Exam Tips: JLPT N1

(taken from this article)

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or simply JLPT, is held twice a year by the Japan Foundation (JPF) and the Japan Education Exchanges and Services (JEES) to measure a non-native speaker’s capabilities in language knowledge (kanji, vocabulary and grammar), reading, and listening. The test is held in 35 regions in Japan, as well as in other countries on the first Sunday of July and December.

On July 4, 2010, the revised exams for Level N1, N2, and N3 (N for Nihongo or New) were administered. As one of those who took the exam in Japan, I’d like to share the key changes in level N1 that you need to be aware of, and some exam tips to take advantage of them.

For the changes, they can be identified as follows:

1) The test items were re-ordered from basic to advanced.

2) The number of test items was adequately reduced.

3) New question types were introduced.

To briefly explain each:

1) Test order – from the previous order of kanji, vocabulary, reading, and grammar, the new exam interchanged the grammar and reading making the new order to – kanji, vocabulary, grammar and reading. The listening section, which was conducted in the old exam between the “kanji & vocabulary” and the “reading & grammar” sections, was tested last – after the reading section (and a 45-min. break).

2) Number of test items – the total number of items for kanji, vocabulary, grammar and reading sections was reduced from around 130 to 70. On the other hand, the listening section was increased from around 30 to 40. Overall, the number of test items was reduced by around 30% (from 160 to 110) .

3) New questions types – for the grammar test section, there’s the “Sentential grammar 2 (Sentence composition)” and the “Text grammar” – similar to the reading section’s mid-length passages, but your choices are grammar patterns. For the reading section, there’s the “Integrated comprehension” and “Information retrieval”, while for the listening section, there’s the “Quick response”.

Keeping these changes in mind, here are exam tips for you to consider:

TIP#1) Take the language knowledge and reading exams in order.

– if you’ve taken the old JLPT L1 exams, you’ve most probably heard or did the strategy of answering the “reading & grammar” exam in reverse – the grammar section first, the short reading second, and the long reading last. In the new JLPT, you can opt to take it sequentially to maintain your focus and save a few seconds by not skipping between pages.

TIP#2) Allocate adequate time to answer all items.

– to improve your focus and answer as much questions as possible, discipline yourself to answer each scoring section within an allotted time. A possible time allocation could be: language knowledge (30 min.) and reading (80 min.). Since the listening section has a fixed time and speed, you can answer it as it progresses.

Should you need further breakdown, you can do it as follows (please take note that these are flexible, change them according to your assessment):

a) Kanji and vocabulary – 10 min.

b) Grammar – 20 min.

c) Reading (Short passages – 12 min., Mid-length passages – 24 min., Long passages – 12 min., Integrated comprehension section – 12 min., Thematic comprehension (long passages) – 12 min., Information retrieval – 8 min.)

TIP#3) Be aware beforehand of the information that will be asked in the listening exam.

– by doing this preparation, you’re actually disciplining yourself to focus and patiently wait for the exact information being asked.

As a summary, by taking advantage of the JLPT N1 exam’s changes in test section order, decrease in test items, and new question types, you can increase your chances of passing by taking the exam sequentially, by allocating adequate time to answer all items, and by being aware beforehand of what will be asked in the listening section.

Take these tips to heart, practice them by re-using old exams, and you’re on your way to passing JLPT N1.

New Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Guidebook Executive Summary (Japanese version)

* Disclaimer: The above information is based on the July exam. As indicated by JEES in the new test guidelines, the number of test items per scoring section may be changed. *


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