Since the JLPT in July is fast approaching, I decided to take a practice exam to accustom myself again to a real testing environment. Unfortunately, Level 1 of the NAT-TEST (equivalent to JLPT N1) isn’t available for the April schedule, so I decided to take Level 2 (JLPT N2) instead.
Although I already took and passed Level 2 in October 2021, I wanted to take the opportunity to properly document the process of taking the NAT-TEST, so I hope this short and simple post about my experience will be a useful reference for you.
First NAT-TEST attempt: October 2021
Last year, I arrived too early, at around 9:30 am, believing that the exam will start at 11 am. The instructions in the e-mail, test voucher, and the website never mentioned the start time of the test, so I just assumed it will be about an hour or less after the call time of 10:30 am.
And boy, was I wrong. With that misconception, I decided not to eat lunch. I thought it would be better to just get lunch after I finish the exam. The actual start time was actually 1 am.
Snacks were allowed during breaks, but to my horror, I mistakenly brought dog treats with me, so I didn’t get to satisfy my hunger even just a little bit. (I know this sounds hilarious, haha.)
Also, I was swamped with the heavy workload of my job at that time, so I lacked sufficient sleep. As a result, I didn’t get to practice with JLPT N2 materials in the weeks leading to the actual exam.
Tired, stressed, and hungry, I took the NAT-TEST for a grueling three hours. I thought I was about to pass out, but I somehow managed to survive. Surprisingly, I got a solid overall score, so I guess I shouldn’t complain about it so much anymore.
Second NAT-TEST attempt: April 2022
Recalling my mistakes in the previous NAT-TEST, I tried my best to ensure that I will have a better test-taking experience this time around. I slept well and ate a full meal. Hopefully, with a better body condition, I could pull off a better score for Level 2.
Originally, I planned to apply for the February exam because it has Level 1. However, with the rampant spread of the Omicron variant resulting in an exceedingly high number of new cases early this year, I decided to skip it for my safety.
Repeating Level 2 wasn’t really a bad idea. Taking a timed test in a serious and quiet environment of a test center is an experience that cannot be replicated at home, so I think it’s a great intensive practice.
The application period for the April test was extended by ten days until March 21. I am not sure why the testing committee was lenient this time around, but I’m glad about the extension since I made the decision to re-take Level 2 quite late.
Arrival at the test center
11:05 am – I arrived at the campus of the Philippine Christian University (PCU), the testing venue. This was later than the call time of 10:30 am, but I purposely arrived late since I already knew it would take a long time before the exam actually starts.
The security guard at the entrance confirmed my name on their list and informed me of my testing room number.
11:10 am – Examinees were not allowed to go to the testing rooms directly, so we had to wait at the auditorium waiting area, which is located right at the center of the main building’s ground floor.
There were not so many people at this time, but more examinees came pouring in at around 11:30 am.
12:00 pm – One of the security guards called the attention of all examinees to line up. Thereafter, we were led to the testing rooms in another building west of the campus.
I was assigned to Room 307. A sheet containing the names of the examinees assigned to the room was plastered on the wall beside the door.
To my surprise, there were a LOT of examinees for Level 2. Two classrooms were allotted for Level 2, each with about 20 examinees. There were probably nearly 50 persons in total.
When I took the exam last year, there were only two of us. Looking at the past NAT-TEST statistics, only one to four people take this level on every test occasion since the NAT-TEST started in the Philippines. Why the sudden surge, I wonder?
12:30 pm – Once everyone was settled in their seats, the two proctors gave everyone important reminders. Previously, such instructions were written by hand on the whiteboard, but this time, they were now printed on a huge tarpaulin.
I noticed that almost everyone in the room knew each other. Perhaps I was the only examinee who didn’t come in with a group. I felt like a fish out of water. Luckily, I was seated beside the window, so I could enjoy my quiet space while everyone else chatted away before the exam started.
Taking the test
1:00 pm – The test started at exactly this time. We began with the longest test section, Language Knowledge and Reading Comprehension. We were given 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete this section.
The proctors allowed those who finished the exam ahead of time to submit their answer sheets and questionnaires earlier. Everyone in the room submitted their papers as soon as they finished, except me. I used the remaining time to review my answers for a few more rounds.
Besides, early submission isn’t allowed in the JLPT, so I made sure to maximize the total allotted time for the test.
2:45 pm – We were given 15 minutes to take a break. Most of the examinees in the room went for a toilet break or ate their snacks/lunch.
During this period, I initiated a conversation with the people seated near me. I learned that most of the people in the room are employees of Accenture*. They were required by their superiors to take the Level 2 exam, but they would be reimbursed for the test fee.
Two of the people I talked to mentioned that they registered for the JLPT N2 in July. So there’s a probability that I could bump into them since I will be taking the July JLPT too.
*Learn more about Accenture and its aggressive mass hiring of Japanese bilinguals in my first article about the benefits of studying Japanese as a Filipino.
3:00 pm – We began with the final section, Listening Comprehension, which has a total time of 50 minutes. The proctors set up a CD radio on top of the teacher’s desk.
Because the pacing of this section is fixed, there was no way to finish it early. Everyone had to sit through it until the audio for the last question is played.
I often tend to lose my focus for Listening Comprehension, but thankfully, I could concentrate well on most of the questions.
3:50 pm – The whole test finally ended. Before leaving the room, everyone claimed a small sheet of paper containing instructions about the online announcement of test results and claiming the certificate and official score report.
Attached to that piece of paper is a small printout showing the examinee’s photo and test voucher number for reference.
Release of the test results
Results of the NAT-TEST normally come out on the second Tuesday after the test date. Thus, for the April 10 exam, the announcement should be on April 19.
Surprisingly, the actual results came out on April 15, much earlier than expected. As of that date, the post is still missing the test results from one test site, Itahari of Sri Lanka.
I’m glad to have passed Level 2 once again. After all, it would have been odd to pass the same exam level last year and then fail it this year.
I believe that the seventh to tenth digits of the examination number indicate the testing site, and the final four digits indicate how many persons actually registered for the exam at that testing site. (If someone could confirm this, please let me know!)
In that case, “6762” could indicate the Philippine testing site. Thus, among the nearly 50 examinees for Level 2, only 6 actually passed, including me. This is equivalent to a 12% passing rate for this level.
In any case, the pressure of test-taking and the excitement from anticipating the test results are feelings that make official Japanese exams memorable and enjoyable for me.
Also, with this April NAT-TEST, I realized that I still have a few bad test-taking habits that I should address within the following two months.
Now, my next target is Level 1 of the NAT-TEST in June. Since it is scheduled for June 12, the results will probably come out on June 21, just two weeks away from the July JLPT.
Here’s hoping I could pass all exams this year!