Reading Comprehension - key point 1


Hello! This is Japanese language tutor may, who is in charge of JLPT related columns. In my previous article, I introduced the order in which you should prepare for the exam leading up to your big day. So, how much time do you have left before the exam now? How are your studies progressing? In this article, I would like to explain the key focal points for each section.

First and foremost, start with the reading comprehension section!

Some of you may feel a bit intimidated when it comes to reading comprehension. The longer the text...the more likely you are to feel like giving up before you even start reading it. However, if you stop to think about it, you are exposed to all kinds of texts in your daily life, right?

You probably regularly see texts on social media, online news articles, magazine columns, advertisements, and notices. At work, you probably come across e-mails or exchange text messages with your colleagues. You might also read through a presentation with graphs and tables, or look over a document that your colleague or subordinate prepared. When we read such texts, we are subconsciously sending signals to our brain on where to look carefully in order to obtain the information we need. Although it can be tough when it comes to an unfamiliar language (like Japanese), but this ability can still be utilised at the end of the reading comprehension section (see question 7).

Exam composition and time distribution

First, take a look at the structure of the N3 grammar and reading comprehension section.

Question Type of test items Number of questions Details
Vocabulary 1 Selecting grammar form 13 questions
2 Sentence composition 5 questions
3 Text grammar 1 question ×5
Reading Comprehension 4 Short passages 1 question ×4 Test understanding of content by reading original texts with approximately 150 to 200 characters, such as descriptions and directions regarding various topics including everyday life and work.
5 Mid-size passages 3 questions ×2 Test understanding of content by reading original texts with approximately 350 characters, such as original commentary and essays.
6 Long passages 4 questions ×1 Test understanding of content by reading original texts with approximately 550 characters, such as commentary, essays, and letters.
7 Information retrieval 2 questions×1 Retrieving necessary information from texts with approximately 600 characters, such as advertisements and brochures.

Here is an overview of the overall time distribution.
・Language Knowledge (Vocabulary): 30 minutes
・Language Knowledge (Grammar) and Reading Comprehension: 70 minutes ← We will be working on this section!
・Listening: 40 minutes

Since students have to solve the whole grammar and reading comprehension section in 70 minutes, I often hear stories of students who took too much time on the grammar section, and found themselves unable to get to the end of the reading comprehension section. Here, it is important for you to understand how to tackle these questions with speed. In addition, the order in which you solve these questions can be the key to speeding up the whole process.

Here is an example on how to solve question 7 (Information Retrieval)!

Question 7 mainly asks you to find items that match the criteria in a table or in an e-mail, such as a recruitment notice, a travel plan, a brochure, or an announcement. See where to look in the following formats, listed in order:

【1】First, try to identify what the sentence is about. You should estimate the main idea at this point.
【2】Check the conditions. Here, it is "~したい (I want to~)" and "できるだけ~がいい (I want to ~ as much as possible.)"
【3】Notice that the choices should be from ① to ④, so make sure to look for the correct answer from the table on the right.
【4】The table on the right shows choices from ① through ⑥, but there is no need to look at ⑤ and ⑥, as they are not listed as an option.
【5】Take note of the conditions. In this example, you should focus on the "~( がつ ) ( にち ) (month/day)" and the "日時( にちじ ) (date/time)" in the table on the right.
【6】There is one more condition that you need to focus on. The key words seem to be "電話( でんわ ) (phone call)" and "( もう ) ( ) む (to apply)."
【7】The bullet points below the table are also important, and should not be overlooked. For the question "いつまでに (by when)," look for an answer that matches the conditions among "2日( ふつか ) ( まえ ) までに (by two days)," "1週間( いっしゅうかん ) ( まえ ) までに (by one week)," and "( まえ ) ( ) までに (by the day before)."


The important thing to remember when solving the reading comprehension section is that "what is not stated in the passages can not be an answer." In other words, "what is written in the passage is the answer," so the answer can be found by comparing the conditions of the question, the choices it offers, as well as the table on the right to determine what information is needed to solve the question. Take note of the "when," "where," "what can be done," "what cannot be done," "how much it costs," "when is the application deadline," "how can it be cancelled," and so on, to eliminate options that do not meet these requirements.

In this article, I have shared some tips on how to solve question 7 (Information Retrieval) from the reading comprehension section. How was it? Don’t you feel like you can do it now? I hope you will continue working at this pace and get used to the format used in question 7. In my next article, I plan on covering the short, medium, and long passages from question 4 to 6 as "Key Points for Reading Comprehension 2", so please look forward to my upcoming article!