It’s been a long time since I last posted an update about the JLPT exam. I debated about whether I should take the N1 or not. Finally, I decided to try the N1 exam, but not to spend a lot of time studying for it. Instead, as an experiment, I wanted to try to pass the N1 without spending hours with workbooks and mock tests; I wanted to pass by doing what I should be doing anyway: reading Japanese books, listening to Japanese, etc.
So, since January, I did just that: I spent time reading Japanese comics, but also Japanese-language novels, etc. It was pretty hard at first, but over time I’ve gotten more comfortable reading long, complex texts.
Further, my son “Little Guy” is obsessed with Buzz Lightyear, and loves to watch the movie Toy Story 2.1 He calls the movie “Buzz!” and wants to watch it almost daily. We let him watch it in Japanese, so he gets exposure like his big sister did, and often watch it with him. Every time I watch Toy Story 2 in Japanese, I learn something new. But also we watch the “morning dramas” on NHK through cable TV. The current drama Asa Ga Kita is a lot of fun to watch, for example.
But did it work?
Today I took the JLPT N1 exam at last. It was very familiar in a way, since I had taken the N2 and N3 in the past. However, it was also different, since I had taken a big risk in preparing for this exam. I noticed during the exam that I was considerably older than most of the other test takers: mostly high-school or college-aged kids. I had the benefit of experience, but on the other hand, I less free time to study.
In any case, the test was quite a challenge. The written portion of the exam was quite long, and there was still some vocabulary I didn’t know. Further, the essays were numerous and long, and I started to run out of time toward the end, so I had to rush a bit. However, I was surprised how much of the essays I could understand. In the past, I often had to do some guessing, but this time, I felt pretty comfortable reading them, and even learned some interesting facts and topics.2
So, by the end of the written exam, I felt pretty good.
Then came the listening part. The listening part was much harder than I expected. The conversations were long, and had many twists and turns, so even if I think I understood the answer, the topic would change at the last minute. I realized that although I had watched Japanese shows and such, they were either too short or too focused on children. I didn’t watch enough adult media.
So, after the listening section, I felt pretty disheartened. I felt that I had come so close, but failed in the last section.
On the other hand, I looked at the scoring system for the JLPT, and even if I score relatively low in one section, I can still pass if the overall score is good. I can’t score too low, but I know I got at least some questions right in the listening section.
But was it enough to pass? I won’t be able to find out until the end of February when they send out the scores. :(
I’m not sure why the JLPT takes so long to reply back, but I guess it’s because they have to wait for all the completed tests across the world to arrive first, grade them at the same time, then send out the results. That’s just a theory though.
Anyhow, for not having studied at all, I actually did better than expected. At the same time, I am reminded that my biggest weakness is listening. I know my listening skills are weak when talking with my wife and her friends, but still the test reminded me how weak it really is.
The point though, is that you can pass the JLPT without spending lots of money on textbooks and classes. Just do what you should be doing anyway: getting as much exposure and experience with native Japanese as you can. :)
1 He has Buzz Lightyear t-shirts, Buzz Lightyear pajamas, toys and dolls. :)
2 I wish I could tell you what they were, but obviously I can’t. Anyhow, the JLPT had a diverse set of essay topics, and so there was probably something for everyone. That is, if you could read them. ;)