Japanese SAT II:
New FAQs Answered
and Problems Solved
Over the last few years, I've got a lot of questions about the Japanese SAT II Subject Test. I answered many of them in my article "Things I Wish Somebody Told Me About the Japanese SAT II," but many people have posed new questions. Here are the big ones I get a lot of mail on:
"Is the test competitive? Are there a lot of people taking it?"
Is it tough? You bet. Are a lot of people taking it? Hell no. Here are the rough groups of people who take the test:
- People who are fortunate enough to have had Japanese offered at their high school
- Native Japanese speakers who go to school in America
- REALLY fortunate people who have spent parts of their childhood in Japan
- Homeschooled students who are learning Japanese
Last I checked, the average score was about 530-540, so it's not as if everyone else aces it. You're already in a select group just by taking it--and much more so if you put some elbow grease into rounding up the right materials and grinding away at them.
"How hard are the questions? What level does The College Board assume you've reached?"
The questions are geared toward people who have completed 2 years / 4 semesters of college-level Japanese (or the equivalent). If you're in the middle of your third semester--which you may very well be, given that the test is only offered in November--you already know most of the grammar, but need to work intensively on beefing up your kanji.
It’s not really a “thinking” test. Assuming you know, say, a given grammar concept, a question involving the grammar is really easy to answer. The only matter is whether or not you know that grammar concept. /p>
"Where can I find a comprehensive study guide?"
Nowhere. As far as I know, one has never existed. But that doesn't mean there aren't some great, more specific resources, as you'll see.
"I noticed the big book of College Board practice tests has one Japanese SAT II in it. Is that one test helpful at all?"
Yes! As I mentioned in my other article, the format of the test is confusing, so you really want to make sure it's not a stumbling block on test day. It's also EXTREMELY helpful to take the practice test, see what questions you got wrong and which kanji you didn't know, and put them on your to-do list. You'll get a very good sense of what the test is really like.
"You said in your other article that you can buy a box of 20 Japanese SAT IIs (even though they're all the same test), but I can't find where to buy that. Where do I buy it?"
When I wrote the other article, you could still order the tests from The College Board, but it seems you can't do that any more.
However, The College Board now has the same prep questions on the website. It's actually better this way.
Here's a link to their PDF with sample SAT II questions, including those for the Japanese test (you'll want to look at pages 62-65):
Here are the areas where you can practice the listening and reading aspects, respectively:
"I know the kanji up through JLPT Level 3. Is that enough to ace the kanji section of Japanese SAT II?"
Yes. If you know those (plus the simpler, Level 4 ones) and if you have a really solid knowledge of what those kanji mean when combined with other kanji, you'll be fine. There may be the oddball or two, but if you know the JLPT Level 3, you're at least 95% there.
You can go here to find out roughly what level of kanji I'm talking about:
"What are some good resources I can use to prep?"
The "Genki" series of Japanese textbooks. They're easy to find, and you can learn more about them here.
The Genki website also has a great online practice area, which is free:
Kenneth G. Henshall's "A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters" is a superb, highly-efficient way to get all the kanji you need under your belt.
"What general advice do you have for me?"
Get a private tutor, if you can. The intense, one-on-one scrutiny is one of the very best ways to pick up a lot of Japanese in a short amount of time-and really have it stick.
Far more so than having a tutor, the most important thing is to be hardcore. Make flashcards until your hand hurts. Carry them around with you and whip them out when you're waiting around for 90 seconds. Constantly Google things like "Japanese kanji quiz," and practice your kanji using every free resource you can get your hands on. By the way, I emphasize kanji just because that's a great way to issekinichou, or kill two birds with one stone, in that you're also getting great vocab practice.
Other than that, you know how to contact me. I welcome any questions you may have.
For more tips and solutions, check out the guide:
"How To Nail The Japanese SAT II"