grammar I mix up. Typically, grammar points that look similar, for example, those with either こと or もの. My strategy was to read regularly example sentences for each grammar of N2. But I realise that doing practice tests is less boring and more efficient. This is how I practise the grammar drills of the book listed above:
- First, I do the exercises without help and see how many questions I can answer with confidence.
- Then, I go through the questions for which I wasn’t sure again, but this time I can use my grammar book. I note my new answer under the first one.
- I check the answers. Usually, if the first answer was wrong, the second is right (the one I picked while looking at my grammar book).
- If answers are still wrong, I correct myself with the grammar book.
You might say that there is no point in making drills with the grammar book available. But I am still learning while practising. Because I had to actively look for the grammar point in my book to answer a particular question, I tend to remember it better than by just reading it again and again.
Vocabulary and Kanji
I always think that there is not much to do about vocabulary. There is a certain amount of words one can remember per day. Then, it is just a question of how many days remain before the test.
I tend to have a Confucian attitude concerning vocabulary, what I know, I know, and what I don’t know, I don’t know. And the day of the test, there is nothing I can do against it. I don’t know a lot of onomatopoeia for instance, but so it is. Anyway, every time I come across a word I didn’t know in an exercise, I add it to my Anki deck.
I feel confident with reading. At least, I feel confident that I will understand what I read, but I am sometimes puzzled by the questions and the choice of answers provided.
For example, one question was “what do you need to reserve the meeting room?”. The right answer was the one with the documents one needs to provide when making a reservation. But the text also stated that only such and such persons could make a reservation. Among the answers was one which contained the documents need + being so or so (namely, the requirements to be able to use the room). I picked this one because to reserve the room you have to be either so or so. But it was the wrong answer.
I improved myself considerably in this area! I am very happy because I did put some extra efforts on listening and I feel that it paid off. I already made a complete test in more or less real exam conditions. I was surprised to see that I could understand quite well the audio but there is still a big problem concerning the listening part: I can’t concentrate. I can concentrate well when reading for a long time in a foreign language, but definitively not when listening. Only hearing 男の人と女の人が話しています makes me feel drowsy. As I am sure that the heater will be turned on to the maximum in the classroom where I will sit the exam, it won’t help.
I also must underline that the Shin Kanzen book helped me considerably to take notes while listening. It was a challenge at first, but I got used to it and I could answer the last questions of N2, which I usually fail because I could not take notes properly. For example, I found the last question impossible to answer. The last question of N2 is a long dialogue: First, someone presents 4 different things, for example, 4 different menus in a restaurant. Then a boy and a girl discuss what menu each of them will take. The question is always, what will take the boy, what will take the girl. Because I couldn’t take notes quickly enough, I was never able to answer this question. Now I find it very easy, just because I can take notes more efficiently.
If you are preparing for the JLPT, don’t neglect the benefits of practising tests. I think that one should do at least one complete practice exam before the test, just to get familiar with the JLPT question types and see how to manage one’s time. But, if you can, I recommend doing more exercises, particularly for the parts that are the most difficult to you. I, myself, will go on practising, especially grammar of course, and make the best of the three remaining weeks!