EIKEN Grade-1 / 英検1級 is indeed one of the top targets for those who study English as a foreign language. Some comparison grids note that EIKEN Grade-1 is as difficult as TOEFL iBT's above 100 scores and TOEIC's 900 or more (see the chart below).
Apart from TOEFL and TOEIC, EIKEN is the genuinely Japanese-produced English test and probably has the longest history in Japan as a proficiency test for Japanese people. Possessing EIKEN Grade-1 proves that you are indeed a professional English speaker and gives you a broad range of benefits on various occasions.
The proficiency level of EIKEN Grade-1 is stipulated as below.
One can understand the English required in various scenes of social life well and can make use of it.
(Quoted from:各級の審査基準 | 英検 | 公益財団法人 日本英語検定協会)
This definition sounds vague, but it should mean that one can apply himself / herself into diverse instances, such as at an academic lecture delivered by a native speaker, a business meeting with those who speak English, and reading editorials written by American newspapers like the Wall Street Journal or New York Times.
Needlessly speaking, one cannot simply reach the pinnacle of this proficiency criteria, whose tips are outlined in this article.
I hope you will find this article useful and profitable to the journey of your conquest.
This article consists of six parts.
- What to Do as A Whole
- How to Better Listening Skill
- How to Better Reading Skill
- How to Better Writing Skill
- How to Better Speaking Skill
- Benefits of Posessing Grade-1
This article presumes that readers already have a satisfactory command of English, satisfactory enough to posess Grade Pre-1, which means that you need to be able to understand somwehat complicated languages (if, for example, you are a student, you should be able to comprehend and solve the entrance exams of top-class national academic institutions such as the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Waseda University, Keio University, and Akita International University). Therefore, there will be no guidance of how to study grammar or how to understand the basic component of English.
Now, let's begin.
1. What to Do as a Whole
The core and utmost importance in tackling EIKEN Grade-1 is to get yourself inured to the structure of tests.
EIKEN Grade-1's test is made up with five sections.
- Vocabulary: an exam-taker needs to complete sentences by choosing the most appropriate word or idiom from four options. The words and idioms that appear in this section are seen in the occasions like academic papers and journalistic writings.
- Reading and completion: an exam-taker needs to read and complete paragraphs. One needs to be able to ascertain the contexts correctly to perfect paragraphs, and topics differ from psychology to business.
- Reading: an exam-taker needs to read, comprehend, and answer questions related to the content of the materials. Topics do differ again from history to science and much more.
- Essay: an exam-taker needs to write a short essay on the presented topic. The topic is, contrary to Grade Pre-1, political, social, and polarizing. One needs to clearly state his / her opinion about the topic and to deliver it logically. Needless to say, proper grammatical comprehention is integral to this section.
- Listening: this part comprises of three divisions. Conversation, long talks, and an interview. Most of those who take on Grade-1 should be able to basically listen to understand spoken English, so the vocabulary is the key. Broad range of topics are delivered, as most of you would anticipate, such as business talks and academic lectures.
Just as the criteria of Grade-1 writes, various topics and occasions are included in this test.
In order for you to smoothly process the test, you should download all past exam papers and buy Obunsha's reference books to get yourself used to the composition of a test (just to let you know that I am neither affiliated nor associated with Obunsha to promote people to buy their books, it is just that I find their books to be most useful in grappling with this test).
Further to getting yourselves adapted to the structure of the test, you need to do everyting possible to beef up your vocabulary.
This, dear readers, is probably of the utmost importance in studying for this ultimate goal. As you can see in the Vocabulary section, words that most non-native English speakers would not use nor understand appear in this grade.
So, hey, what can I do to build up my vocabulary?
First of all, as you solve past exam questions, you would see bunch of words that you do not understand. Take note of and remember them all. The words that appeared in the exams are likely to show up again.
In so doing, you do not have to compose a complete and beautiful-looking vocabulary note. It is a significant waste of time and energy. All you need to do is to remember the spellings and definitions of words, because that is all questioned in this exam. Actual applications to your daily lives and usages can come later, whenever you are free.
Nowadays, many flash card Apps are available on both iOS and Android, which means once you finish collecting words that you do not know, you should create flash cards on your App(s) and review them time and time again whenever you have a time. You can do it, for example, before you go to sleep or while at a cafe.
If you prefer to write on paperback flash cards, let's give it a go. The purpose is to remember words, and whatever you feel comfortable and effiective should be employed.
2. How to Better Listening Skill
I'm assuming that most of you have some skills of listening, but understanding daily conversation with native English speakers is not enough. The topics of the Listening section are random and spoken with various accents. Let me be clear, chatting with a Fhilipino on Skype means nothing.
In lieu of doing such meaningless stuff, you should listen to news bulletins broadcasted by English-speaking countries' news organizations.
Because news bulletins are about random topic on multiple affairs and news which you may have a prior knowledge or you may not, you can hone your skill on understanding unknown topics. In addition, bulletins are pretty similar to some Listening questions: long talks. Long-talk questions comprises a good portion of Listening section, acquiring the skill to comprehend news bulletins are vital.
Here are the news bulletins I listen to daily to catch up with global affairs.
VOA is a United States' government-funded news organization which delivers news of various topics, including international ones. Click "Latest Newscast" to listen to a five minutes bulletin. VOA is also recommended because the speakers of news bulletins have very clear, typical North American accent, which many would find easy to listen to.
NPR is an online independent news organization based in Washington D.C. The new bulletin is available by clicking "Listen to NPR News in 5 Minutes" or download its App.
RNZ, or Radio New Zealand, is an independent and national radio organization in New Zealand. RNZ's most interesting point is, as its name suggests, that the speakers are with kiwi accent, or New Zealand's accent. Not all, but some speakers of the Listening section come with accents other than standard American (Canadian) or British and the accents are sometimes hard to understand if you are not familiar with them.
Additionally, watching dramas of English speaking countries is a good idea.
Because those dramas are produced, acted, and intended for native English-speakers, it is nothing but natural. Don't get too comfortable with easy ones, but choose ones that come with intricate conversations.
Following is my recommendation.
They all involve complicated stories, which are frequently seen on the Listening section.
The important thing in doing this is to watch it either with English subtitles or without subtitles. You need to develop the skill to understand tangled conversations and long-talks.
3. How to Better Reading Skill
You need to sharpen the ability to read and comprehend prolonged and complicated paragraphs, and the ideal material for practicing this is to read English speaking countries' newspapers editorials.
The difficulty of newspapers written in English is in the following order (based off of my prejudice).
- Papers written by and for native English speakers, such as the Wall Street Journal, The Washinton Post, and The Guardian (Very difficult).
- Papers written by non-native English speakers and published both for natives and non-natives, such as The Japan Times and The Japan News.
- Papers intended for non-professionals, non-natives, such as Asahi Weekly.
As a general rule of thumb, if you can read the newspapers categorized as "1", you should have no problem reading Grade-1 paragraphs (you might find them easier), so this is the point you should aim for.
Reading is a pain in the ass, but you have to overcome it to pass the test. Therefore, if you are unsure if you can read WSJ, try reading The Japan Times, which contains several topics that you find familiar with.
Should you find yourselves not enough to clear the obstacle, take the shot at some university entrance exams which come with relatively difficult English reading comprehension.
The mainstream of such is Keio University's SFC and Waseda University's SILS. As far as I'm concerned, those universities' English tests offer broad range of topics with relatively prolonged paragraph.
4. How to Better Writing Skill
Although the Writing section is relatively small compared to other sections, whether you can gain enough points largely affect the pass / fail. You don't need to get 100% scoring but you should aim for more than 80%.
This time the methodology of logical expansion will not be discussed, and I hereby recommend you to replicate the answers posted with past questions. By doing this, first and foremost, you can feel the structure of an answer. Although there is no scientific logic or evidence to support my claim, I felt that writing them by hand worked well to remember something and I assume the same goes for some of you.
On a daily basis, aside from the abovementioned methodology, you might want to practice thinking about and composing your opinion on various matters and agenda. Generally speaking, the Writing section's questions do not involve timely affairs such as whether the Trump administration's trade war policy is correct or not, but are rather on general questions debated by many over the past years.
One of the questions from the past is,
"Is a worldwide ban on weapons of mass destruction an attainable goal?"
It does not matter what you personally feel, but it matters a hell of a lot more how you logically develop your stance on this issue.
Last but not least, be sure you do not make silly grammatical mistakes. You don't have to be a poet writer, but become precise.
5. How to Better Speaking Skill
The preparation for this part can come later, as this skill is questioned only should you pass the first step.
If you have already experienced Grade Pre-1, you should have no problem with speaking English. All that matters now is again to logically have your say on the asked question.
If you prepare well for the Writing section, you should have no problem with this section.
Here is the small tip for an interview: you don't have to speak flawlessly with clear American accent, but focus on speaking clearly without equivocation. Your time is limited, although interviewers would not interrupt while you are talking, so be sure to consicely speak. This is not a speech contest, but is a discussion.
6. Benefits of Posessing Grade-1
By the time you have passed the interview test to finally get your hands on the certificate of Grade-1 possession, you should be able to have the following benefits.
- You will be able to access a multitude of academic researches conducted on English countries' academic institutions like Harvard and Oxbridge.
- You will be able to comprehend foreign news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, Sydney Morning Herald, and The Dominion Post.
- You will be able to watch and enjoy TV series and movies produced in foreign soil without Japanese subtitles, and you will also be able to watch many movies that are not theatred in Japan.
- You will be able to work globally, such as writing business documents and having a meeting with overseas branches.
EIKEN Grade-1 will give you an unlimited access to the world.
Why don't you give it a go?