Executive Summary by Jed C. Jones, Ph.D.
The Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or JLPT, is administered only once per year and is taken by about 380,000 (1995 figures) non-native speakers of Japanese each year worldwide. The test is divided into four levels (1-5), with Level 1 being the most difficult. After 4 years of university study of Japanese in my native country, I doubt I would have passed anything beyond Level 3 of the JLPT upon graduation.
Tip #1: Buy and use blank note cards religiously: I prefer the type that comes in packs of 100 cards and are bound by a single metal ring. When studying for the JLPT, I filled 35 packs of these cards, or the equivalent of 3,500 words and phrases. I recommend using these cards over electronic kanji or word dictionaries.
Tip #2: Read the hard stuff every day: Read newspapers, books, and other forms of the written word every day – even if you are studying for the Level 4 test and even if you must spend 30 minutes to get through each sentence
Tip #3: Read aloud: Language leverages different parts of our brain depending upon whether we are reading, writing, speaking, or listening.
Tip #4: Speak with as many types of people you can: If you have the opportunity to visit or live in Japan while studying for the test, take the opportunity to speak with every Japanese person you meet: old, young, men, women, teachers, businesspeople, artists, economists, the local fruit vendor: everyone. Once you have filled your pack of cards, attack the cards regularly, testing yourself along the way.
Tip #5: Look up in a dictionary every single word you do not recognize: Treat every word you come across that you do not know as a gold nugget: write it down on one of your blank, ringed note cards (see Tip #1).