In early December I took the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) for the first time. After moving to California and taking a few Japanese classes, I often thought about signing up for the test just to see how I would do. But somehow, I always talked myself out of it. I knew that I wasn’t very good at listening comprehension, and grammar was still very challenging for me, so didn’t think I could pass. After a few months of participating in our language exchange, though, I began to reconsider.
Thanks to our weekly meetings, listening started to get a little easier and I was able to break some of the bad grammar habits that had always caused me problems. With the encouragement of my fellow language exchangers, I decided to work through a practice test to find out what level I should attempt. Until 2009 the JLPT was divided into 4 levels, with N4 being the easiest and N1 being the most difficult. People who took the test found that there was a large jump in difficulty between the N3 and the N2 tests so a new level was added to make the increase in difficulty more gradual.
I bought an N4 practice test and with some help, was able to work through it without too much trouble. I still had problems with grammar and listening, but when the deadline to sign up for the JLPT arrived in September, I opted to take the N3 test. Having a firm goal and deadline really changed my study habits. When studying, I used to read parts of several different textbooks, usually only the sections that I found interesting, and never finished most of them. With little more than 2 months to prepare for the test, I made a study plan to work through three study guides cover to cover. Once I got into a routine, it was pretty easy to stick to it. Every day I would study a section of vocabulary, kanji, and grammar. I would memorize vocabulary using the Anki flashcard app and add new words to my deck from that day’s chapters. Finally, I would write a recap of what I learned that day and a few practice sentences before going to bed.
The N3 test is divided into three sections; vocabulary, reading and listening The first section seemed the easiest, although I made a few silly mistakes (I’m pretty sure I read 池 as 湖, among other things). The second and third sections were challenging and I wasn’t sure if I would score high enough on them to pass. You need a total of 95 points out of 180 across all three sections to pass, but you also need to score a minimum of 19 points in each section. This means that if you score really well in the vocabulary and reading sections, but only score 18 out of 60 on the listening section, you fail the entire test.
Test results were announced on the JLPT website on January 26th. I logged in to the site as soon as they were posted but the server went down before I could check my results. After a little while the site came back up and I was able to enter my registration number and passcode to retrieve my score.
Somehow, I passed! Barely! Now it’s time to think about N2…