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.
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.