Sunday 3rd December was the day of my Japanese test. After stepping up my study over the last two months, the day I'd been working towards had finally arrived. But first I had to get from Tokamachi, Niigata-ken to Sendai, Miyagi-ken.
Keiko came with me for the weekend, so we decided it would be much cheaper and convenient to drive there. It was a six hour drive, first north to Niigata City, then east past Bandai-San until the far side of Fukushima-ken where we go north to Sendai, just off the coast of the Pacific. I revised on the way by playing the past paper listening tests in the car. Keiko helped me understand the dialogues in more detail so I could see where I was going wrong and how I could improve my chances.
When we arrived in Sendai, we checked in, went for lunch and I bought piece of mind by getting a new set of pencils and sharpener for the test. After dinner I reviewed my flashcards and tried to get a good nights sleep. How annoyed was I when at 1am fire engines and ambulances, sirens blazing, raced down the street outside. Not two or three vehicles, but what seemed like the whole Sendai 999 fleet raced past out hotel for a good 30 minutes. I don't know what the emergency was, but it made a very nervous Martin very short-tempered.
Still, when morning came, I felt pretty good. Keiko came with me for breakfast at a cafe and I went over my grammar flashcards one last time before catching the bus to the test site. I arrived at Sendai University about 40 minutes early, so I bought a coffee and hid from the cold weather in the cafeteria, again going over my flashcards.
So, the first paper; Grammar and Vocabulary. It started well, but a few kanji came up that I had to guess; a surprise because I'm usually really confident with my kanji. The vocab section went much better than expected, so maybe I've done well for that 25%.
When the test ended, I was about to get up when I saw Ewan standing in front of me. It was a complete surprise. I'd been talking about my test for so long and no one had said that they were taking it in Sendai too so I'd assumed I was going to be on my own. It was great to see a familiar face and we headed back to the cafeteria to wait for the second paper.
The Listening section was probably my weakest point when I took the past papers two months ago. But I'd worked on the dialogues, listening to them in the car over teh last few weeks, and was much more confident. I think it went well and I think I avoid all the traps they usually set. So, maybe another good score for that 25%.
For lunch, Ewan and I took advantage of teh cheap university food and had a hot lunch in the cafeteria. The open eating space, brown curry and snow outside reminded me of upcoming boarding season which was a welcome break from stressing about the final paper; Grammar and reading.
I'd actually started focusing my study on grammar in the last few days, but still I was worried that the paper would ask about those grammer rules that I'd forgotten or couldn;t remember well. As it turned out, the grammar I'd been reviewing at breakfast and in the cafeteria came up! I couldn't believe it. I managed to get into a rhythm and confidently went through the first few pages. Down to the final two reading sections and I had 25 minutes left. Plenty of time! Or so I thought. I got too involved with the first reading section, so by the time I finished the questions, I had little over five minutes to answer the final section, worth 12 points ot 10% of the paper. Idiot!! I filled in the answers just as time was called and regretted the time wasting. Still, I felt confident about the other questions so, fingers-crossed, I'll have a good score.
After the test, Ewan and I compared our experiences and headed to the City museum to meet Keiko. Ewan left soon after to get back home. I'd taken nenkyu for Monday so I treated myself to watching the new Bond film, Casino Royale, on Sunday evening, then taking a trip up to Matsu-shima on Monday before returning to Niigata.
Overall, I think I've done much better than I did in last year's test. I'm probably borderline passing, but I guess I'll just have to wait and see in February. If anything, I'm where I wanted to be last year. I was actually able to put a steady amount of study in for this test, and maybe I've developed a good habit of study that can only take my Japanese forward. In that sense, the test has been worth it. If I can get a pass mark and certificate, than that's a bonus. It's down to me now to keep the good study habit up.