Reading BOMB (in JLPT Grammar section) help?

So I already knew going into the JLPT that I wasn’t prepared for the level I selected. But it was much worse than I thought.

There are several ways it was worse that I could use help with, but I have to focus on one: reading.

Those lengthy little “essay” type sections they had before the grammar questions took me so long to read, that I ran out of time and had to just bubble in randomly for the last 10? or 1/3 (whichever) questions of that section.

It definitely made me feel like something was wrong with me (well… something very well could be, but that’s not /necessarily/ the point).

Did anyone else struggle with the reading?

Even if you didn’t take the JLPT, do you struggle with reading speed in your native language and/or in foreign languages?

Do you have any ideas on how to improve it (besides taking a more appropriate level next year)?


Also please don’t link me back to “my” own Ultimate Resources Thread. I know it exists, I get enough notifications already, lol.

I just want human answers.
It was upsetting. I found myself surprisingly distressed by the test.

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I didn’t take the JLPT, but the best way to improve reading speed, in both native and foreign languages alike, is to… read!

My reading speed and comprehension in Japanese started skyrocketing the more I made a habit of reading, thanks to the awesome book clubs on the forums ^^ so even if it’s just 15-30 minutes every day, dedicate some time to reading something you’re interested in and you’ll see a significant difference :slightly_smiling_face:

頑張って ! :books::crabigator::books:


I feel like reading just what I like won’t be enough.

I did get (and am wondering why it hasn’t arrived yet) 時をかける少女 to do the book club and am hoping participating in that (and maybe others) will help with my reading.

But I feel like there’s a huge gap between the simplified Japanese of manga and even some news, and the denser essay-form in the JLPT (which as a side note seems kinda unnecessary? I’ve been tested on my grammar without reading passages before. Also they could just try one instead of four or however many, but that’s out of my control, so…).

I know the easy response to that is to try to find some sort of media that more closely matches it, I guess. Perhaps Satori reader has something useful, though I could check again through my free reading-related Japanese apps. Because manga and children’s stories won’t cut it at least for reading comprehension + reading speed enough to read and accurately answer questions in time.

(Yeah, I’m basically talking to myself at this point, lol)

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I started working on my reading speed by reading something every day. I started with NHK easy which usually has some vocab for me to look up but the article length is about right for the jlpt 4 though the writing style is more formal.

I also read aloud to my baby in Japanese which helped like in a million ways. It helped ingrain common phrases and words, got me speaking more and helped me read faster because her attention span is that of a baby. Of course you can read aloud without a baby, but she’s a bit of motivation .

Flashcards in sentances help too.

Part of reading speed is finding things on your level or just a tad higher so you can work on the speed part and not the what does this even mean part.


Literature/essay form is a whole different beast from dialogue, no matter what the language. Reading stuff like 時をかける少女 should help immensely, I’m learning a lot of grammar from reading along with everybody. Even though I’m only one chapter in I feel like it’s the best thing I’ve done to improve my comprehension in a long time.


Just out of interest, which level did you take ?

Yes, I read very slowly in English (my native language). I don’t try to improve my reading speed in English because at this point that can only really be achieved by sacrificing comprehension.

With that said, my Japanese reading speed is understandably much slower. I try to improve this by actually reading, as well as learning more grammar and vocab.


Doing a practice test, and during the actual exam (N4), I found that it was better to just skim these sections at first. I would skim the area around the first blank, then check the options for it – sometimes I immediately knew what the answer should be, other times I’d need to go back and read a little more or read more carefully, then I’d move on the next one etc…

Even doing this, I was still rushed at the end of the reading section, but it definitely helps. And specifically the final couple questions always have a whole bunch of extraneous writing that you don’t need to read at all. It’s more of a test of your ability to identify and reason about the key points within some larger textual material.

Also, one reason I’m slow at reading Japanese is because a lot of mental work is devoted to trying to remember the reading of kanji, but for these sections that doesn’t matter. So when skimming, don’t worry about “pronouncing” the kanji correctly in your head while you read. You just need the meaning.


dcsmith926 sort of beat me to it, but I agree with the skimming technique. I tend to read pretty quickly in my native language (English), and I do so by skimming, getting the gist, and only worrying about the fine details if I need them. I think I have the best time in Japanese when I use the same approach. With 時をかける少女, I quickly found that just moving on when I encountered something I didn’t know, and then returning to analyze afterward, was the most efficient approach. Similarly, with test-taking (English or Japanese), I tend to just get the gist of the essay as much as possible, then when I see the questions, I can use what I skimmed to zero into the section I should focus on.


Rather than just ‘reading more’, could you do a short session of really focused study each day (or however often works for you) that is very specifically targeting speed?

So you give yourself a hard time limit in which to get through a piece of text. You aren’t allowed to look things up or ponder sentences at great length. The aim is just to get to the end. I imagine that a lot of the time you’ll find that one sentence wasn’t that critical, or became more clear with extra context.

That could really help to kick what I think can essentially become a habit of reading more slowly than you actually need to. I seem to remember Leebo saying that he had to focus on improving reading speed, so he might also have some good suggestions if you ask.


Too many times!


I do, but I can never commit!

If you mute the thread you don’t get notifications


I think it’s important to occasionally time yourself when reading. Find a short passage, time yourself in reading it, then see if you can summarize it in your own words (English would be fine).

It will be a struggle at first, and your times might be terrible. But the idea is to have some measurable way of seeing if you are improving.


The following information for improving reading speed is only relevant for languages that you’re fluent in. (Thanks to @burgerlands2 for pointing this out. Check out post #18 for more details)

There’s a brain training app called Elevate (iOS and Android) which has several exercises that focus on reading speed (and a bunch of other skills as well). While doing these exercises, I learned some very interesting things about reading. As an example, I’ve copied information from the app about subvocalization.

Subvocalization occurs when you mouth or silently say words to yourself as you read them.

More on what is subvocalization?

Reading and speaking are separate activities, but some readers mouth words to themselves as they read. Even after learning to read silently, most readers continue to mentally say each word in their heads. This is what researchers call subvocalization and it creates a natural limit to the speed at which we can read.

Why do we subvocalize?

When we first learn to read, we begin by learning the sounds associated with each letter and how those are formed into words. When we read aloud, we pronounce each syllable of every word. This ensures that we read every word on the page and helps us comprehend what we read. However, it also leads many people to continue to say words to themselves even as they become stronger readers.

Why eliminate subvocalization?

When you subvocalize, you can only read as fast as you can speak. That results in a reading speed of around 150-200 words per minute. If you eliminate subvocalization, you can still comprehend all the words you read, but you won’t be artificially limited by the speed at which you can talk. It takes some practice, but doing so can allow you to double your reading speed.

How does the app suggest you overcome subvocalization?

Strategies for overcoming subvocalization

Begin to break the habit of subvocalization by keeping yourself from silently mouthing words as you read. An easy way to do this is to find something else to do with your mouth while you read, such as humming. This will be difficult at first, and you may lose focus, but keep practicing and eventually you’ll be able to read without mouthing words.

Break the auditory connection

Even if we don’t mouth or say words aloud as we read, we often speak them to ourselves in our head. As a result, we still associate the sounds of words with their meanings. The key to breaking this auditory connection is to find something else to silently say to yourself as you read. Try counting from 1 to 10 silently as you read. This will be uncomfortable at first, so start slowly. Try increasing your reading speed as it becomes more comfortable; eventually you’ll be able to read much more quickly than you could say the words yourself.

Other tricks they suggest for improving reading speed are grouping chunks of words (utilizing your peripheral vision) and strengthening your eye muscles. The app does a good job providing you with opportunities to practice whatever tip they provide.

Since I just started using the app, I can’t say whether it’s actually helped me to improve or not but it’s been pretty fun so far! The app also focuses on many other skills (e.g. math and vocab) as well so that’s a bonus!

Note on cost: The app is free to download, however, they will try to get you to do a 14 day free trial of their pro version (not free). If you do the trial and don’t cancel by the end of the trial, it will automatically charge you. To avoid this, when prompted about whether you want to begin the free trial, you can click on the “x” and this will take you to their free version. Also, if you do want to go pro, I suggest waiting until it goes on sale. They did a black Friday sale for 50% off so they might do another one around Christmas/New Years.


I recently finished the JLPT N2 and had enough time after the reading section for review, which surprised me. My reading speed has picked up more than I thought. I credit this to … just doing a lot of reading—of school documents, news, manga, prose fiction and test-prep problems, even though they were all painstaking at first.

I think the absolute biggest help has been the prose-fiction reading. Don’t worry about level. Find something you’ll actually want to read, even if the level is a bit too high (but maybe not radically too high). You’ll get better at quickly getting gists, and know you’ve screwed up if you don’t understand the context for the next scene. Also, take notes.

Also do read test prep questions because they’re their own genre. And make reading a set daily routine.

For test-prep passages, I also second the timing suggestion. I started doing that as it got closer to the test and I think it improved my skimming ability. Early on in prep I could spend several minutes on one or two questions, but after practicing with timing, I was generally spending no more than a minute or so to read the passage and still getting the right answers (at a rate that matched up with my earlier, slower reading anyway; not that it was always perfect). It was hard at first but I settled into it.

I’m also a fast reader in English, and have found that basically anything I do in my native language to quickly get context or find important info in test passages also applies in Japanese: know where to look, think about what will be given context further down and doesn’t need to be sweat over right now, and realize what signals an important sentence (often things like とは or ということは in Japanese, which signal an incoming explanation or definition) versus just setup or flavor. It helps to be able to find transition words at a glance too, for tests.

Also also, for tests: Glance at the questions beforehand to direct your reading. Sometimes you’ll be able to breeze over a sentence if you know it’s just setup for the important, question-answering bit to follow. You can go back and read it more thoroughly if you realize you need more context.


First - big hug for you, because that panicky feeling you get when it’s all going too fast in an exam really sucks.

Second - I did the online JCAT prior to reading Kiki’s Delivery service with the book club, and I found the reading section very tough going, with almost no time left to read the questions, even though I was reading as fast as I could. Then, I did it 6 months later, after reading that book, and my reading speed had improved immensely. I was getting through, answering the question and still had time on the clock.
So I definitely encourage you to join us in the book club!!


OMG thank you all so much. There have been (and perhaps will have more) so many really helpful contributions in this thread. Y’all warm my heart. Nope, no getting teary eyed, lol.
I’m probably going to come back to this thread as a reference later, too. <3
Also I just got the book in today, so hopefully I can start to catch up and participate soon.


While subvocalization is certainly a good thing to understand relating to reading speed in general, eliminating it is a thing that’s only really talked about in the context of languages that you’re fluent at. In particular, the argument given for eliminating subvocalization hinges on the premise, “If you eliminate subvocalization [and then go faster], you can still comprehend all the words you read,” which is just fundamentally false here. If one’s brain actually were capable of comprehending all the words that quickly on a given level of the JLPT, then one wouldn’t have any difficulty passing that level of the JLPT. :slight_smile:


I wonder where you get stuck the most. Was it kanji/jukugo meanings/readings? Or was it actually the hiragana/okurigana?

For example you see this verb: 買いたかった.
Do you instantlyveecognize it as tai-form past tense, or do you still need to work it out. If that is the case with some verb forms you clearly need to focus on those a lot more.
Also can you quickly link the particles to the part of speech, or is that something you still have trouble with?
In short try to identify which aspect of reading, exactly, slows you down, and do focused srudy on that aspect. Like go back and do the excercises from your coursebook again. Use an app for conjugation practice. Find a fill-in-the-blank particle exercise.


Hi burgerlands2,

Thank you for the clarification! Since OP was asking for reading speed advice in either native or foreign languages (albeit more specifically geared towards Japanese), I was excited to share something that I found interesting and potentially helpful. However, since it’s a new concept to me, I hadn’t thought carefully about its relation to fluency.

Many thanks for the correction! I’ll edit my post accordingly.