What to bring to the JLPT

Ok, so you’ve studied for months in anticipation waiting for the big test day. You’ve covered all the grammar and vocabulary you need. You even managed to get through a few books before the big day. It looks like you are all ready to go.

But, not quite. You still need to pack your bag for the day’s events. You don’t want to show up to the test with nothing but your brimming confidence. You need to be ready for the half day long extravaganza that is JLPT.

One quick note, I’ve only taken the test in Japan. If you are in another country and you noticed something a little different, by all means let me know in the comments. I’m sure other readers would appreciate all the advice and tips they can get.

Your JLPT Test Voucher

You should have actually just gotten this in the mail if you are here in Japan. It’s rather small slip you have to rip open. The only part you actually have to have for the test is the slip with your face and details on it. However, they do include a handy map to the test site that you might want to bring along just in case.

If you do happen to forget your test voucher on the test day, don’t freak out. There will probably be a desk there that you can flash your ID or passport at and get a temporary test voucher on the day. This desk is generally swamped, so it’s best to just have the voucher in hand when you go to the site. If you have your voucher you can go directly to your testing room and await the beginning of the festivities.

JLPT What to bring PencilsWriting Instruments (a smarty-pants word for pencils)

This is probably a no brainer, but I thought I’d mention it anyway just to be through. You’ll need a pencil to actually take the test. It can be an old-school HB pencil with an eraser on the end or the top of the line mechanical pencil. You can also have one plastic eraser if you prefer the big blocky erasers instead of the ones at the other end of your pencil.

I personally prefer to carry two standard mechanical pencils, one good one and one spare. If you are anything like me, you may want to actually check the pencils and see if they have lead in them as well. I hardly use a pencil outside of the test, so I always have to check.

JLPT What to Bring Wristwatch

You Know you Want One

Wristwatch

This is by no means required, but having a wristwatch can be a huge help, especially for the N2 and N1 levels where you have a huge block of 105 to 110 minutes to answer the questions in. During the test, there are no countdowns or warnings, your watch will be the only indicator of how much time you have.

You may want to check out my article on JLPT Time Management to get approximate times for each section of the test. Remember to budget out your time and don’t get bogged down in one section of the test. When you finish a section take a quick glance at the clock and make sure you aren’t going to run out of time.

The above items are allowed to be on your desk at all times. The rest of these items have to be in your bag:

JLPT What to Bring Bananas

You don't wanna know where he put the other bananas

Food and Drinks

The place that you are going to will most likely not have a convenience store nearby. Universities in Japan typically don’t have anything in the way of cheap fast eats around them. I have no idea why this is, it just is. There might be a school food court or convenience store, but it will most likely be closed.

Also, even if there is a convenience store, chances are you’ll be a bit unfamiliar with the area and not be able to find it, fight the hordes of other test takers, and get back to the test center in a reasonable amount of time.

So, it’s a good thing to pack some food with you. I usually pack a few bananas, some onigiri, some yogurt drinks and a bag of sugar candies of some sort. The bananas are to keep you full of nutrients and your brain working. The onigiri are for lunch. The yogurt is to keep your stomach from growling.

The sugar candies are also for your brain. I guess you could get some glucose tablets if you want to go all out, but the sugar candies should do. You may be thinking your brain doesn’t need sugar, but it does. Your brain can burn a tremendous amount of calories especially when it is cooking through a test.

Remember to use everything in moderation, too much of any of this stuff can give too much food to process and make you sleepy. You also don’t want to get to excited and drink a red bull and some sugar candies before the test either.

But, you probably already knew that because you downloaded my free guide to the 5 Biggest Mistakes People Make on the Test right? It’s okay if you didn’t. You can get it right now by filling out the little form in the upper right corner.

Smartphone

If you are lucky enough (or is it smart enough?) to have a smartphone, you’ll probably be carrying it with you to the test. And if you have it, you might as well use it. I always use my phone to look up kanji and vocab right after the test. If you feel like things are going to fall out of your head too fast, you can use the voice recording function on your phone to record a quick memo of stuff to look up later after the test.

This may seem like stupid advice, but be absolutely sure that your phone is off, and I mean dead to the world.  I was doing the listening section once and someone’s phone went off.  They expelled her immediately.  To make matters worse it was the default marimba tone for the iPhone.  If you going to go out, at least go out in style. 🙂

Grammar Book

I always give a once over of a handful of grammar points that I always get mixed up right before the start of the test. Don’t try to read the whole book before the test, just hit on the few points of grammar that you have the most trouble with one more time. You can also use the book after the test to look up answers and check to make sure you are correct.

A Train Ticket Home

This is probably one of the most important things. Although it technically has nothing to do with the actual test, you will probably want to buy a ticket home as soon as you get to your final station.

As soon as the test finishes, there is always a mass exodus of a few thousand people heading to the station. You don’t want to be in that line to buy a ticket. Buy your ticket beforehand and breeze by that line with ease.  Alternatively, you can just buy a prepaid pass, like the suuruto card here in kansai, and then you don’t have to worry about pushing the right button on the ticket machine.

Are you Ready?

That’s all you need to bring for the test. If you’ve taken the test before, I’d like to hear about you typically bring to the test. Let me know in the comments below.

Good luck on the test!

Photos by bigcityal, JeHu68, and puuikibeach

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Arturo July 2, 2011, 6:33 am

    Thanks 😀

    • Mac July 2, 2011, 12:12 pm

      NP, がんばって!

  • Miguel August 12, 2011, 7:33 pm

    The test is in December and I’m already nervous!
    Thank you for taking the time to write this.

    • Mac August 15, 2011, 1:03 am

      No problems, December isn’t that far away though! We only have a little under 4 months. Good luck to you!

  • Michael July 7, 2013, 8:54 am

    Hey, thanks for sharing your experience on this website.
    It is/was very useful to many of us!

  • Aleatha December 1, 2013, 12:25 am

    Thanks for this site. It has been a great help this year getting me ready. I’m taking the test for the first time tomorrow in Chicago. I received my voucher in the mail along with a paper of rules and vital information for the test. It seems to be different and much stricter at my location.

    We are required to have our test voucher and a valid and official photo ID such as driver’s license, passport or student ID. The name on the voucher must match the name on the ID or they won’t allow entrance.

    We are also required to have several sharpened no. 2 pencils and an eraser. Absolutely no mechanical pencils allowed.

    We must bring a watch. There is no clock in the classroom. Our watch must be analog. No digital watches or watches that beep are allowed.

    We are not allowed to bring any digital devices. No handwritten or printed materials. No food or drinks except water in a clear bottle with no label. The water must be kept in the bag under the seat during the test.

    We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. Thanks

    • Clayton MacKnight December 2, 2013, 11:14 pm

      Wow, that’s pretty strict. The rules in japan are pretty lax in comparison. We are almost expected to bring mechanicAl pencils. I don’t even have a pencil sharpener, so even if I wanted to do something else I would have to use those.

      You can still bring your phone right? You just need to switch off for the test, right? Or no electronic devices period?

      • Tatiana December 7, 2014, 5:16 am

        I’m taking the test in Boston and received the same information as Aleatha from Chicago.

        No mechanical pencils, no electronic devices or beeping watches, however phones are permitted as long as they are turned off.

  • ngelay December 2, 2014, 3:39 am

    Nearly Exam : here is coming 7 December next week. I am so exciting for my nooryokushiken.
    This year also very very busy with work. But I would like to get good luck result. Greeting for our society JLPT GOOD LUCK & HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015!

  • Paola November 30, 2015, 5:33 am

    I am taking the JLPT N5 this coming Sunday!! (December 6th), for me it’s going to be very interesting because the test is not held in my country, so I have to travel to a neighbor country on Friday (a country where i’ve never been to before), then take the test on Sunday and travel back to my country in the afternoon !! I am taking the test in San Jose Costa Rica. If there’s anything different happening I’ll let you know. So far, the embassy was good enough to send all by email all the transport options to get to the University where the exam will be held. I am so nervous !! O_O

  • Dustin June 21, 2016, 11:40 am

    Hi, I am going to take the test on next months and right now i lose my test voucher…
    Can I still participate in the test? I had already paid 5000
    A reply will be helpful… Thanks

    • Clayton MacKnight June 21, 2016, 2:35 pm

      yes, you just need to show up with a valid id at the test site, like a passport. They should be able to sort you out there.

      • Dustin June 21, 2016, 8:09 pm

        Really? Thank you for the information. One more question, is the examination takes place in the same place for example if my friends take N2 exam (the same as me). The location is the same right?

  • Junie July 2, 2017, 12:17 am

    I am feeling so tense…..my test is today! I don’t think I am prepared well enough for N3.
    And I am only Primary 4!

  • srivarshini December 1, 2018, 10:38 am

    I am writing the exam tomorrow. I am from India. I practised your memrise courses and grammar videos on youtube. I also studied with Genki… I wrote the practice test on your website. Got around 60 – 70 percent. I am so nervous. The test centre is a walkable distance from my home. Thanks for the tips about the food. I did not think of that at all… Phones are strictly prohibited and also all kinds of digital watches. I wrote a few grammar points and particles down to revise in the morning. I am strong in vocabulary and kanji (thanks to your memrise course) I am going to take a water bottle, few candies, sliced banana and some tissues. I will share my experience after completing the exam… I really thank you for all your free help and resources. (really couldn’t imagine writing the JLPT without your memrise course)

  • Victoria August 2, 2020, 2:11 am

    “If you going to go out, at least go out in style. ” hehe nice.

    Hey Mac,

    Thanks for the tips. Reading the section about the grammar book, I was just reminded to keep a running list of things I have difficulties with. I haven’t studied in awhile so I forgot about that. Thanks 🙂

    Also, the note about buying the train ticket when you arrive there is golden. You *definitely* don’t want to be stuck in a line with tons of people waiting to buy your ticket back. If that were to happen to me, I’d probably spend a few more hours in the area and explore/rest after the test to avoid the line.

    Thanks,

    Victoria

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