Friday, October 05, 2012

The JLPT: Newspapers and Speed Reading

When it comes to the reading section of the JLPT, time is of the essence. However, there are plenty of ways to hone your speed reading before test day. Let's take a look at one of my favorite methods.

I have found that, for the higher levels of the JLPT, newspapers are a great way to boost your speed reading and quick comprehension skills. Newspaper articles tend to not only be the perfect size, but they are also filled with jargon and relatively dense wording. Moreover, in the case of major world events, you can often find corresponding stories in English which allows you to check your total comprehension.

If you work in a school or office there is a fairly good chance that new newspapers get delivered everyday for employee amusement. However, if you are not lucky enough to work some place with a bountiful newspaper collection or if you are just too stingy to pick a newspaper from your local convenience store then chances are you can find one laying around the local train or subway station. Libraries also often carry a large selection of newspaper back numbers if you are looking for a specific publication.

For those of you not in Japan, Yahoo Japan offers a fairly comprehensive headline collection. The Asahi Shinbun also has a very well stocked website with an English version to boot. If you are looking to brush up on your current event reading, I recommend as a good alternative to the big three Japanese newspapers.
In my experience, a great way to practice speed reading is to pick a medium to long article, set a strict countdown and try to get through the article as fast as you can. This forces you to read as fast as possible while searching for the key points. It is also a good idea to jot notes down as you read so you write down main ideas in order to double check your comprehension.

After your time elapses, you can double check your understanding by looking at stories posted a big Japanese wire service like Kyodo News` English website or your local news source of choice. It is here that you can double check to make sure you picked up on the most important points of the story or whether or not you left out any important details.

As you progress in your speed reading, its a good idea to slowly lower your time limit as well as starting to read longer articles.

Do you have any good JLPT speed reading tips? If so, then please let us know in the comments section!


  1. I don't know exactly which sections of the newspaper you have in mind, I'm way past JLPT1, and still find them difficult, lol. But as a 悲漢字圏学習者 my reading speed always sucked while taking an exam, so I guess it still is a good way to practice..
    But me myself, I'd probably go into ranobe, or even manga for reading practice.

  2. Anon- I find that front page articles are the best for JLPT 2 and up. Not only do they tend to be lengthy, but the contents are easily verifiable in English if you want to check your comprehension. Next week I will be getting into the merits of 社説 (editorials) and my person favorite magazine 中央公論.

    As for speed reading, newspapers have always been a strong suit of mine. Probably on account of years of reading over people's shoulders. I am not much of a manga or anime person so I can't comment on the efficacy of those. But if you have the time feel free to share your JLPT pro study tips with us!

  3. Newspaper reading really does boil down to kanji recognition, just because of how terse the style is. Considering the new reading-centric design of the JLPT, I think it would be a legitimate way to prep for the test.

    I passed 1 and don't know if I could do it again now without retraining myself up for it. But since that time I've gotten into the habit of perusing articles in my regional daily. I still encounter kanji compounds that I can't pronounce even if I know what they mean, but I think that thanks to my regular practice I glean enough information out of a text to answer the kind of reading content questions the JLPT likes to throw at its testees.

    The dialogue of light novels and manga (minus the genre specific words; neither the JLPT nor your average Japanese person is going to be dropping a lot of sci-fi/fantasy vocab) is probably closer to spoken, casual Japanese than the stuff you'll find in the Yomiuri. And certainly there is merit in reading and comprehending a long story like a light novel provides. But the JLPT, being a formal test, is predominantly focused on that academic, newspaper-ish Japanese that I just don't think popular reading trains well for.

    Also, if you want to finally up your kanji reading, don't fool yourself. The ridiculous amount of furigana in light novels is a huge crutch. Make some good old fashioned flashcards. ;)

  4. LP- I think the ability to gleen rather than understand every last word is key to language testing. Having taken old level 1 and N1, I have noticed that the new tests offers a much more balanced reading section that has everything from opinion pieces to new articles. They especially like the sections that consist of two articles covering the same event with slight differences in information.

    One of the best parts about newspaper articles is that they contain as lot of vague これ, それ, あれ which the JLPT loves to ask about. If you don't have a firm grasp on the content of the story, then chances are you won't be able to answer what these articles refer to.