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Ondoku

Ondoku literally means ‘out loud’ in Japanese and although this task may seem very simple and of not much value, it can really help with your fluency as well as reading speed. The best part is that it doesn’t really require much focus, so that you can easily find time to do this activity.

The basic idea behind ondoku is to practice the mechanical moving of your lips at a higher speed. Although, at first this may seem rather robotic, it can actually make you more comfortable with the speaking process. The higher the speed at which you can speak, the higher the speed at which you can probably read and listen.

I tend to do Ondoku almost every day on my walk to the train station. I do it while looking at my iPhone which probably isn’t the safest option, but allows me to do two things at once. Try to work it into your normal routine if you can, it will greatly speed up your speaking confidence as well as reading and listening speed.

Steps:

1) First off, listen to the listening you have chosen paying attention to the pronunciation. Pay close attention to any kanji that you might not be completely familiar with.

2) Read the script out loud as fast as you can and time yourself.

3) Underline the parts that you had trouble saying quickly and any other difficult to pronounce Japanese words.

4) Listen to the listening again, pay attention to the parts that you had trouble with.

5) Practice the parts of the dialog you had trouble with. Repeat them multiple times until they roll off your tongue.

6) Read the script out loud as fast as you can again and time yourself again. This time try to beat your previous time.

7) Listen to the CD a third time. This time though, pay attention to the intonation of the dialog.

8) One last time, read the script out loud as fast as you can matching the intonation as best as possible. Try to act out the script as much as you can.

9) OPTIONAL: One last time, play the listening and try to match the dialog as best as you can. You want to speak at the same time and speed as the speakers in the listening. This will help you get a feel for native-speaker speed Japanese.

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Studying with Music Videos (PVs)

Studying with music has numerous advantageous to it. Even if you are not a music nut, it can really help you out in the sense that it is a relaxing way to get a little more practice in. Finding a catchy song to sing along with helps keep the words in your head and allows you to have fun while you study.

Even if you are at a beginners level of Japanese, listening to Japanese music can help you get more comfortable with the language. It also brings you a little closer to the culture and at the very least will give you something to talk about with your Japanese friends.

Some recent studies have shown that listening to the music of a foreign language can help you learn where one word ends and the other begins. In other words, it assists your ability to recognize patterns in the language. This pattern recognition is a critical first step to acquiring good listening skills. So, the sooner you can master it, the better off you’ll be.

I listen to Japanese music when I just need to relax and don’t feel like studying so hard. Watching a few music videos (PV in Japanese) to pass the time while I eat a snack or drink my morning coffee is a great way to pass the time and ‘study’ a little bit.

I use a website called musicpv.jp, which is a usually pretty good site to find good music videos. One problem with the site is that the lyrics they provide are not ‘selectable’. This makes it impossible to look up words with browser tools. If you really need to know the pronunciation of a particular word in kanji, you can visit another site, jplyrics.com. There you can highlight the kanji and see the readings with browser tools. You still can’t copy the lyrics out, though.

Steps:

1) Pick out a PV from https://www.musicpv.jp (Video Tutorial).

2) At first, listen to the song 2~3 times to get comfortable with the rhythm and see how much of it you can understand.

3) Click on the link to the lyrics (歌詞 or かし in Japanese). Musicpv.jp has lyrics for most songs, but occasionally you might get an error message that they couldn’t find lyrics. If this is the case, you’ll have to move on to another song. Alternatively, you can try jplyrics.com

4) Listen to the song while reading the lyrics. This is so you can link the sound and kanji/kana together in your head. You might want to hum along so you can get comfortable with how the song is sung.

5) Look up any words you don’t know. You can use a browser tool to help you with meanings on jplyrics.com (browser extensions don’t seem to work on musicpv.jp lyrics).

6) Practice ondoku with the lyrics a few times and try to get as comfortable as you can with the words. Try to think about the meaning of the words as you do this part.

7) You can try to echo the song, by playing a little bit, pausing, and then singing it. Work your way through the song until you are pretty comfortable.

8) Finally, you can try to sing-along with the song to help you practice the rhythm.

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Dictation

You probably have that look on your face like the time your mom told you that you had to eat your brussel sprouts. What? Dictation? I thought this studying Japanese stuff was suppose to be fun! I know this because I once had the same reaction myself. It seems like such a tedious task that was once used in medieval times as a form of torture.

And it can be a bit tedious, but sometimes you need to eat your vegetables before you can sink your teeth into that steak. Dictation can be appropriate in some situations and for some students’ learning styles. It is most helpful for learners that like to see things written down. If you are more of a visual learner and have a hard time learning just from speaking and listening, this might be the perfect activity for you.

You might be asking how does this help? Well, first off it helps you improve your accuracy with the language. If you listen to a sentence and keep missing particles or verb endings, chances are you are also missing those verb endings and particles in your speech as well. Once you’ve discovered some of your grammar weaknesses, you can use this to focus your studies on those grammar points.

Dictation also improves listening comprehension and focus. You have to stay focused through the entire sentence in order to get it all and write it down. This careful and active listening is an invaluable skill for Japanese and for the JLPT.

Dictation also involves a lot of connected activities. Not only are you listening to the sentence being said, you are also writing it, and also reading it as well. You can also, of course, repeat back the sentence that is being said while you write it so that you can actually practice all 4 skills at one time.

Obviously, this task doesn’t allow you much creativity. You aren’t using your own ideas with the language which is really a key part of learning and becoming fluent in a language, but you are practicing the raw skills of using the language. I wouldn’t overuse this activity, but it is something to practice on a regular basis.

Steps:

1) Once you have chosen an unheard appropriate-level listening material with a script (very important!). Play one dialog (about a minute worth) all the way through first.

2) Try to understand as much as you can about the main points of the dialog the first time through.

3) Now, go back and listen to the dialog again, this time pause after each sentence.

4) During the pause, write down as much as you can of the sentence. You can try to write the kanji if you want to practice writing kanji, but it isn’t necessary.

5) Continue on through the dialog like this until you come to the end.

6) If you had a hard time writing everything down, go back a second time and check your sentences one by one filling in what you missed. You might want to do this in another color pen so you can check what was difficult for you to hear.

7) Lastly, check your sentences against the script for the dialog you listened to. What kind of mistakes did you make? If you had problems with a particular grammar point, be sure to take your grammar book and circle that chapter or section with a red pen. That way the month before the test you can save time by just reviewing these difficult grammar points.

8) OPTIONAL: If you really want to lock in what you just learned and you have some extra time, you can practice writing 2 or 3 of the sentences you had the most trouble with. Just write out the sentences as fast as you can 5 times while repeating them out loud. This is a way to get yourself used to seeing/hearing the correct grammar so that it will look weird if you make the same mistake again.

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Casual Writing on Blogs

Blogs are another source of reading material that is generally pretty easy to digest. No one is writing any thesis papers online about a certain topic. As a matter of fact, most of the blogs I’ve seen in Japan are rather simple affairs.

In Japan, a lot of people consume content via their cell phones (and more increasingly smartphones) so blogs are formatted with this in mind. They usually don’t have long posts, have fairly simple themes, and are written in short paragraphs. A lot of the travel blogs I’ve seen have a lot of photographs and a few comments under each one.

This makes for pretty light reading and easy commenting. Again, this isn’t the most maximum efficient way to study for the JLPT, so if you are pressed for time, you might want to try something else. However, it can be a way to change things up every once in awhile and get some Japanese practice in the process.

Also, in the spirit of complete language immersion, you can replace the time you usually spend reading about your hobbies and interests in your native language with time spent reading about your hobbies and interests in Japanese.

There are a few main blogging sites (like blogger.com in the states) in Japan. One of the major ones is Ameba. There are a variety of sites listed under this service. The formatting is a little strange, because most of the blogs have a narrow format suitable for cell phones, but you can still find a few gems here and there. A good place to start is there most popular ranking page.

A competitor to Ameba is FC2, which is a blog directory sorted by category and popularity. This directory can be real hit or miss. Some categories have some great blogs in them, others not so much, but it is a good alternative to Ameba.

There are also two independent blog ranking sites that might be worth checking out as well. One is a place call Blog Ranking and another is Blogmura. I’ve found some gems on both of these sites for everything from travel blogs to how to save money.

There are also some big professional blogs in Japan like LifeHacker, which has a lot of useful tips for making life easier. From there you can also visit, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Tabroid, Roomie and My Lohas that offer up some of the same. Another interesting blog that I check into every once in awhile is Pouch, which is an entertainment/fashion blog. It is more geared toward a female audience though.

Commenting on blogs shouldn’t really be a scheduled thing to do, more like something to do in your free time to have fun studying the language and get some casual Japanese practice. It will help on the test with some of the vocabulary though. I tend to read blogs and comment only when I have free time and want to read about a particular hobby.

Although I rank this as an activity for N3 and above, don’t be afraid to try reading blogs if you are just a beginner. The sooner you start seeing native materials the better, and with all the tools available to help you read Japanese on the web, there are really no excuses for you to not start even on your first day with Japanese.

Steps:

1) Once you’ve picked out a blog that you want to read from the variety of blog directories out there. Read through the article and try to understand as much as you can.

2) Be sure to use the variety of tools (like Rikai-chan, etc…) that are available for you to read and practice Japanese with a web browser.

3) Try to write a comment that contributes to the article or possibly asks a question. You want to try to get some interaction with the blogger. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes either. It’s just a blog.

4) If there is an RSS feed, you can use that to read the blog in a blog reader like NewsBlur. This is a great way to remember to keep up on that particular blog.

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Casual Writing on Twitter

Twitter has come out of nowhere to be it’s own little miniblogging/social networking service. Some people love Twitter, some people hate it, some people can’t figure it out. It seems to get a mix of reactions from people.

If you aren’t already on it though, I would recommend hopping on just to try it out. Practicing with Twitter might suit some people amazingly well, while others might be shaking their heads in frustration. You never know until you try right?

I personally have an off and on love affair with the service. Sometimes I get on and do a lot of posting and really get into it. Other times I’m simply too busy to keep up. The advantage of Twitter though is that your friends generally don’t seem to notice if you’ve been gone for awhile since the service is so ephemeral to begin with.

Twitter has exploded in the States of course, but it wasn’t until somewhat recently (2010) that it really started to take off in Japan. And like everything else about Japan, Japan has it’s own quirky way of using the service.

Twitter Tips

First off, people don’t usually use a clear picture of themselves unless they are famous celebrities. This is because privacy is highly valued in Japan. This is of course starting to change, but you’ll see a lot of people on Twitter with manga characters for their avatars or have a picture of the back of their head looking at something. This is perfectly normal in Japan.

Second, one big misconception of Twitter is that it is all about you posting updates about yourself. This is true to some extent, but the real power of Twitter comes from interacting with other folks that share similar interests. Keep in mind when you write that you want to start or continue a conversation not just throw random bits of information out for no reason.

So for example, if it’s hot out, you probably shouldn’t say something like 暑いですね because there isn’t a whole a lot a person can do to respond to that. Try to rephrase it into something that might get some interaction like 暑いときは冷やすために何をする?(What do you do to cool down when it’s hot?). This is more likely to get a response and thus allow you to have more interaction/practice/fun on Twitter.

Third, I would recommend having an account that is only for Japanese. Don’t try to blend English/Japanese. If you pretend to be Japanese and other people don’t know your native language, they will most likely only use Japanese with you, even if you can’t understand one bit. This is great, real-world, get-your-fingers-dirty practice.

The other reason for this is you don’t want to anger your English-only speaking friends or Japanese-only speaking friends when you post an update in either language and they can’t understand it. I always find it a bit annoying when I go to follow someone on Twitter and think they are English or Japanese speaking and find out that they speak Russian 80% of the time instead. This usually results in me dropping them.

Unfortunately the trick of posting bilingually doesn’t work on Twitter as well as it does on Facebook due to the 140 character limitation, so it is best to just stick to one language and leave it at that.

As anyone who follows my Twitter account knows, I’m an on and off Twitter-er. I used to tweet all the time, I was almost addicted to it, but I’ve been too busy of late to do a lot of tweeting. But don’t let my experience discourage you from at least trying it out. Give it a few weeks and a few tweets and see what happens.

Steps:
1) Setup a Twitter account if you haven’t already. And go to Twitter search at https://search.twitter.com

2) Search for a topic that is of interest to you. It could be anything from hiking to skiing. Type the search term in Japanese.

3) Reply to one of the messages that catches your eye in the search stream and follow that person. Asking any kind of question is a good way to get a response and a follow back (where the person will see your updates)

4) Some people won’t follow back or reply, but that’s okay, you still got your practice in. Again, Japan is a lot more privacy-oriented than other countries, so some people won’t follow/respond to people they don’t know.

5) You can also visit sites like https://twitter.grader.com to see the most popular people in your area if you are in Japan. Or if you are outside of Japan you can check your favorite city and see who is the most popular and follow them.

Again, remember to at least introduce yourself or ask them a question so you can get some interaction out of them. Don’t be a dead fish, you really don’t have anything to lose by trying out your Japanese and seeing where it takes you.

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Studying an Exercise Book

Exercise books are great tools that can help you study specifically for the test. I’m not talking about Minna No Nihongo, Genki, or Japanese for Busy People. Those are all great books that can be used for studying Japanese in general, but to prepare for the test specifically, you might want to pick up an exercise book full of JLPT-like questions.

These come in many shapes and sizes. From all in one exercise books to ones that are specific to just one skill and level. They are meant to help you prepare for how the questions will be asked on the test. It’s one thing to know the grammar, but it is a little different to be able to answer specific questions about it.

Some of the more popular exercise books that you might have heard of are the So-Matome, the New Kanzen Master, and the Nihongo 500 series of books. These books all have their different subtleties to them, but no matter what book you choose, this study strategy will help you get the most out of them.

For this exercise you’ll probably want to use a pencil instead of a pen to answer the questions. Or you can also write your answers on a separate piece of paper, which is what I tend to do. This is so you can go back and re-do the questions in the future.

When I first started studying for the test, I always thought I would never go back and answer the practice questions again. “I’ll already know the answers so what is the use?” I thought to myself. But, I was dead wrong. Usually after about 2 months or so, you’ll forget most of the test questions (if you don’t review them). This is a great time to go back to the questions and do them again to check your progress. You’ll be amazed at how much your score can change for good or bad.

If you are concerned about pencil marks messing with your mojo, you can always use a different symbol to mark your answer choices the second time around. What I sometimes do is use a circle the first round, then circle all the other answers when I’m finished checking my results. Then, the second round I’ll use a triangle to mark the answers. Third round, a square… You get the idea.

I usually work on an exercise book once a day. Anything more than that can get a bit dull. You also might start getting test-only Japanese syndrome where the only way you can use Japanese is if it is presented to you in test form, not a good thing.

If you are looking for recommendations for good books, I periodically review books on the blog. I also always recommending picking up books at White Rabbit Press, they are usually the most affordable for worldwide shipping and have a nice clean site.

Steps:

1) Pick out an exercise book that focuses on your weaknesses for the JLPT. I wrote up a short guide to help you with choosing a good exercise book in the appendix.

2) Choose a section to do of the exercise book. Try to make it short, something you can do in about 15 minutes. The So-Matome series have days built into them, you can use these as natural dividers.

3) Try to complete the section in about 15 minutes, you can time yourself if you want to, but it’s not necessary. The reason for having a time restraint is to help keep you focused for those 15 minutes; it is also great practice for the test. If you feel you can get it done faster than 15 minutes don’t be afraid to reduce the time and challenge yourself a bit.

4) After you are done, check your answers. If you are studying a grammar, vocabulary or kanji book put a big red circle at the head of the section that introduced the points you got wrong. For example if you got a question wrong about わけだ, go back to where this point was explained and circle it.

You don’t want to answer any of the questions with pen however, because you might want to go through these exercise questions again in the future.

The reason for the red circles is so, in the last month before the test, when your study time is all the more precious, you can skim through your exercise books looking for red pen and study just what you were having trouble with and not everything. You can perform a bit of study triage, if you will.

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Test Taking

Taking the JLPT is much like a sporting event. Like an athlete, you must train doing different kinds of drills that focus on different language skills. For example, a football player might go for a run for a half an hour every day to increase his speed. Someone studying for the JLPT might go through flashcards for half an hour a day to improve his vocabulary. These activities both focus on one skill of the athlete or learner. They are the most efficient way to improve that one skill, but on game day you have to use all those skills together in order to be successful.

That’s why athletes have scrimmage games before league games. These scrimmages are meant to get the players ready for the challenges they will face in a real league game. The same is true for those preparing for the JLPT. You should play a scrimmage before the real test otherwise it’ll be difficult for you to know what to expect. You’ll also be able to learn how to use different strategies and what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as be able to get a feel for time management.

The point of taking a practice or mock test is to treat it like the real test as much as possible. This will help you to calm your nerves for the real test and give you a realistic picture of what you need to work on. Treating it like the real deal gets your mind primed and ready for the big day.

Taking a mock or practice test is also one of the only times where you’ll see the exact questions you got wrong and right. This is invaluable feedback on what your strengths and weaknesses are. You unfortunately don’t have this opportunity when you take the real test because they no longer release past tests as of 2010.

I usually take a practice test about 4 months before the exam. That way I can refocus my study efforts if I need to and have some time to maneuver. I take another practice exam (they usually come in packs of 2) the week before the real exam at the same time as the real exam is going to be. I guess this doesn’t have to be so exact, but the idea is to calm your nerves and get a feeling for what the test will be like the next week.

One side note about choosing exams. There are past exams available on the ‘net that, shall we say, ‘fell off a truck’. These past tests should be eyed with a bit of caution. They tend to have mistakes, incorrect answers, bad listening quality or listening that cuts off in the middle. Do yourself a favor and spend a few bucks to get the official copies of the past test and save yourself some hassle.

Mock Tests are available at White Rabbit Press:

N5

N4

N3

N2

N1

Mock Tests

N5 Mock Test

N4 Mock Test

1 2

1 2 1 2
Past Tests

(pre-2010)

2009(incl. N4) 2009(incl. N5) N/A 2009-1 No longer available

 

*For the 2009 past tests N5 and N4 were sold together and so were N2 and N1.

And I’ve made most of the official JEES practice tests available at my website (for free):

N5 N4 N3 N2 and N1

The blog posts contain some information on what the differences are between the old tests and the new tests as well as some notes and Anki drill cards.

Steps:

1) You want to follow the times for the different sections exactly. Make sure you set your timer to the exact time and don’t look at the test booklet until you hit the start button.

Continue through the whole test without stopping the timer, looking up any words in your dictionary or peeking at the answers. You’ll be able to check the answers soon enough when you are finished. This includes also staying in your seat. In the real test, you will not be given the opportunity to get up and stretch so you’ll have to make do with what you can do while sitting down.

This may seem a bit over the top, but it’s best to try to simulate the testing environment as much as possible, especially if you are not a good test taker.

2) After you have finished the test, check your answers and see how you did.

3) Generally speaking if you scored less than 80% on a particular section, you should consider that a weakness to improve. If that means you are weak in all areas, then use the 50% rule to help prioritize what you need to improve.

4) Be sure to go over the questions one by one with a native speaker if you can. If you can’t, try your best to figure out the answer to the question on your own. If you are simply stumped, you can go get some help online.

5) After you’ve checked and asked about all your incorrect answers. Go back over the test and analyze what type of questions you got wrong. For any grammar points you missed, go to that page in your grammar textbook and circle the grammar point with a red pin. You can then review these points in your final month before the test.

Spend a little time critically thinking about why you got the question wrong? Did you not understand the vocabulary or grammar? Did you misread a question or section of the passage? Did you mishear something in the listening? The answers to these questions will help you focus your efforts on your weaknesses and form a Test Taking Strategy.

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Note Taking

During the listening section of the test, you’ll be listening to some sections of dialog and then asked some questions about them. One of the biggest problems people have with this section is listening, staying focused and getting all the details.

This is especially difficult in N3 and above. At those levels the final section of the listening involves listening to a dialog, which is usually quite long somewhere around a minute and a half, and then answering questions about it. The questions for this section are not printed in your question booklet and you do not hear them before the dialog starts.

In other words, you are given a long dialog usually with 3 speakers where you’ll have to take good notes because you’ll be asked about the details afterwords. This is difficult on a lot of different levels. First, you have to focus and take decent notes. The whole time you are doing this, you have to analyze the listening for what are the most important points that the question might ask about. And to top it off you are doing this all at the very end of the listening section when you are probably the most tired.

These questions may seem a bit unfair, but you can imagine this exact same scenario in real life. For example, you attend a meeting that a co-worker wasn’t able to make it to and that co-worker asks you some questions about what went on in the meeting. So, although it is incredibly difficult, it will come in handy in real life.

Just as with most of these other mentally demanding activities I would recommend only doing this 1 or 2 times a week or even 2 or 3 times a month if you don’t have much of a problem with listening.

I occasionally do this in the morning before I head off to work. You can sometimes squeeze it in if you have a few free minutes to spare. What is really good for this is a JapanesePod101 Premium Subscription. With the premium subscription, they separate the dialog out for you so you can listen to just the conversation and take notes on that.

Steps:

1) Play the listening material.

2) While the CD is playing, think about the following details: What is the relationship of the people in the conversation, are they mother and daughter? Husband and wife? Boss and employees? What are they doing now? What are they (probably) doing next? How do they feel? Happy? Sad? Where are they? Are they at work? At home?

Write all of these details down as fast as you can while still listening. It’s okay (and advisable) to take notes in romaji or whatever you can write fast. For an extra challenge of course, you can take notes in kana or even kanji if you wish, whatever is easiest for you. The point of this exercise is not to make good notes in Japanese though.

Remember it is important to think about context. On the test, there will be little context (usually just a short sentence about the relationship of the two or three speakers), you’ll only be listening to a recording without any images to tell you where they are or give you clues to what is going on in the dialog. You’ll have to imagine it all yourself.

3) After you’ve finished listening, check your notes against the listening script. Be sure to look up any words you don’t know. Were you correct? If you had some problems with listening, check out these listening tips for help on what to improve.

4) Listen to the CD one more time and try to listen for what you missed.

5) Don’t forget to add any new words you didn’t recognize to your flashcard system. Also if you do know the word, but didn’t recognize a particular conjugation of the word make note of the grammar structure. You might want to listen to the CD one more time and listen carefully for the missed conjugation. This will help build the link in your head.

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Essay Writing

Okay, so you are probably asking yourself right about now, What?!?! I have to write an essay for the test? Well, no you don’t have to write an essay, but being able to write one and use the proper connectors is incredibly important because you will be reading essays on the test that you’ll have to answer a few comprehension questions about.

Also, the third grammar section of most of the tests has a text that you must fill in the appropriate grammatical item. Being confident of what item goes where will really help you to answer these questions quickly and smoothly.

It will probably be a bit daunting at first to write an essay in Japanese. Remember to start small and write longer and longer essays as you get more and more confident with your writing skills. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes either, that’s how you learn.

If you want to get really into it, you could even start up a blog with your essays. It’s great to be able to share your ideas and thoughts with others and who knows, you might get some comments and be able to practice your Japanese with some native speakers.

Again, like comprehension reading, I wouldn’t recommend this as an every day activity, but it might be useful to do this a couple of times a week or a couple of times a month.

How I usually practice this is I try to summarize a TED talk that I watched. These talks are usually about academic topics and are generally pretty interesting. I’ll try my best explaining the talk to my wife and work out the details with her, then put pen to paper.

Steps:

1) In order to write an essay, you’ll need to have a topic first. This can be a little tricky the first couple of times. Think about something you can react to, like a news story, a movie, a book, or even something that happened to you.

Another thing you can do to get some ideas is to find some random images and try to form a story from them. For example, you could visit Flickr.com, they have the most interesting images from the last 7 days you can look at for ideas. Or if you are really in the mood for something nutty, you can try out random plot lines to write stories from.

2) Once you have an idea to write about it’s time to start writing. The easiest place to do this is on a computer. You might want to try that the first couple of times before writing on paper just to get started. A computer will help you by giving you the appropriate kanji so that you don’t have to worry about that.

3) Keep a grammar textbook nearby to peek at every once in awhile to see if you can add anything to your writing from it. You don’t want to try to force the language too much. Don’t worry about making mistakes either.

4) Don’t be afraid to try out a FEW new words. Don’t jam the essay full of everything you possibly can. If you DO add a few words (that are new to you), be sure to add them to your flashcard system.

5) After you are done writing the essay, either submit it to a website like lang-8.com for review or have a native speaker look it over and proofread it.

6) For an extra challenge have your native speaker friend point out WHERE the mistake is, but not WHAT the mistake is. Then, try to correct it yourself.

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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.

Steps:
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.

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