2004
10.31

November has arrived. What does this mean? November is the last full calendar month before the Japanese Proficiency Test! It’s time to panic, people.

34 days and counting…



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  1. Hello! I found this site from Mikan.com.
    Your blog is very interesting to me.
    We Japanese often don’t take care of
    correct ‘Nihongo’. You may know ‘correct
    Nihongo’ better than many Japanese native
    speakers. I hope …no, I’m sure you can pass the exam!

  2. Hello Hiroki – I’m happy to see another Japanese person visiting my blog.
    Thanks for your vote of confidence. I, however, I am not so confident (see next post).

  3. Hey Darren, not sure if you’ve taken the Japanese Proficiency test before but let me give you some advice about it anyway.
    Bring a good book or game boy cause the time between the test sections are so long you will get soooo bored. When I did Level 1 they had the hardest grammar part right after lunch when everyone was the sleepiest, how ridiculous is that?? I mean why don’t they just let you do it all at once in the morning so you don’t have to waste the whole day? (At least, that’s how it was when I took it). Also, before the listening part, they play this test tape over the loud speaker again and again and again it will drive you bonkers..
    I saw some people desperately reading the dictionary right up until the officials took it away from them, like do they think they will learn something at the last minute? When I was teaching TOEIC I used to tell my students to stop studying a week before the test and not think about it. I mean if they hadn’t absorbed it a week before the test, a few more days wasn’t going to make a difference. Better to spend that time relaxing and getting some exercise so that your mind is clear for the test. It’s not like an exam in Uni when cramming would make a difference cause you won’t know what will be on the Proficiency test.
    Process of elimination is the best approach to these kinds of tests. Trying to recall a grammar rule or figuring out what a kanji means will cost you valuable time, better to look for what you know is NOT correct to narrow down your options for guessing. In other words, look for the incorrect answers. The object of the test is to get points, it’s not the place to learn new things so don’t waste time thinking about it.
    Sorry for being long winded, you’re topic is bringing out the teacher in me! Noooooooo!

  4. Roy, thanks for the extensive feedback. Last year I took the 3級 JLPT so yes, I have experienced the long and tiring schedule. 1級 it must be a real slog! I’ve seen a couple of 2級 grammar papers and don’t even want to think how long and hard the 1級 papers must be.
    At my test site I had some friends to talk to last year which killed time. However, this meant having to listen to ‘what did you answer for x-question?’ conversations after each test. I generally try to avoid these type of conversations, though have been guilty in the past myself. I’ll never forget getting the kanji 十分(じゅうぶん) wrong and talking to someone about it afterwards.
    The situation of not studying a week before an exam I think is more of an ideal than reality for most people. However, I agree that studying 10 minutes before the exam is unlikely to help – in fact it might just panic you and result in lower performance.
    Your last tip is a good one and something I rely on when answering questions as I wrote about in one of my other posts. Elimination can give you a 50-50 chance at the right answer instead of 25% just by eliminating 2 answers.
    One other thing I’m going to do is after getting to a 50-50 situation is to fill in an answer straight away. When I did a mock test I didn’t have time to go back and fill in those pesky boxes, so I missed out on many of these marks. If there are 5-10 questions where you’ve got 50-50 situations then these are significant points we are talking about!

  5. One more thing. Practice tests are always more difficult than the real test (otherwise the publishers would lose credibility real fast) so I’m sure you will do OK. Good Luck!

  6. Oh and in case you were wondering. I failed Level 1 but 2 points. I never really studied for it. Just decided to give it a try so I wasn’t too upset. That was 10 years ago. There was this really cute high school girl in sailor uniform sitting beside me (probably korean-japanese) so I was distracted..
    Every year it’s one of my resolutions to get Level 1 officially. Maybe we can take it together next year??
    🙂

  7. Your comment really lifted my 勉強 spirit, thanks =)
    Failing by 2 points must be pretty miserable. I don’t think I’d feel motivated to try again after missing by such a small margin.
    Haha, a high school girl distraction? Hmm, I hope that doesn’t happen to me. Well, kind of 😉
    Sure, if in the unlikely event that I pass this exam let’s do level 1!

  8. Don’t want to keep dragging this comment thread out but something just occurred to me.
    Regardless of whether you pass Level 2 or not, next year you should do Level 1. The reason behind this is that Level 1 is the only test worth doing. The others don’t have any practical benefit. I was thinking of taking Level 2 instead of Level 1 that time but then I thought it would be better to fail Level 1 that to take Level 2 and fail.

  9. You don’t need to worry about commenting to much – the more the better. It’s great to hear your opinions. This is perhaps worthy of a separate post but for now…
    I’m interested to know why you only value the Level 1 exam. When you say practical benefit are you referring to the job market and so on? A real qualification that would impress someone?
    I agree that the lower levels are not super impressive but it’s easier to say now that I am at a higher level – they were hard enough at the time…
    Surely if you failed Level 1 by a few points you would have easily passed level 2. I’d rather have level 2 under my belt than level 3 plus a failed level 1.
    In saying that, I skipped level 4 as it would have been a little easy in order to force myself to a higher level. It was a risk because if I’d failed level 3 I would’ve ended up with nothing. Perhaps you made a similar choice? Or you just don’t hold any value for anything other than level 1?

  10. By practical benefit, I mean that having Level 2 doesn’t entitle you to get into university and no one looks for Level 2 when you apply for a job although I guess it tells the employer generally where your level is at. Having Level 2 is a worthy accomplishment in itself. And you’re right that having passed the test at some level is better than not having anything.
    I was trying to decide whether I should do Level 1 or Level 2 and I asked a nihongo sensei friend what she thought. Basically, I felt my level was somewhere inbetween. Anyway, her argument was like this:
    1. If I took Level 2 and passed, great! But then I would have to wait another year to get Level 1 which is what my ultimate goal was.
    2. If I took Level 2 and failed. That would really suck cause I thought I would pass it.
    3. If I took Level 1 and failed, at least I would have the experience of taking Level 1 and know what to expect the next time round.
    4. If I took Level 1 and passed, that wouldn’t be necessarily good either because then I would feel like I wouldn’t need to study anymore and when people know you have Level 1 they are always trying to test you. I would want to be able to pass with a good grade not barely pass, know what I mean?
    Anyway, I decided to go for Level 1 and the outcome was what I expected (3). If they offered the tests more frequently, I might have opted to try for the safe bet but I guess I’m of the opinion that you should set your sights high and go for broke.
    But then again, what do I know? I’ve been in Japan for 17 years and I still don’t have Level 1. You’ll probably get it before me!!! 🙁
    The TOEIC system is actually better cause there isn’t this pass/fail aspect about it. I mean just because I got 68 and some other guy got 71 doesn’t mean he is better at nihongo than I am, does it? I mean I was distracted!!! 😛

  11. 17 years! If you took the test 10 years ago and failed by such a small margin I imagine you’d ace 1級 if you took it now.
    I did 3級 after 1.5 years in Japan with some basic study under my belt from a beginner’s course in England a couple years before (however, I’d forgotten most of it!).
    So, 2級 this year will make 2.5 years in Japan. From the amount of study I’ve (not) done over this time I can say with confidence that people could progress at a far faster rate, especially if attending regular Japanese lessons while in Japan.
    Then again, I know people who have been here for the same amount of time as me and haven’t progressed nearly as much as their potential allows purely through lack of study.
    I find your choice an interesting one, but like I say in a way it was a little similar to mine.
    So with 1級 you can get into universities and empress employers much more than 2級? Well, from what I’ve heard the level is pretty damn high, so that makes sense. But if I returned to the UK 2級 would still be pretty impressive to some people.
    Oh, the ‘guy’ you describe who got 71 was actually probably the girl in the sailor uniform =)

  12. Oh, about TOEIC… isn’t that the one where your score is no longer valid after a few years? How stupid is that?! It’s true that if you don’t study you forget, but you shouldn’t be stripped of a qualification, right?
    At least the JLPT isn’t like that… I hope.

  13. When I first came to Japan, I was full on studying and could pass Level 2 fairly easily doing practice tests after about six months. It was fairly easy because I didn’t use English at all. Had no English speaking friends (not on purpose) and worked waiting tables and in bars so you learn really fast. I was also really poor so I had nothing else to do but study. But then I got lazy and hung around with friends etc and wasn’t in any immediate need to get Level 2 officially or Level 1. Also, the Japanese language school I went to sucked and all the other students were Chinese so they didn’t bother spending any time teaching any kanji to me. They said “just learn yourself” Can you believe that? Geez! Would have quit the school to save the tuition but I needed the visa sponsorship.
    That was at the time (1987-89) where there were all these Japanese Language School scams where they took money from all these chinese people who came to Japan to work and not study. Most of the students slept throughout class and sometimes the teachers never even showed up. It was a joke.
    At any rate, once I got to a certain level, studying became a lower priority and the years past. That happens with lots of people here for the long haul. I hope you don’t lose that momentum. If fact this thread is getting me back into the mood. I’ve had “Get Level 1” on my To Do list for 17yrs! 😀
    I taught TOEIC for 8 yrs and think its a very good test. The expiry date for the score is good too. I’ve had students whose scores have gone down after a few years. Keeps them on their toes. Too bad the JPLT isn’t more like this..

  14. Did you study Japanese before you came to Japan? Even studying everyday, Level 2 after 6 months seems a bit superhuman to me! I’m just bitter that you put me and my effors to shame ;(
    Keeps students on their toes?! Hehe… If the JLPT was like that you’d go back and keep doing the tests? I think I’d struggle with motivation if I’d already done well in the past.

  15. I studied off and on since I was a kid but nothing substantial enough. My dad is fluent in Japanese and maybe a little bit of that rubbed off on me. When I came to Japan I was really determined but my proficiency has gotten worse since then. I should study more..

  16. Ah, I see. Well, you must have had some of the foundations down if you improved so rapidly.
    My father is fluent in Chinese as well as English. His influence (lack of teaching) hasn’t rubbed off at all – I know no Chinese whatsoever!!

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