Japanese Proficiency Test Level 2 Practice: Essential Study Tips

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The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (the JLPT, or the Nihongo Noryoku Shiken) is still the most widely-recognized marker of non-native Japanese language competence throughout both Japan and the world. Since the reformat of 2010, during which the original 4 levels became 5 (5 being the least advanced level, 1 being the most advanced level), the degree to which the JLPT N2 has changed has been a matter of some debate. Some say that compared to other levels, JLPT N2 in particular has undergone less change; in other words, aside from the altered format, it is essentially the same test as before in terms of content and difficulty level. However, others point out that the JLPT N1 test is now more difficult than previously, and that some of the material from the old N1 test has actually been shifted into N2. This means that both N2 and N1 are likely more demanding than ever before!  Whatever the case, the JLPT N2 practice tips below aim to help you succeed. 

#1 Take Japanese Classes 

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Whether for budgetary or other reasons, many people choose to “go it alone” when studying for an exam. They buy their own books and practice in various cafes when they have time, cramming their language study into the moments between that next friendly get-together and their part-time job. There’s no telling how much time these people will have to study from one day to the next, no rhyme or reason to their schedule, and more importantly, no feedback. The solution? Take a class!

NILS actually has  two special programs available now. In the course of either one year and a half or two years, you can get all the individual attention you need to become proficient in N2 level Japanese and beyond! During your regularly scheduled courses, not only will you learn about Japanese culture and language; you will also get exclusive feedback from teachers and meet other students who are also aiming to speak, write and live Japanese. Classes are your best chance to manage your time well and ace your tests.

#2: Do JLPT Practice Test! Practice, Practice, Practice!  

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As with anything, practice makes perfect when it comes to tests. Several companies publish JLPT practice test textbooks containing sample questions that mirror the JLPT N2 from previous years, so you can be sure that you are experiencing something close to the actual exam. Take as many of these tests as possible! Start at your own pace, and then begin timing yourself to make things even more authentic. Be careful not to use study booklets drafted before 2010. Many of the questions and concepts remain the same, but the format (Language Knowledge [Vocabulary/Grammar],  Reading & Listening) is very different with vocab and grammar now combined into one.

#3: Develop “Passive Skills” 

Obviously verbal communication in Japanese is a tremendously important (not to mention fun!) skill, one that you will have an opportunity to develop both inside and outside the classroom. That said, if you’re aiming to pass the JLPT N2 or above, you will have to focus on “passive skills” such as reading and listening. The test has no speaking component, and there is also a strong possibility that unlike  Levels 5-3, there is less grammar here because the test assumes sufficient grammatical knowledge at this point. Concentrate on reading and listening!

#4: Read Extensively…but What?

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The JLPT N2 test mandates that you have upper-intermediate command of Japanese on various topics. Manga might help with reading speed at first,  but you will also need to “graduate” to Japanese books (not textbooks, but books for native consumption) if you want to develop sufficient reading prowess. A boring book will only slow your study, so get recommendations from friends and try to read regularly during your off hours, so that by the time the test comes around you will be accustomed to skimming long passages in Japanese. You may also want  to talk to people about the books you are reading in order to check your comprehension along the way—it helps if you and a classmate or friend are  reading the same book concurrently. Putting books on your smartphone or other devices is a clever way to read on the go.

#5: Make Listening a Habit 

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Many people consider the listening portion of the JLPT to be “impossible” to study for, because even with sample questions it is difficult to anticipate what the listening topics will be and the 50-minute section flies by, with each answer repeated only once. But if you are lucky enough to be in Japan when studying for and taking the exam, you will have the best possible opportunity to practice natural listening skills both in the classroom and your daily life. Watching TV, listening to radio programs or podcasts, and simply hearing your Japanese friends speak naturally are just three things you can do to improve your listening. Start early enough, and the test recording will not sound so intimidating—in fact, you might even find it easy on the ears!

#6: Don’t Concentrate on Writing Kanji 

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Our article on common pitfalls of learning kanji covers the fact that you, as a non-native Japanese language learner, will actually encounter few situations where you actually need to write kanji, excluding very basic information such as your address. All versions of the JLPT reflect this reality—there is absolutely no kanji writing required on this test! While writing kanji characters and their radicals many, many times can be helpful in learning to recognize them individually, for the purpose of the test it is more crucial to see them in context as part of sentences or even whole paragraphs. Sometimes you will even have to skip over kanji you don’t know and infer meaning from the rest of the sentence, just as you do in English. To do that  you should read as per the advice above.

#7: Don’t Ignore Any One Part of the Test

 

In the previous 4-level format before 2010, your final JLPT score was calculated as the number of points you earned overall—in other words, if your vocabulary and grammar were excellent but your kanji left something to be desired, you could still pass the test based on the merit of vocab and grammar because they contributed to an overall high score. But in the post-2010 format, you must pass each section of the test satisfactorily before you can pass the overall test! That means that you cannot simply play on your strong areas.

#8: Don’t Worry too Much About the Result

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Passing N2 and N1 is quite an accomplishment. It can be a chance to truly develop some of your Japanese language skillsets, as well as lead to various opportunities in Japanese academics or business that people without it cannot attain. That said, the test is only a test—it does not tell the full story of you, your time in Japan or even your Japanese level itself! While some people who take the test are very fluent in Japanese, just as many simply understand the art of test-taking—they have passed the N1, for example, without being able to hold a basic conversation in Japanese! Conversely, others can have endless conversations during karaoke night and be considered fluent by their friends, without ever having taken a single exam. So before taking the test, consider why you are doing so—and study with that goal in mind, always knowing you can take it again someday.