With JLPT over for this year, and my blog hits about to drastically decrease (why were so many people googling for test papers a day or two before, wasn’t it a bit late?) I just want to pass on my recommendations while they’re still fresh.
1. Start early. Do small amounts. Revise.
Start today. You can probably read the grammar in a week or so but to absorb it and practice it and become comfortable with it takes time. Hopefully you want to do more than just pass JLPT. The little and often approach will help you actually be able to use what you learn.
Cramming really doesn’t work. The official line is it takes 300 classroom hours to reach Level 3. I would presume at least a similar amount of class preparation time. 2 years work maybe. It has taken me 4 years part-time study and I reckon I only have around 200 classroom hours logged.
Revise. You forget what you learn unless you revise it to get it into long-term memory. It’s surprising how fast you can forget things as well.
These books were the ones I used most. After that it’s a case of do as many JLPT3 style quizzes as possible.
3. Learn then Practice
It seems a bit obvious but it’s better to learn the grammar and then run practice tests. I have done it the other way and I think as a consequence I don’t fully understand the grammar. I think it would have been better to get a grasp of the grammar then refine it by doing practice questions.
However for vocabulary I preferred to learn it in the context of questions or just by reading rather than trying to learn lists of words.
4. Listening is hardest, Grammar and Vocabulary most important, Kanji least important
Listening accounts for 25% of the test and it’s by far the most difficult part. Just look at the statistics that the Japan Foundation compile. The written papers you can approach at your own pace and change answers. However with listening it’s very much a hit and miss affair. If you don’t get it or your attention wanders you’re done for. It’s also the hardest to practice for. There just aren’t as many listening resources. I wish I had spent more time on listening. If I pass JLPT3 it’ll be because my other skills are good enough to carry me.
I just don’t know what advice to give on listening. Listen to as much Japanese as you can. JapanesePod101 is a good source. Study the previous years recordings. When you run out of them do the level 4 listening tests as well.
Grammar and Reading accounts for 50% of the marks. If you don’t know grammar you might not be able to figure out what’s going on at all. If you don’t have vocabulary you might be able to work out grammar questions but overall you’ll be a bit lost. Grammar will take the longest to learn and absorb so start there.
Kanji only account for 12.5% at most.
There are 284 Kanji on JLPT3 including the 108 from JLPT4. However it is possible for some other kanji to be included.
In the main body of the test not many kanji are used. The main skill needed is to be able to read kanji not write them. There is such concentration on Kanji for JLPT on the Internet that I think is in excess to their importance to the test. It’s easy to get sidetracked doing kanji at the expense of grammar and vocab.
5. Make a timetable
Have some sort of plan and timetable to guide where you’re going.
I would suggest working backwards.
–The day before
Brush up the main topics. Re-read the passages in JLPT3 Kanji by Examples to refresh your memory of the kanji. Revise the main points of the major topics. Passive and Causitive, Keigo perhaps. Maybe do a final test paper. Get some sleep, don’t worry.
–In the weeks leading up to the test
Do a previous years exam paper per week. Not necessarily all 3 sections at once but I would do them against the clock. Then study your mistakes to boost your score. It’s a good idea to record your scores in any tests to chart your progress.
–1 month before
do Mock Test 2 from JLPT Mock Test Level 3. Hopefully you’ll notice an improvement from test 1, also hopefully you’ll get a good passing score. It’s nice to go into the test scoring a comfortable 70% plus on the mock tests.
Closing date for applications.
–2 to 3 months before
Do the test in JLPT3 Revision book by Bonjinsha. And work through the book to strengthen your weak points and revise what you’ve learnt.
Do mock Test 1 from JLPT Mock Test Level 3. Hopefully you can score at least 50% overall, better still at least 60%. Read its advice on your weak points.
Make the decision to sit the exam and pay your money!
In the UK SOAS administers the test.
If your kanji are strong consider doing the Kanken Kanji Aptitude Test. Level 9 will test 240 of the JLPT3 kanji. Level 10 adds a further 200 Kanji but only 70 of them are on the JLPT3 syllabus. This test is much harder than JLPT I think. But it might be a good mid-term aim in studying for JLPT.
deadline for Kanken Kanji Aptitude test at SOAS
–6 to 8 months before
Start on those kanji. I really recommend JLPT3 Kanji by Examples for this. Also use a flashcard program. Read as much as you can with books like these graded readers. This will also increase your reading speed and comprehension.
– 8 months before
Work on vocabulary. There are over 700 words to learn. some you’ll already know and use, many you won’t know (and may never use). You’ll need to break them down into manageable chunks and constantly revise them. Even a manageable 10 new words a day will take a while to learn and remember. Also try to actively use them in writing and speaking. I suggest you use a flashcard program like Anki or iFlash.
–12 months before
Make your plans. give over at least one day or night a week to work on this. More as you get nearer to the exam or when you have the time. Break down the work you have to do. By October you should only be revising not learning the core subject matter.
If you can, find a study partner. If you can, find a Japanese tandem partner. Join a class, even if it’s not covering JLPT3 exactly. A teacher will help you and the weekly appointment can keep you on track. (In London I can recommend the Big Headed Man Language Club! although you’ll need to do most of the JLPT3 material yourself Chika-san will give advice and answer questions.)
Listen to jPod101.
Start with grammar, this can be the bedrock of what you do and will also give you practice in vocabulary and kanji depending on the books you use.
So anyway hopefully I’ve passed this year and I might think of JLPT2 in 3 years time or so. I do feel I have to consolidate my JLPT3 material first (my plan strayed a bit!). I especially have to improve my listening (and speaking). But who knows there’s a real possibility I’ll have to re-do JLPT3 next year.
I passed by the way.
I’ve included the Kanken kanji aptitude test in the suggested timetable. Although I’m only doing it this year I think it would be a good early waypoint in studying for JLPT. Also although it’s a year long schedule, perhaps it might take longer.