This is a partial response to a comment posted by Nana here.
(To Nana, I hope you don’t mind my creating a new post as a reply)
Although she was asking specifically for preparations targeted at the exam, anyone planning to take JLPT also needs to consider his/her general approach in learning Japanese.
With that said, this is my personal approach to (aim to pass) JLPT.
- Have a simple, yet complete, Japanese language learning framework – the framework I follow is posted here which basically suggests an order of studying Japanese – characters (hiragana, katakana, and kanji), words (vocabulary, kanji compounds), sentences (grammar), and then paragraphs.
- Have a motivation greater than the difficulty there is to learn Japanese from your current level – if you’ve never used kanji in your native language, this most specially applies to you. The area you have to cover may be at least twice compared to students (take the Chinese for example) who use kanji in their native language. I observed, through my Chinese colleagues, that though they may not recognize all the kanji (and its reading) used in Japanese context, they are able to guess its meaning, without using a Japanese dictionary, better than I.
- Have a study plan that you can stick with – the study plan I use contains: a schedule, study methods, and study tools. For more information on coming up with your own, you can refer to this article.
- Know when to take a break – although it is understandable that you may want to study Japanese all the time, it is unrealistic and unhealthy. Our brain, as well as our body, needs rest to be effective; get 6-9 hours of sleep every day, eat a healthy breakfast, and drink plenty of water.
If you have the discipline, the time, and the dedication, I believe the steps above are sufficient at helping you increase your chances of passing JLPT. But should it happen that you are not able to follow your study plan, I suggest you make a back-up plan.
In my stint to pass JLPT L2, the alternative path I was forced to take was (items 1, 2, & 4 above still applies):
- Immerse yourself in a lot of Japanese – I was assigned in Japan (my current location) for one year. During that time, I was studying Japanese bits by bits, trying to perfect my memory of kanji. But then, I was forced to cope up with a lot of Japanese – emails, meetings, and verbal communication. I guess what happened was that I was using too much of my left brain that when I forced myself to read, listen, and speak Japanese, my right brain kicked in and took over.
- Take a JLPT N1/N2 Japanese Crash Course – although one of the turning points in my study was the previous step, I also took the chance to attend a JLPT L2 crash course to focus my studies in the format close to the actual JLPT. Should you choose to follow this, make sure that the course you join will provide you with homework, quizzes, practice exams, and will cover all JLPT test areas – kanji, vocabulary, listening, and reading.
- Familiarize yourself with the exam’s time constraint and structure by taking old JLPT exams – unfortunately, based on JLPT’s site, new JLPT practice exams will be printed from 2012. But you can improvise by re-using the questions from previous exams (of the old JLPT) and re-structure them in a format close to that of the new sample questions. Then register your questions in Anki (or whatever SRS tool you choose to use). Flashcards will also do if you’re up to it.
You’re approach to studying JLPT and learning Japanese in general play important roles in your aim to pass JLPT N1 or N2. By taking into consideration your study habits, need for rest, dedication, and motivation, you can focus yourself and your studies to pass JLPT.
My next post will be about the study methods I used to pass JLPT L2 (for JLPT N1, you can refer to this post).
I’ll be posting again by next or next, next weekend – depending on how tough it proves to be to organize my thoughts and compose a post.
— Update: 2010/08/29 —
Sorry, I won’t be able to post the second part of my reply this weekend. I had to prioritize a family project that took more time than what I had planned. I’ll try again this week. I’ll also be out by next weekend so my next post will be, God willing, the next weekend after that – Sept. 11.