JLPT Test Prep Tips: During the Test

Hopefully our article on getting yourself mentally prepared during the lead up to the JLPT has taught you how to use stick figure drawings to whisk away your worries. But even when you’re crammed into your tiny, tiny chair waiting for them to actually get on with the exam (or was that just my testing facility?), it’s not too late to mentally arm yourself for what’s about to come. So here are five suggestions on keeping calm and focused during the JLPT.

Pretend like you’re going to get immediate feedback.

Since it’s too late to whip out your journal and start scribbling down all of your fears, DiSalvo offers another technique in What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite that helps you regain your edge when you start freaking out. And it’s quite simple – pretend like you’ll be receiving your test scores immediately after you finish (instead of the months it will actually take). The possibility of an immediate disappointment will help keep you focused on the task at hand.

Note: Of course, if you do this it may make you question why in this day and age the JLPT isn’t computerized, which would make it possible to get immediate results. And to offer the test more than once (or twice) a year. Yeah…let’s not go there.

Reinterpret your body’s reactions

Before a test, do your palms get sweaty and does your heart thud like crazy? Well, guess what, it does that for fun things too, like meeting someone really hot. Instead of thinking “I’m going to puke everywhere and then embarrass myself even more when I fail this test,” focus on the positive. Trick your brain and tell yourself “I’m excited to finally get this stupid thing over with.” And if you’re still feeling a little jittery, tense all of your muscles as tight as possible and count to 5. Breathe out and slowly relax. Instant stress zapper.

Pause before answering

The JLPT doesn’t give you a lot of time to mess around, especially if you struggle with kanji. However, research has found that pausing before answering difficult questions can keep you from making stupid mistakes. Another benefit of pausing is that it helps prevent glucose depletion during the test. In Choke, Beilock explains that people with high working memory tend to use the most complicated approach to solving a problem, rapidly depleting glucose stores. So rather than charging full steam ahead, pause, take a breathe, and see if there is a more simple way to find the solution.


If you’re still stuck after your brief pause, mark the question and go back to it on the sections that allow for it. This incubation period lets you clear your head and approach the problem from a new perspective. Plus, you might find something later in the test that helps trigger the correct response.

When you need an extra boost, check in with yourself.

DiSalvo talks about how University of Illinois professor Dolores Albarracin discovered that when you ask yourself to perform a task, you typically do better on it than if you had told yourself that you’ll finish it. Researchers believe this is because more motivation is built through asking questions than from demanding something from yourself. So if have a rough time with a section, during one of the pauses, just ask yourself if you will succeed on the next portion of the test.

To recap:
1. Pretend like you’re going to get immediate results
2. Tell yourself any signs of nervousness are because you’re thrilled to be taking the test
3. When you have trouble, pause before answering
4. Still stuck? Move on and come back
5. Ask yourself if you will succeed

Got plenty of time before your JLPT test date? Check out our lead up to the JLPT test prep article. But first, share your tips for staying focused below 🙂

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