Well, today was the big test. The one I traveled 3,940 miles and paid a few thousand dollars for. I honestly don’t think I did any better than I did when I took it in December.
So very frustrating.
I know my Japanese is better. I know I can speak better, and listen better, and even read better. But that test is like a game show designed to prove to contestants that “You don’t know Jack about Japanese.”
At least that’s what it felt like.
Oh, but before that, there was needless lining up outside, and waiting while each person’s ID was checked before we could even enter the building.
Then we were sent on to the appropriate testing room.
Why not just open up the building and check IDs in the rooms? I thought Americans were paranoid. They have nothing on our British cousins.
So of course the test started late. The line outside the building was huge, and moved really slowly, and as a result, people were panicked when they finally got to the room, through no fault of their own.
As for the test itself, it was awful.
The JLPT is a bad test to begin with, and now they’ve just gone and made it worse.
The grammar and reading section is horrible. You get 105 minutes, which is never enough, to do 55 grammar problems which start from easy and rapidly go to “Huh?”
Then with whatever time is left, you have to finish 20 reading questions, which is almost always impossible, unless you are the Japanese Evelyn Wood, in which case, why are you even bothering with this test? You don’t need this.
I spent a lot of time before the test working on my reading, and I never could get to the speed they want for this thing. I just can’t do it. My reading speed isn’t terrible, it’s just not at the level where I can read an editorial in 3 minutes, then answer 4 questions in another minute.
My Plan to Nail the Reading Section… or at Least Finish It in Time
My strategy was to jump straight to the reading section, and use whatever time was left on the grammar section… sort of. I skipped all of the single-question reading problems, and went straight to the one passage, 3-question problems, to maximize my chances of passing the section.
But I don’t know if it worked.
While I could understand the passages, for some reason, the words just bounced off of my brain and would not compute. And the questions just didn’t not make any sense at all. It was bad. I managed to limp through the section and finish it, but I’m not excited.
I breezed through the grammar section. It didn’t seem as bad as last time, except for the ★ problems, which this time seemed to be particularly nasty. The compound grammar problems were mean as usual. It’s hard to prepare for them, because nobody can put out a good book full of practice problems for some reason.
The compound grammar problems have answers that combine two grammar points in each answer like A&B, A&C, D&B and D&C. Pick one. Go on, hurry up. Time’s a-wastin’!
I’ve spent countless hours in my car and in my house, listening to all kinds of stuff in Japanese, and when it came to the listening section of the exam, they had managed to find two fast-talkers to play the game of “Hide the Football.”
Here’s how it works. Get the guy who always reads the fine print at the end of a radio commercial, then get the lady who also does it. Now get them to have a conversation about what they’re going to do about something. Something really vague. Now have them dither about what they’re going to do first. Are they going to walk the dog? Water the plants? Feed the bird? Or set the house on fire? Hmm… what should we do… Hey, let’s go eat pasta, then feed the bird to the dog, and set the house plants on fire! Wait, that’s not an answer, dammit!
Now give us, the test taker, about 15 seconds to figure out what one of them is going to do next. Hurry up! No, you can’t hear it again, even if in reality, when you can’t catch what someone just said, you simply ask them to repeat it, but not in JLPT-land. Nope.
Words may only be uttered once in JLPT-land! You may not ask someone to repeat what they just said, even if it’s common sense to do so, and happens a number of times every day!
For the most part, the listening section was easy… or so I think. But the way the test is designed, I’m almost positive that I didn’t score as highly as I think I did. There are 5 “problems,” each with a number of questions attached.
The hide the football questions make up one problem. Another problem is the “rapid response” section, where in 11 questions, you’ll hear someone say something, then you get 3 choices. Quick, pick the best one! You only hear them once, so hurry up!
The last problem is usually a massively long question, and it usually turns on something you hear briefly in the very beginning, and if you miss it, you are royally screwed, because it all hinges on that first bit. Might as well just fill in 4 random dots.
There’s a set up of some sort of system, like “The pet shop has 4 dogs for sale: one is big and hairy, one smells, one is little and shakes, and one sleeps all day.” Then two people will talk about how much they love coffee, and hey, if you got a dog, which one would you get? “I want a pink one.” “Really? I want an orange one.” Now, which of the 4 dogs for sale would person A buy? Which would person B buy?
Something like that.
The added sucky bit is that we don’t get results until mid-September, which is really too late to do anything about the December test, unless I take it somewhere not in the U.S., because of the time it will take for the results to get to me from the UK…
I’ll think of something. Who knows? Maybe I passed… yeah, I’m not going to go there.
I have to seriously think about my study approach. My environment is only carrying me so far, it seems, regardless of the stupidity of the test, if I was better at the language, I wouldn’t be kvetching about it.