Everywhere I go I see people preparing for the JLPT as well as a ton of posts claiming to get you on to the right track to be prepared in time when testing comes around. I’m here to try to persuade you to STOP preparing!
What can I say? I’m a guy who tends to think outside the box. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m right. Who knows? I’m just going to present some information to you about my thoughts on why you should not prepare for the JLPT tests. You be the judge on whether you think my points are valid or not.
Every one has been there, whether in HighSchool or College, where it’s test day and you’re scrambling to jam that last bit of info into your skull before your teacher says to put the books away. I chose HighSchool as an example, because some of my readers may not even be out of HighSchool yet. Anyways, on to the point!
What generally happens is that you study and study, take a test, and then… can you guess? If you said, “forget all that info”, you’d be correct! That’s right, we study our brains to death for a test(or class) and within a very short amount of time aka days, weeks, maximum months, all that information is gone. Sure, you might remember a few bits and pieces here and there, but chances are you’d fail that same test if you took it again. Why do you think that is? A lot of people tend to say, “because I didn’t get a chance to re-study..“. This reaction totally shocks me. Why would you need to restudy if it’s something you already know? The answer is you never really knew that information in the first place, at least not in the long term memory section of that brain of yours.
The truth is that if you can only remember it for a short amount of time, you probably don’t actually know that bit of information at all. Hence why so many people use SRS utilities. SRS utilities are built to help us actually learn things, not recite them. By repeating the same item over and over every so often, it becomes engraved into our brains and we actually know the information now.
This is one of the main reasons I hate the idea of “preparing” for the JLPT. What you’re setting yourself up for is a cram fest, resulting in short term memory rather than long term understanding. I’m not saying you can’t study properly so that you end up prepared for the JLPT, but if you simply aim to pass the JLPT, you’re aiming for the same goal you aimed for when you were in HighSchool, to pass another test and then run like hell.
Yeah, I already know I’m going to get flack back from this, but that’s what the internet is for so let’s use it like it was intended. For those of you with an open mind, just hear me out. We all know the JLPT is important, no body is arguing that. The issue of argument stems from why the JLPT is important.
What I mean is that most people would say the JLPT is important because it assess your Japanese language ability. However, I’d say it is important because jobs often look for it as a pre-requisite. You see, this goes back to point #1. If you’re studying to simply pass a test, you may end up passing it with flying colors, but 6 months down the road, what then? Will you still be able to pass the test? Often times the answer to that question is no.
Right there the JLPT has become utterly useless for you, because it will only assess your current knowledge, whether or not it is knowledge stored in short term memory or long term memory. The JLPT should be used to assess your long term memory, which can be done very easily, by simply not studying for the test. If you don’t study, it’ll test what knowledge is already ingrained into you. I’m not saying take the JLPT with no shot in hell of passing whatever level you’re planning on taking. I’m just saying that you should make sure you are actually testing yourself correctly.
The first thing you need to decide for yourself is what you really want out of all of this. Do you want to be able to just barely get by, become fluent, get a Japanese job, etc? If your goal is to simply get a Japanese job, but you don’t really care about your long term fluency in Japanese, then by all means go straight for the JLPT!
Yet, if you want to be fluent, why are you even looking at the JLPT in the first place? No test is going to determine where you’re at adequately. For instance, I could study all of Heisig in 6 months let’s say and by the end of it I know them all extremely well but I can’t pass the JLPT N5 because Heisig is all that I learned during those months. However, there is another person who studied 100% for the JLPT N5 those entire 6 months and was able to pass the test. Do you believe the person who passed the JLPT N5 to be further ahead?
You can’t actually measure success in the form of some test. One student chose focused Kanji study and the other chose focused JLPT N5 study. Even if both students have the information stored in their long term memory, they just chose a different path.
I’m not trying to say the JLPT is bad or useless. I’m simply suggesting that you should understand it’s real purpose and that if you truly want to utilize the JLPT, then don’t study for it. I’m not going to be taking the JLPT for awhile myself. I plan to wait and aim for at least the N3 before I take any tests. Even then, I will only take it once I believe I know the material. How will I know? I’ll just use old tests(I know old tests don’t exist yet for N3), but afterward you won’t see me cramming that information into myself just to past the test.
Overall, if you’re learning the JLPT material over a long period of time and are truly retaining it in your long term memory and not just cramming it into yourself, then this message wasn’t for you.