JLPT Test Prep Tips: The Lead Up to Test Day

Today, I want to share with you a roundup of different tips I’ve found that will help you mentally prepare yourself for the big day. After all, what good was all that studying if you go and psych yourself out before you even get to the test site? So here are 6 tips to help you in the lead up to the JLPT.

Put your Anki deck away and sleep!

In Brain Rules, John Medina writes about a study that showed soldiers who lost sleep for just one night lost 30% of their cognitive skill – and two nights? 60%. To quote Medina, “Sleep loss cripples thinking, in just about every way you can measure thinking.” So stop stressing. At this point, you’ve either already worked hard enough, or you haven’t. The best thing you can do now is catch up on your Zzzz’s.

Stop and smell the roses – literally

Here’s another tip from Medina, albeit one that might seem odd. Researchers found that subjects who had studied in a rose-scented room answered correctly 97% of the time when they were exposed to the scent again prior to their final testing. While you can’t bring your favorite Yankee candle to the test room, you could try using essential oil while you’re studying and dab a drop on yourself before entering. But go lightly, please, those classrooms are packed tight!

Dear Diary: Clear your head!

Attentional blink, a problem that loves to rear its ugly head during tests, is when you get stuck on a negative thought and can’t focus 100% on the problem in front of you. The JLPT is simply too fast paced for this kind of nonsense – if you get distracted for even an instant, you’re going to miss entire passages on the rapid-fire conversation section.

Fortunately, the solution is pretty straightforward. In Choke, Sian Beilock writes that Matthew Lieberman of the University of California, LA has shown that putting your feelings into words can decrease activity in your amygdala, telling it to calm the hell down. Before heading to the test site, grab a pen and jot down all of your worries, no matter how small or irrelevant they seem. Just doing this for ten minutes can increase your performance by up to 15%. And even if this isn’t your first rodeo and you’re plagued by fears acquired during past tests, this technique is still effective. Much like the the therapy used to treat phobias and PTSD, you’re forced to confront that experience and remove any power those feelings have over you.

You are not your test scores

Prior to starting the JLPT, take a few minutes to remind yourself about what makes you you. By realizing that you are more than your JLPT score, you can help cut off energy-draining thoughts about failing the test. Beilock suggests you sit down, write about all the things you’re interested in and that you participate in. Draw a picture if you prefer. Hell, start a scrapbook if you need to, we won’t judge. Then take a step back and realize what a full, well-rounded individual you are.

Stereotype Bias + N-Effect = Mood Killer

In What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, David DiSalvo talks about the N-Effect, which is when a large number of competitors leads to decreased motivation for an individual. Researchers have determined that the more test takers that are present, the lower the scores everyone in the room will receive. In other words, it’s that moment when you walk into the testing room, see all the other test takers and say to yourself, “Screw this, there’s no way I’ll be able to do as well as them. Peace out.”

If that weren’t enough of a hurdle, there’s still stereotype bias to contend with. The kicker is that the more aware you are of the bias, the more you are affected by it. This one hit me hard when I was waiting for the classroom to open up and I was surrounded by swarms of Chinese speakers. Though I knew it wasn’t true, I still caught myself thinking I’d never do as well as them on the reading portion of the exam.

This kind of silliness makes you start the test down in the dumps – not the way to approach an already depressing test. So how do we combat it? Well, In Choke, Beilock suggests that prior to taking the test, you should write about qualities that are important to you. Focusing on what makes you successful can give you a boost of confidence and helps you stop thinking about yourself as some ridiculous stereotype, giving you a mental shield against all the bad thoughts that tend to pop up.

Go ahead, make some excuses!

What’s a surefire way to crash and burn on the JLPT? Tell yourself it’s important. Think back to when you were younger. Did you ever notice that some students who weren’t super smart could breeze through tests while brainier students struggled? Beilock tells us that researchers believe this is because students with lower working-memory excel at viewing tests as being, well, not that important. This in turn removes a paralyzing level of stress from the situation. So stop viewing the test as the end all be all to your Japanese studies and quit telling yourself that your entire self-worth is based on your test score.

Before you start snorting in disgust saying that’s too simple and would never work, researchers at Cornell have found that stress affects the way your brain communications between the different areas. Heck, your prefrontal cortex simply stops chatting with other parts of your brains when you’re stressed. Obviously you’re handicapping yourself this way by ruining your memory

To recap:

1. Sleep! And sleep some more!
2. Use scent to trigger your memories.
3. Write down all of your concerns.
4. Remind yourself that you are a multifaceted individual.
5. Remember that you are not a stereotype.
6. Tell yourself the JLPT isn’t important.

Do you have trouble staying focused during an exam? You might like our new JLPT Test Prep Tips: During the Test article. But first, do you have any techniques you’ve found helpful before taking a test? Let us know below!

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