JLPT N5 – The Beginner Test


The JLPT N5 is the easiest of the tests. It corresponds to the old level 4 or 4級 test. It is where you will probably want to start when you are first studying. It only requires about 100 hours of classroom work to pass. This is equivalent to a little under a year of a college class in Japanese.

JLPT N5 – Basic Info

The N5 tests the ability to understand some basic Japanese. The keyword is ‘some’. You should be able to read and understand typical everyday expressions and sentences written in hiragana, katakana, and kanji. You should also be able to listen and comprehend daily life topics as long as someone is speaking slowly.

The main objective of the JLPT N5 is to test your ability to read hiragana, katakana, and few basic kanji. This is a major hurdle for new learners of Japanese. It may seem a little painful, but the sooner you learn to read and write hiragana/katakana the better. If you are still using romaji (romanization of Japanese) you are crippling yourself. Take the time now to lay down a solid foundation of these writing systems. It will pay off in the long run.

Note that since the JLPT is not a speaking or writing test, the test will only judge your reading and listening levels. In other words, you can theoretically not speak a word of Japanese, but be able to pass if you can listen and read the language.

JLPT N5 Grammar

There are no official lists of grammar that will be on the N5 test. You can look over the old lists of grammar for 4級 to get an idea of the types of grammar that you will be tested over though. There are a few lists out there on the net as well as decks in Anki that can help you study them.

In general, this level will test basic particle usage (は、が、や、を etc…), basic formal and casual conjugations of verbs and adjectives for past and non-past, as well as making comparisons and a few other simple grammar points.

Read more details about the top 5 JLPT N5 grammar points.

Subscribe to the JLPT N5 Grammar YouTube Channel

JLPT N5 Kanji

Again, there is no official list of kanji that will be covered on the N5 test. The old 4級 or level 4 list is a good place to start studying for the exam though. You can pull up a list of these on Anki or on iKanji on the iPhone. You can also pick up the raw list of these kanji on various sites around the web.

In general, you need to know the kanji for numbers, time including days of the week, for family members (father, mother, etc…), directions and for basic verbs (read, write, buy, etc…). These are all kanji that would naturally come up in simple daily conversations.

The kanji for this level though can be sorted out into 6 groups, which can help you remembering them a little more easily.  Read more details about JLPT N5 kanji.

JLPT N5 Vocabulary

There are approximately 500 ~700 words that you need to know for N5. These correspond to the most used words in the language. If you are studying a newbie to beginner level textbook, it should cover this vocabulary. You can also find decks in Anki that go over the old level 4 vocabulary which should serve as a good base.

The important thing to keep track of for vocabulary is the vowel sounds. There are big differences in one extra vowel sound. For example, おばさん means aunt, but おばあさん means grandmother. You can remember this difference by remembering that grandmother is older, so she has been around longer, so we need to use a longer sound. JLPT N5 will test you over these differences so be on the look out for long vowels and short vowels.

You should try the Memrise JLPT N5 course or if you prefer Anki, check out the Ultimate N5 Deck.  And you can also read up more on JLPT N5 Vocabulary in a separate post.

So, what is this thing good for anyway?

You might be thinking, if this test is so easy, why take it? What good will passing this test do? This level is too low for you to get a job using Japanese. It only proves that you are capable of a very simple conversation (about the equivalent of a kindergartener in Japan). And that is just barely enough to get around in the country when you come to visit. So, why even bother?

Well, it will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses for one thing. It’s important to understand these early on. That way you can focus on them more as you move up and become more fluent in Japanese. For example, knowing now that you are not so hot at grammar will help you study more efficiently in the future by focusing on that weak point and not studying so much on, say, kanji, which you are better at.

It can also serve as a mini-goal. It’s important that you have a long term goal for studying Japanese, but it will also help you if you have smaller goals along the way. Being able to monitor your progress and being able to have that ‘Heck yeah! I did it!’ moment are both important to keeping your motivation high.

You can also still put it on your resume because, of course, it will make you look like a total bad ass. I mean who else on your block has passed the N5? Probably not a lot of people. I’m just saying.

In Summary

Some people skip over JLPT N5 on their way up the JLPT ladder, but I would recommend giving it a try even if you feel it might be too easy for you. At least you’ll get the experience of taking the test, and you’ll have a pretty little certificate to hang on your wall and brag to your friends about.

Now it’s your turn to take action. In the comments below, let me know any resources you are using to study for the JLPT N5. Did they help? What would you recommend to someone that is studying for the N5? Don’t be afraid, help your fellow man (and woman) pass the test!

Image by Dricker94, available under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License

{ 77 comments… add one }
  • Andrew December 4, 2010, 6:48 pm

    So true, I absolutely agree with you. Taking the N5 tomorrow, been studying japanese by myself for the last two years, thats the goal I hope to achieve 🙂
    Thank you for your site, it trylu is a source of encouragement 🙂

    • Mac December 6, 2010, 3:06 am

      Thanks Andrew!

      I hope you did well on the N5. Be sure to let us know what you thought was difficult on the test. I heard the listening section was quite easy. What did you think?

      Thanks for the comment! Next year, are you going to try N4?

    • Aurélien Beauchêne April 22, 2019, 7:37 am

      Hello there. Being a complete French beginner in Japanese, I tried many time to learn by myself this language, but to no avail. There are so many methods that call themselves “the right way” to learn Japanese, but I can’t even decide to start on either learning the many writing systems, learning the basic sentences with a slow speech, or even learning the basic grammatical formulas. To be clear, I do not intend to take the JLPT test at all; I only want to learn the very basic Japanese for cultural purposes. And also, being an Aspie person, I do tend to better remember things (or not) depending on their nature (whether it is music, literature VS driving licence or computer programming). That being said, what would be your advices for taking the GOOD first step in this wonderful but labyrinthic language?
      Thanks in advance for your responses.

  • Hilary December 18, 2010, 12:57 pm

    I took N5 this year even though I studied Japanese in university and I’ve been living in Japan the past year and I took it exactly for the reasons that you listed above.

    Having said that, I didn’t think that the exam was easy or difficult; I thought it was somewhere in the middle. There were easy sections, like the listening, and there were difficult sections, like the grammar, but I’m confidant that I past.

    I’m studying for N4 now and I think that I’ll be prepared for it next December so I can add another achievement notch on my belt. 🙂

    • Mac December 20, 2010, 7:33 am

      Thanks for the comment Hilary. It is always good to hear how people did on the tests.

      I totally agree with the feeling of not quite easy, but not quite difficult. You study so hard for these tests, and there are always questions/sections that will be a breeze and other sections with stuff you’ve never seen before. I don’t know how they manage to do that, but they do.

      I’m sure if you put the time in, you’ll be able to pass the N4 in a year. I would say the thing that will take up the most time and energy is the grammar. The kanji and vocabulary for N4 are still relatively manageable. At least for me they were. Good luck and let us all know how you did!

  • Mathieu April 14, 2011, 7:54 am

    Thanks for your article (and your website in fact). I had just started to learn Japanese since January as a challenge and a good tool to visit Japan at first; but now I consider also thoughts of working for a Japanese company or moving to Japan… that s for the longer term.
    In the short term I think it s good to have a smaller objective… and planning for the N5 at the end of the year will keep me on focus.
    Using your advice on the “common mistakes when studying vocabulary” I have downloaded Mnemosyne (which is free and has the features of SuperMemo); I am quite impressed – cant wait to see what happens in the long run 🙂

    • Mac April 14, 2011, 12:31 pm

      I’ll have to look at Mnemosyne again. Last time I looked at it, it seemed like an Anki clone, but it sounds like it has a few more features? I’ll have to check it out and report back.
      If you are interested in working full time in japan in a job that uses Japanese, the sooner the better to come over here. The more immersion you have the easier it is to study (if you do decide to go ‘all the way’)
      I hope to hear good news from you come the end of this year. N5 is a good warm up test 🙂 ganbatte!

  • Mésablanca May 26, 2011, 7:19 am

    I think the JLPT N5 is vastly under rated. As someone who is learning Japanese as my fourth language, it builds a very important understanding of the language and the basics of how it works.

    The first time I went to Japan it sounded like a whole lot of gibberish. Now that I’m close to passing N5, even if I don’t necessarily understand what they’re saying, I know the sentence order, what a positive and negative verb sounds like, can recognize the use of several grammatical points, understand the difference between 丁寧, 敬語 and casual speak, and learning Japanese has become more of a possible goal when you understand isn’t just gibberish and actually a logical language.

    So~ I used the tanos volcab, grammar and Kanji lists, various iPad apps such as a Japanese dictionary, and tae kim’s guide to Japanese grammar. I am too cheap at the moment to buy books, but since loads of Japanese schools in Japan use 皆の日本語 I think I’ll have a go! Good luck to anyone taking the test.

    • Mac May 27, 2011, 3:20 pm

      Your 4th language? Wow! I have a lot of respect for that. I’m just struggling with two at the moment.

      皆の日本語 is definitely a favorite among everyone in Japan because it is a lot more useful for those living here in Japan (as opposed to those that are learning the language just to visit or do business here). I really liked the vocabulary pages for each unit and the way it was laid out with plenty of exercises. It is a little basic and no thrills, but it has great info.

    • Roseanne August 28, 2021, 11:49 pm

      How can N5 be considered a beginner level? It’s the very bottom level of proficiency but most beginners can make very basic conversation to get by in Japan but cant read hirighana, kanji or katakana, confidently. I lived in Japan for 3.5 years and spoke in basic Japanese, studied Kana at Kumon but am nowhere near ready for N5. Yet I’m no beginner either. Even if N5 wont help you in the job market for using Japanese, it proves you have studied the 3 Japanese writing systems long and hard to read all the kana, and about 50 Kanji as well as have a clear grammatical foundation. What I’d like to know is, if you study Japanese reading for an hour a day, how long do you think it will take to go from zero kanji to being N5 test -ready? I would say , as a teacher of English, N5 is equivalent of elementary, N3, perhaps a high -intermediate, if that is the minimum to be considered for work.

      • Clayton MacKnight September 7, 2021, 9:58 am

        Well, basically, it is what the Japanese government wants you to learn at the basic level since the test is administered by quasi-governmental organization.

        If you drill kanji for an hour a day. You would probably be pretty close within a month and be very confident with it in 3 months.

  • Ari Meiwati June 29, 2011, 2:16 pm

    Thank you for the tutorial on your site. I find it very useful. I already passed old level 4 in 2006 and failed the level 3 in 2007 but after I got work I rarely used Japanese language again. So now I’m trying to past the N5, that take place on this Sunday. And your test helps me alot. wish me luck

    • Mac June 29, 2011, 4:05 pm

      Thanks Ari,

      I hoped it’ll help you pass the test. Improving your Japanese to a higher level can be a lot of fun. It looks like you are into Japanese gaming and anime. Do you ever use games or anime to study with?

      Good luck on the test!

  • sabuddin June 30, 2011, 10:25 am

    Want help as a N5 Student

    • Mac June 30, 2011, 3:46 pm

      What do you need help with? The vocab, kanji? reading?

  • Claire Scott July 1, 2011, 12:26 pm

    Hi! I’m taking N5 this weekend and am looking for some practice listening tests. Do you know of any online please?


  • Nick August 10, 2011, 8:26 pm

    Thanks for your hard work Mac. I actually have a bit of a head start- I’ve watched hundreds of hours of anime, learned to read manga with the hiragana over the hard kanji and taken flash based drills over old JLPT N4 kanji. I’ve learnt a lot of basic words this way and my ears are tuned to the enunciation of the Japanese language. So I decided finally to self study, use online resources and take the N5 this December. I have a good three months and since I have a good grasp over the vocab, kanji and the kana, how do I go about practising grammar and the listening sections? Any clues?

    • Mac August 11, 2011, 1:12 am

      I would say you have a pretty good head start. N5 is a pretty simple test comparatively speaking. Have you taken a practice test yet? I’ve made some notes on the official JEES practice test that you might find useful:


      As for the grammar, you might want to look through the Minna no Nihongo series if you can get to a bookstore in Japan. If you see a lot of things you don’t know, it might be worth it to pick it up. If you are outside of Japan, you can check Jonathan Walker’s Grammar list at his site and make sure you know all the grammar. How much grammar study have you done?

      For listening, I would recommend listening to a few Beginner podcasts from Japanesepod101.com. That is about N5 level with some occasional higher level vocabulary mixed in. If you can listen to that you should be ready for the test. Otherwise you might want to pick up a listening practice book like Gokaku Dekiru’s book for N4/N5. It might be worth it if you are going to go on to take the N4.

      Anyway, a good start is to take the practice test and see what you found difficult, you may already know what you need to know 🙂

      Good luck!

  • Prem August 18, 2011, 11:16 am

    Hey Mac,

    I am Prem. I live in Chennai, India. I got into Japanese when I was recovering from a Road Crash.I took the crash course that combines N5 and N4 and I wrote the exam in Dec 2010. Guess, what, to my absolute horror, I Passed :-(. In hindsight, I see, that though I passed, my basics are pretty bad. So I am going to prepare diligently for N3 and give it a shot this december.

    I came across your video on Youtube. Great website and pure gold as far as the info goes. Loved your ebook. Especially the pasta part. Looking forward to visiting your website and learning a lot from you.

    Domo Arigato Gozaimashita Sensei.

    • Mac August 19, 2011, 1:23 am

      Thanks for the kind words Prem.

      You have some really good points. I think I lot of people rush in and try to pass the tests as quickly as possible, but the real goal of learning language is to be fluent and confident when speaking. It’s important to fix those gaps in your knowledge before they get too big. For instance, I still have issues with the first 10 days of the month. Makes it hard when I make my dentist appointment 🙂

      Good Luck on the test!

  • Justin September 6, 2011, 10:21 am

    So, I’m split between wanting to take the N4 and N5. I’ve been off and on studying Japanese for the past 2 years, very inconsistently, but I’ve lived in Japan off-and-on the past 2 years as well. My wife suggests that I should take the N4 test because when we evaluated my ability during practice tests, I was breezing through the questions too easily and quickly. She said that I should challenge myself and attempt the N4. The other reason she suggested that I attempt the N4 is so that I’ll actually study. I’m notorious for not studying and that fact that I’ve learned up to the N5 mark with only a handful of hours studying on my own is one hell of a feat. (Granted I’ve taken 6 months of Japanese college classes, my wife is Japanese and I’ve been in the country for about 2 years). I have until Sept 30 to mail in the application form but I really want to know what I should do. What would you suggest? I’m leaning toward N4, which its content seems quite a bit above me at the moment.

    • Mac September 6, 2011, 3:54 pm

      Just to clarify, were you breezing through the questions on the N5 or N4 practice tests? Were they the JEES tests that can be found on my site or on the jlpt.jp site? If you were able to answer the practice questions for those test pretty easily for the N4 level, I would go for N4.

      The mock tests you can buy in the store like this one tend to be a little bit more difficult at least in my opinion. I think it might be because they are actual full tests that you should take timed out and so that makes them seem a little bit more difficult. If you take one of those and pass, just pass, or just fail, you should be good for N4 if you study accordingly.

      I personally skipped N5. It’s bit of a warm up test if you know what I mean. I’m not discounting it. It’s still pretty tough for those starting out, but it’s meant as a warm up more than anything else. N4 is something you can be proud of and will possibly get noticed on a resume.

      In short, go for it man! But, attack it, study hard and stay focused, 3 months may seem like a long time, but it is just around the corner.

      I would pick up the word lists if you haven’t already, and attack a grammar book for the N4. That should cover your bases well enough for the test.


  • Kelvin September 20, 2011, 11:24 am

    Im starting to study Japanese. and gather some of the free learning materials. I want to take the test next year, and I don’t know where to start, Im trying to learn hiragana first, and some of the most common kanji. Im using Anki. Hope to here more podcast for beginners. Thanks ! and more power 🙂

    • Mac September 20, 2011, 2:18 pm

      Learning katakana and hiragana are critical when you first start off. I personally picked up from Heisig’s Remembering the Kana and Pict-o-Graphix. Those two books sealed the deal for me.

      You might want to pick up Tofugu’s two cheat sheets for hiragana and katakana. They are pretty good.

  • Barbara October 30, 2011, 7:33 pm

    I’ve got my N5 test in December – just fourish weeks to go – and I’m rather worried about the listening section. I seem okay on the reading, grammar and vocabulary but somehow struggle with listening. I’m trying to improve my vocab with your Anki deck 🙂 and hope this will do it. I’m going to do practice exercises everyday and I’ve got a schedule planned for the remaining weeks, but working as a full time teacher as well I know I’ll be exhausted 🙁 Any advice?

    • Mac October 31, 2011, 2:54 am

      I usually use jpod101 for listening practice. There beginner series would be about the right level. You can only get the last 3 weeks without a subscription, but it might be worth it.
      Another free option would be Erin’s Challenge. It’s a mini-series of short skits that chronicle a Japanese person pretending to be an exchange student from England. Well-done and best of all free.

      Unfortunately I can’t recommend anything that is specific to the JLPT except for the jpod101’s series. You have to have a paid subscription to access it, but it might be worth it to get a month subscription (you’ll have access to all the episodes in their library) and then download everything. It looks like at least the first couple episodes are free to listen to still though. Keep in mind that these episodes are designed for the old level 4 test which is equivalent to N5, but has different style questions.

      As for staving off exhaustion, one of the best things to do is time slicing, try to set aside 20 minutes of study time (with a timer) and then reward yourself with say 5 or 10 minutes of web surfing or Facebooking. Then go back to the grindstone. You have to be strict with yourself though!

  • Barbara October 31, 2011, 7:09 pm

    Thanks for the advice 🙂 I’ve got the JIPod subscription now and am working my way through them. I’m not always picking up on the vocab but hopefully I’ll have made some improvements over the next four weeks … I’m doing about 1-3hrs a day if I can (minimum 1hr) so fingers crossed! Thanks again 🙂 Oh, am I right in thinking it’s around 30chapters of Minna for N5?

    • Mac November 1, 2011, 11:01 pm

      Yeah, I looked through the Minna book just recently and it looks like the first 30 chapters cover N5 of the test. I think you should be good to go!

  • Jo November 28, 2011, 7:37 pm

    Haha, I totally agree with this, I’m partaking in the N5 next sunday, I’m going to completely fail unless I get my head out of the clouds!

    I used to learn Japanese off of a relative for several years, until last year when she moved away, I applied for the JLPT N5 to see where I was in my knowledge, as I would like to take it up again soon, it’s only been the past month I have started studying again, and BOY I’m finding it difficult, I used to have near 500 kanji flashcards that I knew well, now I’m lucky to hit 100 first time!

    *sigh* I guess I should have kept at it and not left it to the last minute!! Hopefully my knowledge will return!!

    • Mac November 30, 2011, 3:54 pm

      You might surprise yourself Jo! I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Just go in and take it as a learning experience, that is part of the reason why we take the test, isn’t it? Anyway, relax, have fun, and do your best, I’m sure you’ll do better than you think. And come back and tell us how it went.

  • callum January 4, 2012, 5:31 pm

    Hi there! Long story short i’m currently going to take N5. I like to do things in little chunks and build. That’s how most things in the world work to be honest XD.

    But i currently own Japanese for busy people 1 and the work book for it. I’m getting mixed replies from people, but I wanted to ask if you think it is enough to get me through JLPT N5. I’ve been trying to study lists of kanji & vocab etc but it’s not working and i need a structured book course like JFBP. I know it isn’t targeted to JLPT but would it supply the knowledge to pass ?

    • Mac January 6, 2012, 3:28 pm

      If I remember correctly, it will come pretty close. The biggest problem is that it won’t explain nuances and the small details of the grammar that are sometimes needed for the test. I would definitely recommend picking up at least another book that is geared towards the test like Tanki Master N5, because it will help you get a feel for the kind of questions they are going to ask.

      For N5, you can probably get away with taking a JLPT N5 practice test and be ready for the test if you are a good test taker. But, if you don’t want to take any chances, I would recommend picking up the Tanki Master series because they are a tougher prep book, which means if you can get thorough it and understand it then you should be ready for the test.

      • callum January 8, 2012, 2:28 pm

        Excellent thanks for the reply. I spent about 3 hours with the JFBP the friday just gone and was flying through it! Really enjoyable. Thanks for the other book recommendation “tanki” will defo buy this as it’s quite cheap too and for exam prep I learn best with practice papers, so this fits perfect. And I see tanki goes right up to N1 which is great :D!

        One last little question. Do you know a website that has good recordings of Japanese television like comedy programs? I watch anime but i’d like some real life stuff to watch.


        • Mac January 9, 2012, 8:00 am

          The best place I know to find stuff like that is on YouTube. I often see a lot of comedy stuff there from time to time, albeit mixed in with the latest AKB48 stuff. Other than that I don’t know too many places to watch comedy online. I always watch it on TV :).

          There are a few good comedy podcasts as well if that is what you are interested in. I have a hard time getting it because they are usually speaking in kansai-ben and also incredibly fast. Do you have any particular comedy shows you are interested in watching?

          • callum January 12, 2012, 11:31 am

            Hmm in regards to preference I don’t mind. It was quite funny whilst I was doing some japanese study downstairs the other day there was a film on about Pearl Harbour. Not the best highlight of Japanese history but it was quite educational, I couldn’t understand much but I picked up a couple of words here and there which was quite a boost in moral haha. I really don’t mind, as such I don’t think it needs to be comedy after watching that film as I enjoyed it. Just anything except soppy love stories I enjoy 🙂 .

          • Mac January 22, 2012, 3:50 am

            Soppy love stories, so are jDramas out? Those usually have a good underground following with a decent community of people that do the subtitles. I’ve worked my way through a couple of series by doing a quick glance at the English and then trying to listen for keywords that I might know. You don’t have to choose the soppy love stories though, there are a few crime dramas that you can hunt down. I wouldn’t say I learn a whole bunch, but I pick up a few things here and there and learn how to say some useful phrases.

  • Lily May 21, 2012, 1:19 am

    Hi there,

    I’m thinking of taking N5 this December. Do you think this is too ambitious?

    I’m pretty good with languages in general. I’m confident with reading and writing hiragana and katakana, and I’m also studying Mandarin, so I know some kanji meanings. However, I took the sample test on the JLPT site, and my reading comprehension and grammar were awful.

    I’m undertaking this as a school project that needs to be finished around May next year, and I figured I would buy some textbooks along with doing lots of studying (I’m not sure how yet) over the summer.

    Thanks ^^.

    • Mac May 21, 2012, 2:00 am

      I’m sure you could do it if you have a good hour or so a day to study. If you could consistently putting in some studying and pick up some books that are specifically for the JLPT, like Tanki Master. I don’t think you’ll have too many issues. Be sure to keep taking the practice tests and strengthening your weaknesses and you’ll be fine.

  • Cameron May 25, 2012, 11:14 pm

    I have recently decided to sit down and learn Japanese. I was born in Japan to American parents; although I have never been able to speak it, the language feels natural to my ears. A class on Japanese in high school didn’t teach me much, but I did walk out with a complete knowledge of hiragana, katakana, and a solid foundation on particles. I have yet to start at a major university – I’m just taking classes at a community college to save money – so for now I am relying on myself to study the language. I feel like I’m doing well for myself – after just a month, I can recognize about 250 kanji. It’s nowhere near the amount needed for fluency, and I couldn’t tell you every on- and kun-reading off the bat, but I can tell you what they mean, and I am constantly looking for vocabulary words that use them in order to help remember the different readings.

    When I decided to learn the language within the last few months, I learned about the JLPT. Most resources tell me that its value depends on what you want to do – I am not sure I want to live in Japan yet, so I wouldn’t need it for any kind of employment stateside. That said, I do not have any method of study, and the test is appealing to me because it will give me material to focus on. I’ll know what kanji to study; I’ll know what vocabulary to emphasize. I’ll know what kinds of sentences need to be built. I love learning the language, but I follow no pattern: I don’t have a means to apply it, and I want it to be more than a hobby. Studying for a test will give me the foundation I need. I’m not sure if I should start with JLPT 5 or JLPT 4; from what I have found through practice tests, my skill level is between the two. Either way, I want to try one test in December.

    What I came to inquire about is this: the two things I am struggling with are grammar and reading practice. Learning kanji and vocabulary is easy to do online; grammar and reading, not so much. I can get lists of grammar from the different recommended websites, but I would love to have a textbook or an online resource to help walk me through it. I’m not able to take a list and just piece something together. Do you know of any place where I can get that help or a book that can help me? Thank you very much for taking the time to read this comment regardless.

    • Mac May 27, 2012, 10:55 am

      I would recommend rolling up your sleeves and trying for the N4 this December. That should be perfectly doable.

      There are pretty much two great books that I recommend for the N4 level, the first one is by the same people that do the So-Matome series for N3~N1, it is called Nihongo Challenge and they have one that covers just the grammar and reading, so it looks like just what you need. It is fairly well organized and gives you some pretty good descriptions of each grammar point.

      The other book that I recommend is a drill book meant to help you prepare you for the exam specifically with drills from each of the sections. It is a book called Tanki Master and is generally considered the same level as the test (whereas the So-Matome books are usually a little easier).

      Anyway, looks like you are right on track to pass the N4. Just be sure to review and go through the drills a few times. I’m sure you can make it in time. 頑張ってください!

  • Dev July 12, 2012, 7:34 am

    Hi Mac!
    I am from Delhi, India.Just a beginner with this beautiful language.
    Need some advice on how to go about with N5 part with your experience from scratch.
    What tools/books are required.
    I had tried twice earlier to study by joining evening classes but due to my work pressure I am probably not able to either attend or even if i am at starting able to attend classes later on I am not able to study further.Anyway thats a part and parcel of life and I am seriously thinking of having a go at N5.
    I am very poor with katakana.Vocabulary also I cannot say I remember much.
    In short all aspects reading/listening and writing skills are at low level.
    So if you could guide about some studying strategies/books or other tools that would be great.

    • Mac July 15, 2012, 1:16 pm

      I would say the biggest thing you need to master first is the writing system. Make sure you have hiragana and katakana mastered. I personally used Heisig’s Remembering the Kana, which is an amazing book, but if you are looking for a free option, there is also a memrise course that covers katakana and one that covers hiragana.

      Beyond that it is important to try to try out the language as much as you can. This is something that is fairly easy to do actually. I would recommend signing up for LiveMocha or something similar to try out the language. Also do some Jpod101 listening. There newbie and beginner series should be great material for you.

  • janak sherchan July 20, 2012, 12:24 pm

    Dear Mac,
    thank you for helping all those peoples with japanese language. I would like to know how would the answer sheets look like in the JLPT N5 and how should we tick the answer.
    thank you

  • Julie August 7, 2012, 8:33 pm

    This article was very helpful to me. I may be crazy, but I am considering taking the N5 in December. I have had a year of Japanese in college, and can read hiragana and katakana, and am starting to meet with a language exchange partner, but I have not sat down to study with the intent of taking the test yet. I think I will take the next four weeks (before registration opens in the US) to seriously study and see where I am before making the decision.

    • Mac August 8, 2012, 1:08 am

      You should be able to make it for the December test I would say. You’ll need to practice on a regular basis, but you’ll make it!

  • Tyra August 8, 2012, 10:21 pm

    All my study has been on the internet and I have never taken a Japanese language course. I passed my JLPT N5 in 2010 and my primary learning tools were iknow.jp (formerly known as Smart.fm) and jlptstudy.net, before that I learned basic phrases at japanese-online.com. I also found various practice tests and bought one online to study. Particles were by far my biggest obstacle and I finally understood the difference between using に and へ only hours before I was to take my test. I brought along my particle study sheet and notes for review just before the test (just in case). Other than the particles, I felt the most difficult part of the test on the comprehension seemed to be cultural. Sometimes the questions were in relation to topics that weren’t familiar to me i.e. shower schedules in a household, I did OK with the more logic-related puzzles when the situations were familiar to me (i.e. buying tickets for a train). I’ve hung my certificate on my wall and feel pretty proud of the accomplishment. 🙂

    • Mac August 11, 2012, 2:33 am

      Particles are huge for the N5. They are incredibly difficult to master I think. The funny thing is, they still test you over some particle usage even in the N1 exam! That has to be one of the most difficult aspects of Japanese.

  • gakusei107 February 4, 2013, 9:53 am

    Hi Mac, I just signed up for the premium jlptbootcamp and I can tell you that I think that it is a great resource.
    I learn languages as a hobby and have taught myself quite a few.
    However, Japanese has been very difficult for me, but I hope that with the help of this website I’ll be able to improve my knowledge of Japanese!

    • Clayton MacKnight February 4, 2013, 3:24 pm

      Great! Thanks for your support. Let me know if you need anything or have any questions. Some of the best parts of the kit came from users questions that I ended up researching and writing on.

      And good luck with the JLPT!

  • shika February 4, 2013, 7:50 pm

    hi, thanks for the nice article. I have a question. Do we need to clear N5 before giving N4?

    Also can I attempt N4 and N5 at the same time?


    • Clayton MacKnight February 6, 2013, 1:05 am

      You don’t need to clear one level to move on to the next one, you could try N1 at first if you like, but since all the levels are usually administered at the same time, it is impossible to sit both N4 and N5 at the same time.

  • Krystian February 21, 2013, 12:12 pm

    Hello! I’m learning japanese myself and I’m going to take N5 this summer. I think that I could take N4 as well, but I need to build my cofidence and N5 is great for this 🙂 Someday I will take N1 but now I want to prove to myself and say “yes I can!” 🙂 First step is very important so keep yours fingers crossed 🙂

    • Clayton MacKnight February 25, 2013, 6:42 am

      It always starts with just one step. Good luck Krystian! I hope you do well on the N5.

  • Scott Connor May 24, 2013, 2:37 pm

    Hi 🙂
    I was just wondering do I really need a JLPT n5 book? I already bought Japanese For Dummies and I’m also taking the N5 vocabulary course on memrise (which is amazing by the way) 🙂
    I want to do the test in December.

  • Tejendra June 17, 2013, 4:30 am

    Hi Mac,
    I read your article, its quite inspirational. I have a simple query i can read Hiragana and i want to appear for N5 at the end of this year (DEC 2013), so if i opt of some coaching now, will 5 months of Weekend coaching be enough to qualify N5 ?

    • Clayton MacKnight June 17, 2013, 2:15 pm

      Have you studied any kanji? How much time can you study every day?

      • Tejendra June 18, 2013, 2:17 am

        Till now i have not studied any Kanji..may be only 10 characters..but i can give 1 hour everyday, apart from Coaching time on Weekends i can have 2 hour of self study on Weekends. I need to appear for N5 in the End of this Year DEC 2013, so according to you what are my chances, if i join Japanese learning school on weekends now.

        • Clayton MacKnight June 19, 2013, 2:18 pm

          Mmmm, you’ll be pretty close. I think it is worth a try with that much studying you will come pretty close I think. There are only 100 kanji to learn, which should be pretty easy to do in 5 months. The biggest hurdle will be all the conjugations of verbs and adjectives you have to do.

  • RAZZAK KHAN August 4, 2014, 6:59 am

    hello hajimemashite …
    i have started to learning japnese in 2011 i covered almost 12 lesson in my class..but due to some circumstances came infront so i quited off with this because i have to go on with my enng. but now i realise that there is a vast scope of japanese learner here in indai aur abroad and many more countries….so i just wanted to continue with the japanese but the problem is that i forgot some lesson of it what should i do can i start from the beggining or to go through the lesson 13.. n i more thing plz tell me the easy way of learning n espacially speaking of japanese…can i do it with myself aur i should opt coaching for this…??????
    domo arigato gozaimasu ..

    • Clayton MacKnight August 7, 2014, 11:58 pm

      I think the first thing you need to do is go back and review everything you did learn. Double check your understanding before moving on to something else. Depending on your level, you can pretty easily get a chat partner who can help you with your general conversation skills. It all depends on how you learn. Some people prefer a tutor while others like to discover and make mistakes themselves.

  • ashok November 15, 2014, 7:16 pm

    Hajimemashite. san….dec 7 i hav my n5 exam i dint cover much of the syllabus kindly help. me hw to clear the exam

    • Clayton MacKnight November 17, 2014, 2:13 pm

      Probably my best advice is to do a few practice tests before the main day, and try to study as much of the vocabulary as you can.

  • Lili May 10, 2015, 5:50 pm

    Hi Mac
    I’ve been studying Japanese since January, go for one 2hr lesson each week. Our teacher wants us to write the N5 in December. Japanese is my fifth language, hopefully I won’t accidentally write in another language during the exam….

    • Clayton MacKnight May 11, 2015, 1:29 pm

      It’s multiple choice, so you should be okay. If you are used to learning languages, N5 should be pretty simple for you. Good luck!

  • vishal chaudhari October 6, 2016, 6:34 pm

    hello sir,
    Now-a-days I am preparing for the course of n5,if I cracked the exam of n5,so there is any chances of job in japanese companies…

    • Clayton MacKnight October 18, 2016, 12:39 am

      Probably not, but it shows you are interested in Japanese. You might be able to get a job with a company that is affiliated with a Japanese company though.

  • Andrew Rio October 23, 2016, 4:06 am

    I started learn japanese about 2 months (and still running till now), i will take N5 test in 4th December. If i pass the N5 test, can i get baito (part time job) in Japan? I plan to move there next year.


    • Clayton MacKnight October 24, 2016, 1:28 pm

      Yeah, if you are able to speak conversationally you should be able to work part-time. They are generally not too picky about part-time work because they are kind of desperate to find somebody usually. You might struggle with the forms, but if you have somebody help you, I think it is possible.

  • sivaraman September 5, 2017, 8:59 am


    Actually I am going to write N5 exam this December-17 but I am doing my own study, I did not go for any other institution.

    Someone could you give some basic tips to clear N5 Level exam?

    • Clayton MacKnight September 7, 2017, 12:31 am

      Basically, you need to practice the vocabulary and get a good grammar book for the N5 level. Then, all you need to do is study.

  • suganthi October 23, 2017, 4:23 pm

    I started to learning Japanese from last three months.. December 17 I m going to write my n5 exam level..easily I can memorise tha vocabulary..even though in listening part I feel tough

    • Clayton MacKnight November 6, 2017, 12:25 am

      To improve listening, just need to practice, practice, practice. JapanesePod101 has a lot of good material to listen to.

      • Aoba P March 8, 2019, 4:50 pm

        True, but I’ve done it through vocaloid songs and anime as well. Most people would recommend to learn to listen to a language by TV shows and such. That’s what RM from BTS did when he was learning English

  • Aoba P March 8, 2019, 4:46 pm

    I’ve recently discovered that these tests occurred so now I’m even more motivated to learn Japanese. Unfortunately I’m on my own and I can’t find anything to help me on kanji (and the freakin strokes), grammar, and verbs. I haven’t even gotten to the point to make simple sentences! I wish there was like a good free online place to go to do this… I only know like 80 words, originally from romaji but now I can instantly recognize them in hiragana, and a few in kanji. Do you know what I can do?

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