If you want to pass the JLPT N1 test like I did – on the first attempt without having taken any of the lower-level tests – there's only one method I can recommend: massive exposure to real Japanese, emphasizing reading practice and getting listening exposure as a secondary activity. Don't bother learning all those canned dialogues about ordering in restaurants; go straight for quality materials that reflect authentic, natural usage.
However, one challenge you'll face is that JLPT's higher levels, N1 and N2, also include grammar points that are pretty rare in day-to-day language or even in literature. Even if you read a lot you will only see those expressions once in a long while – and that may not be enough for you to absorb their meaning before the test throws them at you.
Still, learning them as abstractions won't be very effective either; it's always best to learn new grammar in some definite context. And this is what we'll be doing here in the JLPTips column: learning how advanced JLPT grammar points are used in the real language.
The first expression we'll look at is べく, a written or formal marker of purpose, which is usually classified as a JLPT N1 element. べく directly follows verbs and has the general meaning of "with the purpose of ~" (where ~ is the verb). You may know it from the idiom なるべく, "as much as possible", which is literally "so that it becomes [a reality]". But べく can be freely used with any verb that logically expresses a purpose.
Here's a typical example from a non-fiction text by Akutagawa Ryunosuke (芥川龍之介):
I was frantically climbing up the steep slope in order to make it as soon as possible to the deserted cave in which I was to spend the night.
The first clause, which ends in べく, indicates the purpose of the second clause. As you can see, the order of the clauses in the translation is reversed.
べく is originally the adverbial form of べし, a multipurpose auxiliary that indicates, among other uses, the possibility or certainty that something will take place. So ~べく is really the equivalent of saying "in a way that is conducive to the realization of ~".
Being a written/formal element (what the Japanese like to call 硬い, a "stiff" form of expression), べく tends not to be used for trivial purposes. You'll typically see it marking an important, urgent, or otherwise consequential purpose, such as the one in the example sentence. While you are not likely to use it much in speech, it is a handy tool for your writing and an essential ingredient in your receptive skills – reading and listening.
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