Sunday, June 26, 2011

Used and Abused - JLPT

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I will be taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) soon to prove my worth to Japanese companies. I have been studying pretty hard (for me) and was excited when I received in the mail an invitation to participate in the official JLPT Practice Test. Not only would I have the opportunity to:

1. Practice timing and test technique in a real-life situation
2. Get a good gauge for the difficulty or easiness of the test questions

I would also receive a whopping 2,000 yen for my trouble! -- if I would also be so kind as to take a survey or write an essay at the end of the practice test. It seemed too good to be true...

The Practice Test was held on Sunday, June 19 and after completing the experience, I realized it had made me feel used, abused... and worthless. How the hell, you ask? Let me explain.

The invitation to the Practice Test explained that I would helping Japan Educational Exchanges and Services refine the test and adjust it as necessary before the big day. Thinking that it could be no more painful than the test I had originally taken in December, I felt it could only benefit me to participate. How hard could it be to take a practice test and fill out a survey?

Unfortunately, I underestimated how difficult and brutal the experience would be. The practice exam was held at a university that is currently observing the nation-wide practice of 節電 or energy-saving, in an attempt to prevent national black and brown outs due to the crippled nuclear power plant in  Fukushima. While I fully support and admire the Japanese energy conservation efforts, it is my very strong opinion, that if energy-saving means that the air-conditioning must be turned off with the windows closed while hundreds of foreigners struggle with a 4-hour exam, 節電 can kiss my sweaty butt.

The conditions were torturous, at best.

And to make matters worse, the practice test was at least doubley as difficult as the actual exam I took in December. The first two hours of the exam, I was confident I had the correct answers for an overwhelming 5 questions. The second half, where I had originally been confident in 70% of my answers, I thought there was a chance I may have had 20% of the answers correct this time around.

And then, after I felt as though the JEES had had its way with me, mentally... the sheer impossibility of that test (to me) made me feel as though all the studying I had done had been in vain and that I, in fact, had been delusional this whole time about having any kind of Japanese language skills... they had me fill out a survey about my Japanese communication level.

They made me feel like nothing and then asked me if I liked it and if I thought I was any good. Then they gave me 2,000 yen for my humiliation and walked away laughing, knowing that in a few weeks, after they had adjusted the actual exam based on our collective results, that they would be laughing again when I come crawling back for another dose of torture.

I had willingly given myself to the JEES for the promise of a "good practice experience" and some change in my pocket. However, after I thought more carefully about how my talents, if I had any to begin with, were going to be used -- to adjust the exam and possibly make it more difficult -- I couldn't believe I had chosen to participate.

Having had a week to reflect on the experience, I realized that in the after-math, any confidence I had gained in my studies has now been diminished to non-existence. I feel beaten and bruised and find myself fearing July 3rd more and more. Every time my study partner mentions the number of days left until the exam, I find myself flinching like an abuse victim who fears another slap across the face.

I had been telling myself this whole time that this time, I got this. I will pass the JLPT and prove to myself (and the world?) that I have the skills needed to be considered capable of "Business Japanese." But after that beating... all I can think is, what am I doing?! Why am I going back? Do I really want to endure another experience like that and then, a few months from now, have it punctuated by another letter in the mail saying I did not pass?

Not really.

But I'm going to... in 6 days and counting. Shit.



P said...

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, Chiiiiii (though I hate sounding so cliched)

You can do it... and even if we fail again *touch wood*, we'll come back stronger. *clench fists, cue EPIC MUSIC*

Daniel Lau said...

As a fellow test-taker, this is pretty terrifying.

Maybe they made it intentionally super-hard to gauge the upper limits of what we know?