Finally, at the 5th attempt – meaning: after 10 months of training – I have passed the soroban exam for 1st kyu! I had begun to seriously doubt myself, but this time things fell into place and my (almost) daily training paid off! As I still feel that there is room for further improvement, I will start training for the first dan grade, the equivalent of a black belt in martial arts.
The exercises remain much the same: multiplication, division, addition/subtraction, and mental calculation, dempyo, and word problems, with now more digits than before (up into the 10 and 100 millions, or more complex calculations. There is now also one new category: square and cubic roots. I have already learnt how to do them (it is a rather involved algorithm), but now I have to get up to speed with them.
Speaking of which: gaining speed is now the most important thing. For the test, the timing stays the same with 7 minutes for the major parts, but now the number of exercises you can finish correctly in this time determines your rank. One must pass each and every of the seven categories; and more than 100 points each (10 correct exercises each) mean a rank of 1st dan; more than 120 points (12 correct exercises) 2nd dan, more than 140 points (14 correct exercises) 3rd dan and so on.
At the test, there are 30 exercises in each category, and the more you do, the longer and more involved the calculations become. I am really wondering how many people hold a 10th dan soroban, since this would mean correctly completing 28 exercises for each and every of the seven parts… To me, this sounds close to a miracle. My own soroban sensei is 5th dan, that means more than 18 correct exercises in each of the categories, which is already very difficult.
Anyway, nothing will happen on that front for me for the time being since preparation for the 1st dan grade takes at least half a year. I guess the earliest test date that makes sense for me is sometime in March next year. I’ll keep you posted!