JLPT Boot Camp - The Ultimate Study Guide to passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test JLPT Boot Camp - The Ultimate Study Guide to passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test
Menu
Search
JLPT time – Time management for the test

JLPT timeOne of the first times I took the JLPT, it was the old JLPT and I was on the reading section. I was about half way through the grammar questions when they told us stop. I was petrified. How did the time fly by so quickly? It didn’t really seem fair.

I later found out that you need to really gauge your time or else be left with no time. You have to keep yourself well paced or else you might find yourself with a few questions left blank when they tell you to stop.

After all, there is no penalty for wrong answers so you might as well answer all the questions on the test and hope you get some of them right. Better than leaving them blank and knowing you got them all wrong. So, it’s important to keep track of your time.

Each test is broken down a little differently and contains different sections and numbers of questions, so I’m going to try to break down each test individually so you have a good idea of how much time you have for each section of the test. Keep in mind that these are just general estimates and that you might want to adjust them to your particular style and weaknesses.

Since timing isn’t really needed for the listening section, I’m going to go ahead and skip it in this article. If you want a better idea of what the listening sections look like however, by all means check out JLPT listening sections – What are they like?

Also note that each section has about 15 minutes of instruction time before you are actually able to open the test booklet and begin to answer questions. This time is spent on explaining the rules like what the different cards mean (red and yellow). All of these rules are in the application packet, so if you are not sure of what you can and can not do in the test, I encourage you to take a look at the packet before the exam.

JLPT N5 Times

The N5 gives you a lot of time to answer each question on the test. At this level, there is no real need to be rushed when answering questions. However, you still don’t want to get caught up on that one stumper.

The N5 is split into 3 sections, language knowledge (vocabulary), language knowledge(grammar) and reading, and listening. You have 25 minutes for the language knowledge(vocabulary) section and 50 minutes for the language knowledge(grammar) and reading section.

Below is a quick and dirty break down of all the sections and about how much time you should spend on each:

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary) – 25 minutes total, 3 minutes checking time

Kanji Reading (12) Orthography(8) Expressions(10) Paraphrases(5)
6 minutes 4 minutes 7.5 minutes 4.5 minutes

Language Knowledge(Grammar) – 50 minutes total, 2.5 minutes checking time

Grammar Form(16) Sentence Composition(5) Text Grammar(5)
8 minutes 7.5 minutes 9 minutes

Reading

Short(3) Mid-sized(2) Information Retrieval(1)
9 minutes 6 minutes 5 minutes

The number in parentheses is the number of questions each section has.  I factored in 3 minutes for the Vocabulary Section for ‘checking’ and 2.5 minutes in the Grammar and Reading Section for the same reason.

JLPT N4 Times

The N4 speeds things up a bit. You will still need to keep things going at a good pace, but probably won’t have to make use of too many skimming or scanning techniques. If you keep yourself paced though, you can go back and check the sections you had a little trouble with.

The N4 is still split into 3 sections, language knowledge (vocabulary), language knowledge(grammar) and reading, and listening. You have 30 minutes for the language knowledge(vocabulary) section and 60 minutes for the language knowledge(grammar) and reading section.

Here is another quick break down of all the sections and about how much time you should spend on each:

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary) – 30 minutes total, 4 minutes checking time

Kanji Reading (9) Orthography(6) Expressions(10) Paraphrases(5) Usage(5)
5 minutes 3 minutes 8 minutes 5 minutes 5 minutes

Language Knowledge(Grammar) – 60 minutes total, 4 minutes checking time

Grammar Form(15) Sentence Composition(5) Text Grammar(5)
7.5 minutes 7.5 minutes 9 minutes

Reading

Short(4) Mid-sized(4) Information Retrieval(2)
12 minutes 12 minutes 10 minutes

The number in parentheses is the number of questions each section has.  I factored in 4 minutes for both the Vocabulary Section and the Grammar and Reading Section for ‘checking’.

JLPT N3 Times

Things are going to start speeding up here. This is the last level where there are 3 sections. The essays will be a little bit more logical in nature and you will have to be able to read and answer questions at a good pace. You don’t have to break any records, but just keep a move on.

The N3 still has 3 sections, language knowledge (vocabulary), language knowledge(grammar) and reading, and listening. You have 30 minutes for the language knowledge(vocabulary) section and 70 minutes for the language knowledge(grammar) and reading section.

Again, here is a quick break down for the test:

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary) – 30 minutes total, 4 minutes checking time

Kanji Reading (8) Orthography(6) Expressions(11) Paraphrases(5) Usage(5)
4 minutes 3 minutes 9 minutes 5 minutes 5 minutes

Language Knowledge(Grammar) – 70 minutes total, 4 minutes checking time

Grammar Form(13) Sentence Composition(5) Text Grammar(5)
7 minutes 7 minutes 8 minutes

Reading

Short(4) Mid-sized(6) long(4) Information Retrieval(2)
10 minutes 16 minutes 10 minutes 8 minutes

The number in parentheses is the number of questions each section has.  I factored in 4 minutes for both the Vocabulary Section and the Grammar and Reading Section for ‘checking’.

JLPT N2 Times

The biggest complaint about the N2 is that you are not given enough time to answer the reading questions. The test will force you to be a speedy reader. This is where kanji practice is your friend. The ability to quickly and accurately read kanji will help you speed through the vocabulary section and get the reading section faster. You’ll also be able to read the passages faster as well.

The N2 has 2 sections, Language knowledge and reading, and listening. You have a whopping 105 minutes for the Language knowledge and reading section and 50 minutes for the listening. This is where time management really pays off.

Here are the timings by section:

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary) – 105 minutes total, 5 minutes checking time

Kanji Reading (5) Orthography(5) Word Formation(5)
3 minutes 3 minutes 3 minutes
Expressions(7) Paraphrases(5) Usage(5)
8 minutes 3 minutes 5 minutes

Language Knowledge(Grammar)

Grammar Form(12) Sentence Composition(5) Text Grammar(5)
6 minutes 5 minutes 6 minutes

Reading

Short(5) Mid-sized(9) Integrated Comprehension(2)
10 minutes 18 minutes 10 minutes
Thematic Comprehension(3) Information Retrieval(2)
10 minutes 10 minutes

The number in parentheses is the number of questions each section has.  I factored in 5 minutes for ‘checking’.

JLPT N1 Times

The N1 is the ultimate test and will stretch your Japanese listening and reading endurance to the limits. You will have to learn how to skim and scan and summarize what you’ve read quickly. Knowing kanji like the back of your hand will really help you out.

The N1 has 2 sections, Language knowledge and reading, and listening. You have a nauseating 110 minutes for the Language knowledge and reading section and 60 minutes for the listening. Time management is really important.

Here are the timings again broken down by section:

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary) – 110 minutes total, 7 minutes checking time

Kanji Reading (6) Orthography(0) Word Formation(0)
3 minutes Not on N1 Not on N1
Expressions(7) Paraphrases(6) Usage(6)
4 minutes 4 minutes 6 minutes

Language Knowledge(Grammar)

Grammar Form(10) Sentence Composition(5) Text Grammar(5)
5 minutes 5 minutes 6 minutes

Reading

Short(4) Mid-sized(9) long(4)
8 minutes 18 minutes 12 minutes
Integrated Comprehension(3) Thematic Comprehension(4) Information Retrieval(2)
12 minutes 12 minutes 8 minutes

The number in parentheses is the number of questions each section has.  I factored in 7 minutes for ‘checking’.

Be prepared

If you are taking the two higher levels, N2 and N1, you will want to have a wristwatch handy and be keeping track of your time. I don’t know how many times, I’ve heard them call for booklets closed and someone is frantically trying to write down the last few answers. You don’t want to be that guy/gal.

Keep these numbers in mind as you are taking the test. You may even want to quickly write them down as soon as you are allowed to open your test booklet (in the booklet, NOT on the mark sheet).

Action Steps

Do you use any kind of time management techniques?

Do you think these times are accurate?

Let me know in the comments below!

Photo by Meis Beeder

Like what you read?
If so, please join my newsletter and get exclusive weekly JLPT tips, and get a FREE COPY of my eBook, The 5 Biggest Mistakes People Make on the JLPT! Just enter your name and email below:

arrow14 Responses

  1. Azanea
    25 mos, 3 wks ago

    In my opinion, there’s too much time alloted to information retrieval. The minutes can be safely halved because the question is straightforward, you don’t have to read the entire thing and all you have to do is look out for exceptions.
    A handy trick is to jump to info retrieval when your concentration starts dipping, say after the mid-sized passages in N2 or after the long passages in N1. This lets our poor fatigued brains get a sort of breather before tackling confusing thematic and integrated comprehensions.

  2. 25 mos, 3 wks ago

    Yeah, I agree with that actually, for this article I took some numbers from a few practice books, but in reality I spend a lot less time on information retrieval.

    Great tip on jumping to the info retrieval when your attention is dipping. I usually skip forward and do it right before the thematic passage.

  3. Rebecca
    24 mos, 1 wk ago

    I’m taking N2 for the second time tomorrow, and I have to say that time management/test taking skills is even more important than actual Japanese knowledge, especially for the reading section.

    The first time I took the test, I heard them call for 15 minutes left and I hadn’t even started on the reading section. Needless to say that was a disaster. However, I did well on the listening, where the CD paces you through the questions. There’s still not a lot of time to answer or rethink in the listening, so you just have to go with your gut. Nothing is printed anyway so you can’t reread the question.

    This time I bought a watch and focused on timing myself through the different sections of the test, and now I can finish a practice test within the time limit, which is an accomplishment in my opinion. But it wasn’t studying Japanese that sped up my test-taking ability. I cut down a huge chunk of time on the reading section by reading the questions first, then jumping to the underlined sections and reading two sentences before it. For the “Information Search” section, 75% of the information is there /purely to slow you down in reading it/, which is kind of cruel. For the reading section you need to be able to find where the information is located (like the first/last sentences of paragraphs) and then you can take your time reading those.

    That’s what I’ve been doing anyway, and I hope it works out!

  4. 24 mos, 1 wk ago

    So true Rebecca. I have a question for you. What country are you taking the exam in? Here in Japan, they don’t yell at the time at all. As a matter of fact they don’t even have a clock in the room to give you any kind of indication as to how much time you have (at least at all the facilities I’ve been to). It seems like they are a lot nicer in other countries.

    As for the reading, I think you’ve made some good points. The information retrieval/search questions at the end of reading are definitely questions that you need to skim for to save time and get all the questions answered in time. They have gotten a little tricky lately though. Sometimes you really have to read a lot of the passages to understand what the underlined parts are. The old 二級 tests were a lot easier in this respect. I can usually score 80 ~ 100% on the reading on past 二級 tests, but N2? not even close I’m afraid. Anybody that says the N2 is equivalent to the 二級 (including JEES) is full of it. N2 is really like a 1.5-級, halfway between 二級 and 一級. At least in my experience going over the old 二級 tests.

  5. Kaile
    17 mos, 1 wk ago

    Hi Mac,

    Just thought I would let you know that I am reading this article before the JLPT this afternoon. In case the time of my comment doesn’t show up correctly, yes, today is the day of reckoning (July 1st 2012). I also intend to eat some bananas later to get an energy boost. LOL. Thanks for consolidating all these tips for us; it makes me feel that i have a little bit more control over the fate/outcome of the exam. grin.

    Good luck for JLPT!

  6. 17 mos, 1 wk ago

    No problems Kaile! I hope you did well on the test. I feel like I did better than expected, but I still didn’t pass yet.

  7. タカ
    14 mos, 2 wks ago

    Thank you
    I really searched for a approximate time per section. I am preparing for N5. I could go for N4 or even N3 but is about Kanji. I know a lot but not in order. My target is N3 or N2 if i have time in July next year. What i want to ask. The 15 min of explanation is counted as being part of test round or not.

  8. 14 mos, 1 wk ago

    the 15 minutes of explanation is not counting in these times, but it is counted in the times that are given in the booklet you may or may not get when you sign up for the test.

  9. Dustin
    12 mos, 1 wk ago

    I think the N5 times on this listing need to be updated. The following times are on my voucher…

    Language Knowledge (Vocabulary) 12:30 – 13:10
    Language Knowledge (Grammar) and Reading – 13:40 – 14:45
    Listening – 15:15 – 16:00

  10. 12 mos, 1 wk ago

    Yeah, those times are the ‘test hours’ the times above is the ‘answering time’ the actual time you have to answer the questions on the test.

  11. Tai
    5 mos, 2 wks ago

    Mac, I take the test in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and they indicate us how much time we have. It is usually said when there is 15 and 5 minutes left.

  12. 5 mos, 2 wks ago

    That’s good to hear. I think they used to do that here in Japan, but not anymore. We just have to guess (at least in the Kansai area).

  13. Michael
    5 days, 11 hrs ago

    Hi Mac,

    I just wanted to thank you for all your help. Your instructions, as well as your tips have been extremely helpful! Also, thanks to you I’ve found the N5 practice workbooks and now I have a pretty good idea of what to expect on Sunday.
    However, since I’m learning japanese all by myself, I’d really appreciate it if you could help me on some details of the test procedure..
    1. Besides my test voucher and pencil/eraser, is there something else I should have with me on Sunday?
    2. Do we get the 3 sections of the test from the start, or each one is given separately right before it starts?
    3. Can we take notes on these booklets or do we have to bring our own notebooks?
    4. What’s this thing about the red and yellow cards? I have absolutely no idea!

    Thank you very much!
    I hope you see my message on time,!

  14. 2 days, 5 hrs ago

    Sorry Michael that I couldn’t get to your message before the test. I hope you did well.

    This already past the test but it is helpful to bring a wrist watch with you. Some testing facilities don’t have a clock. Be sure to check what kind of watch is allowed though.

    The n5 has 3 sections and they are administered separately, usually with breaks between each one.

    You can mark up your test booklet by making notes and circling things. Extra notebooks are not allowed because of possible cheating.

    The red and yellow cards will be explained at the testing center. Again it depends on where it is being administered.

Leave A Comment