Friday, December 10, 2010


(Outside Fuchinobe station.)

Wow, time flies. Seems like just yesterday that I took the new level 3 Japanese Language Proficiency Test back in July. One of the reasons for the compacted time sense is that since September I've been focused on cramming for the level 2 test that was held on Dec. 5. I initially wasn't planning to go for N2 so soon, but when the Oct. 1st deadline for applying for the test started looming, I decided, "what the hey". Again, it was about $50, and required a special $5 test packet, and a couple extra dollars for the snapshots to go with the application. I then went out and bought the ASK version of the study books for about $15 each.

The primary difference between the ASK books for N3 and N2 is the increased volume of material. You need 730-some kanji plus combinations for N2. Rather than 6 weeks of material (2-pages per day for 6 days of the week, plus a review test for day 7) there's 8 weeks' worth. When I started, I had 10 weeks before the test, and I was hoping to finish off all three books on time and have 2 weeks left to review stuff that I was weak on, and to practice listening with a study CD. Unfortunately, no such luck. Simply because of the volume of grammar, vocabulary and kanji involved, I barely got through everything by the end of week 10. It didn't help that I kept falling asleep when I sat at the table to study, so the majority of my studies occurred during my 2-hour commutes to and from Akihabara on the train.

On the day of the test, I got in to Fuchinobe at 11 AM, and the test was scheduled to start at 12:30. I dropped in at the Beck's coffee shop to relax and get something to snack on while reviewing the sample test questions from the official JLPT book. At 11:45, I followed the stream of people to the test site on the Aoyama university campus. Again, you can not get lost going to these tests. There are people and signs all along the way, and the parade from the train station is easy to find. However, there weren't as many people on the sidewalk as last time, and I didn't see the tour guides, either. Further, they should have been holding tests for all 5 levels this time, but there weren't signs pointing to the different test rooms for each level. The N2 test seems to have been divided into two rooms of 180 people each at the one test site, which is what it was like for the N3 test in July. But, still, the crowds were much, much larger 6 months ago.

(Heading to the campus main gates.)

There were more Caucasians this time, and a number of Africans. Still, the majority of the test takers were from China and the rest of Asia. The conditions for the test were the same - lots of rules and checking against cheating. No one got a warning for not putting their pencils down right away this time, anyway.

(Getting directions to the test sites.)

The test itself was pretty brutal. The official guidelines indicate that passing level 2 represents about 100 hours of study. I did 130 hours easily, and I'm pretty sure that I was averaging a 45% hit rate on each part of the review tests leading up to the real exam. In the actual test, only about half of the kanji made sense to me. The speakers in the listening section spoke so fast that again I could only follow about half of the conversations. The lower target for passing is to have 60% on both the kanji/reading and listening sections. I doubt I'll get 50%. Unfortunately, the JLPT people only give your grade results to you if you pass, so I'll never know how much I failed by.

(Chilling during the 30-minute break between the two test sections.)

I knew 2 months wasn't going to be enough time for studying, but I went into this treating the Dec. test as a sanity check, and to get a feel for what the N2 test was like, in anticipation for taking it seriously next July. Now that I know what I'm up against, I can prepare a little better for next time. My primary tactics are going to be watching a whole lot more TV to be exposed to general conversation, to concentrate on memorizing more kanji, and to read more books or magazines. I'm also seriously considering taking language classes again. The ASK study books are fine up to a point, but they don't match the real test problems all that closely.

(End of the day - heading back to the station.)

(On the Fuchinobe station platform, trying to head back to Machida.)

I won't get the test results until some time in Feb., but my gut reaction is that I didn't pass this one.

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