Study Tips: Strengthening your Kanji

I’ll be posting later today, God willing, the second part of my reply to Nana’s comment here.

Sorry it took more than a month to complete.


When I started gathering my thoughts for this second post, it eventually occurred to me that it was impossible for me to recall all my JLPT L2-related activities in the span of 4 years (yes, it took me that long to pass) and write them in an engaging post.

So instead, I decided to jot them down to a few bullet points:

  • Kanji – Remembering the Kanji Vol. 1
  • Vocabulary – Nihongo Pera Pera!: A User’s Guide to Japanese Onomatopoeia
  • Grammar – 完全マスター2級 日本語能力試験文法問題対策 and 日本語能力試験に出る文法2級
  • Listening – old JLPT exams
  • Reading – old JLPT exams
  • Japanese L2 crash course

In the list above, kanji was where I  made significant progress.


There was no study plan for me. I just needed to pass JLPT L2 to receive a needed monetary incentive.

If I hadn’t passed L2 last 2008, I would have stopped – I had already set my mind to stop aiming to pass.

But luckily, I did.

What I want to say is – I believe that having a study schedule (and sticking with it at least 80% of the time) is the way to go. But sometimes circumstances don’t allow it, or that having a schedule just doesn’t fit you. So you have to find an alternate route.

I believed that if I didn’t solidify my kanji foundation, I won’t understand most of the sentences even if I had mastered the grammar patterns.


So what to make out of this?

Develop a key skill – be able to break down a kanji into its “elements,” recognize them as “parts”, and then bring them back together to arrive at its meaning.

Acquire a key knowledge – one keyword for one kanji; expand later.

New Passing Scores for JLPT N1, N2, and N3

Just wanted to share a late news.

Passing criteria for the New JLPT Levels N1, N2, and N3 have been published last Aug. 30.

Sectional pass marks
Level Overall pass mark Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) Reading Listening
N1 100 19 19 19
N2 90 19 19 19
N3 80 95 19 19 19

Overall pass marks and sectional pass marks of the new Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (N1-N3)

Exam Preparation: Approaching the JLPT N1, N2 Exams

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Exam tips for JLPT Level N1

I’ve just published my second article in Helium – Exam Tips: Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level N1.

I know it’s not that much and there’s still a lot of room for improvement, so any feedback will be highly appreciated.

I’m also re-posting the said article as a sub-page in Study Plans -> Exam Tips: JLPT N1.

For any discrepancy with any information I wrote, please do inform me. I need an external observer for this. 🙂

Insights on the revised JLPT N1 Exam (July 4, JLPT N1 Exams @ 六甲台キャンパス)

Mission accomplished.

Today I took the JLPT N1 exam at Kobe Daigaku Rokkodai Campus (神戸大学六甲台キャンパス)… My room was at B109. I think there were around 70 of us in the room.

To adequately share my thoughts on the exam, I think it better to evaluate it in the ff. areas:

  1. Structure
  2. Number of Exam Items
  3. Time Allocation
  4. New Question Types

*For easier reading, I’ll refer to Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) section as the first scoring section, Reading as the second scoring section, and Listening as the third or last scoring section.

**I’ll also refer to the Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) and Reading as the first test section, and Listening as the second test section. Test Section basically means that on the same time block, you’ll be taking the assigned scoring section/s. (e.g., Language Knowledge and Reading(12:45 – 14:35), Listening(15:30-16:30))

  • Structure – the structure and order of the new exam is now better if not tremendously improved. Moji, Goi and Bunpo (文字、語彙、文法) of the old exam were combined into the first scoring section, and reading on the second scoring section. I wasn’t able to appreciate this order until I took the exam. In the reading section of the old JLPT, you had to take it from back to front (Grammar first, short reading second, the long reading last) in order to answer as many questions as possible.
  • Number of Exam Items – the number of test items has been appropriately reduced (for the first test section) and increased (for the second test section). From around 130 exam questions for the Reading/Grammar (around 50-60), plus Moji/Goi (around 60-70), the new exams now has  around 71 questions for the first test section (around 45% decrease!). For the second test section, it has been adequately increased from 27 to 37 to cover the new type of questions.
  • Time Allocation – finishing the reading exam is now humanely possible. 🙂 For the first test section, you had to complete it in 110 minutes. For the second test section, you had to finish it in 60 minutes. For the reading exam, I think there were 4 questions I was not able to completely answer (meaning reading a short passage and then answering), but it’s far better compared to around 8 items in the old exam!
  • New Question Types – the new types of questions were fun! Particularly, the “Sentential grammar 2 (Sentence composition)” (See sample questions, Page 11) and the “Quick response” of the listening section where you had to choose the correct response to a speaker.

Given the insights above, my evaluation of the new exam is that it has (tremendously?) improved and I think it will be more effective in measuring a person’s Japanese abilities.

Thank you Japan Foundation and the people behind this change!

Next steps for me would be:

  1. Revise Review Plan
  2. Revise Review Questions
  3. Revise JLPT Score Calculator

Here are a couple of pictures from the test site:

JLPT N1 Study Progress Update

Sorry for not posting recently. Work’s just been tight.

Anyway, I’ve started creating my Anki Reviewer Deck.
Man, there are a lot of public/shared decks in Anki. Wonder if anyone actually checked them…

Just in case you’re wondering which method I’m using, I went with old school because of my familiarity with it.

I also downloaded old JLPT L1 exams with the assumption that the Japanese used in it will be the same level with JLPT N1.

As of today, I still haven’t read/heard anything about the new Total Passing Score and the Passing mark for each Scoring Section. Wonder when they’ll be announcing it.

Anyway, last but not the least, I just learned that JLPT has a new logo. There were a total of 825 entries, and the winning entry was created by Mr. Kishita Yoshio from Ehime prefecture.

【作成者】 愛媛県 木下芳夫 氏

Anki for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad also already available. Price initially set at $24.99. I hope Damien Elmes (creator of Anki) will later consider lowering the price… to around $10. 😀

JLPT N1 Study Methods (勉強方法) and Study Plan (勉強計画)

Below is my study plan and study method for the upcoming JLPT N1.

  • Study Method1: Read, Extract, Review – as I mentioned in my previous post, my approach for this upcoming exam (however remote my passing would be) is as follows:
  1. Read Japanese books (I bought three – Harry Potter, 1Q84, and “Now, Discover Your Strengths”; please read more below for the book selection’s reason)
  2. Extract items I don’t understand (categorize as kanji, vocabulary, or grammar pattern) and input to Anki
  3. Review list on a weekly basis (1-2 Hours on the weekend)
  • Study Method2: Old-School Repetition – just in case the above method fails, I plan to fall back to the old-school of studying for the JLPT – “divide and conquer” and Spaced Repetition System (SRS)
  1. Study Kanji (~1926)
  2. Study Vocab (~8009)
  3. Study Grammar (still have to know how many grammar patterns to study)
  4. Practice Listening (Previous JLPT L1 Listening exams)
  5. Practice Reading (Previous JLPT L1 Reading exams)

I am not yet sure which of the two methods will work for me, but I hope one of them does.

I’m giving myself two years to pass the exam. Hopefully, it won’t take that long.

If you haven’t noticed, I created an article on how to create a study plan, and called it the KECC method. It stands for Know, Estimate, Choose and Create. If you haven’t done so, please take the time to visit and rate (just noticed that there’s no way to rate.. silly me!) share the article. It’s my first “professional” article. 😀

If the article gets enough  page visits/views, I can eventually earn from it to support my Japanese studies which hopefully would lead to more JLPT study tips and hints.

Here are my reasons for the book selection above:

  1. Harry Potter – as per suggestion by Henrik Falck, I bought this book. Being a children’s book, I hope the sentence patterns will be easier to understand plus the “ruby” or hiragana readings for kanji.
  2. “Now, Discover Your Strengths” (Japanese version) – a book I was itching to buy; so to “motivate” me to read Japanese, I bought a Japanese version. 😆
  3. 1Q84 – Got a little over my head when I bought this one.. My thought when I bought this – when I want more “challenge” with Japanese reading. I chose this book mainly because it was a bestseller and it won’t “hold back” on the Japanese…

I know this post doesn’t do justice for the two weeks I didn’t post anything.


Harry Potter

Preparations for JLPT N1 (July 2010)

Today I started my preparations for this coming July N1 exams (yes, I applied).

But this time, my approach is different. I’m following the advice “If you want to pass JLPT L1 (/N1), then read, listen, and understand real japanese… make passing JLPT be a by-product.”

So my focus for JLPT this year will be just that – reading, listening, and understanding REAL Japanese.
I believe this study method is in-line with the framework given by the new “JLPT N1 Linguistic Competence (See page 3).”

  • Reading – “One is able to read writings with logical complexity and/or abstract writings on a variety of topics… and comprehend both their structures and contents.”
  • Listening – “One is able to comprehend orally presented materials… spoken at natural speed… and is able to follow their ideas and comprehend their contents comprehensively.”

Will post my study plan in a separate page/post.

JLPT N1 Linguistic Competence

Result of Internal Exam

I just got the result of my internal exam today. I passed!

The downside was that even though I passed, my score was below than what I expected. Most specially my 文字・語彙 (Kanji, Vocab) result.

文字・語彙: 59
聴解: 56
読解・文法: 133
Total: 248 / 400 (62%)

Nevertheless, still a good reason to give thanks to God. 🙂
Till next post.

JLPT L2 Point System

Here’s a Simple JLPT L2 Score Calculator, based on the ff. given:
(Please take note that these are still based on the old JLPT Exams. I’ll update them once I get the time.)

LEVEL 1&2 Point Allocation:
文字 = 1 point
語彙 = 2 points
聴解 = 1 point
読解 = 5 points
文法 = 2 points

Point/Score Calculation:
文字語彙: your score / total possible X 100
聴解: your score / total possible X 100
読解文法: your score / total possible X 200

Add all 3 partial result for total score.
If Total Score >= 240, PASS. Else FAIL.