When you take JLPT for the first time you will be amazed at how quickly time rans out. To some it always seemed like they had barely started the reading section of the test before the one-minute warning came up. As you progress further into your Japanese study, exam technique is actually as important as learning the grammar and vocabulary points.

Where most people get it wrong is that they become too used to taking time answering questions. Almost anyone can find the correct answer to a question when given unlimited minutes and hints from the teacher, but being able to do it in the limited duration given for the test is another thing.

So, it’s important to learn the correct timings, then get out a stopwatch and time yourself with these strict time limits as part of your practice for the JLPT.

Here are some tips for acing any level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

1. Plan your time well

Let’s use this example:

  • Sections 1, 2 & 3: three minutes

  • Section 4: two minutes

  • Section 5: one minute

  • Section 6: five minutes

  • Section 7: six minutes

  • Section 8: five minutes

  • Section 9: 10 minutes

  • Section 10: three minutes for each exercise, 15 minutes total

  • Section 11: seven minutes for each exercise, 21 minutes total

  • Section 12: 10 minutes

  • Section 13: 10 minutes

  • Section 14: five minutes

  • The remaining time to be used for a quick review

As you can see, this is a pretty strict time schedule to keep

During the actual exam, following these intense time limits, you run the risk of feeling the stress of the test and that can cause fatigue to set in. You need to develop an extra technique of training your brain like you would train any other muscle. I mean that you need to train for endurance as well as for power. You may be able to answer questions in a short period of time, but can you maintain that effort for almost two hours without mental fatigue? Make sure that you train to be able to answer questions quickly and to endure at least an hour of answering similar questions without flagging and this can only be achieved through Practice, practice, practice.

2. Know your strengths

Know where you excel be it vocabulary or writing and try to race through these parts first and make sure that you get the points then head onto the harder parts.

3. Study unusual forms

Although it may sound somewhat counterintuitive, make sure that you focus more on the obscure Japanese words as you progress up the levels. Look for unusual uses, readings, and verbs of kanji, look for those easily confused words and weird rules about a grammar point.

4. Expect the unexpected

Learn to expect terrible opinions. As you move up the levels, the chances of the opinion being a standard opinion become less and less. Expect people to change their minds in the middle of sentences or say the exact opposite of what most normal people think. Luckily for test takers, the examiners will often throw in little sentence markers to mark these sudden changes with things like:

  • すなわち = that is to say…

  • はっきり言(い)えば = to say that more clearly…

  • ちなみに = incidentally…

  • ようするに = in brief…

5. Differentiate spoken and written Japanese

As a final bit of advice, remember that it’s important to pay attention to the differences between spoken and written Japanese. Spoken Japanese will employ a lot of useful forms to say things, such as:

  • もん often replacing もの

  • しなきゃよかった replacing しなければよかった (I shouldn’t have done it)

  • 食(た)べちゃった and 食(た)べてしまった (I ate)

  • 置(お)いとく replacing 置(お)いておく (to place something somewhere)

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Esther Waliaula