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December 2017 JLPT – First Impressions

December 2017 JLPT – First Impressions post image

The 2017 December JLPT was yesterday. This is by far the time when most of you probably took the test. There is another test in July, but it is not as widely administered. Generally speaking, only Asia gets the opportunity to take it twice in one year. So, this is the big one.

I’ve personally had to take a step back from taking the test because my schedule doesn’t really allow it. Yesterday I was attending my daughter’s recital, which she did amazing at, by the way. So, I obviously didn’t want to take the test on that day.

I’d like to hear from all of you though. How did you do? Could you tell us all what level of the test you took and how you felt it was? Was it tougher than you expected? Was it easier?

I think everyone would especially like to know what kind of topics were in the reading and listening sections. This is especially true for the higher levels of the test. What kind of vocabulary came up? Was it a common topic? Let me know in the comments below.

{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Andi Popp December 4, 2017, 6:16 am

    I took a shot at N4, but to be honest, it was a rather humbling experience. I came out of the vocab part thinking it was tough but manageable. But the second part pulled me back down to earth. It’s not like I did not understand the grammar or the reading, but it took me way to much time. I used up some time on the grammar but especially the reading part made me realize how slow i was. I tried to make pace and also skipped the long text (problem 5) at first and when I came back to it I still had only 8 minutes left, just enough for me to read the questions and answer options and take a wild guess. So I went into listening with this emotional baggage and it was as tough as expected. I don’t think I made it this time, so I will take next year to try to improve my reading speed and take another shot at N4 next December.

    • amoon December 4, 2017, 8:58 am

      This was my second time taking the N4. The first time I screwed it up in the second part (Grammar/Reading), as I spend too much time in Grammar and I had to read all the texts under pressure, so I barely could understand anything and I basically played the lottery.

      Because of that, this time I started with the Reading section. It took me half an hour to solve everything excepting the long (and difficult) text. I checked that this time there were only 3 questions so I decided to move on to the Grammar part (didn’t you find the “star” exercise too hard?) and when I finished it, I had around 5-6 minutes to face the long text. Not being enough, I decided to find logic answers and cross my fingers…

      I think you’ll be fine! Let us know when the results arrive.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 5, 2017, 12:35 am

      Yeah, in normal studying, most people don’t do a lot of reading, so their reading speed is a little too slow. It’s also difficult to find good N4 reading material to practice with. Don’t be too quick to judge though. Wait for your results and see how you did.

  • amoon December 4, 2017, 6:48 am

    Resident in Japan, took JLPT4 for the second time (last time I got an 88/180 for not being able to finish the reading section on time, so painful).
    This time I found very easy the Vocabulary section. As for the Grammar/Reading, I think this time Reading was much easier than in July (except for the long text talking about a neighbourhood with just 3 question this time). The first exercise of the grammar part was easy but tricky, I didn’t feel confident when answering, however, regarding the second, the one where you should select which word goes in to the star position I found it extremely difficult, especially taking into account that is one of the exercises I find myself most comfortable when drilling.
    Finally, listening part was also quite tricky, and there were many questions that I had to answer by intuition… We’ll see, unlike last time, now I have the feeling I passed it, but who knows!

    • Clayton MacKnight December 5, 2017, 12:38 am

      Sounds tough. Listening can be a little tricky at times. You have to stay focused the whole time! Thanks for letting us know about the N4, especially about the topic of the reading section. That’s always a big help.

  • Lucas December 4, 2017, 8:12 am

    I took the N3 this year. I was pretty confident with the N2 written content, but so worried about listening comprehension that I decided to go for a level below — it’s my first time taking the test, too, so it was also an opportunity to just get used to the environment, since I had trouble meeting the time limit in the N2 mock tests as well.
    Come test day, the written sections were an utter cakewalk. I was pretty confident I would pass with flying marks. Then the listening section came and I was still completely wrekt even at a level below. Not only was my skill already limited in that regard, but I was used to practicing through headphones, and the test site didn’t use the most acoustically sound of devices, to say the least. I cheesed through most of the quick answer section by pretty much guessing what they were saying from the intonation of the voices, and otherwise I must have answered 4 or so questions with certainty at best.
    How hard should it be to reach the sectional pass score by chance? My only worry is not reaching that.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 5, 2017, 12:42 am

      Well, it’s not that difficult to get the 19 points required in listening, but you do have to get some of them right. 🙂 Anyway, it just sounds like you need to do a little test-listening practice. What I usually do is play a mock test CD over speakers in my room, preferably while something else is going on, like the neighbors stomping around or something. Basically, you are practicing your focus.

      I have a student studying for the TOEFL right now and they have to take that in a noisy room with other test takers making speeches and clanging along on keyboards, so I tell her to practice her speaking and listening with the TV on. 🙂

      • Lucas December 6, 2017, 9:09 am

        It might be that it significantly varies with test sites, but I’ve taken both tests and it wasn’t even comparable. Though the room the TOEFL is held in inevitably becomes noisy when everyone is speaking, at least they give you headphones. The net effect is considerably better than listening to a blurry sound in a room that is relatively silent aside from background noise.

        The one entirely different point that I’d say is the main factor in warranting this sort of practicing for the TOEFL is the issue of maintaining the facade of natural conversation when you’re talking at a computer screen and trying to maintain and then finish a train of thought within a very specific and restricted time window.

        • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2017, 2:03 pm

          I meant to give her some random distracting background noise. She tends to get distracted quite easily. Anyway, having her practice noisy environments seems to have improved her score. Although I don’t exactly have any empirical evidence to back that up. 🙂

  • Stanisława December 4, 2017, 8:50 am

    Took N2 after 3 months of preparing (and two months of heavy influenza… – was still coughing at the test =__=) The first part was shockingly hard. It was a shock, cause I felt pretty strong bout the kanjis and grammar, so it felt like a slap in the face.
    The reading part seemed strangely easy. Don’t know if I choose the right answers, but I think I understood every text surprisingly well.
    I’ve got 57/60 points on N3, so I wasn’t expecting listening to be this truoblesome this time. It nearly made me wanna cry in one converstation. =___= sniff

    Overall, I think I failed…

    Tried my best, thou…

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2017, 2:05 pm

      The N2 listening is different beast. That last question is especially a doozy. It takes a good amount of concentration and practice. Well, hopefully next time you won’t be recovering from the flu. Should make it a little easier 🙂

  • Stanisława December 4, 2017, 11:25 am

    Wait… Poland has this test twice a year, while USA only once?
    How strange is that?! XD

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2017, 2:07 pm

      I think it all depends on the demand for the test I think. Tests aren’t as popular in the States?

  • anny December 4, 2017, 2:27 pm

    I took the N5.

    I perfectly understood everything I read and listened………….. Err… I *could have* perfectly understood everything if I would have paid the required attention. I could have ended on top. Now I’ll be in the mediocre range. _ _
    So my advice is: Treat JLPT with respect.
    I aimed for fun and I’m paying for it.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2017, 2:09 pm

      Was it just your listening stamina? Are you used to listening to that much Japanese?

  • Paweł December 4, 2017, 4:45 pm

    I was considering taking either the N3 or the N4 test, but went for N4 in the end, as it was the safe option.
    The kanji/vocabulary part was as easy as I had expected it to be. The courses on Memrise covering that part (made by the user named ‘jlptbootcamp’ 🙂 ) were perfectly sufficient in that regard.
    The grammar/reading comprehension part was pretty surprising, actually. Although I did have enough time to read everything and review my answers for the second time, there were at least two questions that I’m not sure if I answered them correctly. More importantly, processing rather large amounts of text was pretty exhausting, so at times reading simple stuff felt unusually painful. After that exam part I actually had a headache resulting from all that mental strain.
    The 30-minutes-long break that preceded the third part didn’t really help that much, as the exhaustion negatively affected my focusing abilities. On top of that, just like someone else in these comments, I was doing all my listening practice using headphones and on the test I had minor problems with hearing, especially since I was sitting at the back of the room. Thankfully that exam part wasn’t particularly difficult, so I expect to pass it as well.
    All in all, I’m glad I didn’t choose the N3 test, especially with the amount of unexpected exhaustion caused by the grammar/reading part of the N4. It seems like I need to spend a lot of time on reading in Japanese in order to get used to it, and maybe then I will confidently take the N3 test.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2017, 2:14 pm

      Yeah, the higher levels of the test depend a lot on stamina – reading and listening stamina. Just need to get used to listening to and reading longer pieces of content.

  • Acricket December 4, 2017, 5:43 pm

    In July I sat the N5 and passed it with flying colours, which is what prompted me to have a go at the N4 already in December rather than wait until July 2018. On Sunday I sailed through the first part, I found the kanji and vocabulary questions quite easy. The second part was a different matter – I found the long reading passage particularly confusing and risked running out of time because I skipped it and went back to it after answering some other questions, so when the invigilators let us know that there were only 5 minutes left, I just filled in a couple of answers randomly. I have mixed feelings about the listening part. Some questions were quite clear, others left me wondering what they were all about, so a wild guess was the only option. I will definitely have to improve my listening skills, I just do not know exactly how.

    • Stanisława December 4, 2017, 9:14 pm

      Maybe watching nihongo no mori could help you? They’re explaining japanese grammar… in japanese.

      But IMHO what they are saying regarding N2 is far too easy. That’s why I was feeling so devastated on the listening part of the test. I’m still feeling like crying T___T

      p.s. Sory for my poor english – it’s a foreign language to me.

      • Acricket December 5, 2017, 6:43 am

        Thanks for your input! I will certainly have a look at it.
        I can relate to your feeling devastated after the listening comprehension, I felt pretty much the same 🙂

      • Lucas December 6, 2017, 9:21 am

        The Nihongo no Mori teachers seem to try very hard to have extremely clear diction. Their videos are excellent for learning the subject they’re about, but not so much for improving verbal comprehension.

        I’d guess that taking mock tests would be a good way to improve (youtube is flooded with those), though I also did pretty badly in the listening sections so I’m not exactly an authority in that regard.

  • Dec December 4, 2017, 10:31 pm

    I took the N2 after failing it last year. My biggest problem last time was my reading speed, but I worked pretty hard on that this year and after timing myself on lots of sample questions from the Shin Kanzen Master book, I estimated that I was taking something between 25% and 40% longer than I would need in the exam. I decided that I would spend around 1 hour on doing reading questions, and do that at the start of the test. In that time, I estimated that I would be able to answer one 短文, two 中文 (both 内容理解; basically the first two question types in the reading) and everything else after that (統合理解、主張理解、情報検索). I knew I wouldn’t have time to answer all of the first part of the test in the remaining 40 minutes, so I aimed to do all the vocabulary and all but the last question in the grammar.

    Things went almost to plan. I didn’t realise that I hadn’t done a second 中文 内容理解 question before moving on to the vocab and grammar. I was glancing up at the clock from time to time and feeling quite please with how much time I had left, but only realised my mistake about the missing reading question with around 15 minutes to go. Not enough time to answer any more reading questions at that time, although I did complete all the vocab/grammar questions that I wanted to do.

    I think that I did pretty well in the written paper, overall. I understood almost everything I was reading and I think I got a good fraction of the answers right.

    Listening was a completely different story. I’ll be lucky if I even get the 19/60 sectional pass mark. If I do manage that, there’s still a chance that I can reach 50% overall. However, having to guess that one 中文 内容理解 question that I accidentally missed puts that in doubt.

    At least I achieved my main mission this year of improving my reading speed. Next year, much more speaking and listening practice!

    • Stanisława December 5, 2017, 8:57 am

      I agree, the listening part was a tragedy (is it because the reading part was not so hard?). I’m afraid there’s no chance for me to get those 19 points.

      Let me tell you, folks, one thing – if you’e learning from Nihongo no so-matome, there’s NO WAY that the bunny book will prepare you for the kind of thing they let us comprehend on the N2 test this December ;_____;

  • Dilan December 4, 2017, 10:50 pm

    Hi there,
    I took level N5 in Toronto; first section vocab and kanji went very well, I personally found the kanji part quite easy; second part a bit more complex but I’m pretty confident; last part… listening… found this one tough, I’m really not sure about it. I’m hoping it will not affect the general score too much…

  • Thomas December 5, 2017, 2:54 am

    I just took the N3.

    I regarded myself as a borderline candidate for this level because of my slow reading and difficulty with kanji.
    Somehow, I found the first two sections surprisingly OK, and some of the reading passages were (dare I say it) easier than I expected.
    HOWEVER, the listening section was a whole other ball game. Like Lucas above, I was truly wrecked by this section. The speech was very fast, and unclear in parts. I found myself guessing most of them. The number of questions I am sure I got right I can count on one hand. Such a disappointment, especially after the first 2 sections lifted my spirits and my expectations.
    Now, I’m not sure if I cam make the overall pass mark and/or the sectional pass mark for the listening section.
    Never mind, I am prepared to try again in July.

    • JH December 6, 2017, 10:10 am

      I took the N3 as well and I agree with you. The test makers won’t let us off so easily since language knowledge and reading were easy. Therefore, they created a hard listening section to destroy our hopes. I have mixed hopes about listening. Not all sections were hard. I think 問題2 (point based comprehension) was very difficult and I failed to catch some of the points. On the other hand, 問題3 (outline comprehension) felt surprisingly easy. 問題5 (quick response) was also very hard. Let’s hope we pass after all this work!

  • Estevan December 5, 2017, 7:23 am

    I took the N2 for the second time this year, after failing it last year and passing the N3 in July.

    I got down to serious studying about 4mo out, and I took 4 practice exams: the first one was not timed, just to give a base line score and compare to last years test (I barely passed the grammar and listening, and failed the reading, but it was an overall improvement from my original N2 test in 2016), the second test I took, I timed it and barely passed reading, but my scores in grammar and listening were good, and vocab/kanji were decent; the third test I took I passed everything and the score was close to 60%, but that dropped a bit for the fourth practice test. In case anyone is curious, I used the practice tests published by the same company who publishes the Kanzen Master series, and I mimicked the test conditions as accurately as possible.

    Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what i felt the actual test was like: I was not nervous at all, but i was hungry, and WTH, what happened?? Lol, I think I did good enough with vocab and kanji, then i went to the last reading question, knocked it out, knocked out the long passage (it was pretty easy), then jumped to grammar. The first part was easy, the sentence builder was effing difficult man, and the bunsho no bunpou always messes me up. After that, i just went along into the reading, business as usual, but time ran out and i had 6 questions blank on my form. So i ate a snack and went back for the listening. WTH, WTH, WTH??? i was not ready for that, at all. NO AMOUNT OF LISTENING PRACTICED PREPARED ME FOR THAT! they must have had the CD on 1.5x speed, cuz that was fast. So i just rolled with the punches (even though i was counting on the listening to give me extra points to pass) and finished strong. lol. Every one in my classroom said the same thing, lol. Not one person walked out with their head held up, lol! But we were all glad we did it. I say, whatever, if I fail, I fail, I’ll just do it again in July… >_<

  • スミレ December 5, 2017, 8:36 am

    I tooke the JLPT N1 two days ago.
    I’m 15, but I have studied japanese since I was 11.
    This year’s test was very difficult. I think I did very good in the grammar section and in the vocabulary section which are my strong points. Reading was very hard, but it must’ve gone alright as well because I usually read a lot in japanese. But after 110 minutes I was too tired to attend 60 minutes of listening which I feelt a bit faster than a japanese normal speed.. (I have japanese friends and we talk about many things for hours at the phone, and I also listen a lot of news every day, so I was expecting to do very good), but I don’t really know how listening went, I hope well xD
    I live in Italy, and there were very few people taking the N1 this year, 5 of them were chinese people. I was feeling so stressed ;w;
    Can’t wait for results ahaha

  • John December 5, 2017, 10:47 pm

    Took the N5 at SOAS in London.

    Kanji and vocab both felt solid. Then after stressing about grammar and enduring the equivalent of the Rocky training montage for Japanese conjugations, it felt like only about 20% of what I studied actually came up. The questions are all a blur now, but I feel like I sunk masses of time into different て form and short form uses which were then absent or relatively unimportant. They seemed to be testing particles more than conjugations — at least that’s what I remember now. In retrospect, think I should have put more time aside to get extremely clear on the more specific ones — だけ, しか, まだ, etc — by writing my own sample sentences for them. I find these much harder to memorise and process than just regular nouns or verbs, and they seem to come up a fair bit in the test.

    Listening was tough; crossing my fingers for a pass on that section. It’s my weakest skill, plus found my energy was really flagging by the end. Lost concentration during the final set and staggered over the finish line with a couple of wild guesses. I think if I could do it again I might try drinking something caffeinated in the break after grammar/reading, or dunking my head in cold water, or going for a 5 minute run — anything to wake up a bit.

    Happy overall, nonetheless. There’s no way I would have studied so much these last three months without the exam looming large — so was exactly the menace I needed.

  • Karsten Koller December 6, 2017, 4:39 am

    Took the N2 for the third time after failing two times (last time by only 6 points). The crazy thing is, the difficulty of the sections feels different every time.
    1 time I took the test, vocabulary, kanji and grammar was okay, but I failed reading misserably. Listening was my strongest.

    Then the second time, I found grammar, vocabulary and kanji a lot harder. Did a little bit better at reading, but didn’t nearly finish everything on time, since my speed was still slow. Listening no issue at all, easily over 40 points.

    Then to this test, I felt grammar, vocabulary and kanji, where harder than the first time, I felt around the same as the second time, but still managable I think. In the reading, I found the texts were harder to understand, but strangely, I felt there was at least enough time to finish all the questions. But then came the listening and I was quite surprised, I never felt that it was so hard like yesterday, I was wondering if this was the correct CD for N2, because I had to make this time a lot of hard guesses. So I don’t know how much I have correct this time. But perhaps I was just not in a good mind state overall, because I had really problems this time to keep my concentration up in the listening part and my mind wandered off a few times and I didn’t get the whole converstation…

    So I don’t really know the result this time, could go either way I guess…

    • Estevan December 6, 2017, 4:52 am

      I was wondering that same thing about the CD! It was SUPER difficult! Like WAAY faster than I remember from the year before, or even all the practice tests and workbooks I did.

      • Stanisława December 6, 2017, 8:21 am

        Exactly! I had a CD with my workbook and it was not so easy, BUT definately NOT so hard like the one on the test.
        I also agree that the kanji and grammar were surprisingly hard.

  • Maria December 7, 2017, 9:11 am

    damn i took N1 less than a week ago!
    I believe I was prepared. I was able to take at least 70% practicing last year tests. but when the first part started i was shocked, guys it was so difficult. My strong point is kanji and i couldn’t do anything from there. I think that’ it’s by far the most difficult test through all the last years.I was just guessing.. What you guys think ?
    I hope i’ll be lucky and pass that
    Good luck to everyone who took Jlpt!

  • ジョゼフ December 10, 2017, 3:44 am

    Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences; there definitely seems to be a consensus emerging around this last JLPT N4. I too walked out of the test with mixed feelings depending on the test section, having likely aced kanji/vocab, feeling good about grammar/reading except for the long text that completely stumped me (hitting a physiological wall of mental depletion and wanting to go to the bathroom didn’t help), and mostly guessing during the listening section, which sounded significantly faster, longer, and harder than most of the practice materials (certainly compared to the official practice test). I was quite proud of what I was able to do with the non-listening portions and now feel solidly N4 in that respect, but as for the listening section, whether I passed it or not, I’m just not there yet.

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