JLPT N5 Listening Section

JLPT N5 ListeningFor some, the N5 listening section can almost be embarrassingly easy. And if you have a pretty good understanding of the language, it can even invoke some laughter with some of the blatantly incorrect answers they present for the quick response section. It is after all the easiest level of the test and as such is more of an introduction to the language than a solid challenge.

However, it is best to at least have a basic understanding of what to look out for before you go into the test. Simply knowing a few key points to look out for can earn you some extra points and pull up your score, which can help you out if you are weaker in other areas of the test. Just for a refresher, you only need 19/60 to pass the listening section and a total of 80/180 for the entire test.

There really aren’t any things you can drill to get good at listening. It is a skill, and so you need to practice the skill just as you would practice different golf courses if you wanted to become a professional golf player. The more exposure you get the better off you will be.

4 Types of Questions

For the N5 test, there are 4 types of questions – task-based comprehension, comprehension of key points, verbal expressions, and quick response. Each of these questions test a different aspect of your listening skills and require different strategies.

Task-Based Comprehension

These questions are actually hold overs from the old 4級 (yonkyuu) test. They are exactly what they sound like, questions that test your ability to accomplish a task that is given to you. They will first explain the situation and give you a task (a question). After that, you’ll hear the conversation and the task again at the end.

There will always be two people talking in this section, and it usually involves a situation that should be fairly familiar to you. Typically you will hear a teacher and a student, family members talking, or two co-workers.

The big thing to look out for here is twists. Most likely the question will be leading you to one answer, but at the last moment there will be one line that changes the answer to something else. It usually comes in a question, or one of the speakers changing their minds.

Comprehension of Key Points

These questions are also hold overs from the old test. The flow is the exact same as the Task-Based questions: first, question and explanation, second, conversation listening and the question again. These questions are really testing your ability to pick out key points in a conversation. There will typically be a lot of information and you must chose the one piece of information that you need.

These questions differ from the Task-Based in that you often times don’t actually have to listen to the entire conversation. You just have to pick out the one sentence that answers the question. Typical questions include talking about a particular picture or daily activities.

Things to look out for here is listening for just what the question asked and not getting fooled by the extra info that is presented in the conversation. To take an example from the practice test, they try to fool you by talking about いもうとさんの友達ともだち (younger sister’s friend) and いもうとさん (younger sister).

Verbal Expressions and Quick Response

These questions go over appropriate expressions that are used in particular situations. The verbal expression questions have a picture in the test booklet. You’ll hear an explanation of the situation and then 3 possible expressions. For the quick response section you’ll also see a picture, but this time you have to choose the correct response to what the speaker is saying on the CD.

In both situations, you have 3 answers to choose from. These are not printed in the test booklet. So, you must listen carefully to the CD. This is one part of the listening section where you’ll have to listen to pretty much every word, so listening stamina will be pretty important here.

The key to this section is answering quickly. Don’t second guess your answers. Just put something down and move on. If you linger too long thinking about a different answer, you might end up missing out on the next question that comes up. Stay focused.


The N5 listening does not include that many surprises, but you do have to stay focused and know your easily confuse-able vocabulary (like names of family members). Also, it is important to mark your answers and go on, don’t get stuck on one question.

Unfortunately for you, this section keeps pushing you forward until the end, and shortly after the last question, the proctors will tell you to put your pencils down and close your test booklets, so you can’t go back and change an answer.

Do you have any tips for any fellow N5 test takers?

What are some questions that you found difficult on the test? Let me know in the comments below.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Damien October 15, 2013, 12:13 pm

    thanks these are some great tips

  • Zerach October 7, 2014, 2:18 am

    I’m taking the N5 this December, and so far the listening section has been the most difficult for me! The reading, etc. isn’t that difficult, but they throw in so many tricks in the listening section i almost always get the wrong answer! Whatever though, i still have a couple more months to improve my listening skills. Thanks for the tips!!!

    • Clayton MacKnight October 8, 2014, 1:56 pm

      Yeah, they are always trying to trick you with those listening questions. Once you have practiced a few of them though, you start to hone your listening skills enough to sail right through them.

  • Rosalyn March 22, 2019, 4:35 am

    Noticed that we tend to lump N5 & N4 together,, for listening segment, is there any difference between the 2 in the exam?

    • Clayton MacKnight March 31, 2019, 5:32 am

      Basically, N4 uses a little more difficult vocabulary and maybe a few different grammar points.

  • Emilio U. Inocentes September 20, 2019, 10:48 am

    Again thank you for the relevant information on N5 level.

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