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December JLPT 2016 First Impressions

December JLPT 2016 First Impressions post image

This July JLPT is only available in a few countries, but the December test is the big one.  This test is conducted all around the world.  And for a lot of people, this is the one shot you get at passing the exam until next year.  It can be pretty intense, considering a lot of you signed up for the test a few months ago, thinking you can get in a lot of studying before the big day.

And now that day has come to pass.  I hope you were able to get in all the studying you wanted to do before today and that you were in a good condition to take the test and get the score that you deserve.  Thanks everyone for all your support and all your emails and questions over the last few months.  It has been great to hear from you all.  I hope that I was able to help everyone and at least point you in the right direction.

I also hope you were able to take the test in good conditions.  It can be a little difficult to take the test if the weather is especially cold, and they didn’t figure out how to turn on the heating in your classroom.  Or if they did figure out how to turn on the heat, but somehow managed to turn it up to max.

So, how did you think you do?

I Freaking Aced it!

If you feel like you sailed through this test, what do you think lead to you passing the test? Did you try to focus on a particular way of studying?  What do you think had the most impact on your score?  We would love to hear about it in the comments.

I’d especially like to hear about anything interesting or unusual that you like to do.  We have all heard of how to drill vocabulary with apps, and trudge through some good drill books.  But, did you do anything that is not on the beaten path?  Did you read Manga for 4 hours a day?  Did you find cookbooks had a lot of the vocabulary and grammar that you needed to pass your level?  I’m interested to know.

I didn’t Do so Well

First of all, I’m sorry to hear that.  Maybe it was the freezing weather, maybe it was that annoying group of people behind you at the test, or the person next to you that was cheating off your mark sheet, but today wasn’t your day.  Be sure to take a breather, maybe even take a break from this blog post (but be sure to stop back later), and go have a laugh.  Watch a funny TV show or movie and then come back and see us.

OK, are you back?  So, what did you focus most on?  Did you do a lot of vocabulary work and neglect doing any reading practice?  Did you forget to do any work with listening?  What do you feel right now was the worst section for you?  It is helpful to record it now, so that when you get your results back in a few months you can compare them to your initial reactions.

If something wasn’t sticking the way it should have, it is time to switch up your study routine.  Actually, you might want to change absolutely everything about how you are studying so that you can get a fresh start with it.  If your studying was focused mostly on reading and writing, maybe it is time to shift to doing more listening and speaking.  Right now, you have a good amount of time before the next test, so you should go and find something you want to learn about and have fun with, and who knows that might just help you pass next time.

Test Results

If you took the test in Japan and registered online, I’m sure they told you that test results will be online somewhere in the first part of February.  However, they usually post results on the last Tuesday of January.  The server is usually packed for the first few hours of the day and might even be a little patchy after that, but you should be able to check your results around that time.

Now, that is unofficial of course, they might come out sooner or later, but they have been releasing the results around that time every year since they start online registration, so if I were a betting man, that is when I would plan on them coming out.

They will then mail out certificates after that, so if you registered the old fashion way you should get them sometime at the beginning of February.  Results in other countries should be slightly more delayed by about a week or so.  In some areas, it might be early March before you see your results.

Whenever you get your results be sure to come visit me here at the blog.  I’d love to hear from everyone about how you did.

But right now, what are your initial reactions to the test?  Was it easier or more difficult than you thought?  What level did you take?  Let us know in the comments below.

{ 75 comments… add one }
  • Nicolás Enrique December 5, 2016, 1:00 am

    I took n3 today. Vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension were relatively easy, but the listening section felt a really hard and sometimes fast for me. I guess my overall performance was OK, but if I didn’t pass the exam it will be surely for the listening section. In that case I should take the exam once again in July.

  • Soothsilver December 5, 2016, 2:00 am

    I took N5, thinking I’ll want to take a test that I can surely pass, but then… it felt more difficult than the practice test. I don’t think I passed…

    I’m rather sure I have 100% or close on the vocabulary portion, and I think I should have perfect scores on reading, too, but I didn’t learn what particles go with what verbs or words so I’ll lose quite a few points on those grammar points, and then the frigging listening part.

    The recording was clear but I didn’t manage to understand the sentences in time, or to hear the words clearly enough to translate or understand them. I made a guess on all Listening questions except for a single one. Sometimes an educated guess, but still. This was the first language test I have taken where the recording was not repeated, i.e. you only had each situation played to you once. I knew this would be the case and I still wasn’t prepared for that. Oh well, I’ll go focus on Listening and next year I’ll go for N4 anyway.

    • Dee December 6, 2016, 10:41 pm

      I did the N5 as well.
      The vocab and reading portions were good. I am sure I will pass those.

      BUT the listening section. I did plenty of practice test and even bought a book with a focus on listening. I even forced myself to only listen to these mock test once to make it harder for myself. But the actual listening test… I probably guessed a good portion of it. Especially the last 6 questions. Not sure what I more I could have done.

      • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:03 pm

        Have you ever tried “sight overlapping” Basically, you listen to a CD while taking a look at the script. Your mind probably has the words stored visually, but not the audio. You just need to link the two together. Practicing with good materials that have audio clips also helps. (like Memrise.com or my Ultimate Anki Deck)

    • Sydney Boy December 7, 2016, 7:58 pm

      I agree Soothsilver. I thought the vocabulary part was quite straight-forward. The reading part was a bit more difficult, with more te form and past tense than I was expecting (and more than I studied for). The listening section was hard. The speed was definitely faster than expected – faster than the JLPT foundation’s practice exam.

      My first attempt at a JLPT so I don’t think I will pass, but a good experience anyway. Another attempt in 12 months time and I will get it for sure. I sat the test in Brisbane Australia, and there were about 35 people sitting the test, and it looked to be that about 11 others registered but didn’t show up.

      • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:17 pm

        Wow, 11 didn’t even show up? That’s fairly rare here. I only see about 3 or 4 empty seats for a room of 40 or so.

  • Erica December 5, 2016, 3:15 am

    So, first timer here. Had to take a train for 6 hours to Chicago to take N2 (but it’s Chicago so it’s well worth it ^-^)

    As far as first impressions go, this was definitely interesting! I was easily the youngest examinee in the room for N2 (17), but not the youngest overall, so that was reassuring. As far as the test goes, I think what’s going to kill my score is Listening. I got distracted towards the end and completely fell behind on the last two questions. When it was time to close the booklet, I was one behind (oops). Written portion is where I expect to really shine. I finished a full 40 minutes before time was up, and I gotta tell ya, that’s a fantastic feeling. Never realized that I’m that fast of a reader! I spent quite a bit of time afterwards just going over answers, but overall, I felt pretty good about that section. The only thing I’m a little shaky on is Grammar, but that has more to do with a pre-existing aversion to that style of testing in English.

    I also feel like talking a bit about the actual testing site, since I had a pretty hard time finding out a whole lot about how it worked with JLPT testing before actually getting there. Now, barring any major changes, I believe that DePaul University hosts the exam each year for Chicago. It’s not too far a walk from Lincoln Park, but you’re definitely going to want to drive or have someone drive for you if you’re any further than that. As far as trains go, I’ve still never used them in this city, but from what I could tell, it was still a bit of a walk from the nearest station to DePaul. Nearly everyone I talked to either walked or took a taxi or an Uber. Buses do run through the area, but the amount of snow that was starting to come down was really making it difficult to get around regardless of how you got there.

    My proctors were pretty amazing people. One was a woman who had learned Japanese to some extent and the other was a Japanese guy who was extremely proficient in English and loved to make jokes. About 10 minutes before test time, he drew something on the board and went, “What’s this?” And almost everyone went “みかん”. He follows this up by drawing a cylinder beneath it and goes, “Alright, now what’s this?” Whole room started cracking up once we realized what he was doing. あるみかんアルミ缶. Never would’ve guessed I’d hear this before a major test, but it definitely lightened the mood. Now granted, this was just my experience and might not be (probably isn’t) universal, but to say the least, it did seem that a university teacher was paired with a representative from Japan to ensure all instructions were understood at any level.

    Accessibility was also a complete non-issue. There were several banks of elevators that everyone could use and ramps throughout the building. Floor plans above the first floor were pretty flat too. My only real complaint was the bathroom situation, where you would have to travel to different floors to use the bathroom. Thankfully, I only had to go one down to get there, but I ended up getting confused and walked into the wrong room by mistake (/_\) (400s are the fourth floor, kids).

    During the test, the room was nearly silent. The only things you’d ever hear were erasers going after wrong answers and the occasional shifting of a chair. Still, these are such minor things that you’ll probably hardly notice them. There were heaters, but they were DEAD QUIET. Ah! The ones at MY school aren’t even that quiet. Even still, I’d recommended bringing or dressing in layers. I didn’t need most of mine, but I’ve been in situations before where even the best things fail.

    Also contrary to what I’d been told, the proctors had NO issues with mechanical pencils for the answer sheet so long as they were HB or #2; you CAN use pen but only on the booklet; and you CANNOT have a water bottle on the table with the rest of your things. With that last one, however, it’s advised that you keep it next to you on the floor, sealed and without a label, and take drinks when needed. I think this is to avoid any spills ruining your test, which is pretty smart. Kinda surprised I didn’t have to do this when I took AP exams last year.

    Anyway, I think that’s all I really had to discuss for this. I do have a fun fact that I learned from one of the 長文 sections, but I’m not sure I can disclose that yet. I’ll check, and if I can, I’ll be sure to share. It was actually pretty interesting! TT^TT

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 12:15 am

      That’s pretty cool that they let you have a water bottle. I think in Japan that is not allowed. They tend to be pretty strict here. Sounds like you had a good run for your first time with the N2. Let us know how well you did!

  • Ace December 5, 2016, 4:01 am

    Just finished the N1 paper yesterday. Vocabulary was tougher than the July 2016 paper. Reading and listening were a breeze but then it’s either a hit or miss. Depending on the way I answer, I can probably score decently high or rock bottom low lol. Anyway, praying that I can get at least a 35/60 for Vocab so my chances of passing is pretty much guaranteed. I reiterate, vocabulary was a tough nut to crack!

    By the way, score of my previous attempt:
    Vocab/Grammar 28/60
    Reading 30/60
    Listening 34/60
    Overall 92/180

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 12:17 am

      How do you prepare for the N1? This is always something I and a lot of others want to hear about. N5-N3 prep is fairly straightforward, but a lot of people have their own unique way of studying for N2 and N1.

      • Ace December 6, 2016, 4:13 am

        Before my first attempt, I spent half a year trying to memorise as much grammar and vocabulary as I can find on the internet but I was still scoring a miserable 26/60 for mock vocab papers. The reason was probably because of my weak grammar foundation. I did well for n2 , got big headed and only barely revised my grammar. What I feel is of utmost important is sentence restructure, the close passage as well as the grammar questions. Whatever you find on the internet was not tested at all so i strongly recommend others to keep drilling those questions using work books.

        I studied for four months before my second attempt. I went to the prep course and realised that the grammar rules that were taught were more relevant to the jlpt n1 syllables. After memorising vocabulary and grammar rules, I started scoring 36/60 consistently. Then , I decided to move on to doing only one long passage and one listening exercise everyday. Reason for this is during my previous attempt, I finished my work books way too early and kinda forgot the feel and way of answering for reading lol

  • Henrik December 5, 2016, 8:09 am

    So I took N2 in Berlin (first time)

    There were about 30-40 people in the room. Also they had changed the exam room without giving me advance notice. When I went to the room that was on my registration form there was no body there and not even a sheet on the door that told you that the room had changed. So I had to walk around and ask people what was going on.

    Anyways after the first shock I managed to calm down and I think I did okay. Reading & Listening went rather well, even if there is a kanji / word I don’t understand I manage to get the gist from the context. If I didn’t walk into too many traps I should be fine on that regard.

    However the vocab (kanji) / grammar section is what I worry about the most. I mean you just need 19/60 to pass the section but for me it’s really hard to tell if I got that. Sometimes I had the feeling of “is this really an N2 kanji / vocabulary?”… but only time will tell.

    Also fun fact: the CD for the listening section suddenly stopped (broke?) in the middle. Luckily they had a backup CD ready so we were able to keep going after some minutes but that really throws you off your game.

    • sumsum December 5, 2016, 7:19 pm

      I took N3 in Berlin. On a pillar near the main entrance (I think it’s the main entrance? Anyway, near the entrance “Unter den Linden” that I think we were supposed to take ) there was a sign with the new room numbers. But I totally would have missed it if there hadn’t been someone pointing it out for me… I was a bit early and there were people around checking whether you had a test voucher and they were also drawing attention to the sign and mentioning the new room numbers and kinda telling me where to go (“go upstairs” and upstairs was another person telling me to go straight somewhere) I’m not sure if they left later on tho as we had someone walking into the N3 room because he was lost and looking for the N2 room (maybe that was you? ;D)

      I agree that changing room numbers was really suboptimal… If they hadn’t printed them on the information thingy from the get-go and just had them on the poster on the test side you would have at least known what to look out for, but like this it was just confusing :S

      As for my N3… I totally messed up the kanji/vocab part :/ The rest was okayish with ups and downs. Grammar wasn’t the greatest but I think I did okay. I found the reading comprehension pretty easy though, so that should compensate for a mediocre grammar score 🙂 In the listening section I had severe problems on the third exercise (the one with the longer passages and audio only)… I think I got the gist of the audio passages… I also understood the questions but… I failed to understand the different answers so all three questions were pretty much guesses :(( The rest of listening comprehension was okay though, so I might actually pass the section overall. But well, there’s still the moji/goi part that went awful 🙁

      • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 12:24 am

        In Japan, they usually just have the test location and maybe the building name. Then, you have to look up the room once you get there. When I used to take it at Kyoto University the buildings had the most confusing names like the west north big building. I went there a few times but every time I had to spend a few minutes walking around getting my bearings.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 12:20 am

      Wow, the CD broke? I’ve never heard of that happening before. That had to be tough on the nerves. Usually at a larger testing facility they play the listening through a PA system so it is in sync in all the rooms. Did they just have a small CD player in Berlin?

      • Henrik December 6, 2016, 6:04 pm

        Haha yeah the one that walked into the N3 room to ask where N2 was was me 😉

        And yeah, it was a small CD player which was enough for the smaller room with ~30-40 people taking the test. Also it was right next to N1 so when the CD was silent you could hear the N1 CD trough the walls, though not loud enough to actually understand anything. Still thought that was suboptimal as it was distracting. But luckily listening comprehension is my strong suit so I didn’t worry about it too much.

  • Lukas Frank December 5, 2016, 8:41 am

    I passed N2 in December 2013 and tried N1 in Düsseldorf (Germany) for the first time.
    I had my doubts if I would be able to pass N1 and was a bit nervous going through the first questions of the test. As it was the case with N2 three years ago, I have never heard of some words in the vocabulary section before and I have my doubts if I was able to correctly answer the grammar questions. Nonetheless, I calmed down soon when I realized that my reading had improved significantly. I was able to read almost all passages (except for the last one which gave me a hard time and I tried guessing the answer). Then I got back to the first questions of the test and revised some of the answers but I have a good feeling with most of them.
    Unfortunately I felt sick during the listening section so I had a hard time concentrating. But overall it was exactly as I expected: At my current level I make the experience that my comprehension strongly depends on the topic of the listening section: sometimes I knew exactly what they were talking about; sometimes I did not understand anything.
    I hope to reach exactly 100 points with some luck. 😉

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 12:30 am

      I think in general, that your score on the listening and reading sections of the N1 depend a lot on the context. At the level of any language, you are inevitably going to have some holes in your ability to communicate. I hope you did well on the test. N1 is a tough.

  • Niemand December 5, 2016, 10:02 am

    I took N1 in Stuttgart for the third time. I don’t expect to pass but only hope to do better than the first two times which were very bad (75 and 61). I had a much better feeling at the end of the day: I was completely lost from beginning to end on my previous attempts, but on this one I felt I was able to fight a bit and was quite confident with my answers at times. As for reading, the last times I had been answering very quickly because I was aware of the time issue, which resulted in getting pathetic 19 and 16 points… So for this one I had decided to take the time to answer as properly as possible even if I had to thick randomly at the end. But I still missed the time to answer 8 of the reading questions (the two big exercises with 4 questions each), which is quite a bit, that’s my most negative point this time.

    I knowingly neglected the listening part in my preparation; I mostly wanted to do better in the first part and focused on it. So I went through 聴解without too much pressure and I honestly don’t think it was worse than before (29 and then 20, I was really annoyed at my poorer marks in all sections on my second attempt…). There are for example some questions I am sure to have answered correctly, whereas I can’t remember of any certain answer before. Now I think I’m going to put some listening again in my learning routine.

    Overall I just hope to do better than my 75 points of the first attempt, and obtaining a couple of more points in each of the 3 test sections would already make me very happy. I’d like to think that getting out of the room with a feeling of relative satisfaction in contrast to the pure confusion of the first times is already a very good sign, but you never know with this bloody test. And again, those two reading exercises I couldn’t deal with due to the lack of time still haunt me a little bit…

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 12:34 am

      75 and 61 aren’t terrible scores. The N1 is a tough test and requires a lot of studying to fill in all the gaps. The important thing is to look at your weak points each time and try to change up your study routine so that you can improve those holes. Also it takes a lot of exposure to native materials.

  • Neil December 5, 2016, 12:07 pm

    Took N1 in Seattle for the second time. Last year was my first attempt at the JLPT, after being out of school and away from Japan for over a decade. Didn’t have to travel very far, as the test site is about 3-4 miles from my apartment. Test locale switched from one campus building to another. Previously, it was conducted in a series of small (~30ish people) classrooms equipped with those awful clipboard on a metal rod-type desks and a lousy boombox for the listening comprehension. Today’s classroom was a large lecture hall with comfortable seating and a large amount of space. Much better acoustics, as well.

    As for the test itself… Overall, it felt easier, though not across the board. The grammar & vocab questions were perhaps slightly more esoteric. Last year, I prepared rigorously with tests mimicking the structure and pacing of the test. Given that I took it again today, you can tell how well that worked. As a result, I changed my study technique to be more open and all-encompassing. It was a success to the point that there were parts of the JLPT that I had totally forgotten about and was a bit unprepared for. It affected my time management, as I squandered some time on the grammar section and I too had to zip through the last 8-10 questions of the reading comprehension section. Now, despite that, I do believe that the reading passages were noticeably less challenging than they were a year ago. Maybe spending more time carefully reading them made them feel simpler while cutting down on available time? The listening portion was slightly more difficult today. A few more unfamiliar terms and situations, though not a radical departure from before. Personally, I really dislike the “choose an appropriate response” questions, not because they’re necessarily hard, but because it gives me anxiety like I’m in the middle of a socially awkward situation. As for those final list-four-things-and-their-attributes compare/contrast questions, I actually took notes this time (yeah, I can’t believe I didn’t do that last year), and that made those questions much easier.

    Having gone through this twice now (and hopefully not again), I feel a little optimistic. Leaving the exam site last year, I felt battered and dazed. Today, I felt relief. I know there are a number of questions that I missed, but going in knowing what to expect helped a lot. Also, the more comfortable accommodations improved the experience significantly. I can’t readily say that I passed, but it definitely seemed less of a challenge.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 12:41 am

      Has the JLPT gotten more popular in the States, so they need bigger rooms? That choose an appropriate response listening section can be a major headache. There is a similar section in the TOEIC (an English test) that I sometimes take practice tests for, and even in my native language it can make me a little anxious. You really have to keep focused and remember everything that was said.

      And yeah, notes are critical for the last two questions. It is also worth the most points of all the listening questions, so it can really pay off if you get your note-taking down.

      Anyway, good luck, let us know how you did.

  • Brandon December 5, 2016, 2:59 pm

    I took the N3. First time taking the JLPT. It pretty much went as I expected. I think because I was focusing on studying vocabulary I probably did a little better on that section than I did on the practice exam. The listening seemed faster than the practice test, but I guess that’s probably due to test day nerves. Basically I think I picked the right level to really see where my weaknesses are. I don’t believe I passed, but now that I’ve taken it I have a better idea what the test is like and I now have plenty of time to study for next year.

    Regarding the test administration itself (this was in Atlanta, GA):
    -It felt a little bit like I was about to take an exam to join the CIA or NSA or something. They were kind of intense with the checking of IDs and instructions about belongings etc.
    -The proctor said all water bottles had to stay out of the room (even though the written instructions mailed to us clearly said we could have unlabeled bottles under our desk in our bag).
    -Speaking of bags, we had to take our bags to another classroom on a different floor and just leave them sitting around with no way of ensuring someone else wouldn’t pick up our bag. Cell phones could not just be turned off. They had to be taken to the room as well. Someone did stay in the room with our belongings, but she wouldn’t have known who was getting whose bag. It’s a good thing most people are honest.
    -They said no beeping watches, but they didn’t say only analog watches so it seems digital would have been ok…I would have loved to have a stopwatch. Maybe next time I’ll bring a silent digital watch with a stopwatch function but keep an analog watch with me just in case.

    Guess that’s all I have. I’m glad I took it and I look forward to next year.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 12:48 am

      Wow, that sounds pretty extreme. I’m not sure why they had to go to those lengths, but in this day of digital/smart/connected devices everywhere they probably felt like they had to go to extremes. Here in Japan they just make you take your phone out, shut it off and put it in a paper bag that we put on our desk. I’m guessing this is so they can find out whose phone went off before you have a chance to silence it? I can understand there precautions about phones. I was in the middle of a listening section when someone’s iphone went off (with that annoying default marimba ring tone). They threw her out immediately.

  • こうき December 6, 2016, 1:15 am

    Sat the N1 in Paris. I studied a lot with Kanzen master for grammar and chibi maruko chan series books for vocab/kan’yôku and stuff. I read around 10 articles from asahi shinbun a day, read 3 essays on gentosha.jp a day, play games in Japanese at least 1 hour a day, watch dramas 1 hour a day and note down all the vocab I don’t know (and learn it later of course). Vocab part was pretty easy I guess, I know for sure I got at least 3 answers wrong
    Grammar was surprising cause there was barely any expression listed in Kanzen Master, Sô matome or any other JLPT prep books. It was still doable with some intuition. Can aim 40/60, maybe 50 if it was my day.

    Reading was OK I guess. Some answers were all about nuances so I’m pretty sure I got some answers wrong, i’m not getting a full mark on it neither.

    I messed up listening which was pretty easy though. But the key is concentration and I slept like 2 hours the night before so it was impossible to focus on “what order the information gets and which one is the most important”. But if you watch dramas/animes or play rpg games everyday, and you focus a lot on what you say (don’t take too much notes, it will distract you), you’d be fine.
    I don’t aim more than 30 for listening part.
    I should do it ぎりぎり ^^

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 5:37 am

      Sounds like you did pretty well. I’ve never heard of gentosha.jp before. Looks like a great site to get some reading practice in. Yeah, the grammar section is no longer something you can really study for. They have done their best to ask questions that you just have to know the answer for. I’ve had such a hard time studying for the section. I think the only way to prepare is to read a lot.

  • Caustica December 6, 2016, 3:33 am

    Took N2 for the first time (never taken JLPT exam before). Took it in Hong Kong where it was held in a secondary school with 900 participants (only N2 level – other levels were in other schools). To be honest there may have been other secondary schools used for N2 too because I think all the rooms were used up in this school. I really didn’t expect there to be so many people! The queues for the loos during the break were insane.

    Before the exam, I was most worried for the vocabulary section, but after looking at the answers released by some Chinese site it seems that I got at least half of them right… Anyway, the section is combined with grammar where it seems I did quite well so hopefully that should be fine. I haven’t seen the answers for the reading section yet but it wasn’t too hard (fingers crossed I didn’t fall into any traps… Didn’t check my answers as well as I should have given that I had 25 minutes left over lol. I was really sleepy and jetlagged)

    Listening, however, was the WORST. It was soooo hard! Is the exam same for all regions in the world? I’m not sure if it was because I was so sleepy and nearly fell asleep in certain portions of the listening exam or if it was really just so hard. When I did the practice test on the official website I got almost full marks for listening, but after looking at the answers I realise I didn’t even get half the answers right this time. Praying for the minimum 19 points.

    Anyway, I just kind of took N2 for fun/the challenge; I don’t really need it for anything. In retrospect I probably should have signed up for N3 given that I had just finished Minna no Nihongo 2 in May (lol). But I thought N2 would be more useful. Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see when the results come out late January! Fingers crossed for listening & no silly mistakes in reading.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 6, 2016, 5:42 am

      Yeah, N2 is more useful. Truth be told, it is probably the most useful of all the tests. I don’t think anyone really needs N1 outside of specifications for certain jobs or visa restrictions. I’ve done quite well with just N2. I’ve never been stopped because I didn’t have N1. Sounds like you did pretty well though considering you just finished Minna No Nihongo 2. Last I heard 2 is somewhere around N3. I’m guessing you do some extra real-world studying of some kind?

      • Caustica December 6, 2016, 1:30 pm

        Oh, really? I’ve actually heard the opposite – that N2 is the bare minimum but employers will really prefer N1. Anyway, I’m not actually planning on working in Japan (at least any time soon), but it may come in useful in the future. 🙂

        Minna no Nihongo 2 comes up to around N4. Hm, I’ve been watching a lot of anime/dramas for the past year, if that counts as real life “studying” ? 😛 I don’t do anything like note down vocabulary I don’t know, though, so it really doesn’t feel like studying… From N4 level (supposedly, after MNN2) I learned the vocabulary in Tobira (supposedly N3 level) and read about half the articles in that textbook. I also read ‘Read Real Japanese Essays’ which I really loved. Then I just went through all of Kanzen Master Dokkai, a quarter of Goi and half of Bunpou. So, really not enough preparation… I do have some elementary knowledge of Chinese, but tbh it was not helpful any more after N3.

        By the way, is it normal that answers are released online? (Unofficially of course.) Are people from English-speaking countries usually aware of this? I’ve never seen this mentioned on JLPT preparation sites (in English)…

    • Naomi December 6, 2016, 2:51 pm

      I took the N2 in Toronto on Sunday. I’ve been in the middle of Minna no Nihongo Chuukyuu II and aimed a bit high with N2 and took it just for fun + to have a goal. I went through the Kanzen Master series but didn’t start preparing early enough to really go through all the textbooks, so near the end I focussed primarily on kanji and grammar. When doing practice questions, Listening had always been the easiest section for me but similarly to Caustica above I found it really difficult on the actual test date. I don’t know if the questions themselves were just really difficult or if I was just losing stamina by the end and finding it hard to focus, but it felt like I was nearly guessing on a majority of the Listening questions.

      On the other hand, the parts I was really worried about (kanji/vocab + grammar) ended up being much better than I expected. The Reading section is always a toss up for me but I’m a very fast reader so I know I got a lot more time to think about each question that a lot of the other test takers around me, who I could see were using up to the very last minute to read the passages. (I finished with 20 minutes remaining and got to look over my answers.)

      • Caustica December 6, 2016, 4:06 pm

        Thanks for your comments! I’ve been reading this Taiwanese forum and it seems that listening was really tough for a lot of people. Hope the scaling will be generous… 🙂

        Can I ask how you are finding MNN Chukyuu? I haven’t heard too many good things about it, seems like not many people use it. What (JLPT) level would you say it corresponds to?

        Grammar was definitely easier than I expected too. Didn’t use most of what I had ‘formally’ studied for N2 (ie read in Kanzen Master Bunpou), but just stuff I had picked up randomly via dramas and general reading tbh.

  • Alain December 6, 2016, 11:33 am

    So I took the N5 in France last sunday and I completely agree with soothsilver! The vocabulary / kanji part was what I expected and I think I might have a really good score. The grammar part was a bit more complicated but the reading part was easier so overall, I’m pretty confident too. And then the listening part … Way harder than expected! I might passed it, but with a bit of luck. So overall, I do believe I have the 80 points to pass the test (thanks to vocabulary and reading) but I’m afraid I might fail because of the listening part :/ Now the wait is killing me! One last thing: I do hope that one day, it will be possible to attend the JLPT in Belgium, it’s a bit frustrating to have to spend quite a bit of money (travel, hotel) to attend an exam :/

    • Eric December 6, 2016, 8:10 pm

      Same feeling here. I took the N5 level test last Sunday in Toronto. The Grammar and Vocabulary sections were a breeze, although time felt short. Most answers were fairly obvious but even so, I finished right on the deadline. The listening part was a nightmare. I felt drained after focusing on the two first parts and just could not concentrate enough on the dialogues. I hope to get the passing note for the listening comprehension, even though a lot of my answers were just educated guesses… well, hopefully I will be lucky. At some point, I changed my answer to one of the fast questions and miss the beginning of the next… totally stressed me out. I am surprised to read they don’t host the JLPT exams in Brussels (I am from Belgium but live in Canada). It is really a pain to have to travel all the way to Paris.

      • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:01 pm

        They really try to trick you with those listening questions even at the N5 level. It’s amazing how much they can do with only a few words.

  • Luca December 6, 2016, 2:40 pm

    So I took N4 in Zurich. I was pretty afraid of the listening section, as last year I went for N5 and found that section much harder than expected.
    Fortunately though, I understood most of it this time, I think 😛 Actually, last year the sound quality in the exam room was also very poor, while this time I could hear clearly with good sound depth. That may also have had a role.

    The vocab section was almost as expected, apart from a couple of kanji that I did know by chance but didn’t think were in the N4 program (e.g. 雲, which I could guess as I knew 雨 and 雪..). Reading was at the right level, while a couple of grammar questions were not obvious to me. In the end, I think the result should be good enough. Fingers crossed!

  • SUROJIT GHOSH December 6, 2016, 6:08 pm

    I took N3 exam for 1st time. I didn’t have any idea or experience how hard is N3? But I appeared n3 this December. I heard that n3 is quite deficult than n4 . I realized that fact on last Sunday. According to me 言語知識 and ちょうかい was all right . But the problem is about 読解。 It was too difficult and I could not complete it all . I couldnot manage my time. 取り立ての表現 also too hard. passage was too lenghy and full of unknown kanji. I dont know weather I will pass or not? I didn’t get that much time to prepare myself for n3. I just passed n4 in July with 171 marks. I just got 3 monts for preparation . avobe all there is little bit pressure in my university for semister exam. But I will pass n3 anyhow on or before this july… thank u mac for helping me a lot. I shared my 1st time experience with n3. thanking you..

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 10:42 am

      Taking N3 5 months after N4 is pretty ambitious. It sounds like you just need to do some regular reading practice. This is something that is very easy to forget about, but it is really important if you want to pass the N3. If you want to take N2, you will have to read almost twice as fast, so I recommend getting into a good habit of reading Japanese, and reading it quickly. 🙂

  • Ian December 6, 2016, 6:18 pm

    I took N4 in Manila last Sunday. I was a first timer.
    I say I’m disappointed at my preparations for the exam (had an upcoming exam with my major the next day).
    I am (somewhat) confident at kanji (but not on the words), so I did not practice well on the vocab.
    I am scared of the listening comprehension (since I am just self-studying for the exam) so I focused here.
    I just know the grammar patterns of Genki I and II (until Lesson 15), and grammars at the first chapter of Kanzen Master Bunpou 3kyuu.
    I did not practice on Reading Comprehension (which explains I got a hard time understanding sentences).

    I think I got through the moji/goi section well (but got a hard time at the fill in the blanks section).
    At the start of grammar/reading, I completely lost all grammar patterns I have, I even got lost on the reading comprehension (in the end, I depended mostly on the picture)
    And then at the listening comprehension part, I got through the few dialogues at Mondai 1 and then I completely did not understand any of the dialogues. (Especially Mondai 4, where we need to get the correct reply)

    Still, I have hopes to pass the N4. 🙂

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 10:44 am

      Well, there is always a first time. It sounds like you had a good experience in the sense that now you know what it is like. It’s not just about knowing the grammar, but knowing it well, and being able to answer questions about it quickly. I hope you did well!

  • TNR December 6, 2016, 11:06 pm

    It was my first time took JLPT. I took only N5 level, and I thought it was pretty easy to begin with, so no problem 🙂 I have studied Japanese for 9 months or so on regular basis (3 hours per week average), and it’s a good starting point for measuring my capability. I’m planning to take N4 next year, if possible dash to memorize N3 kanji :p Thank you for providing useful material on this blog, it helps a lot.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:05 pm

      No problems! Sounds like you have a good pattern of studying down. Do you feel like you were able to get to the N5 level with that much studying? 3h/week for 9 months. Did you drill a lot of the vocabulary first? Were there any particular books you used?

      • TNR December 11, 2016, 3:27 am

        Nah, vocabulary is not a big problem for me since I’ve been exposed to Japanese language actually longer than I’ve been studying (since I watch anime maybe, on 2014) so I feel quite familiar with everyday-used vocab. The real problem for me is studying grammar because its pattern is quite different with English (even English isn’t my native language actually), but in the end I feel that I can get used to it (at least until N5 level). I primarily used Minna no Nihonggo 1 for studying grammar, but I often browse JLPT material online for preparations, and I think that’s sufficient.

        Do you believe I can catch up to N4 level in 6 months? N4 have more kanji (80% I’m not familiar with) and more pattern to learn. I’ve been learning the basic for this last 9 months (in a slow-paced environment) and I’ve been thinking to accelerate the process myself by self-studying in faster pace but since my real job is restraining me to study on weekdays, I think I have to dedicated my time more in the weekend. What kind of approach I should take? I’m eagerly waiting for your advice.

        • Clayton MacKnight December 11, 2016, 1:40 pm

          I think you should try to do some vocabulary practice when you can during the week, with a smartphone app (like Memrise). And then focus on grammar, reading, listening (in that order) on the weekends. You should be able to learn all of the kanji and vocabulary pretty easily with regular drilling.

  • Chris McD December 6, 2016, 11:31 pm

    So this was my 3rd test. (N5 x 1; N4 x2)
    I think the last version of the N4 was easier, but I know I did better on this one. (Hopefully passing)

    Living in Japan, I think has helped my understanding of the Japanese language but I’m not sure the JLPT adequately evaluates my skill level as I’m pretty fluent at work. Being an engineer, I think our vocabulary is pretty industry specific, but that didn’t help me much.

    My primary means of study are a private tutor and the premium bootcamp from here.

    Looking forward to July!

    Cheers!

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:07 pm

      Yeah, I can imagine that you use some of the same set phrases and jargon on a daily basis that doesn’t relate to the test that much. I’ve been doing some coding projects lately in Japanese, and I feel like there are weird jargony words I use that really aren’t used anywhere else.

  • Theint December 7, 2016, 3:11 am

    I took N5 .I think that listening is a little quick for me.I think that I need to more practice the listening.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:07 pm

      A lot of people are saying the listening was quite tough. Did you practice listening that much before the test?

  • Cristiano December 8, 2016, 9:53 am

    Took the N4 in Italy, Milan location. My third time taking it, I must admit :S I think it went much better this time though, specially because the test itself seemed a tiny bit easier this time around.

    I still think, however, that the listening session’s reading speed is excessive for someone at an N4 level – even the native speakers I hear on TV don’t talk that fast… there is also this weird thing, it might be just me, but hearing recorded voices for some reason seems to put more strain on my concentration than actual, physical listening in a ‘real’ environment.

    The thing that penalized me the most is that, due to my RL location, I don’t get many chances at all to actually speak Japanese. By necessity I mostly focus on reading and listening, so that went fairly well now that I had a better idea of what the level actually felt like.

    A second sore point was the sometimes REALLY stiff and formal language the test seems to be built around. A lot of my Japanese interaction happens in very informal and casual context, so I was a bit taken aback when, during N4 listening, I would recognize a verb, which was then followed by 15 seconds of suffixes I couldn’t recognize on the fly :S

    Overall, while I’m fairly confident I passed the N4, it will be a while before I try my hand at N3. My study method needs some seriosus reconsidering – and, as a side not, between travelling and signup costs taking one attempt after another gets kinda pricey.

    • Cristiano December 8, 2016, 10:11 am

      EDIT: having read more closely some of the comments above, I must also add the test’s organization in Milan was top notch – there were signs pointing in the right direction all the way from the nearest metro station XD plus a billboard in Milan’s central train station. The Japanese staff was very nice and friendly too, I actually had a chance to have a chat with a Japanese for the first time since I was in Tokyo 😀

      • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:22 pm

        That sounds like a great experience. I don’t even think there are Japanese test facilities that have that.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:21 pm

      Yeah, the test focuses on formal language to fault at times, but they don’t really have much of a choice. Casual language is so unstructured and inconsistent at times. I still have a hard time understanding some kansai-ben. Of course, nobody actually talks like any of the listening exercises either. I mean, do people change their minds 3 times in 15 seconds normally? :p

  • Yokohaman December 8, 2016, 3:11 pm

    I have been a silent member of this site and I would like to thank you guys for all the interesting information I could get here.

    I took the N1 exam in Yokohama (Totsuka to be more precise).
    This was my first time taking any of the Nihongo Nouryoku shiken test and I TRULY did not know what to expect until the day of the exam.
    I have been living in Japan for quite a few years and was asked to take the test by my boss to be eligible for a specialized test in my professional field.

    So, I started studying for this beast in late August. Being fluent in Japanese (or so I would like to think) I did not study for the listening section, giving me therefore more time for the grammar/vocabulary and reading section.

    Until this exam, I always was (wrongly) overconfident about my reading ability. Being able to read a large number of kanjis and some sentences did not mean that I was fully literate in Japanese. I came to this hard conclusion 1 week after I started prepping for the N1. The reading sections were so difficult to fully comprehend and even worse every time I had an article with implied meanings. However I was blessed to have my wife who guided me step by step through the reading sections. I realized that it was not just 読解 but also 国語as she would tell me. She taught me how to read an article as the japanese are taught in Junior High school. I then understood that there was a technique on how to analyze a text and only practice would make it better.
    My weakness was clear: READING!
    so what did I do? READ MORE!
    I would read N1 読会articles from all the books that I had bought and promised myself to do them all. which I did.
    Having only 3 months for the exam and busy with a full time job, I knew what I was going up against. But I have a solid Japanese language background and just needed to familiarize myself with this exam.
    My material was the following:
    Kanji/Vocab: learn from the matome kanji, 語彙トレーニング (Loved the book, there is a CD with it which is nice to listen while driving to work), I would pick all new words from the reading sections and daily Asahi Newspaper reading.
    Grammar: kanzen master. drills
    Reading: Asahi newpaper, kanzen master, matome (did not like it at all), gokaku dekiru N1(from アルク)

    I tried to log in at least 3 hours a day or more studying, usually at home in the evening with my wife (who happens to be a very smart Japanese lady).
    The first month of preparation, I honestly was struggling to fully comprehend any text I would read. This was a shock to me…
    I would read every day a few ‘天声人語’ articles from Asahi Newspaper. The Japanese is pretty advanced and always a few new kanjis or expressions to learn there. You can buy a year supply of ‘天声人語’ at any book store, or simply subscribe to Asahi Newspaper online, which I did.
    So every day I would fight with a 5 天声人語articles, learn the new kanjis/expressions and then would spend a couple hours with grammar books and solving problems (Kanzen master). The grammar was also all new to me, but could quickly learn the book and read it multiple times.
    My plan was simple:
    September: read the grammar book 10 times and complete all grammar problems. and complete the entire gokaku dekiru N1 . Which I did.
    By the end of september, I could already read a lot faster and comprehend about 60-70% of any text. However, I kept answering the wrong questions especially the comparison reading (A says this.. B says that).

    October: Worked more on reading sections and would review grammar book and redo questions almost every day. I started to feel a lot more confident about the grammar and if I did not, i would just ask my dictionary-wife and would get a great explanation accompanied with a couple examples and would move on to the next topic.
    By mid-october, it was time to work on speed. So I would redo all the 読解 over again and time myself. short stories<3mins, medium< 5 mins and long stories< 10 mins.
    I was about to manage short < 2 mins, medium< 4 mins but the long stories depending on their contents. Sometimes it would be 10 minutes and other times it would be 15 minutes.
    I started answering the right questions… started to feel good.
    Then I started wondering..' maybe I am using simple texts that do not truly represent N1' so I got my hands on more N1 material. I loved the 20日で合格N1.. it was harder than the other texts. and I also bought a few mock exams.
    the first 2 weeks of November I would do 1 mock a week and last 2 weeks til the exam, I would do 2 mock exams a week.

    On the day of the exam:
    I was not nervous and really did not know if i was well prepared or not. I was wondering if i had used the right material for the exam. Did I chose easy material? should I have bought more study materials..
    How ready was I?
    I JUST DID NOT KNOW.. this bothered me most..
    But my strategy was simple and I had worked towards it: DO the kanji/vocab section in 25 minutes! if I do so, i will be able to cover the reading section without any problem.

    Time was up.. time to go to the room.. I go .. everybody is sitting.. quiet..
    NO clock on the wall.. good thing I had my handwatch. I turnoff my phone, put in a plastic bag they gave us..and put that in my bag.
    Bag under the chair, not next to the chair.. ok..
    i have my eraser, sharp pencil, handwatch..and wondering.. what will come up…
    BAM!!! exam starts…

    first page: kanji.. much easier than i thought..
    second page.. smooth sailing.. some kanji I am not too sure.. but just chose the answer and move on.. take a quick peak at my watch every time i finish a section.. so far , so good! I am on time.
    Vocabulary gets trickier.. but very very feasible!.. i have done all those before!..
    bam! done.. within 28 minutes.. I felt I did miserably..but then not..but then yes..

    i keep telling myself.. come on ! keep focused and now 読解
    the stories are simple.. too simple.. I am fooling myself? or maybe they are have a super crazy hard 長文in store for me?? … i keep focused.. I am in the medium stories.. and one story is about a topic I covered in one of my mock exam.. talking about trees in cities..hmm! great.. easy… but why is it so easy?..cant be…so i read again..and again.. but yet the answers are too obvious… i am wasting time now.. next one is some type of flyer and must tell what it is about.. i can t recall, it could have been a flea market time schedule flyer or so.. but again.. too easy.. WHY???? or am I just fooling myself..???
    I tell myself to stop doubting and move forward.. then the big ass long story.. a story about the man's best friend: dogs..and their ancestors: the wolves. I keep reading and cruise through the story.. the text .. is not hard but the questions are twisted.. some are so similar..so i keep reading again and best the most appropriate one.
    I noticed that in all those questions, 2 are easily excluded, and the remaining 2 are different only by a word that might confuse you.

    Before I know it PENCIL DOWN!! …the exam is done.. time for break..
    the proctor rushes to take the marksheet..and pulls it off from some chinese girl who did not want to give it.. she should have gotten a red card.. anyway..
    how did I feel?… TERRIBLE.. I failed.. do I need to do the listening section? maybe I should go …
    but what the heck .. I go to the restroom, come back.. eat my 2 bananas..drink some redbull and wonder if i should stay or just leave the place.. the devil in me tells me to go, I failed, it was so easy but since i am such an idiot i messed it up… while the angel in me tells me that it s all good, and i just need to bomb the listening section !

    I felt that the 1st part of the exam was not hard at all and very very feasable.. but I just was too worried about it.. or something!!
    if I fail it this time, I know that I will easily get a 150 next time. It really is not a hard exam.. the difficulty does not lie on the material itself, but the strategy you have when taking the exam.
    I suggest not to skip any section and do it in order. If you do the kanji/vocab part in 25-30 minutes.. you will have 1hour 20 minutes for the reading which is more than enough.. if you have trained.

    anyway the listening section..
    again.. TOO easy.. but then again I am very fluent in Japanese and learned it with NHK and love those hard political tv programs.
    the last question which is divided in 2 parts was pretty easy.. it was a dialogue about a man and woman wanted to go to some museum.
    I would not take notes to any of the listening but the last 2 questions. I think that I have it all correct but might have missed a couple questions as I was still not recovering from my morning session.

    so how did I do? MISERABLY is my first feeling…
    after thoughts, I am not too sure …..
    I dont need at 170 (which is in fact very feasible) but simply a 101…and get this test out of the way for something more serious..

    IF you have any questions.. let me know!

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:28 pm

      Wow, this is a great story with lots of good details and tips. Thanks for sharing that all with us. I’m envious of the fact that you can say the listening section of the N1 is easy. A lot of people go crazy in that section, myself included.

      • Yokohaman December 12, 2016, 8:13 am

        Clayton,

        The listening is easy. Trust me. You can easily get points with the short comments and reply section of the listening part.
        If you watch NHK “Close-up Gendai” every night, you will tremendously improve the “intellectual Japanese” needed to do well in this exam.
        The close up gendai a few years ago was even better, you can find in on youtube, but even now they are nice. They discuss interesting topics and contemporary issues that could easily be a topic for any N1 exam.
        Lastly, the more you read , the better your “high level spoken Japanese” will improve..
        But who am I to say that !? I might have failed this exam! LOL

        • NihongoLover December 16, 2016, 3:24 am

          Hi Yokohaman. Yes, I understood. Was happy to see your reply. It was nice explanation in simple words.
          Definitely would start reading Asahi daily. Sorry for reply in other comment, I could not find reply button on actual comment.

    • Mia December 11, 2016, 1:40 pm

      Would you mind sharing how the Japanese are tought to read and analyze articles in Junior High ? Thank you !:-)

      • Yokohaman December 12, 2016, 8:04 am

        Hi Mia,
        Every text has an Introduction, thesis, anti-thesis and conclusion.
        There are also those KEY WORD which we do not notice such as “が、 一方、ただし。”
        You need to find them when reading to know that you are moving into a new section and possibly a different opinion. They teach that …somehow..in 読解books but the best is to keep reading and learning it yourself.
        Don’t get distracted with kanjis you can’t read, they do that on purpose to confuse you.
        If you keep practicing, I assure you, you will be able to see the main points of each story you are reading and can answer questions with more confidence.
        読解 should be 70% of your study time. The grammar is in fact not that hard if are used to reading. I noticed that they also test your grammar in the listening section. I remember a “かたわら” in the listening part!
        If you can master 読解 then the grammar, kanji and vocab will follow somehow.
        That is my impression though . ..

        • Mia December 12, 2016, 8:29 am

          Thanks a lot for your reply!

        • NihongoLover December 13, 2016, 1:42 am

          I loved your explanation. I keep on reading this blog or check for some inputs about N1 exam but didn’t get much of input always. But I have got many details which I really wanted to know.
          This is too good. I’m rather surprised to see your writing. Thanks a lot.

          I gave a try for N1 this year July and failed with terrible marks 69 in total. I read Kanzen series mostly and kept revising it.
          After exam I knew only books are not sufficient, as we know it needs actual lot of reading. Yet never tried to read newspapers. It makes me scared to browse each word through dictionary while reading it 🙁

          Planning to apply again for next Jul wit good efforts. Your comment made my spirits high for study.
          When you say about online subscription to Asahi newspaper, is free subscription enough?
          I also checked “Close-up Gendai” but didn’t find much on YouTube. I will search more. Can you recommend any additional sources for listening like poscasts or radio.

          • Yokohaman December 13, 2016, 12:50 pm

            If you want to pass N1 you must conquer your fear of newspaper and read them!
            I like to read various topics from ‘ life’, ‘ culture’ ‘international’, ‘ sport’ sections within the newspaper.
            Yes you will fight learning kanjis as you read..but before you know it.. you will not need to check your dictionary as often.. the 1st month will be tough but trust me the 2nd month will be easier, and the 3rd month even easier.
            Try to read news that will follow for the next few days. Do you understand what I mean?
            if there is news about an earthquake somewhere in the world, then read it and learn the new vocabulary.. then the next day , there will SURELY be a new article regarding the earthquake..and you will see the vocabulary you learned the day before. it will be good reinforcement and you will remember the new vocabulary.
            As for close-up gendai, here is a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYZ_PIszB_E
            I think you will be able to find more from there.
            I advise you the paying subscription at asahi..as you can access all the different topics!
            Dont worry about 69 score.. just read the newspaper, watch the close-up gendai online.. look up every word you dont understand..and keep doing it.
            Learn to just learn japanese and not to take the N1.
            you can then start concentrating on N1 in April.

  • Spencer December 10, 2016, 5:38 am

    This is my first time going for JLPT N1 in Thailand. Actually, I started learning Japanese about April last year while I was free from school(it was a 6-month vacation for students before entering university), and I give it all for learning Japanese. As I think I was going well, I took N3 last December and N2 this July. My scores, I would say, was pretty good. Because of that, I decided to take N1 this December. For the vocabulary part, I have to guess about 10/25 questions and about 10/20 on grammar.(So frustrated!) On the reading part, it was quite easy for me as my strong point is always reading so I think I get more than 50/60 in this part. For the last one, listening part, was quite of so-so for me. I always know that my listening ability was not that good as I live in Thailand without much contact with Japanese, so I would say 30/60. Somehow if all of my predictions were right I would pass this test, eventually.
    My study style: From basic to N2 level, I always learned things from my teacher, the Japanese one, so I would recommend anyone to take a class if you could. For N1 level, I was busy with my study in University so I stopped going to Japanese school and learned everthing from books. These are my books used to prepare for the test.
    1.総まとめ series, all of them except the listening one.
    2.新完全マスター series, vocab, reading and listening.(Highly recommend vocab of the series as its level sure is higher than N1)
    3.All of 模擬試験(スリエーネットワーク and Japan Foundation ones) to practice before the real one.
    As you know, my grammar part went quite bad, so I recommend you guys to get another (or more) books on the grammar.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:30 pm

      The Grammar section of the N1 is a nightmare. I’ve never heard of anyone being able to study a book to pass that part. You just need to consume a lot of material really.

  • grutendon December 10, 2016, 10:33 am

    I took N2 in Paris. I actually listened your advice of starting with the reading section, and thanks a lot for that! I had enought time to even re read some portions.
    The readind was weird for me. A really short text was really hard to understand, I had to read it like 3 times and I’m still not sure I had the correct answer. Some longer texts were easier and I could answer right away.
    Like a lot of other here I found that the grammar section had little to do with the textbooks I studied. My weak point is chosing the right application for a word.
    Listening was ok I guess, except for the first few questions.
    I studied with new kanzen master, try! and sou matome. I read novels and watch shows (but it’s in kansai ben so not so useful)
    I really don’t know how I’ve done, but since it was my first attempt at N2 I’m not worried. I passed N4 with no problem but I had studied more than for N2 (I really made up my mind in september so I really started my study only then).
    On verra bien! (we’ll see!)

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:48 pm

      How was Try!? I’ve heard a lot of good things about that series of books. How is it for N2?

  • grutendon December 10, 2016, 8:19 pm

    I feel like Try! is between Sou matome and Kanzen Master. It’s harder than sou matome, but still has English translation to help you. Yet it’s easier than Kanzen where you not only have to learn new grammar point but also check words to be sure that you understand the explanations.
    But I like how Try! is done, especially the matome section where you have all the questions that you’ll have in the test for grammar. You even have audio questions. The day of the test, as a last review I read the “Similar sentence pattern list”, at the end of the book, where you can see clearly the differences between similar points in N2 or even previous level (for example for ~こそ they give you sentences for からこそ (N3) ~ばこそ and Vてこそ. The last two being N2 they give you the pages where you can find the explanations). Plus you have sometimes alternative that you can also use, or how a particular grammar point can be use to say something else.
    I found it really useful even if in the end I worked more with the Kanzen Master.

  • Sara December 12, 2016, 4:35 pm

    I have bookmarked this long thread to come back and read through more carefully, so much good advice here!

    I took the N1 in Boston this year. I have passed it previously (N1 in 2014 and the old 1kyuu back in its last year, 2009) but I have a tendency to slack off when I’m not studying for an upcoming test, so this test was all about fighting my way back up to my previously level, and it’s 50/50 whether I passed it or not.

    My major goal this time is just not to stop studying, and so far it’s successful – I am already looking forward to next year. Both times I took it in the past, I overstudied so much that I burned out completely and didn’t look at my study materials for months afterward.

    I have a tendency to study too much from flashcards and not enough from reading. I do read a lot of manga, but that isn’t all that helpful for N1 level essay reading. Every year my weaknesses are the same: I fly through kanji, do ok on vocabulary (I am weak on questions that really test shades of meaning in context), never have enough time for the reading (I read too slowly) and flail through my worst part, the listening.

    Listening is awful for me. I have never lived in Japan and no matter how many CDs and NHK news broadcasts I listen to, I never seem to get better. I keep trying though. I know from past experience that listening comprehension is my worst skill (I went to a bilingual French school as a child and it literally took years before I could understand what anyone was saying to me), but I eventually got French, and one of these days I’ll get the hang of Japanese too. You can’t improve if you stop trying.

    I keep trying to add new vocab words and kanji to my flashcard lists (I never did finish learning all the kanji that were added to the joyo in 2012, I’m almost done with them now), but mostly I need to read a lot more workbook material and newspaper articles. And all the light novels I have in my backlog. I have twelve months to practice.

    BTW someone reported having a broken CD in their room – happened to me too, first time ever. The machine broke before the last two listening questions. They eventually fixed it (it involved bringing in two different CD players and several backup CDs) and we were able to finish. I think it actually helped me because I was able to catch my breath before the end. Took notes during the museum question and I think I actually got that one right.

    Looking forward to hanging out here in the months to come.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 13, 2016, 12:37 am

      For N1 specifically you need to read long essays and be able to infer a lot from context. That kind of stuff just really can’t be taught it needs to be practiced a lot. I’ve heard a lot of people get an online subscription to one of the major Japanese newspapers and use that. The editorial section would probably be extremely useful. There are a lot of editorials available online as well. You really just need to jump in knee deep and wade through that. I would think for listening you would be well-served by watching jdramas.
      Unfortunately due to the Draconian nature of distribution rights in Japan, I have a feeling that it will be tough to stream jdramas legally outside of Japan. Inside Japan, we have Hulu now, which has a huge library of stuff to choose from for only Y1007 a month. There is always something that you can find to watch there. A lot of people taking N1 seem to find variety shows and jdramas very helpful. I find variety shows to be the best sometimes, because it is very conversational and you have to really understand the context because they are doing a lot of shortening and such.

      • Yokohaman December 13, 2016, 1:19 am

        If I could, I would like to say that japanese dramas are not of great help for N1. They might help for N3,N2 exams but in order to master N1, one needs to actually avoid dramas and watch those “かたい番組” usually on NHK.
        Dramas use colloquial Japanese and will not prep you for N1.
        That is my from my personal experience.

        • Clayton MacKnight December 13, 2016, 12:29 pm

          Thanks for feedback Yokohaman. Maybe that is why I’ve never passed N1, I can’t watch boring TV. :p

  • Austin December 19, 2016, 3:04 am

    I took the N5 for the first time, and felt like I was well prepared and it was just about as I had expected by what everyone had described. The grammar section was definitely the hardest part for me at that level, because I had a hard time getting some appropriate reading material and didn’t get to do as much writing as I hoped, but cramming grammar points in the last few days definitely helped.

    There was one thing that has surprised me a bit though, and that was that りんご appeared several times, yet doesn’t seem to be included on any of the major N5 vocab lists. Thankfully I did enough extra curricular study to not be tripped up by this, but I find it odd that I saw it 2-3 times, yet don’t recall seeing たまご once (it may have been in the listening section, but I don’t recall it. りんご definitely was).

    I’m really glad I didn’t push myself to try to get ready for N4, because I found I was a lot further behind than I thought once I started the N5 studies. Also, the testing center in Seattle was in much better condition than I expected. The classroom had some materials handy that they said wouldn’t be there in the site information, and was well lit with a great CD player and at a good temperature. My only gripe with the classroom was the desks were tiny (couldn’t even fit a closed test book and answer sheet without covering each other up) and had a bad function to easily flip everything right onto the floor.

    I feel I did well and am only a little concerned about the grammar section failing me (I think I got at least the minimum, and believe the reading parts will help out a lot). Eager for the results, and also eager for the N4 next year!

  • Martha December 22, 2016, 7:58 am

    I’m a bit late to comment, but I just found this page after trying to check when we’d most likely be receiving our test results for the December 2016 test 🙂 I thought it would be available online in early January, but it seems like there’s still a long way to go!

    I live in Tokyo and I work in a Japanese company, so that has been my motivation to take the JLPT. I took the test for the first time last year and passed N2 with a pretty good score (overall score of 145/180), but I can get a bit of a bonus at my company if I pass N1 so I tried my hand at it this December 🙂

    I think I did okay on the test. I’m pretty sure I passed, but I wouldn’t say I aced it. The first page of kanji readings really threw me for a loop. I think we all take the same test all over the world, right? Maybe my fellow N1-ers will remember 顕著(けんちょ) and 多岐(たき) on there? Right after the vocab-grammar-reading section ended, I looked up a few words from that section on the test so I know I got those two wrong, lol. Besides that, though, I’m pretty confident I did okay on grammar and vocab. Enough to pass that section, anyway 🙂 Can’t be sure about how I did on the reading, but I actually studied really hard for this test so I’m hoping my efforts paid off. Hope it’s okay to share my methods 🙂

    I enrolled in a Saturday-afternoon 4 hour JLPT N1 prep course at a language school here in Tokyo, and that lasted for 6 months. The first 3 months was just drilling vocab and grammar, and I had a lot of trouble retaining most of it because we never had enough time to do any review in class. The last three months we drilled a LOT of reading and listening, though, and I think that was the most helpful. I was reading really slowly at the beginning of the course, but by the end, I was reading much faster and getting most of the questions right too. It really helped me get more familiar with the types of readings that come up and things to look for in the texts. On the day of the test, I even finished the first section about 15 minutes early (I know that isn’t really an indication of me doing well, though, haha). If I remember correctly, the reading samples that our teacher used were from a book called 絶対合格!日本語能力試験 徹底トレーニングN1. The vocab and grammar books we used were the 日本語総まとめ series.

    About two months before the test, I also started taking mock tests and some N1 practice vocab quizlets that I found through Google (here’s one, for example: http://web.ydu.edu.tw/~uchiyama/test/index.html). One thing I wish I had done sooner was check out the 日本語の森 series on YouTube. A few friends of mine had recommended me their videos as a refresher on grammar points and they really are very helpful! I didn’t actually watch any of their videos until the night before the test, though, and it was already about 12:00 AM so I decided to watch the “JLPT N1 文法!1時間 これでN1文法が終わる!” video (very convenient!!). I watched it again about two hours before taking the test as I was on my way to the test-taking site too, and I think that was the best thing I did for reviewing grammar. I didn’t practice much listening on my own, but I think living in Japan and taking the prep course was enough.

    Also, I got picked to take the 模擬試験 in November, so I did that too. It’s free, and they give you a 2000-yen note after it’s all over too, haha. I actually have been wondering when we find out our results for the 模試 because I think they said the end of December and it’s already the 22nd… So long! I can’t find anything on google either, gah!

    Anyway, here’s to hoping we all do well 🙂 Cheers!!

    • Clayton MacKnight December 31, 2016, 10:09 am

      Sounds like you had a sound plan to pass the test. It seems like the best plan for N1 is just to do a lot of reading and suck up as much vocab and comprehension practice as you can. The kanji looks tough though. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen those words before.

      Anyway, how do become eligible for the 模擬試験? What is the experience like?

      • Martha December 31, 2016, 5:12 pm

        Yeah, I think just doing a lot of reading, vocab, and grammar practice is the best way to go!

        I actually wasn’t even really aware there was a 模擬試験! I randomly got an invitation to take it in about October or so, and the pamphlet said it was sent to applicants of the actual JLPT chosen by lottery-draw (抽選), but I didn’t apply specifically for the 模試. I’m not sure if it’s limited to applicants living in a certain area, though? Maybe it’s only Tokyo applicants? It looks like all of the test sites are all listed on the pamphlet, and they’re all schools in Tokyo. I think people who apply to take the 模試 after getting the invitation are also chosen again by lottery, depending on how many people actually apply to take the it. This is the only online info I can find, but it’s not much: http://www.jlpt.jp/mogiinfo/

        It was just like the real test, but it was a bit shorter! I think the real test has 75 questions? And the 模試 has maybe 65? But it somehow still started and ended at exactly the same time as actual JLPT… I felt it was a bit easier compared to the actual test! I remember going into the real thing and being kind of nervous after opening the first few pages because it felt harder, but it may have just been that the 模試 was shorter. It was a completely different test than the real one, though! I kind of hoped some of the problems from the 模擬試験 may be on the JLPT, but no such luck… 🙂 It was good to take it, though, because it helped me realized I should focus on vocab and grammar because that was the hardest for me (I didn’t end up studying for vocab in the end, ha).

  • eris December 22, 2016, 2:00 pm

    I passed N3 last July so I took N2 right after. Been studying Japanese for a year now. For me the kanji part was pretty easy, also the bumpou. I also had spare time after my dokkai so I had a chance to re-read it all. What I’m worried about is the listening. It was hard, maybe it was technical terms? I don’t know. My ears were struggling the whole time. I didn’t have any problem with my N3 listening but I’m not that confident with my N2. Guess the N2 and N3 gap are that big. Or maybe I just wasn’t prepared. I mostly use sou matome for kanji, mimi kara oboeru for goi and shin kanzen for dokkai. For my listening, I watched and listened to whatever materials i get my hands on and what my teachers give, which is mostly anime and a bit of japanese documentaries.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 31, 2016, 10:13 am

      Sounds like you had a good plan. The key difference between N3 and N2 is the speed. You have to read the material almost twice as fast. Also, they introduce a lot of vocabulary that you only see in written in form.

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