The N1 is the ultimate achievement of the JLPT. For the new tests, they have supposedly made it more difficult than the old tests. This is because they have introduced more advanced concepts that were not covered in the old tests. This level requires about 1000 hours of in classroom study to complete. But, unless you are a genius, you will most definitely have to supplement that with a lot of external studying and practicing.
JLPT N1 – Basic Info
The N1 covers advanced Japanese. At this level, you should be able to read and understand the main points of just about everything. This includes newspapers, magazines, editorials and critiques. They key to this level is complete understanding. So, you should be able to say, watch a TV show and not have any issues understanding the situation and how the characters are related to each other.
The N1 is designed to test your ability to work in a completely Japanese working environment. After passing the test, you should have no issues working in a Japanese company. For most positions, barring visa issues, potential employers will think of you as a near-native speaker of Japanese. They still want to test your fluency orally in an interview probably, but this is where most of the jobs in Japan are available (outside of the English-teaching industry).
If you are looking to go to school in Japan. Passing the N1 is a great start. Although there is now a separate test that judges your Japanese level for university. This test will also give you a good benchmark of how close you are to being fluent in the language.
There are actually three sets of practice tests available for each level of the JLPT. The first set are called ‘sample questions’. These just have two questions for each section. Basically, it is a good way to get a feel for what the test is like and how difficult it is before taking a full practice test. There are also two full practice tests you can download for free as well. The JLPT website refers to these as ‘workbooks’.
JLPT N1 – Grammar
The grammar that will be on the N1 is the same as the old level 1 with some added complexity. There are a variety of books out there that provide good lists of grammar. The Kanzen Master series is a good place to start or you can check out Jonathan Waller’s list as well.
Overall, the grammar at this level is more formal versions of connectors already presented before. You should be used to this sentence structure by now. At this level, it’s just a matter of becoming familiar with the new structures and learning the nuances. They will really test you on the different nuances between the grammar points.
JLPT N1 – Kanji
You will need to know 2000 kanji. This includes all general use kanji, commonly called joyo kanji. In other words, you need to learn all of them. This is where learning the radicals instead of the brush strokes really comes in handy. A lot of the kanji will start to blend together because the only difference between them is a small radical.
It might be helpful to join a Japanese calligraphy class (書道). Some people prepare for this level by studying for the kanji kentei, which is a popular kanji test for Japanese. You’ll also find plenty of DS software that helps you prepare for the kanji kentei. Outside of Japan, you can check out White Rabbit Press for a whole slew of kanji practicing games, including the all encompassing Kanken DS.
JLPT N1 – Vocabulary
Again, this level has a pretty daunting
10,000 18,000 vocabulary words to know and understand. You should drill and practice some of the 10,000 18,000 from the lists available in Anki (that cover the old 10,000 that used to be required), but this should definitely be supplemented by a lot of reading and listening.
If you are outside of Japan and are studying for this level, you will have to have steady exposure to the language in order to pass. This means at least an hour and probably 2 to 3 hours of Japanese exposure a day. You will have to do a lot of reading with either some novels or find an online source of news articles to read on a regular basis.
If you are inside of Japan, start watching a lot of TV especially dramas. Dramas have situations that are easy to understand. For example, you know that it is a husband and wife talking with each other. This will make it a lot easier to ‘guess’ the types of words that they will be using. Also, try to watch debate or discussion programs. It’s probably best to avoid sports, comedy or variety shows.
So, what’s this thing good for?
The N1 is the highest level of the JLPT. As such, it is good for just about everything. You’ll be able to get a job in Japan fairly easily (if you already have a visa). You can work in anything from IT to translation depending on your interests. There really aren’t any restrictions.
You will also be able to easily take university classes in Japan. The N1 is not required by any universities anymore. There is now actually a separate test for that, but if you are studying for the N1 and pass the N1, there is a good chance classes will be that much easier.
Be aware that you still aren’t ‘finished’ with the JLPT. To stay current (in the eyes of most potential Japanese employers) you will need to take the test every 2 years. This shouldn’t be a problem if you are working in a Japanese company and they don’t require you to take the test, but if you are job hunting (or planning to in the near future) be sure to renew your certification.
If you pass the N1, you will have achieved the ultimate goal in terms of the JLPT. The people that I know that have achieved this can easily read and work with Japanese. At this level, you are able to see the world quite differently in Japan because you can watch the news, TV shows, and go to movies without needing subtitles or assistance. It’s quite a feeling. You still won’t be able to understand absolutely everything, but you will be pretty close.
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 N1. Did they help? What would you recommend to someone that is studying for the N1? Don’t be afraid, help your fellow man (and woman) pass the test!
Image by drcorneilus, available under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License