As I have decided to take JLPT N1 this July, it is time to roll your sleeves and prep for the adventure of climbing this mountain. I have made my plan based on these factors (And no I didn’t make this plan now ,given the N1 scope I made it somewhere after the results came out in Jan and the start of Feb, I got very serious about it in March though.). Hopefully, all the study takers specially of the lower levels whether planning for July or December exam will find this helpful.
First off N2 taught me how to study. I quite honestly don’t know now how I got through my graduation and post-graduation ;). But then again, language studies are different compared to other subjects although the study plan should be universally applicable.
I would like to admit that up until last July, this is not how I studied. I only remember getting serious around August 2019 for December N2 and I knew I had to get my piece together. Up until N3 this was never a concern factor although it should’ve been. But never mind, you learn your lessons along the way and for me failing N2 miserably(my first attempt and without studies too) last July was that wakeup call.
So, here are the steps that I have based my N1 study plan around.
Step 1 – Narrowing down on the books
For this I did my research on google and reddit [Oh by the way, you should totally check out this community on reddit –https://www.reddit.com/r/LearnJapanese It has good deal of discussions around JLPT and Japanese language in general]. As many JLPT N1 takers suggested and combining that with my experience and understanding of N2, I decided on the books section wise. [Please refer to my upcoming post on the books I am using of N1.]
Step 2 – Acquire the material
Since, I don’t stay in Japan acquiring material is a bit of struggle. Of course if you have a sensei(teacher) or a senpai(senior) , you might not need to worry as much. But then again studying for N2 and N1 , each sensei has a different style of teaching and might not refer to all the recommended books. This stuff didn’t bother me up till N3 and even the start of N2 but as I made deep progress into N2 , I increasingly came across more suggested material online which were very useful. You might need to buy them online or if the shipping costs are burning a hole in your pocket you might have to sought to a desperate measure of finding the free pdf versions (Fret not, you will find most of the scanned stuff online if you don’t fuss about the quality much). This doesn’t go to say that you can’t start studying if you don’t have all the material with you at hand. Just start with whichever you have first and work through as and when you acquire the rest.
Step 3 – Building a 5-6 month plan.
Now this is always going to be tricky since it is based on so many factors i.e. your daily schedule, the books that you are using, your understanding of the language and more importantly- Your capacity to manage stress that is often accompanied with competitive exams. Also, you might be aiming for a year long study program (Dec exam). In any case making a short term plan say even of a couple of months just makes you better and better at studying as you go by. You also need to take into account the potential unforeseen delays and allow yourself room to breath by not making a hectic plan. This also can be achieved by starting early enough. Having an idea of the books you will be using, plays a crucial part. You will also need to work on this plan again whenever there is an addition/subtraction of any books. I myself had to replace certain books after having started with the studies because they were not fitting my need or the purpose. Unfortunately, you can only find this out, after you start with the book and allow it some time to see if it is working for you or not.
Step 4 – The monthly plan
Now this might come across as a micro-managing thing. But I found that breaking down things into monthly-daily tasks lets you accomplish small stuff everyday and in no time you will find that you have done a lot of things over the course of the month/few months. So, this is the step where I roughly jot down the things I want to focus on this month and also review at the end of each month what all things I was able to achieve and accordingly plan for next month. It is totally fine if you are not able to achieve every single thing that you planned to because you can have them included next month.
Step 5 – The daily plan
This is more about inculcating a habit than anything else. The key is to make it a routine in your life. When I started with N2, I decided that I wanted to study a minimum two hours everyday. I don’t think I managed to do it every single day at least not initially but slowly as I started to study on may be 2-3 days a week, it kind off propelled me to study daily because I had the monthly goal in my head. Once I started studying daily, I no more had to take any efforts to stick to my resolution of 2 hours because I ended up doing more on most days. And then it’s totally fine even to have those one off days. While building a daily routine , I try to make it a precise one. Example: If I want to go through the entire grammar book in that month, knowing the total number of chapters in that book and then planning 1-2 chapters daily makes the goal seem like a breeze. I regretted the days when I failed to stick with my daily plan on a particular day and had to do double or triple the portion in the following days. Not only was it painful, you tend not to remember well if you have too much on your plate and that is definitely true while learning a language.
As a last but most important thing to remember while making the plan is to finish going through your set of books at least a month or two weeks before the exam. The reason being last month should be reserved totally for solving exam pattern workbook sample papers. The more you test yourself on mock exams the better you do in the actual exam. This serves as active studying method as opposed to the passive one of just reading the book again and again. Besides, this is where you get your exam time strategies sorted out.
On this note, let’s do our best! 頑張りましょう!!!