A lot of Japanese learners have been studying Japanese for a time and would like to take the test to verify that they have learned something. And without taking the test, it’s difficult to know what test to go for. If you guess wrong, you are out Y5500ish, a day of test taking and you might have to wait another year to take another level and by that time, you will have studied more and your level would have changed more.
So, it’s a burning question that everyone wants an answer for. Unfortunately, there really isn’t an official answer. But, before you throw your hands up in disgust, I’ll try to give you all the facts, so you can judge for yourself what level you are at (at least according to study hours).
Official Study Hours
Officially, there are no official study hour recommendations anymore. JEES, or the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, used to publish them with every test application before about 2008. Since then, they have magically disappeared. I dug up an old test book from 2007 though, and this is what it had:
JLPT level 1 (N1) – around 900 hours of study
JLPT level 2 (N2) – around 600 hours of study
JLPT level 3 (N4) – around 300 hours of study
JLPT level 4 (N5) – around 150 hours of study
These to me seem down right laughable. I tend to interpret these more as classroom hours, as in this is about the amount of time you should be sitting in a class. I would then add about 2~4 hours out of class for study and prep work for that hour in class. So a revised total hour chart would look like the following:
JLPT level 1 (N1) – around 2700 ~ 4500 hours of study
JLPT level 2 (N2) – around 1800 ~ 3000 hours of study
JLPT level 3 (N4) – around 900 ~ 1500 hours of study
JLPT level 4 (N5) – around 450 ~ 750 hours of study
The lower end would be for students that are good at languages and good at test taking. The upper end is more suitable for those that are bad at languages and not so good at test taking.
The JLEC JLPT Study Hours
The JLEC, or Japanese Language Education Center, is a service that lists Japanese language schools in Japan. They have posted average study hours for each of the levels of the test as well. It doesn’t go into detail as to how they came about these hours, but they are generally considered to be accurate.
JLPT level 1 (N1) – around 3100 ~ 4500 hours of study
JLPT level 2 (N2) – around 1400 ~ 2000 hours of study
JLPT level 3 (N4) – around 500 ~ 750 hours of study
JLPT level 4 (N5) – around 250 ~ 400 hours of study
NOTE: These study times are for students without prior kanji knowledge. The study times are significantly less if you do have previous knowledge of kanji, e.g., if your an Asian student or have studied Chinese before.
You can see that the study times are slightly different. Unfortunately, JLEC doesn’t go into how many of these hours are classroom hours and how many of them are homework/self-study hours. This is where, again, the original hours quoted by the JEES might come in handy.
So, What does this All Mean?
I feel like the JLEC hours are reasonably accurate if you are taking classes. However, I know for a fact that there are more than a few of you that aren’t taking classes. Also, if you are taking more casual style classes, i.e., volunteer classes or tutor-style one-on-one classes, these numbers aren’t entirely accurate either.
I personally know a few people that have studied for more than 2000 (self-study) hours and are still struggling to pass N2, so these numbers can be completely off for anybody not taking a class that is focused on passing the JLPT.
That’s why, I try to stress in my summaries of each of the tests that the hours I quote are classroom hours. I feel like this is really the only thing that I can be sure about and recommend to people. Next week, I’m going to go into some alternative ways to judge your level and see where you are on the scale of things, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I’d like to hear from you. What do you think of these hours? How long have you been studying Japanese and what test are you taking? I’d like to know in the comments below.
Image by Arjon Richter, available under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License