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Comprehension Reading

On the JLPT, you’ll be tested on your ability to comprehend the reading passages on the test. You’ll be given several reading passages and then asked questions about the main ideas of passages of various lengths. This section seems to give a lot of people headaches because they are not used to reading a lot in Japanese.

So, it is important to not only know the vocabulary and grammar necessary for your level, but to also practice the skill of reading. Not only practice the skill but also build up your reading stamina. On the higher levels of the test (N2 and N1) the vocabulary, grammar sections, and reading sections are all combined. This makes for a much longer testing time, 105 minutes for N2 and 110 minutes for N1.

During that entire time, you’ll be reading and answering questions for the test. If you aren’t a student at a Japanese college or aren’t working at a Japanese company, chances are you need to build up your stamina for this. Without adequate prep, this huge block of time in another language is enough to make your head spin. Comprehension reading will help stop that from happening.

You might not want to make comprehension reading a part of a daily routine, but once a week, or 2 or 3 times a month will be great practice for the test.

I personally spend 20 to 30 minutes on my commute to work reading essays. There are days when I’m not so focused, but I try to force myself to be focused for that train ride. Afterwards, I can indulge in rocking out to some music on my iPod or just a relaxing walk into work knowing I’ve done some good studying for the day.

1) Pick out a book or blog article that is appropriate to your level.

2) If it is an article from the internet, print it out. It’ll be easier for you to take notes. Or you can use the free Adobe Reader app (PC, mobile) to add notes to it.

3) Read through the entire article, or 2 pages of the book. Don’t look anything up, and try your best to move through the material quickly, but still read for details.

4) Don’t get hung up on what you don’t know, you can go back to it later.

5) After the first reading, write down what you think are the main ideas of the passage. This could be important points the author made or events if you are reading a novel.

6) Read the article or 2 pages again, this time slowly.

7) When you come across a word you don’t know, take a best guess at the meaning of the word by using context clues. You don’t need to spend an incredible amount of time on this, just make a quick guess. (Reading Tips)

8) After you take your best guess, check it with a dictionary to see if you are correct.

9) Write down the definition on the page behind the page you are reading or as a sticky note if you are using Adobe Reader. This will keep you from cheating.

10) If it’s a common use word, be sure to throw it into your flashcard system for review.

11) Now, read the passage again and check if your first guesses about the main points of the reading were correct or not.