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:
|Mock Tests||1 2||1 2|
|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):
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.
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.