Today I took level 2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. The test has had four levels for a long time. Level four is the easiest and level one is the hardest. Next year they will add one more level as a stepping stone between levels 2 and 3. The amount of words and characters that need to be mastered rises nearly exponentially with each level, for example level 4 requires knowledge of only 150 kanji characters (any moron can do it), level 3 requires about 300, level 2 requires a thousand and level 1 requires about two thousand. The progression is similar for the amount of vocabulary that must be learned, with level 1 requiring a whopping ten thousand words.
The test only measures your listening and reading comprehension so the hardest part of Japanese, writing is completely left out. The first part takes 35 minutes and is basically about picking the right kanji for some words and picking the sentence that is using a word in the right way. The second part, listening comprehension takes 40 minutes. In this part you usually listen to some dialogue going back and forth between a few options and then you have to pick up the clues that tell which option they finally settled for. The last part takes 70 minutes and it is the most difficult. You have to read quite a lot of texts about various topics and answer questions about them, at the end there is a section where you have to choose the right grammar for a sentence.
I had been wanting to try my skill in the JLPT for a long time but never bothered to find out where and how to do it. This year I finally got off my butt and investigated the application procedure. To make a not so long story short, if I had remembered to check up on JLPT just one day, or even just a few hours later, i would have had to wait for the next year's test.
After my application was accepted, I started studying like crazy. It feels like I've learned more new words and grammar constructs in the last few weeks than in the 2-3 years before that. I went through all the grammar and all the vocabulary and made flash cards with Mnemosyne at the end I had about 2200 flash cards, a lot of them were duplicates from having one card with Japanese to English and another for English to Japanese. This also helped me learn a lot of grown-up words that I haven't had opportunity to study that much before. Like contribution, political party, committe member, prime minister, management and so on.
After I had created the cards and practiced them a bit (I didn't have time to practice that much really) I moved on to doing a few of the older tests. I managed to download crappy scans of some older tests and went through the ones from 2005 - 2008. I only had the opportunity to check the scores for 2006 and 2007. The max score for JLPT2 is 400 points and you need 60% of this amount to pass. I got about 80% in the 2006 and 2007 exams so I felt pretty confident going in to the test.
There was a surprisingly large amount of people taking the test. I counted about 40 people in the level 2 class room. I felt like I did ok. But the reading comprehension part went a bit worse than expected. I lost track of time for a bit and spent too much time on a few texts so I ended up having to guess the answer for one question. Now I have to wait a whole three months before I get the result from the test.