yesterday i took the JLPT (N2 level). my advice:
• study so that you could clearly pass N1 if you’re taking N2. in particular, make sure you can understand formal nonfiction (newspaper articles, modern-history texts, business-anything) in both spoken and written form EASILY. you want to be at the point where you can VERY EASILY read all kinds of NONFICTION, adult books in japanese. you should use an app like “mazii dict” (dictionary where you can easily read news blurbs inside it) or “mondo” (purely intended for reading news) to read some news articles every day.
• instead of (panicking and) re-reading the long reading pieces, read and answer each question SLOWLY. once slowly saves time and comprehension, versus thrice fast.
• work on memorization techniques for when listening to conversations. just youtube “memory champion” etc and you’ll see what i mean. you can reread text, you can’t replay audio.
• if watching anime to learn, i’d say watch it once with japanese subs (looking everything up) and then once without subs. i didn’t realize how much i was still relying on subs for comprehension of high-level stuff until the long listening came. (vlogs, “let’s learn japanese grammar!” and other everyday stuff i’m understanding just fine without subs).
• it’s very important to remember, on the JLPT there’s basically NO CONTEXT for anything. obviously this makes things a lot harder than normal reading/listening.
by the time i took it, i’d studied all the N2 and half the N1 grammar on this site:
all the N2 and some hundreds of the N1 vocabulary/kanji on this site:
i had had 3 months to prepare (i didn’t know the JLPT was even held in Sweden before then). i had just finished my 3rd semester of Japanese in uni, finished the “Tobira” textbook, watched (Japanese dub, Japanese subs on animelon) around 30 eps of Hunter x Hunter, 24 of Parasyte, 10 of Chobits & Baccano, 8 of Shiki and a few random episodes from random series. from time to time i watched random vlogs/instructional videos on youtube, bits of movies and dramas, played videogames and listened to radio. no attempts to watch the news or documentaries.
i’d read maybe 15 short stories for adults, 2 for kids, 10-15 manga volumes (gegege, rantarou, doraemon, maruko-chan, inuyasha, hunter x hunter, parasyte, stuff by harada, doujinshi and other things chosen completely at random), visited a Japanese chatroom (for an MMO) every day and regularly glanced at various kinds of tweets (political, shop announcements, anime publication announcements, everyday chatting). i had made no real attempts to read newspapers or japanese websites (i did read some but it was like five times throughout those 3 months of study).
i took quite a few mock JLPT tests via apps and passed them all, also passed the official practice test on the JLPT website, with around 50% in all categories except vocabulary / kanji which was 70%+.
the test is broken into sections: 1. single-word reading, 2. single-sentence reading, 3. paragraph reading, 4. page reading, 5. single-sentence audio, 6. paragraph-audio, 7. page-worth of audio, and there was one “chart/poster-reading” question (“can you read the fine details about ex. opening hours”).
within those, there was only around 3 questions to do with keigo/polite language (1 of these was so basic it was laughable, geared towards people who’ve never seen something like “お 願い します”), 15 or so with casual language (mostly audio ones - and still not as casual as the manga i read), 0 with dialects or kid-speech etc, 2 to do with telling apart synonyms or verb pairs (開く vs 開ける etc), 1 to do with conjugation (stuff like “can you say 欲しましてです or not”), maybe 5 to do with choosing the right particle or kanji. the whole test was really entirely dependant upon you knowing TONS AND TONS of vocabulary.
0 things to do with fiction-like situations. the whole test was very much focused on “you are an adult living in japan as a businessperson, only hearing standard ます and maybe literary である, readings business Emails, signing up for apartments etc”. even the casual-language audio questions were like, you’re listening to Keiko’s life problems or someone’s asking about the due-date for a project at work. DEAD BORING, not what they teach in my class and not what i’m personally seeing/hearing when i use japanese.
as for my test experience:
i’m almost blind so i had “special testing conditions”, meaning i was in a separate room from everyone else, i got enlarged paper, i got to write my answers directly on the test paper instead of filling in circles, and i could use a magnifying glass. first off, the enlarged paper was HUGE, it was the size of a newspaper and its height covered almost the whole height of the desk, so i couldn’t actually read the text at the top of the page without folding/bending the test booklet (which made noise). i had to constantly move not only the paper but also myself for every question in order to read.
my eyes died 1/3rd of the way through and so suddenly i felt like i couldn’t even read the QUESTIONS anymore, let alone the long reading sections, nor could i focus on the audio when it came time for that. there were tons of words i didn’t know, even in the questions, and they were usually key words (like the whole reading is about “x” and i don’t know what that x is) which made me lose focus really fast once it came to the long reading/audio. if i actually knew all the words my focus snapped right back, but those times were rare.
during the audio part, the “memo” section was actually useless - theoretically you could jot down notes but if you’re writing then you’re not concentrating on the listening / you can’t hear the listening as well over your pencil scratching. the audio was at a normal speed for native speakers, as far as i remember, which surprized me because a lot of the practice audio seemed slower. i got pretty panicked when it came time for the long questions where they only said what they were looking for AFTERWARDS, because by that time i couldn’t remember anything from the dialogues and there’s not exactly enough time to sit and reflect on all the bits you do remember.
there were 2 parts in the listening section where instead of having answers to choose from (“pick 1-4”) written in the test booklet like normal, no numbers were listed and i had to write “1. 3; 2. 1” etc as “question 1, answer 3…” directly onto the paper. i assume this was fine for those of you who are filling in bubbles on the answer sheet, but i had NO IDEA how many questions were part of this category and thus no idea when to move on to the next question that actually had answers written, and for all those questions i kept panicking because of it. like, is “#4” actually “question 4”? no, no it wasn’t. remember, i couldn’t read the text at the top of the page when i was writing in the middle of the page either so i couldn’t just glance up and read the instructions again.
so i got pretty panicked and pre-occupied and spaced out for various reasons. also since i was taking it in a university building, i could hear the muffled audio from the other rooms when i was taking mine and it was pretty distracting. if they had made my audio any louder to drown it out, it would’ve hurt my ears.
i felt that basically all the vocabulary i had studied was useless. thanks to anime and games i had even been learning random extra high-level words like “heart attack”, “epidemic”, “unqualified”, lots of random keigo etc. and out of all those the only thing that actually was useful was the word “robbed” and still there were tons of words i didn’t know. this felt pretty unfair, especially considering during the break time i picked up japanese linguistics research paper (one of the university teachers had written it) and read a little, and there felt like hardly any words i didn’t know.
i felt like i had nowhere near enough preparation in listening and vocabulary, and i vastly overestimated my ability to read on PAPER for long amounts of time (since oh, around 10 years ago, i’ve basically only ever been reading digitally).
on top of all that, i had slept horribly the few days before the test (ate something bad, and travelled to the test-town the day before and slept at a relative’s place - i always sleep badly at other people’s houses) but i’m not sure a full night’s rest would’ve really helped me much anyway.
EDIT: i took the test July 2nd, the results came online August 23rd. See a later post for the results.