JLPT BC 88 | 5 Month Plan

JLPT BC 88 | 5 Month Plan post image
JLPT plan

What’s your JLPT plan of attack?

After the initial pages of Harry Potter: The Philosopher’s Stone (or sometimes called Sorcerer’s Stone), it has gotten a little bit easier. I still think I’m looking up a good 4 or 5 words a page, but, I can pretty much understand everything from simply reading it. It is a very easy book to visualize and I think that is why it is a good book to learn from.

I have slowly been changing my play lists over on my iPhone to include a lot more listening practice. Right now I’m loading up on old practice questions from 二級 tests and N2 mock tests. This is essentially review, but I’m basically doing the listening practice to build up stamina and point comprehension. I’m going to start worrying about N1 specific things to look out for over the next couple months.

I’m starting to feel fairly confident with my grammar. I’m hoping I passed that section for the July test, but my vocabulary knowledge might have prevented me from doing that. I’ll have to do more reading and memrise work to get over that.

My 5 Month Plan

A few weeks ago, I went over a few myths about setting goals. I talked about what worked and what was just a bunch of fluff. And while I was doing the research for that particular episode, I realized that I had made a mistake.

You see I’m a pretty goal-oriented guy. I like to set goals and work hard to meet them, but well, I’m not exactly the most organized guy in the world, as most of those people that I interact with on a daily basis will happily tell you. I’ve always wanted to just roll with the punches because, you know, stuff just comes up? And how can you plan for that?

Or at least, that was my excuse. I guess now, I could also claim that my life is so hectic with a 2 month-old in the house that making a written down plan would be pretty worthless.

But, I am in fact not going to make any of those excuses. I am going to, for one of the first times in my life, make a written down plan and since I’m posting it here in front of thousands of readers, I have no choice but to at least attempt to follow it.

So, here goes…

July and August

During these two months, my main focus will be listening. I will still be spending a lot of time with vocabulary, which will basically be me moderating and drilling words at memrise as well as continuing with StickyStudy. However, what I’ll be spending most of time doing is drilling listening.

The main reason for this is that I can review the listening later while I’m walking to work or just doing some house chores by listening to it with my iPhone. So, I can keep reviewing listening while adding in reading practice later.

I’m going to work my way through So-Matome’s N1 Listening book. Then, I’ll move on to Kanzen Master’s Listening book. I’m going to do that mostly because I’m guessing that the So-Matome book is going to be easier than the Kanzen Master. So, if I take the easier one first, I can ease into listening.

If I have some extra time, I’ll try to go through the listening for the two old 一級 tests that have. Although the test was in a different format before 2010, I feel like the listening exercises are still good practice because you still have to listen for the main points.

I’ll also be slowly working my way through Kanzen Master N1 Grammar as review. I’ll probably be using it mostly for the back section of the book that goes over strategies for the different grammar sections of the exam though.

September and October

These will be my reading months. I’ll be trying to do as much reading as I possibly can. I’ll also be reviewing the listening that I did in July and August as well. I hope by this stage, I’ll have studied enough vocabulary and mastered the grammar well enough to just focus on increase my reading speed and comprehension.

Again, with the drill books I’ll probably go with the So-Matome/Kanzen Master combo. I’ll also be supplementing that with a lot of reading from old pre-2010 tests that I have, too.

Since I’ll get the results for the July test sometime in September, I’ll be able to see what weaknesses I need to focus on with the free time I have during this month as well.

I’ll finish off the month with the mock tests in the back of the Kanzen Master book to make sure my reading is on target.


This will basically be a month of sword sharpening. I’m going to try to probably hold off from learning anything new. I just want to review what I know and get more confident with the material. The main reason why I do this before I test, is that I want to be able to answer the questions as fast as I can. The more confident I am of the answer, the faster I can answer it.

I’ll start off the month with a practice test to see what my weaknesses are. Then, schedule in more practice to improve it. Pretty simple really. I’ll finish the month off with a practice test the weekend before the main test.

Do you Think this is Possible?

How about your game plan? Have you given it a lot of thought? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo by Simon Doggett

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Andrew July 13, 2012, 6:28 am

    With sticky study how many N1 words are you doing per day on average?

    • Mac July 13, 2012, 3:16 pm

      Mmm, about 10 I think. It tells me I need to get 51 correct every day. So that ends up being about 10 or so new cards and with reviewing the other cards I end up with about 51. Also try to do another 10 with memrise.

  • lorellie July 14, 2012, 2:48 am

    I’m planning on taking N2 in December this year. I started studying grammar seriously in May, but due to work I found I was getting exhausted and just could not concentrate. I had a loose study plan but already that plan is failing. Now with less than five months until the test I’m beginning to lose hope that I will be able to study everything I feel I need to.
    On top of that I’m living in Japan and am planning to return home next year so I’ve been sightseeing when I probably should be studying! It’s really tough to balance it all out.

    I’m the kind of person that likes planning things out, making schedules. Perhaps I spend too much time doing that because it never works out! But because I’m not studying formally in University like in the past, I think I need a plan. I’ve looked online for how others plan, but realised it has to be personal. I might try and attack this problem over this three day holiday!

    I don’t usually comment, but I really enjoy your newsletters and everything, and planning is something that has been on my mind for quite a while. Thanks!

    • Mac July 23, 2012, 2:16 pm


      Thanks for commenting, sorry for this late reply. Your comment got lost in the shuffle somewhere.

      Anyway, I totally understand your feeling. You have to see everything while you are here, but it is also a tremendous opportunity to learn the language. I’m here for the long term so it is pretty easy for me to have a plan that I stick to :), but I was kind of in the same predicament when I was in Europe for about 2 months. Should I try to enjoy it, or try to learn something or do both.

      I think you could probably do both if you set your mind to it and make at least a loose schedule (something like what I laid out) and not a rigid day to day type plan. Anyway, let us know how it goes!

  • Barbara July 14, 2012, 1:08 pm

    I’m always planning ahead! I’m using an Edexcel spreadsheet with the dates included and my targets running across the top – kanji, vocab, particles, conjugation, on-line lectures, Minna, Busy People etc.. I converted it into a table – purely for aesthetics – which allows me to work out what I want to get done by when. This helps as I stop flitting from one thing to another, thinking I have to study this and I have to study that but actually getting nothing done! It’s all planned. I also do a weekly plan based on this monthly schedule. I like to make this do-able. As I’m a teacher I can often be working late on some evening and my plan is good because it has light and heavy sessions – there’s nothing worse than feeling disappointed that the study you planned for didn’t get done. SO the light days are always possible. Every day is a success – I always feel I’m making progress with my Japanese rather than I should give it up because my job consumes most of my time. My plan is up to the end of August (I have the Summer holidays to enjoy my study) and then I’m re-evaluating where I am. I’m aiming for N4 in December. Biggest problems? Vocab and listening. Studying Japanese where I live is really tough. The only contact I have with Japanese people is with my on-line teacher once a week – there are no classes to go to and no people to study with 🙁 . My speaking is really poor. I kinda accept I’ll probably only ever be N3 as I’m never going to progress with contact with others.
    Sorry babbled on too much
    p.s. have you tried
    There was another great site that let you do a complete test online and gave you a score for each section (I used it last year) but I think it has vanished!

    • Mac July 15, 2012, 1:34 pm


      I’m really amazed! I used to be completely disorganized, but I’ve recently started really planning things out. I agree with you that it helps to really motivate you and keep you going.

      I think you can set your sights higher and try for at least N2, N1 is pretty difficult to do outside the country. Vocabulary is tough, it just takes a lot of time to absorb so many words. Listening is a little bit easier though. The site you mentioned mykikitori is a great example of some free listening practice. And Jpod101 has plenty of free listening too (you have to go to their site to access it). Listening is all about building up your stamina with it, at least at the N4 level, so repeated listening to some material you are familiar with could help you out a lot.

      Anyway, good luck and thanks for the resource ideas!

  • Virginia July 15, 2012, 7:04 pm

    Hi Mac, I read about your experience with july’s jlpt that you wanted to do as a practise for december. I know that Im not ready to pass N3 yet but Im also planning on sitting for the december test as a practice. In Argentina we only have one instance to do the test,only on december. I was feeling a little afraid to just sign up and take the N3 knowing that I may fail but your experience allowed me to get back my courage and decide on take the test anyways.
    Its as you said, if I decide not to take it I may take my studies lightly instead of doing my best since I signed and paid for the test.
    I will try to make a schedule and organize my studies, so far Im studying with somatome series: once I finish bunpo and dokkai I will focus on kanji and listening. Im also reviewing N4 grammar points with the book: donna toki dou tsukau 200
    Anyways its more than a year since I began to take my jlpt studies seriously and since I started to follow your site and podcasts.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences! I also work all day and I use the little time I have left to study, I also try to listen to japanese audio and japanese radio on my way to and back home.
    Lets try our best!:)

    • Mac July 16, 2012, 1:22 pm

      Great to hear Virginia. I know it is hard to see the big picture when you are at the N3 level, but once you get higher up in the language it can be really fun.

      Anyway, I’m sure it will be a good challenge for you, but it sounds like you have it well planned out.

      Here’s to hoping we pass in December!

  • Chelsea August 21, 2012, 8:15 pm

    This is really useful to plan everything out! I’m quite nervous myself to begin my studying journey for the N5 because at the same time I’m preparing to move to Nagoya, I really admire your five month plan for the N1, but do you have any suggestions for the N5? I’m in my second year of studying Japanese language, but I wanted to take a JLPT to really bring up my self esteem if I would pass it.

    • Mac August 22, 2012, 2:25 am

      I think the hardest part for you will be moving to a new place. There will be so many distractions and things to do. Will it be your first time living in Japan?

      The most important thing will be to establish a pattern of study once you move in. Also try get a serious conversation partner or tutor. Then, follow kind of the pattern that I laid out. Keep practicing vocab and learn the grammar first (while using with your tutor/partner) then move on to focus on reading and listening. For N5 you don’t need to worry too much about reading/listening skills though.

  • lane February 4, 2013, 5:39 am

    I’ve been studying 3-4 hours a day for the last couple of weeks. I don’t have plans to take the JLPT in the short term… I just plan to keep studying and if I notice that everything’s just easy breezy, then I might take N1 to see how I do. That’s my tentative plan.

    • Clayton MacKnight February 4, 2013, 6:53 am

      Have you taken classes to get you started? or just complete self-study?

      • lane February 4, 2013, 11:57 am

        I took 6 semesters at uni and I learned a little, but they were pretty much useless… to the extent that after finishing with As and Bs, I couldn’t tell which of BoA’s songs were in Korean and which were Japanese. It was basically a waste of time.

        On my own, I’ve learned the meanings and writings of the 常用 plus another hundred or so (from Heisig 1&3) and I could probably give N3 a run for its money… but I’ve obviously got a very long way to go. My strategy for the short-medium term is to keep reading/sentence mining (comics, novels, etc) and listening to podcasts and music and I’ll try to take stock of where I think my proficiency is from time to time.

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