I graduated the Arabic class (3/3/2+) at DLI back in the late 90s and throughout my time in the military and beyond I have taken the DLPT either every year (back when I was military) or every couple years (civilian DoD) and have always managed to do well. My advice for folks testing is, don't concentrate on translating every single word. If it's a listening test, try to listen to the whole passage and if you miss a word, don't focus on it in your mind or else you'll miss everything that comes after that. A lot of times on these pesky tests you can get a lot just from context and if you don't know the word for something like "corruption", if that word is key to understanding the passage then there will often be amplifying context around it to help you. I also advise reading the question AND answers before you even begin reading or listening to the passages. This will gives you a heads up on what to look for and also help prepare your mind for the sorts of vocabulary to expect. I can't stress reading those questions in advance of the passage enough. Sometimes there may be a whole passage about what the general public's opinion is on a certain topic, but at the very end the speaker will say something to the effect of, "However, in my opinion... blah blah." Many times the questions are asking what the speaker's opinions or feelings were, not what anyone else mentioned in the passage thought. Also, it doesn't hurt to familiarize yourself with some general knowledge about the Middle East if you are taking the Arabic DLPT. Knowing how certain cultures feel about certain historic events helps a lot. You don't have to do any crazy studying, but knowing things in general about let's say Israel's war with Egypt or water rights in places like Egypt, Iraq and/or Jordan could help. Using flash cards for some of the higher level vocab can help. So can listening to editorial or opinion type news/tv interviews in your target language. Go with your instinct on the first 10-12 questions since those are usually easier and the answers are pretty straight forward. Remember to concentrate on the questions. Example: A father is notified by a school official that his son had to stay late at school for a soccer game. The dad is concerned because the family has plans to go to dinner at 6pm and if his son is too late, they'll have to cancel the dinner plans. The father alerts the school official to this fact and says not to worry, the boy will be home in plenty of time. The dad then realizes that the boy will miss the bus if he has to stay late so he asks the school official how his son will get home. The school official says not to worry, he will personally drive the boy home. Now here's your question, "What did the father inquire about with the school official regarding his son?" The answers: "A - The father wanted to know when the son would be home; B- The father wanted to know why the boy was staying late at school; C- The father wanted to know how the boy would get home from school; The father wanted to know why his son was in trouble.
So now you're looking and thinking, "Well, Jeez. He wanted to know when the boy would be home AND how he would get home -- both answers are right!"
There's the tricky part. Both answers are not right. The father never asked when the boy would be home. He just wanted to know if the boy would be late. he never asked for the specific time the boy would be home. So the best answer is C - the father wanted to know how his son would be getting home.
It's a bit tricky. The better you are at taking these sorts of tests in English and knowing how to different between "the best" answer is going to go a long way. Also, being a bit conscious of the difference in English between someone being angry vs. disappointed... or confused vs. despaired, can help you a lot.
If all else fails, I always tell folks to pick the answer that sounds the most abstract. I know that sounds weird, but sometimes the answers that sound the most abstract and least specific, are actually the correct ones, especially as you enter into the level 3 and higher stuff.
Also, for Arabic tests, try to put yourself in an Arabic person's shoes. If you absolutely have no clue what the passage was about, but it was an Arabic speaker commenting on the West who sounded a bit disgruntled, you can probably guess that he's no too happy with the West's policies against his country. Of course this doesn't work for every single time it's an Arabic speaker, but it may help for the passages where you are completely lost.
Don't leave any answers blank! You don't get points taken off for guessing so answer every questions. Time management is also a big deal for some folks. If you are within the first 5 or 6 passages and you read or see the answer right away, then mark it and move on. The time you save on the easy ones can help you when you hit the harder/longer passages.
If all else fails and you have zero clue about something, find the two answers that are the most similar, and go with one of those. That's just one of my personal test taking strategies and it hasn't let me down so far.
Well... that's about it for my tips on DLPT test-taking. To improve your overall language skills, which includes helping you do well on the DLPT, make sure to get that spare time in and listen to radio broadcasts or news broadcasts in the target language. There are a lot of Apps you can download for free that will let you listen live to radio stations like Al Jazeera or BBC Arabic right from your smartphone. Unfortunately listening or reading straight up news reports about car crashes or storms are not going to help much -- that's kind of still in level 2 realm. If you want to get up to that 3 level, listen/read editorial stuff. You need to be able to figure out how speakers/writers are justifying or supporting their arguments.
At some point I'll get around to actually building a list of vocab for folks and sticking the link on here, but in the meantime, focus on Arabic vocab related to politics, economy/finance, general science, etc. I used to have a teacher at DLI who would pick a topic, let's say "elections" and then make us brainstorm on the type of vocab we would expect to come across in Arabic: Elections, voting, nominees, candidates, ballots, winner, loser, political party, polls, parliament, president, head of a party, ministry, etc. -- Doing this sort of thing will help prepare you for whatever reading/listening passage related to elections that will follow. That's why I say take that extra few seconds to read the questions and answers -- during those few seconds, think about the vocab you would expect to see and hear. I never used flashcards myself because I didn't always have the ability to recall every single word, but add some context around it and it all came back to me. Give that brainstorming activity a try and see how you go. It also doesn't hurt that if you are the type of person who can't remember what you just heard ten seconds after you finished hearing it, try practicing with materials from the internet or news in English. Watch a two minute news clip and take notes, jot down any words you hear and see what you come up with at the end. Keep trying to train your brain how to scan as you listen and practice your ability to recall the info afterwards. the more you do this, the better your memory will get. Eventually you can stop trying to write whole sentences and instead just jot down a few random words. Then try to recall what was said around those words. It'll help.