I did it! I finally marked off one of my New Year’s resolutions! I took the highest level (N1) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) for the second time last weekend. The first time I took the test, I had been studying abroad in Kyoto for about a year, taking classes all in Japanese and participating in a theatre club for at least 5 hours every night. Even then, when my university had me take a similar but shorter test and told me I was N1 level, I didn’t pass.
As I am leaving Japan in less than two weeks, I really wanted to have another shot at the test before I am no longer surrounded by Japanese. Being able to use a language every day really helps keep up your skills, even if you don’t actively study, and being in Japan for me has greatly improved my ability to use the language every day. I’m excited to be able to say the same about Korean in a few weeks, but for now I’m just hoping for a good test result.
The test was at a university about 30 minutes by train from where I live, and when I got there I didn’t see anyone I knew. I hurried to the testing room, which was on the top floor of the building. Kind of metaphorical that the higher levels of the building were assigned to those taking higher levels of the test. I got in the room and I’m pretty sure I was the only non-Asian girl in there. I also felt like there were more people in the room than when I took the test in Kyoto a few years ago.
Unfortunately, the test administrators were having a hard time because of the amount of people in the room, so it took us longer to get started, and they made an announcement that they were running four minutes late, which meant that they would take up four minutes of our break time between the reading and listening sections. I wasn’t too worried at first, but when it came to break time, it became a disaster.
The kanji and reading sections, I felt, were slightly easier for me this time around. I was reading at a faster pace, getting the gist of the passage and moving on so I could have enough time to go back and check later rather than run out of time. I did have plenty of time to check my answers, and I ended up changing a few because I hadn’t properly read the entire passage on some parts, but after a few minutes I closed my test booklet. I get really stressed after I finish a test but still have it in my possession. I waited for it to get picked up by one of the administrators, and then I was able to relax knowing it was literally out of my hands.
However, we waited a long time. They weren’t letting us leave the room until they had counted each test booklet to make sure they had all of them, and since they were already behind on time, this made us really late. We only had about 15 minutes left of our 35 minute break, and most of the other test takers were already outside laughing it up and talking. I, on the other hand, had to use the bathroom, which meant I had to run down to the 1st floor and wait in the long line. By the time I was finished, I had one minute to run back up all four flights of stairs and get in the doors to my test room. About two people after me, they closed the doors. I had enough time in my seat to munch on some snacks and drink some tea, but I felt really rushed and annoyed that our break was diminished through no fault of our own.
The listening section was both easy and a challenge. The first few questions on each section are simple, tricking you into thinking that the rest of the test will be as follows. Don’t let it trick you, though. One section goes by so fast that you can’t remember the question being asked because you are still bubbling in the answer on the last one, messing you up for the rest of the section if you don’t keep your cool.
Once the test was over, I was delighted. I did the best I could and I know that this test wasn’t an accurate representation of how much Japanese I know or how well I can speak the language. Speaking and listening are my two strong points, but listening is only one portion of the test and there isn’t a speaking portion at all. I’m happy knowing that I gave it another try but I’m not going to be too disappointed if I don’t pass this time. I’m moving on with my life, going to a new country and learning a different language. When I finally get my test results in the mail, I will already be living in Korea. Good riddance, JLPT! Thanks for the memories.