Recovering from your harrowing JLPT experience

Was it the first time you took it, or your tenth? Are you struggling through N5, or did you face down the terror that is N1? Whatever the case, I take off my hat to you and say, お疲れ様でした!Regardless of whether you’re taking it again this December, now is the perfect chance to reflect on your studies, go over questions you think you got wrong, consult with a teacher or a Japanese friend on grammar points…

…If you’re a studying wizard, maybe. While several of you out there indeed go that route, and I applaud you for it, I feel several of us out there are just as keen on going, “Oh thank goodness that’s over!” and avoiding anything to do with Japanese for at least a month, if not more.

Which, admittedly, is not very helpful if you’re looking to improve further.

Still, I get it. You’re sick of studying, and if you look at a practice test one more time you’re going to start wailing, “Not the reading section!” at random in front of startled strangers in public. So what can you do? Is there a happy medium between hitting the books even harder and not touching them at all?

Well, yes.

Here’s what I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to do:

  1. Remember why you took the JLPT in the first place. I’m not just talking about “for a job” or “personal development”, I mean what drove you, specifically, to take it? As I’ve mentioned before, my goal upon coming to Japan was being literate in the language. Maybe yours is to be able to debate points of your favorite anime; to be able to read Haruki Murakami in Japanese; to tell a horrible dad joke that will leave your Japanese boss on the floor in tears. Whatever it is, remind yourself of it. Then,
  2. Reflect on if you are any closer to your goal than you were six months ago. Whether you began studying in earnest for the test years ago or a month ahead of sitting down to take it, I bet you have. Have a peek at some classic poetry, watch an episode of a drama without subtitles, go chat with some strangers at a bar. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find. For me, I always feel validated when I hear–and understand!–a grammar point I was studying for in the test. “Aha, that wasn’t a waste of time after all!” I think to myself.
  3. You don’t have to study right away, but do something to keep yourself going. Notice I didn’t once say you had to attend eight million classes or pore over answer keys. That’s because you’ve been working hard and deserve a chance to play. Native speakers play all the time in their own language, why shouldn’t you have fun in your non-native language of choice?

So take it easy, get something to drink that you like (preferably cold with how humid and gross it is outside) and feel proud of yourself for surviving this ridiculous test.

If you’ll excuse me, I have several textbooks to ignore. N1 coming up in December, you know.

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