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Study for the JLPT
Manga-assisted Japanese Study
N2: Reading - How to improve? 
11th-Sep-2010 09:39 pm
animate monkey: shy

I'm currently preparing for N2 in December.
Actually I wanted to take it in July, but I missed/forgot the application deadline! *headdesk' (x_x)
I did a mock test back in September 2009 (so 1 year ago) and passed it with 76%.
As grammar was my weakest section back then I focused on that this year (but I was very busy and didn't do much studying until now ...).

Anyways, I'm working on my reading skills for the test right now and somehow it's getting frustrating.
I use the Kanzen Master book for reading (2kyuu).
I did the placement test first as they suggest and got a mere 57% with 論説文 being the weakest (16%).
The book suggests that you concentrate on the text types you were weak at, but with my 57% I feel that I should do all of them and started with the short sentences.
Again, I get like 50-60% correct. Very frustrating.
Another thing is the time management!!! I've never enough time!!!
I'm very strict, even with the short text parts when they give you 3-5 min. in the book, I just stop and take whatever answer I think could be right when the time is over.
Maybe I shouldn't do that now and rather get used to the text styles etc.???

I know people often suggest "just read a lot", but that alone won't help!
I think you have to especially prepare for the test format (and time management).

Also, I've never ever actually prepared the kanji or vocab section for N2.
My kanji ability has been on N1 level for a long time - generally. I know kanji beyond that, but there might be a few kanji compounds that show up in the test that I've never seen before as I haven't prepared for the test specifically.
Same with vocab - just that my vocab might not be N2 level - no idea. Anybody knows how I quickly can test if my knowledge is good enough or how to fill in possible holes - other than taking mock tests that is.

Who else is taking N2 this year?

Thanks a lot in advance! I'm really thankful for any kind of suggestion!
11th-Sep-2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
If you're not scoring well on the reading section even though you can read and understand the kanji then it must be the sentence structure and overall meaning you don't understand. How are you studying grammar? I'd recommend focusing more on grammar.
12th-Sep-2010 01:36 am (UTC)
I think that might be it. It's hard for me to figure out what exactly the problem is, but I'll try. I will go through the test texts one more time and try to figure out why I did answer them incorrectly.
I studied grammar (at least the intermediate one) mainly using the Kanzen 2kyuu book. I put the sentences into a learning program (works as flashcards just on the computer) and then I read the sentence, trying to figure out the grammar point, it's meaning and why it's used in that case.

Thank you very much for your comment :)
11th-Sep-2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
It's important to look at not only what questions you missed but why you missed them.

If you are simply running out of time, and therefore haven't finished reading the passage before getting to the questions, it may help you to work the problems in reverse. That is, read the questions first, then just skim the passage to get the answers you need, rather than reading through the entire passage.

If you are finishing the passage in time, but you are not understanding what you read, then it is probably a matter of vocabulary. You say that you are good with vocabulary, so that isn't likely to be your problem.

If you read through the passage and understand it, but you are still getting the answers wrong, then I agree it may be a grammar issue. Examine which questions you answer incorrectly and ask yourself why you chose the wrong answer. Compare the answer that you chose with the right answer and ask yourself what makes the two different. Why is one a better answer than the other? What makes the right answer correct? That should help you strengthen your weak areas.
12th-Sep-2010 01:39 am (UTC)
I'll try to go back to those tests and figure out why I answered them incorrectly :/

The thing is, some questions ask you something like "what is the author talking about" or "what is the whole article about", so I have the feeling that if I only read a few sentences, but not the whole thing, I won't be able to answer these kind of questions?! :/

I'll try to figure that out, thanks a lot :)
11th-Sep-2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
For the reading sections I usually do it this way: Read the questions first and then skip, really only skip through the text and read the sections pertaining to the question carefully. You have to be careful as the questions are sometimes trick question. I rarely read more than one third of the text to get what I need.

I passed lvl 2 a few years back.
12th-Sep-2010 01:41 am (UTC)
I think in order to do that, you're skills must be really good. I don't know, I did it that way (because I remembered you suggesting that a long time ago ^^), but I end up reading the section where I think the answer is written again and again and it costs a lot of time :(

Btw. did you ever try 1kyuu?
13th-Sep-2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
Yup I did, I think 2 years ago? I didn't have time to learn though and only had 55% or such, which wasn't enough. If I had studied for the Kanji and vocabulary section it would have been easy peasy but all I could do was one mock test and that simply wasn't enough. N1 is supposed to be more difficult than 1kyuu was though.
14th-Sep-2010 01:09 am (UTC)
All the tests are more difficult but they balanced it out with the passing percentage. You only need a bit more than 50% to pass N1 now :)
Will you try N1 any time soon? :)
14th-Sep-2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
I'd like to, but I can't this year as I have no new learning material or mock test and the deadline is already over. Next chance will be more than a year from now as it's still only once a year here in Europe as far as I'm aware.
11th-Sep-2010 05:21 pm (UTC)
Keep in mind that the practice tests in books (esp Kanzen Master) are typically way harder than the actual tests (that helps train you better so the real test feels easier). You might find it helpful to take a mock test again, to measure how well you would do on the real thing.

My big issue with reading has always been time. If I have time to read the passages properly, I can almost always get the answer right, but I always run out of time. I have tried using the trick of reading the questions first and skimming for the answer (which is a good tip), but I find I don't skim well, so it often doesn't work for me. My strategy for passing 2kyuu and 1kyuu (passed 1kyuu last year) was to pick and choose which passages to tackle first; I usually did the longer ones b/c they had more questions. I would often do the chart/diagram short passage before the others, because that question is usually easier to skim for an answer. Then I would just blind guess on the short passages I didn't have time to finish. It worked, なんとなく, since I passed.

(I also got really good at the grammar section, which is very artificial, and could race through that before doing the reading and get almost 100%, so that helped.)

Long-term, the only way to build pure speed in reading is to read a lot, but in the meantime, developing specific coping strategies can help.

Note that the test is now changing so that kanji/vocab will be combined with reading/grammar into one big section, and that you will have to pass both sections (kanji/vocab/reading/grammar AND listening) to pass. The format of the questions has changed as well, from what I gather. I haven't used too many prep materials for the new N2/1.

I am debating whether to try to retake N1, because I invariably fail the listening section. Now I'm wondering if perhaps I should try for N2, since it should be a bit easier for me & I'll have a chance to check out the new format. Anyway, good luck!

Edited at 2010-09-11 05:21 pm (UTC)
12th-Sep-2010 01:48 am (UTC)
Yeah, I heard about that, but I wanna be able to solve those, too. I intend to take N1 in July, so if even the N2 problems are too difficult for me (even the ones in the book), then I fear it's still too early for me.

That strategy sounds good, actually! I think most people (including me) have to use "tricks" like that in the end.
Congrats on passing 1kyuu btw.! ;o; Great!!! :D

I heard the changes are not TOO big, though.
But isn't that good? I mean as long as my kanji/vocab/grammar in section 1 is good enough, then it shouldn't be too bad if the last part (reading) in section 1 sucked?! Sorry, I still have no idea about how they'll grade all the sections. It's so confusing with all the changes (x_X)

Thank you^^
I wish you good luck with whatever you decide to do :D
12th-Sep-2010 01:20 am (UTC)
I actually took like 5-6 sample tests before the JLPT last winter. I don't know if that many would be available to you now, but I found the most recent tests on some Chinese site and used them. I sat down on a Saturday, started at the same time the test would start, and did the test in the same way I would if I were actually taking the test.

My first sample test ended up getting like a 59%, my highest was about a 75% (right before the real test), and I scored a 70% even on the real test date. I passed all sections (I forget the breakdown of each score), but I really think what helped me pass was the strict mock test atmosphere. I was awful at reading (and still am), and I also was pretty bummed when the kanzen master book more or less told me I sucked at everything.

Other than that, I did the kanzen master series reading (hated it--it has always been my weakest subject because of time restraints--but it was useful), read a little bit on my own (窓際のトットちゃん and Harry Potter at that time IIRC), listened to Japanese news, and I made grammar flashcards. (If you're interested, the people over at reviewingthekanji have 2kyu grammar cards that helped me a LOT).

The reading on the real test was a lot easier than what the master series gave, but you really need to follow the suggested time management stuff. If it says to spend 6 minutes on a reading, spend that much time and then move on. If you come across a section that's easier for you, you can always go back, but if you kill your brain on a difficult passage and then don't have time to finish one you may have found easier... Well, you can't do much about that. (Though for the kanzen master book, I wasn't quite as strict with that until the tests at the end... When I did the real sample tests I found online, I followed the suggested time restraints so I would get used to it for the real test.)

Other than that... Vocab flashcards might be the way to go. I downloaded an app for my iphone that had 2kyu suggested vocab, and I went through a couple thousand of the words about a month before the test. My fiance did the same, and we both noticed that a lot of the words did show up in the readings. I don't know if it would make or break the entire score, but I'm pretty sure they helped me with more than a few questions.

Good luck finding a way that works for you. Everyone is going to have a different study method, but hopefully someone helps you find something that works. Good luck on the test!
12th-Sep-2010 01:52 am (UTC)
Wow, that sounds interesting! I guess I'm going to try that, too, as I've never taken the test before that might help me a lot ^^

I'm a member of reviewing the kanji and I've gone through the spreadsheet of 2kyuu kanzen master in Anki a long time ago :) It was really helpful ^^

Do they give you time suggestions in the REAL test as well? O_O;

Can you remember the name of the app? I have an ipod touch and would love to try it :D

Thanks so much for your comment!!!! ^-^
13th-Sep-2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
For the N2 reading section, spend no more than 15 minutes on the grammar section, then go straight to the reading section (presuming N2 reading/grammar is 90 minutes, same as JLPT2).

Always read the questions first.

For practice, I suggest reading a Japanese newspaper everyday, or at least an article from a Japanese newspaper. If you have trouble reading it fast, practice reading fast while still trying to pick things up. Re-read the article later to make sure you got all the main points.

Sure you need vocab and grammar down pat, but keep reading and that speed will come to you.
14th-Sep-2010 01:11 am (UTC)
Woah. I guess I really should do some more mock tests, so that I get a feeling for the right time management (x__X)

Thanks a lot for your suggestions :)
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