In February, I took a practice test (the one that is available for free of the JLPT website), and I found the reading part to be very difficult.
I took the JLPT N2 twice in 2017 and got 60 and 59 points in the reading part. I remember that I didn’t find the texts to be challenging, and I even found some of them interesting. In 2018, I spent the whole year reading Japanese genre fiction, and I naturally thought that my reading level had improved.
As a consequence, it was a shock to discover that I could not understand some of the N1 texts. At least, not in a limited time. I read them, more or less understood all the words, but still could not understand what the author meant.
I think that there is a huge gap between N2 and N1 when it comes to reading. The N1 texts are much more difficult than any mystery novel I read.
To be honest, this practice test discouraged me a little. It was more than a month ago already, and I am only starting now to do something concrete to improve my reading.
Step One: study!
I am studying the texts in this practice test. The idea is to understand why I did not understand them at the time. What I do is:
- First, I read them carefully without looking up words. I try to understand as much as possible without looking up unknown words. If I had had more time during the practice exam, if I had been more focused at the time, would I have understood them?
- I translate the text in a notebook. When I see a sentence that does not make sense, I write it down in Japanese and study it.
- When I am done with all this, I look up the words and grammar I don’t know.
- I sum up the text in my own words and try to write what the author wants to say.
- I answer the questions.
I have studied several texts in this way and was always able to answer correctly. Most of the time, I don’t need to look up words, the difficulty of the text is that the author never says clearly what he or she thinks. They imply things, they use metaphors and so on. In the end, I can understand what they mean, but I need a lot of time. So what I need to do is to practice in order to increase my comprehension pace.
Step 2: practice
In my initial plan, I wanted to study grammar, vocabulary and kanji first. Only when I am done with these textbooks, was I to start working on reading and listening textbooks. The practice test of February showed me that I needed to practice throughout the year. So I bought my first reading textbook, which is a Korean one published by Darakwon.
It is not really a textbook with lessons and exercises, it is only a collection of practice texts for the reading part. There are 6 to 12 texts for each reading part (shot text, long text, etc.) and two “final tests” (reading part only).
For now, I don’t have any study plan with this textbook, I will try to work with it regularly and finish it before the test of July, if possible.
So that’s it! I feel that I am back on track now and don’t feel discouraged anymore. I mean, N1 will be difficult, but instead of complaining about how difficult the texts are, I am taking concrete steps to improve my reading level!