Orientation and the Placement Test

Yesterday was my first day of orientation as well as the placement test. The orientation welcomed us to the university and covered a lot of the high level information. The placement test is for those interested in taking Japanese classes higher than the beginner level.

Registration was from 9:30-10:30. When we arrived at the room, we had to present the certificate of residence (the original not a copy) that we received from the city office. We also had to provide our passport. At the next table we had to give our certificate of national health insurance (a copy not the original), and a 3cm x 4cm photograph. After that, we had to submit our dorm contract (mine had already been sent to Rikkyo by my home university so I didn’t have to worry about this) and we had the option to enroll in Rikkyo’s health insurance plan.

Once everybody got settled, things got underway. We had assigned seating, and at each of our spots was a packet of papers. A lot of it was just informational, like the student handbook, a campus map, course list, and stuff like that. It also had other paperwork like, if you planning on going on vacation outside of Japan (like if you want to go to China for a week), and pre-registration forms (there are certain classes that require extra paperwork if you want to take them).

They went through a PowerPoint which covered a lot of the papers in our packet and explained what we could expect over the next few days. We also had somebody from one of the international groups talk to us about some of the different activities that they do. We also watched a cute little video about what to do in case of an earthquake and how to prepare for one. I guess I always knew Japan had lots of earthquakes, but I guess it never occurred to me that I might need to prepare for one. In my home town, the only natural disaster I had to worry about was tornados, and even that was extremely rare.

After orientation, a lot of us got lunch on campus. I have no idea what they call their small little dining area on campus, but that was where we ate, haha. After that we had to register for the placement test.

The placement test was hard. It had three parts: Essay, Web Test, and Interview. For the essay we had 40 minutes and we could choose from two topics, beginner and intermediate/advanced. The beginner topic was something along the lines of, “give your opinion about studying a foreign language,” and the intermediate/advanced topic had something to do with talking about an issue in Japan, or something close to that. I don’t remember because I chose the beginner one.

The web test had three sub-sections: grammar, vocab, and kanji. Not only was this the first time that they had a separate section for kanji, but it was also the first time that the test was online. Previously it had been entirely on paper. We were given a time limit: 30 seconds per question. I think that was what made the test so hard. You couldn’t go back to previous questions and you only had so much time per question. The length of the test depended on the person. Unfortunately, I haven’t quite figured out how the test actually worked.

You could take the sections in any order, so I started with grammar. After the timer for the first question went off before I was able to even finish reading the question and answers, I realized that I wasn’t going to have time to sit and think things out. I also have no idea whether it was better to leave an answer blank, or whether it was better to make a guess and get it wrong. However, I did notice that the more questions I got right, the harder the questions got (the more kanji showed up in the questions). However, after I got a few wrong, the questions got easier (having more hiragana and more spaces making it easier to read).

The interview wasn’t hard, just awkward. My name is Kiyoko, and that’s always a conversation starter with most Japanese people because they’re always surprised that I have a japanese name. Beyond that they asked me basic questions like what Japanese food I liked and what I wanted to try next and where in Japan I wanted to go. I’m assuming the questions would get harder after that, but since my speaking level for Japanese was pretty low, we didn’t talk about much.

Overall, I think I did pretty much how I expected to do. I’m not brand new to Japanese but I definitely don’t know enough to hold my own (I struggled to order food at McDonalds last night, haha). I’m guessing I’ll get placed into J3, which is the beginner-intermediate level (see more info about the course levels), but that’s what I was aiming for, so I’m cool with it.

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