Monday, February 01, 2010

How to Pass the New JLPT in 2010

The JLPT has a New Level but Test Taking Strategies Remain the Same

I've just run my second JLPT preparation course on eduFire. I thought I would share some of what we covered with you as it was the first session since December when new sample tests for the JLPT were released. Here are the slides, an explanation follows on below.

Even though the test has changed the things you have to do to pass it have stayed the same. If you plan on doing the test this year now is the best time to get started.

How the new JLPT compares

The old JLPT only had four levels, so there was a large jump in the amount of kanji and vocabulary you were expected to learn between levels 3 and 2. With the addition of a new level N3 in between the old 3 and 2 there is a smoother transition to the more advanced levels.

The decision by JEES not to publish a test content specification may seem to some like a spanner in the works, but with a few simple assumptions it is easy to see a way forward. Looking at the graph you can see that mid point for assumed kanji/vocabulary knowledge between N4 and N2 provides something to aim for. On closer inspection N3 matches the fourth grade of the kyōiku kanji, for which there are many resources available. N2 matches the full 1006 character kyōiku kanji and N1 the 1,945 character jōyō kanji.

There are lots of past tests for the old JLPT and none for the new N3 so this does pose a small challenge for people who fall some between the old 3 and 2 in finding appropriate practice material. A closer look at the Executive summary shows you that the kinds of questions you can expect and the time allotted to each section is similar to N4 and N5.

So although the test has changed the things you need to do to pass it remain the same: Do plenty of study, Do past tests and Be specific.

How to pass the new JLPT in 2010

The five steps to Ace the JLPT I've covered before, but here they are again in a nutshell.
  • Know yourself: To borrow a euphemism from cycling "racing is the best training". This is the priniciple of specificity as it applies to language study. Benchmark yourself now under test conditions and you'll have something to measure your progress against. So where to get the tests? Online you can get the sample tests at the JLPT site. You may want to purchase test booklets for N1/N2/N3 and N4/N5, which also come with a CD of the listening section and a courtesy translation of the executive summary from White Rabbit Press.

  • Know the terrain: Doing sample tests will give you a better idea of what to expect on test day. Checking the guidebook however will give you more than enough information to chart a course of study. Perhaps there is too much information. The most important things you need to know are the Composition of Test Items, Test sections and Test time. The missing pieces of the puzzle are your answers to the practice tests. Once you know these things you can start to tailor your study to be more effective.

  • Train your weaknesses: Small gains in your weak areas can result in big gains elsewhere when you do the hard yards. Doing a sample test will identify your weaknesses so you can target them with specific exercises. I listen to Japanese being spoken everyday, and past results tell me that listening is not going to let me down. It would be pointless to spend time listening to podcasts when I know that my reading comprehension has slipped.

  • Race your strengths: By doing practice tests you know where your strengths are. There is no point hammering out repetition after repetition in your favorite SRS if you know all the kanji for your level when your grammar is still broken. Do enough maintenance for your strengths but don't let them distract you from the much harder work of addressing your weaknesses. Use your strengths to power through plateaus, don't rest on your laurels.

  • Stay fresh: Many people burn out in the early stages of preparing for the JLPT because they don't have a plan and try to do too much too soon. Remember it's just a test and the ultimate aim is fluency in Japanese. Take time out to communicate in real Japanese, exchange tweets with friends on twitter. Log your progress on tumblr. Have someone correct your grammar on Lang8 or post an introduction to YouTube for the Japanese speaking community there.

The New JLPT Official Guidebook with Executive Summary and Sample Tests

White Rabbit Press (I'm an affiliate) have sample tests for N1/N2/N3 and N4/N5 of the New JLPT. The volumes include a CD and script for the listening section of each test. The Official Guidebooks and Executive Summary are written entirely in Japanese so White Rabbit Press provide a print out of the English version.
The sample tests are the same as the ones that are available on the official JLPT site, but the CDs can't be found anywhere else than with the Official Guidebooks.

If you found this post helpful sign up for the Rainbowhill Language Lab Newsletter to get the best tips for the JLPT. Subscribers also get discounts on private lessons in Japanese on eduFire.

5 Steps To  Ace The Japanese Language Proficiency Test At Any Level 5 Steps To Ace The Japanese Language Proficiency Test At Any Level is a Free Online Seminar at eduFire
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