Another year of test taking is coming up for all the JLPT test takers. And lo and behold there is a new N3 in the midst that is supposed to be harder than the level 3 I took last year. I actually had a discussion on study resources for Japanese earlier and I have to say preparing for the test was a godsend indeed! I know that I was perhaps a bit over qualified to take the Level 3, but in actuality I was a bit under qualified to take the Level 2-- so I weighed my options and went for the sure thing. After all those who "fail to prepare, prepare to fail". With languages I am all about strategy when it comes to test preparation. If I was going to take the N3, here's what I would do:
First I would gather as many study materials that I can find that focuses just on the N3. http://www.whiterabbitpress.com/ seems to be the winner in selection.
Next I would sort obstacles from easiest to hardest to study with the least amount of resistance possible. For the level 3 I just studied grammar (which was really all I needed), but that would not work for N3 because it is a merger of difficult between Level 3 and Level 2. It is the middle sibling so to speak. I would get a Kanji book, vocabulary book, reading book, listening book grammar book, comprehension book and a mock test book! Seriously if you want to ace the JLPT it is best to know the structure right? I believe the N3 is supposed to have 800 Kanji and 2000 words so if anyone has difficulty with this test I would suggest getting some Kanzen Master level 4 and 3 books for review. I would actually like to see them put out a N3 book but I have yet to come across it.
Okay now here's the strategy: sit down and just go through all the kanji and make flash cards of the ones you do not know. For the lazy people White Rabbit does make some, but they will run about $50. Just cycle through them all and you should be able to command the Kanji. Once you have the Kanji down, you should be able to take on the next part of the preparation which is vocabulary. You will find books with reading combined with it so make the words stick better. Afterall, the words are being used naturally.
At this point you should be comfortable with the next task which is probably the easiest up to this point: reading. Reading should be done with continuity: do it over and over again for best results. While I did not have any material for this, I found that the book Read Real Japanese actually helped for the JLPT level 3 because some of the material I was going through was in the fiction works. Also it is a fun breather from the serious aspects of studying for this test. I would actually go through it again for the N3. Next is preparing for listening. This is the most daunting task of the test mainly because listening for the JLPT is the least straight foward thing on the test. In other words, no Japanese person will ever ask you to pick the 3 incorrect responses and 1 correct response. So you can let out a sigh of relief there.
Well hopefully the next hardest part of the test just got simplified a little with a ton of due diligence and preparation. (Remember I am here to save you time and money.) While it ranks the hardest on N2 and N1, grammar on the N3 level isn't too bad. In fact listening will probably be harder. What makes the grammaer portion hard is that it combines the vocabulary and Kanji into sentences (which is why I asked that you studied those 2 beforehand). Now you must learn about 200-300 different sentences patterns including all the stuff from the old JLPT tests! Good luck! I recommend that you study the Kanzen master level 3 before you take on any grammar book designed for JLPT N3. You want to land at least 180 points on this one because it will be a huge deciding as to whether or not you will pass. So do not underestimate the grammar. I made that mistake on the Level 2 about 3 years ago!
Next is to bring everything you have learned together with a comprehension book. It will have questions and exercises which will strengthen whatever you have learned so far. If you have difficulties with certain aspects of the JLPT please go back and review what you are not getting. You are only hindering you ability to perform if yyou are just drudging through the material. You will not be a nihongo no tatsujin that way!
Finally it is time to show the JLPT whose boss. While you cannot cast a "Slow" spell on the test and then prepare your Limit Break, you can take a mock test to access your mad study skills. If you get a lot of missed questions during a certain portion of the test, stop and go back to the section where you are having difficulties and prepare for the section again and then come back to this test. At this point there should be thoughtless execution because you will not have a lot of time to ponder which answer is right or wrong. You need to be able to pump out answers quickly and steadily. You might have some time to rest your eyes during the grammar portion (I seriously had 45 minutes) you will find that time is not much of a luxury on this test, especially when it comes to reading.That's about it! Good luck with the test!