The Ultimate Study Guide for the JLPT show

The Ultimate Study Guide for the JLPT

Summary: The JLPT Boot Camp podcast covers tips and tricks for the JLPT or Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Every week I go over a different aspect of how to study and what to do for the test. I cover all the tests, N5, N4, N3, N2, and N1.


 JLPT BC 67 | The Road Forward | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 12:24

JEES, the organization that puts the JLPT on here in Japan, came through again this year. I received my results Feb. 9th last year, and I got them again on the same date. I was starting to get a bit anxious for the results, waiting around to see if I passed or not. That lull between taking the test and getting the results can be a bit rough. I never know quite know what to do. Should I study for the next level? Should I try to review what I know? This time I decided to just review a lot of my vocabulary that I've learned, study kanji in depth, and do a lot of reading. But, needless to say, I'm incredibly relieved that I passed N2. I now have that stress off my shoulders and can set up a new game plan for the ultimate goal, the N1. Congratulations to Everybody! But, before I start talking about myself, I just want to take some time to say a big congratulations to all those taking the test. Heck even getting up the motivation to go take the test means that you are serious about being a good and accurate Japanese speaker/reading/listener/writer. But, of course if you passed the level you were going for this time, a big congrats to you. It takes some serious studying and ambition to get that little certificate. Even if you didn't pass, but got a higher score, you know what to work on for next time, and you've improved! A super congratulations goes out to all those that passed the N1 and N2 this year. These two tests are a huge step up from the rest and require you to know more than just the 'lists'. You have to really practice your reading and listening skills before you can pass these two. You must have worked hard, so a big congrats to you. The Road Forward I've been mulling over what I should be doing going forward. It is going to be tough to choose the exact path for me. But, I have formed a rough outline of what 2012 is going to look for me and my Japanese studies. I'm sure this will inevitably change over the coming months, but here it is the sketch of it. I'm going to practice more speaking. I've realized that my reading and listening skills have improved to the detriment of my speaking skills. I went into the store the other day, and had trouble asking some basic questions about some of the products. I was a little bit embarrassed that I hold an N2, and supposedly have a pretty good competency level with the language, but hesitate to ask questions like 'How long does the battery last?'. That should be second nature to me buy now. I'm sure I can hear and understand a question like that, but I'm not confident I could ask it easily. Also, now that the pressure is off so to speak, I'm going to be doing a little bit more experimenting with my studying style. I want to try a couple of different things that go beyond the drill books. I feel like drill books can be of tremendous help, especially at lower levels. But, the higher levels cover such a wide range of things, that it is hard to fit it all in one book. I think you need to journey out and do more things like reading and listening in order to fill in the gaps enough to pass. That's why I'll be poking and prodding a variety of different methods to find one that works the best. Of course, I'll be reporting back on what works and what can be scrapped here at the blog and podcast. What I'm going to Keep Doing I'm going to stay pretty persistent with my SRS, or Spaced Repetition System, practice. I feel like Anki was a big help and one of the reasons I passed the N2. I've recently switched to which is very similar but with a gaming aspect to it. Working over there on the different courses and doing some moderating has really helped me to put some clarity to some difficult words. I'm going to continue doing some reading with books. I've picked up a few books recently that are more for adults compared to the elementary kids books I was going through before. I think this will be of tremendous help to my vocabulary and grammar.

 JLPT BC 66 | Use it or Lose it | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 12:22

I'm still fighting my way through Mr. Itoi's book. It is packed with a lot of essays, which are sometimes abstract or use similes and metaphors, so excellent reading practice. I just have to struggle to stay focused on it after a long day at work, but I'll get through it. Pretty interesting read overall so far. I think the biggest thing on my mind right now (and everyone else's) is our test results. As of this recording, JEES hasn't announced the exact date when they will be sending out the results, but I'm guessing it will be around February 9th or so. That's when they typically make it out to the mailbox. For the latest details be sure to check the JEES website. They might have a more specific date by the time your reading/listening to this. At the moment, they are just reporting a tentative mid-February. Another big goal of mine for February is to do more speaking in Japanese. I feel like my speaking skills have fallen by the wayside a bit recently and it is time to sharpen them up so I can actually, you know, use the language. I'll be going through a couple of different activities to see what works and what is practical. Use or Lose It Which leads me to the topic of today's podcast, use or lose it. Just to give you a little background. When I first came Japan millions of years ago, I had a tutor that I met with twice a week. Not a teacher, but a tutor. We did a lot of chatting in Japanese, which was very hard at first because my Japanese was pretty bad, but gradually over time it became a lot easier to cope with. What also helped was having to ask and answer questions in Japanese and working out different situations. If you are in Japan, I highly recommend getting a tutor. There are usually volunteers in your area that will help you learn Japanese. You just need to ask around or contact your local city hall, they will sometimes know where to go as well. Nowadays About 3 or so years ago though, I became a chronic workaholic. This prevented me from meeting up with a tutor or my regular exchange group that I met with on another day. So, recently, I haven't had that much speaking practice. Only the occasional visit with in-laws and a semi-daily chat with my wife. I do have plenty of Japanese exposure. I listen to a lot of people chatting in Japanese and read numerous emails, memos, and newsletters all in Japanese, but I don't actually use the language. I can say that I get plenty of input, but not a lot of output experience. It's not the end of the world, but it certainly isn't helping things. This has been exacerbated by the fact that over the last year, I've been really focusing on passing the N2. And, I'll probably continue to focus on passing the N2 if I didn't make it this last December. So, instead of doing any kind of speaking or writing practice, I've been doing a lot of reading and listening exercises in order to prep for that test. Time to Get Back into the Groove I've started going out of my way to try to strike up a conversation with people these days. Even if I know all there is to know about something in the store. I take the time to try to ask a few simple questions about it or bug a clerk to give me a few recommendations instead of meandering around the store looking for something. The biggest thing to remember is that talk is free. You don't have to buy anything after all, and often times clerks are pretty bored and happy to help (that is if you go when it isn't busy). Another big goal of mine for February is try to hunt down a good exchange partner online. Somebody I can simply chat with on a regular basis in Japanese to get my conversation ability up. I've always found that this alone is a big help. The person you are chatting with doesn't have to be a full-blown Japanese teacher, just be willing to help you out and be patient. I'll try to report back on what I find out, or what I don't. I'm sure there will be a lot of failings along the way.

 JLPT BC 65 | WTF is KY? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 15:04

I'm pretty sure this doesn't matter to a whole lot of you, but I finally got all my computer issues fixed. What this means to you is that I will hopefully be able to respond faster to things and also be able to create better content faster. So be looking for more videos and other goodies coming down the line in the future. I finally finished the book I was reading: 会話がとぎれない!話し方66のルール It contained a lot of useful tips on how to have a good conversation and was great practice for vocabulary and overall reading skills/speed. But, I need something more challenging in order to get use to N1 (hopefully) reading. And the grammar and the style of the book wasn't quite that level. It wasn't a cakewalk, but it was simply too easy compared to the essays you find on the test. So, I went to my trusty Book Off store and picked up another book. I'm not sure what category you would put it in, it's kind of a modern philosophy book, something along the lines of what Seth Godin in the states writes. This is by 糸井重里 (Itoi Shigesato) and is called ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞の本(Almost daily Itoi Newspaper, The Book). Which apparently is quite popular in Japan, ranking #173 on Amazon out of all books. Anyway, the material in this little book is absolutely priceless, very similar to what you will see on the N2 and N1. If you are in Japan, I encourage you to pick it up (It's only Y620 shipped!). For those outside of Japan, you can of course check out, which will reship it for around Y1400 or so. Pricey, but not impossible. And you can always pick up a used copy to save a little yen or pile on a few more JLPT books to make it worth your while. Or, who knows if there is big enough interest I might give it away in a contest. Anybody want a book? (after I'm done reading?) Abbreviations are Everywhere Abbreviations are pretty much apart of any language out there. We have more than our fair share of abbreviations in English. We've got PC for personal computer, ATM for Automatic Teller Machine, … the list goes on and on. Shortening is also done in Japanese, but in a slightly different way. For example, personal computer becomes pasucon and remote control becomes remocon. In standard Japanese at least, they don't use that many letters when doing the abbreviating. They choose instead to do a different kind of shortening, simply cutting the first part of the two words off and combing them to make a new word. WTF is KY? So, you are probably thinking that that is all old hat. After all, everybody knows that pasucon means personal computer. But what about KY? I recently overheard a conversation amongst some colleagues and they used the phrase KY. I was really baffled by the whole thing because well KY brings up a slightly different image than what they were obviously talking about. So, I got a little curious and did some snooping. I came to find out that KY actually means kuki yomenai , which roughly translates to can't read the air or atmosphere. It's used to describe someone or a group of someones that aren't able to get a grasp on the situation or misunderstand what is going on. Kind of like the geek that shows up to the house party in a tux. I found out that there are actually a few of these running around. A few of the popular ones are IW for imi wakaranai (I don't understand the meaning) and CB for cho bimyo (Really doubtful/unreliable). In case you were wondering, cho is kind of like uber in English, it is a cool way to emphasize something. It is mainly used in the Tokyo area and is considered a bit slangy, although I've heard my boss use it before. Where do they come from? They seem to come out of the language that is mostly used by high school kids. They take the first letter of two words and use them to create the abbreviations. What is interesting is they used the romanization system most often used by foreigners ( ちょ = cho) instead of the system that is more commonly used (or so I've heard) in Japanese high school ( ちょ = tyo).

 JLPT BC 64 | Be SMART about your goals for 2012 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 14:53

I had an incredibly busy week teaching an intensive that I do twice a year (12 hour days of teaching). This is usually a good opportunity because I have a lot of choice in how to teach the class and how the material is presented. I get to experiment...

 JLPT BC 63 | Are you a Visual Learner? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:44

Still getting used to the bitter humid cold of Japan's winter. We don't get that much snow in Kyoto, but it is definitely windy and the cold goes right through your clothes. It makes the morning and evening commutes pretty interesting. Since I've be...

 JLPT BC 62 + Bonus | I Have a Drinking Problem | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 29:16

I just got back in a few days ago and I'm struggling with jetlag off and on. I do seem to get better at it every time I go. This time it has left me a little drunk more than anything else. I've also been getting through my massive backlog of emails and comments. Thanks everyone for sending me some awesome mail. I always love to answer questions. It was also good to just take two weeks and forget about it all. I was able to devour massive amounts of American food and eat all the sweets that my family notoriously cooks up for the holidays. You don't think you are going to miss American food when you come over here, but you do. Anyway, it's good to be back and I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and start blogging and podcasting again. Going Back to the States Going back to the States always reminds me of the sharp contrasts between Japan and America. There are plenty of sharp contrasts to notice. I almost notice them immediately. From how it's such an absolute pain to get through an airport anymore to how different everyone's mannerisms are. This is one thing that you can't read in a book or see in a movie. It simply most be experienced to really realize the importance of it all. That's why I encourage anyone that can to live abroad. Even if you can only make it over to another country for a few months, it is definitely something that will change your perspective on life. I Have a Drinking Problem Yeah, it's time I come write out and admit it publicly. I, Clayton 'Mac' MacKnight have a drinking problem. You heard it here first at It's time a finally got it off my chest. It all started when I first came to Japan and I discovered this strange substance that was green tea. At first I thought it was bizarre that they brewed tea and then stuck it in a bottle and charged you as much as a soda for it, but the concept grew on me little by little. Now I have to have a drink of the stuff everyday. It's my go juice. It's healthy, zero calories and it is the most abundant resource in Japan aside from dark-colored business suits. I absolutely love the stuff and so does Japan. If you walk into a convenience store in Japan you are most likely to see an entire drink section dedicated to green tea (and probably another half section devoted to coffee). You won't see many sugary drinks (at least not yet anyway). Oh, you might find your trusty Coca-Cola and Pepsi and whatever they happen to be calling their zero calorie Frankenstein drink, but beyond that there aren't many options. It is quite the opposite in the states. I always dread going back because there simply aren't any real drink choices that don't contain something sweet. Now, don't get me wrong I like sweet. Sweet is well sweet, but I like chocolate cake, too, but I'm not going to eat it every meal. I think I'm truly becoming Japanese because I don't need that much sweet anymore. I'm actually starting to understand why people in Japan don't like starburst, skittles, and other ultra-sugary sweets. Although, I still have a place in my heart for Sour Patch Kids. They'll always be my favorite. In Japan, people prefer more chocolately things. For example, chocolate covered macadamia nuts or chocolate covered biscuits. This seems to be the general trend. So, if you are ever buying some sweets for your sweets, be sure to avoid the Skittles. What Contrast Have you Noticed? What is a contrast between Japanese and western culture that you have noticed in your studies or your trips abroad? Let me know in the comments below. Stay tuned toward the end of this podcast for a special bonus N5 vocabulary lesson. Give it a listen and let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your comments. P.S.  Do you have a drinking problem? Then, you should join my newsletter! P.P.S. Did you kick the bottle years ago?  Really, me too! You should leave me a comment on iTunes and leave me a review.  If you have comments or suggestions for the podcast,

 JLPT BC 61 | Find your Passion | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:35

I stocked up on some books before I left on vacation. I still think used books are the best bargain for practicing vocabulary and grammar. It also helps you really get a feel of the language and how it flows. I think all those that are N4 and higher can get started on some of the elementary books. Even at a lower level you can give them a try as a good challenge. I'm starting to also move more towards doing all my vocabulary practice on, especially after their recent improvements. I'll probably keep using Anki for grammar and sentence translation though. Passionate about Language Language are such an interesting anomaly in our modern world. We have standard systems and protocols for just about everything else, but for reason, different languages live on. I think this is at least one reason why they are so fascinating. It is the one thing that we can't google to find the the answer to, at least not yet. Also, recently, there seems to be more and more people interested in learning another language. And tools for studying are being created every day. So, it is getting easier and easier to study a language. I can only imagine what people did to study a language just 50 years ago. It's Important to Remember Why you Started To become fluent in a language, you can probably become pretty fluent in a language with intensive study after about 2 years or it might take you 10 or more years of on and off study. My definition of being fluent is being able to have a high level discussion in your target language and use some topic-specific vocabulary to prove your point. This is a long road to travel, so it is important to keep in mind why you started down the road in the first place. Do you like manga? Japanese video games? Traditional culture? The work ethic? The history? The cute guys or girls? There has to be something that started you down this path. And that something will keep you going down that path. When you feel exhausted and ready to give up, that is the one thing that rekindle your flame and keep you going. So, don't forget it and keep it in mind when you are studying. My Personal Story To be honest, at first I only had a small curiosity in Japanese. I did have a strong interest in other cultures though. Fresh out of college, I started tutoring Brazilians in English as a volunteer. I found the work to be a lot of fun and it was good to speak with people from another country. I had a lot of fun and I was hooked on language teaching. But, after that experience I became more and more interested in Japan because I started tutoring more Japanese students and got along well with them, especially people from the Kansai area. If you don't know, there is a pretty big difference in the culture of Tokyo and Osaka. Osaka tends to be a lot more relaxed than its bigger brother. I eventually became really interested in the Japanese language because I liked the alphabets. I liked how each kanji represents a meaning. I also enjoyed the complexity and the challenge of learning the language and I wanted to able to communicate with my new-found friends in their native language. Use your Passion in your Studies Let's face it. Nobody thinks dragging yourself through a drill book is barrel of laughs. It's tough work, but necessary to increase your accuracy to the point that you can past the test. The JLPT forces you to broaden your Japanese abilities so that you become a well-rounded learner, but it can be a little boring sometimes. That's why it is important to relate the information to yourself. It will become a lot easier for you to remember and use if the sentences apply to you. So don't just use the textbooks examples, make up your own, use your own ideas. So don't just use the textbook examples. Make up your own sample sentences. This will make things a lot easier for you. What got you Started? What got you started down the path of learning Japanese? What is your passion? Let me know in the comments.

 JLPT BC 60 | The Japanese Writing System and its Pitfalls | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 15:37

I'm still tearing my way through my conversation tips book. It is a great read full of a few challenging but rather short passages. It is incredibly easy to whip through. I think after I am finished I'll write up a post about some of the tips I learned...

 JLPT BC 59 | Cut the Fat | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 14:49

I've been continuing along at a leisurely pace with my studies. I would say I only do about an hour of studying tops a day at the moment. It is actually a lot of fun, because I'm picking up a lot of idioms out of the book I'm reading, …. It is incredibly easy to read thanks to the fact that each chapter is only about 3 to 4 pages long so it keeps me pretty motivated. I think I might pick up something a little bit more challenging before I jump on the plane to go home though. I really do need to practice understanding more abstract reading passages. I think I should read more philosophy commentary type books, but I can't seem to get my hands on one that I find interesting. Reflecting I think that during this lull in action, between taking the test and getting our results back, is a perfect time to do some reflecting. It's good to take a good hard look at what went well in 2011 and what didn't go so well, so that you can plan out a study strategy for 2012. That starts with taking a good look at your study habits from the last year. Evaluate What was effective for you this year? What did you feel helped you the most on the test? What was the most efficient way of studying for you? When did you feel the most motivated and learning new material? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself about your study habits over the last year. For me, one thing that I used incredibly efficiently was Anki. Anki really propelled my vocabulary forward. I have complete confidence with most of the N2 vocabulary now. There are arguably a few patchy spots, but not nearly as bad as before. I think is slowly replacing Anki for me though. Especially when my computer crashed. A lost all my progress on my N2 deck because I was too dumb to back it up. But, with it is already backed up. Also, they are really making some changes that are making the whole site even more powerful. Hopefully soon, (in early 2012?) they will be attaching recordings of all the words in the Japanese section of the site. This will truly make it an amazing training tool. Another thing that was really effective for me was doing considerably more reading. This has really increased my reading speed, which in turn has helped me confidently finish the test. It has also increased my overall vocabulary and reading comprehension. Anybody hoping to pass the higher tests, is going to have to do some reading practice, no doubt about it. Cut the Slackers Now that you've evaluated what your study habits from the last year. It's time to cut out the slackers. What hasn't been effective for you? What took more time than what it was worth? What was more demotivating than motivating? If you answered yes, to these questions, it is time to cut the fat. For me, I gave paper flashcards another time at bat this year, and they were all right, but I felt like I didn't get as much out of them as I could. I guess they served their purpose in the sense that they were there for me to whip out at a moment's notice to do some studying, but I didn't use them as well as I'd hoped. Another thing that I won't be doing next year is listening to a lot of native podcasts. This seemed to be a waste of time for me mostly because I wasn't able to double check my understanding of the podcast. There were no transcripts to help me read back over what I had missed. I will instead be doing a lot more listening to my JapanesePod101 podcast episodes along with going over the .pdfs that go with the lessons. What Fat are you Cutting? What didn't work for you in 2011? What did work for you? Let me know in the comments below. Tomorrow, I'll be getting on a plane to go to the States for the holidays, so I might not be able to get online that often. I'll still keep posting podcasts/blog posts, but I might not be able to respond to comments and emails quickly. Don't let that stop you from sending and commenting on the blog though! I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

 JLPT BC 58 | Put the Book Down and Walk Away | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 8:08

So, the December test has come and gone for 2011. Here comes the lull in studying Japanese. I always feel a bit strange in this season, because I know I should be studying, but there is some much stuff I've been putting off because I've been studying so hard that I need to get to them before my apartment turns into a pile of disorganized stuff. I'm started to revert back to a more relaxed and natural way of studying the language. This involves increasing the amount of reading and listening I'm doing. I've picked up a few books that I'm going to start tackling in order to get better at reading. I also have a long flight across the Pacific ahead of me because I'm heading to the States for the holidays. I think I'm going to make use of that imprisoned time to do as much reading as I can. There is nothing like being stuck on an airplane with just a book to motivate you to do some serious studying. I've also replaced most of my TV watching with Japanese TV shows and dramas. Recently, there has been a new drama that is on TV now called 南極大陸 (Antarctica) that is about the Japanese team of researchers in Antarctica. I also have a student that has a friend that was lucky enough to be chosen to go down and live in Antarctica for 6 months, so it's interesting to learn about the forgotten continent. As for the show, it is an all right jDrama as far as jDramas go. I didn't like it at first, but it is starting to grow on me. Anyway, if you are in Japan, it's on NHK Sunday at 9pm. If not, well, I'm sure you can find the jDrama if you look around. You might have to wait a little while though. Put the Book Down and Walk Away Leading up to the test, it is easy to get carried away with studying. You absolutely have to refine your knowledge of the Japanese language if you want to pass. This especially true at the higher levels where they will torture you with nuances and fine points, so you have to know the finer points like the back of your hand. But after the test has come and gone, it's probably a good idea to go back to 'normal' studying. This is exactly what I am starting to do now. It basically involves moving away from answering questions about the language to actually using the language by reading, writing, listening and speaking it. Because I don't know about you, but actually the short time before I take the test, I get to the point where it is actually difficult for me to speak fluently. I can listen to anything you have to say, I can read just fine, but when I go to produce something, I stop and start and I feel like I did 7 years ago, when I had trouble ordering a Big Mac at the Japanese McDonald's. So, just put the book down and walk away, your Kanzen Master or So-Matome will be waiting for you when you decide to start studying for the exam again. What are some more Natural Ways of Studying? Well, you can start by doing some reading with materials that are available at your level. When you encounter words that you do not know be sure to write them down and add them to your favorite vocabulary reviewing gizmo. If you are N3+, it's good idea to start using grammar books for reference more than something you want to work your way through (until about 3 or 4 months before the exam). You should try to find this grammar 'in the wild', and when you have encountered for the first time, then go and look it up. This is what I try to do in this lull between taking the test and getting the results back. For those at the N5 and N4 level, it's a good idea to keep working through your Japanese textbooks until you become comfortable enough with the language to start using native materials. But don't forget about the native materials! The earlier you attack them the better! One thing I do advise you to study for year around for the JLPT is vocabulary. You should try to be as consistent as possible in order to memorize as much of the words as possible. Repetition really pays off with vocabulary,

 JLPT BC 57 | Just Out of the Test | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:43

I've pretty much put down all my JLPT study books for now.  It is a real relief to not have to go through more drill books and take practice tests.  I still excited to take the test, but it is also good to have it over with and be able to relax with some, admittedly less productive but more fun, ways of studying Japanese. I feel like to really prep for the test and do well, you need to do both drill books and study books and other more 'natural' ways of learning the language (e.g. picking up a good book every once in awhile).  You really need both styles of learning to succeed on the test.  One is for learning the natural use of the language and the other is to sharpen the sword (JLPT drill books). So, I've started reading a book a picked up a while ago called 会話がとぎれない話し方66のルール.  Roughly translated, it means 'The 66 Rules for Uninterrupted Conversation'.  I find it a really good book to do some reading with for a variety of different reasons. First, the book is broken up into 66 chapters that are each about 4 to 5 pages long.  Each chapter has a key point or idea that the author is trying to get across.  So, it is easy to understand what the passage is about.  Also, there is a handy cartoony schematic of the key points of the passage in each chapter. Second, the book is on a topic that is pretty important to language learning.  I see students all the time in class that could benefit from just learning the skill of conversation in any language.  You have to be able to communicate before you can really use a language, any language including your native one. Fresh Out of the Test I just posted my first reactions to the exam a few days ago. Already, there have been a lot of comments and reactions from people taking the test all over the world.  It's great to hear from everybody and all the ups and downs of each individual level.  I'd love to hear from you, so if you haven't already commented, definitely head on over to that blog post and let me know your reactions. To summarize though, I'm basically on the fence again with the test.  This is a little disheartening because I spent the last 5 months doing some pretty intensive studying.  Also, I can feel my language ability is a lot better than before.  I have an easier time watching TV shows, reading ads on the train and letters in the mail, as well as just being able to understand conversations people are having a lot better.  But, I still thought this test was just as hard as the July test. Maintenance Mode However, no matter what my results, I think I'll be moving more towards a maintenance mode with my Japanese.  I need to work through a few drill books a few more times, so I'll be doing that over the next few months slowly as review.  But, the main focus of my studies between now and when I get my results back will be natural studying. I'll be trying to work through as many books as I can because I feel like that is a great way to pick up a lot of vocabulary and the very difficult skill of reading quickly and comprehensively.  I'm going to pair that with trying to setup regular conversation practice to try to practice actually using the language and producing it.  My input has really increased, but now it is time to do some output. I have started getting into more and more jDramas to get a bit of natural exposure to the language that way.  I find them to be pretty good and approachable source for native-level listening.  They aren't so good for vocabulary building, but great for phrases and expressions as well as the raw skill of listening. The one thing that I will not be slacking on in 2012 and pretty much forever is vocabulary building.  I think this is a skill that really needs to be baked in, and you have to do consistent practice in order to make it happen.  I really want to be able to have enough words to be able to at least get a faint idea of anything I come across.  I've also heard the biggest hurdle for N1 is vocabulary,

 JLPT BC 56 | 3 days to go | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 12:39

So, it's been a heart breaking last couple of days for me the computer geek. My hard drive in my new computer for some reason spontaneously imploded upon itself, so here I am writing to you from my old battle horse, a 7 year old Sony Vaio. So instead of doing a lot of high tech Anki/ studying, I've been doing more old-fashioned book studying. I've really been grinding my way through the New Kanzen Master Grammar book for N2. It is an incredibly difficult and merciless book, but I think it will be good for me when I get to the test. I'm in the final section and going over the different types of test questions, and the text grammar is quite grueling. It includes a lot of passages packed with nuances. I think it will be good for not only grammar but reading as well. The Countdown Continues – 3 days away! Depending on when you read this and what country you live in, we are only about 3 or 4 days away from the big exam in December. Are you ready for the big day? You might be thinking to yourself that there isn't that much you could possible do at this point to get a higher score or bale yourself out if you haven't been studying. To an extent, you are right. If you have been slacking in your studies, you will still probably fail, but there are a few things you can do to squeak out a few points and maybe just pass. First and foremost, and you probably know this already, but it is worth repeating, take a practice test! Even if it is one of the ones that are available online. Anything to help you prepare for the test. The mock tests available at bookstores for the N5, N4, N3, N2, and N1 are also very good and include specific advice on different sections of the exam. After you take a practice test or a mock test, be sure to create some kind of strategy. It doesn't have to be anything grand or complicated – the simpler the better. If your weakness is reading and you are taking the N2, you might want to tackle that first than move to the kanji and vocabulary. For N5 through N3, strategy is a little more complicated because you have to deal with 3 sections instead of 2, but still try to lay down a strategy that will help you maximize your time with the sections that you are the weakest at. Other Miscellaneous Tips Before the test day, you should probably think about investing in a nice mechanical pencil to get you through the day. You should also pick up a decent back up in case your trusty pencil decides to self-destruct on test day (much like my hard drive did a few days ago). You can also have a separate eraser if that is how you roll. They will make you take off the cover in the test though, so don't get too attached to it. Remember to bring a wristwatch! This is especially true if you are taking the N2 and N1 levels and have to battle your way through the 105+ minutes of joy that is the reading/grammar/kanji/vocabulary section. They unfortunately give you no warnings or countdowns (at least in Japan). Try to get there a little early. Testing locations range from highly organized to a giant mess. Be prepared to have to do a little hunting to find your room and/or track down a JLPT staff member to point you to your destination. I've seen both clearly printed signs telling everyone where to go, and utter chaos, so just be safe and give yourself some leeway. For those taking the test in a country that is experiencing winter, it is probably a good idea to dress in layers. The climate control in some of these buildings can either be non-existent or only have two settings: fiery flames of fury or off. In Japan, it seems that in December, some schools turn the heat on and leave it on at the same setting all winter. If you dress in layers you can peel off or put on clothes to adjust the temperature yourself. Above all, it's just a test, take it easy and have fun! Good luck to everyone! Let's do it! Do you have any last minute advice? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. P.S.

 JLPT BC 55 | Double Down on Reading | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 15:01

I've recently been really stepping up my efforts to study whenever and however I can in the last few weeks before the test here. I'm trying to punch my way through the Kanzen Master N2 listening book I picked up just recently before I go into the real test. It has really done wonders for my listening I think. I just took a practice test, and listening was by far the highest score on the test. If you have any issues with listening or just want to pick up a few points, I recommend picking it up. It has been worth while for me. It has especially improved my quick response I think. For example, I recently went through sequence questions that are of the format of 'What is the first thing the man has to do after this?'. The textbook goes over several different sequence words like まず and 先に. This really helped me, especially since there are so many exceptions and turns in the conversation with these types of questions. If you are Gambling, Time to Double Down on Reading At this time of the year, I tend to get a flood of emails that go something along the lines of 'I thought I could do N3, but I'm really N4, how can I make up the difference in time for the test?' I have definitely been there before (heck, I feel that way right now about N2). So, what do you do in this final stretch? How could you possible pull out a surprise win in this late hour? Well, if you are gambling, double down on reading. Are you a bit confused? Don't worry I'll explain. Reading Combines a Variety of Skills In order to be successful with reading, you are going to need to be good at grammar, vocabulary, and kanji. This single skill combines all of them. So, if you use all of the skills to be successful at reading, doing reading exercises will uncover your weak points in those skills, so that you can focus on them. For example, if you are reading along and aren't entirely sure what the difference between ものか and まいか is you'll know pretty quick. Also, the grammar will be used in context so you will have a better idea of how it is used and not just it's meaning. Usage and meaning are both equally important. It is also more efficient because you just need to work your way through one book and not several books (if you are N3+, the books are separated out). This makes your book bag a lot lighter and gives you a more achievable goal then doing 5 books as fast as you can. Increased Reading Speed will Help you Score Higher The faster you can read through the passages the more time you will have to puzzle out the ambiguity of the questions and track down references (like この、これ、etc...) that they typically test you over in the reading. This extra time will allow you to double check your answers to the reading section to make sure you have the right information. Also, for the higher levels (N2, N1), you WILL have to have a moderate reading pace, close to the pace of someone reading quickly out loud in your native language. If you aren't up to speed, chances are you won't finish the test. I've heard from several of my friends that this has been the case for them. It's a common problem so be sure to practice up. They are just Worth More Question for question, the reading questions are worth more points on the test. This means that they can really make or break you. On the revised test, you need to score about 1/3 in every category to pass the whole test (previously you just needed to get 60% overall). You will have to score above that in order to pass reading. This can get a little iffy at the higher levels. If you are taking the N1 or N2 the grammar, vocabulary, and kanji section is combined with the reading section. It might be advisable for you to skip to the reading section first, then go back to the grammar, vocabulary, kanji section. This will allow you to make sure you spend extra time on the questions that are worth the most points. How do you feel about reading? Are you doing some last minute reading practice?

 JLPT BC 54 | Necessary Distractions? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 16:20

Lately, I've been pretty baffled by sentential grammar 2 (sentence composition) questions. These are those nasty scrambled sentences that come up on the 2nd part of the grammar section of the test. As I was quickly going back through my N2 So-Matome Gr...

 JLPT BC 53 | Sharpening the Sword | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 17:17

I recently switched to reviewing my So-Matome grammar book for N2. This a bit of a departure from the old kanzen master grammar book I was studying. Mostly because it has the scrambled sentences, or what the official JLPT website likes to call 'Sentent...


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