JLPT December 2012 First Reactions

JLPT December 2012 First Reactions post image
JLPT December 2012 First Reactions

Why is it always raining on test day?

Okay, just got back from Kyodai (Kyoto University) where I took the JLPT. I took the N1 again this time after a not so bad first attempt back in July. I was trying to do something that might be impossible for me: pass the N1 a year after passing the N2.

It can be done mind you. I’ve heard from several people that it is completely possible to study and review enough to get everything you need to know in your head. But, I have a few time handicaps, a newborn baby, blogging and maintaining a site, working 6 days a week. These things tend to take time, so I wasn’t sure if I could make it happen this year.

And, to be honest, I feel like I probably improved, but probably not enough. The test also seemed to be a little different this time than last in a lot of ways.

Vocabulary, Grammar, Reading

I changed up my strategy this time. I started from the back and did the info retrieval question first (the last question) . Then, I went on to do the short and medium passage questions. My hope was to spend the most time on those because I had a higher chance of getting them correct. I think I might have actually pulled that off.

The comparison reading (where you had to compare the two passages) was a lot easier than July. Actually, a lot of the reading passages seemed easier this time around, which I was very thankful for.

The vocabulary was a different story though. Generally speaking, I am usually familiar with at least 60 or 70% of the vocabulary (and am very confident of about 30%). But I hadn’t seen a lot of the kanji words or other vocabulary before the test today. I was quite shocked actually. I had to guess about a lot of the questions.

I think I’m going to try to fit in a lot more reading practice so that I can get a better feel for how to use vocabulary.  Also, I think I just need to be exposed to how kanji are used in different words and their nuances.  There were a few words on the test that I had a general idea about the kanji that were in them, but didn’t know the meaning of the word.


I usually look forward to listening because it is easier than the reading. You also don’t have to worry about time management because the CD pushes you along through the test. All and all, a good way to finish the test.

And the July test wasn’t so bad in this respect. I missed words and there were the occasional passages that I had no idea about, but overall, I could say it was ‘do-able’. But the December test seemed to be a different animal.  I’m not sure if I just couldn’t concentrate, or I had been hit with a stupid stick, but I had a hard time catching a lot of the keywords in the conversations and I consider myself to be generally strong at listening.

Especially the quick response section.  There were several questions that seemed very fast and way too difficult for me to answer quickly and correctly.  These questions are believed to be worth less points, but still…

I think I did do better on the 5th and last section (this is the section where 3 people discuss options and then the question comes at the end).  I feel like I might have actually gotten down the whole note-taking thing for this section.  The 3rd section of listening was a bit tricky though.  I always flunk this section in practice tests, so I’ll probably try to go back and revisit it before the next test.


I feel like I probably just failed the test, but I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for a passing score.  What I really want to see is for me to keep my grammar score, improve my listening a little, and improve my reading a lot over my July test scores.  I am about 65% confident that I did that.  Well, we’ll see.

Results for those in Japan will be mailed at the first part of February, but if you registered for the test on the internet (like me), you get the results at the end of January.  Only 2 months to wait!

How about you?

How did you do on the test?  Let me know in the comments below.  Be sure to let us know what level you took and what country.

{ 202 comments… add one }
  • Andrew December 2, 2012, 9:42 am

    I will concur withmost of that. It’s been 1 year since I failed the N1 last December. Reading felt good but vocab and listening were not what I was hoping for. Only can wait and see. :/

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:46 am

      Yeah, but at least we only have to wait two months. Did you register on the internet?

  • Ashley December 2, 2012, 9:44 am

    Hi! I took the N3 in Japan…

    I feel like I would’ve done better on the N4, but the N3 was not as bad as I expected. Kanji and Grammar was where I fell short. While I understood the content fairly well, it was recognizing the Kanji that was harder for me.

    Listening was fun, except for someone’s phone going off during the harder sections. Other than that I feel like I learned a lot by studying. Even if I don’t pass it encourages me to keep studying until I can.

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:48 am

      Oh, no, someones phone went off? That happened to me when I was taking the N2. To top it off it was the default iPhone marimba. 🙂 They threw her out of the exam.

      Hope you made it!

      • Nick December 3, 2012, 4:19 pm

        At our venue, the JLPT hall monitor told us repeatedly to switch OFF the mobile phones and to leave them outside. He told us that we are not to use a pen and that only pencils are allowed. Heck, he even had pencils in a small paper bag just in case people didn’t have them! Then he told us that many (and he did say many) test takers had accidentally written in the date of the exam in lieu of their birth date on the answer sheets. Then he cautioned us about accidentally circling in the answer to question no.1 in the “Rei” (example) field.

        It boggles the mind, Mac! We get clear instructions on what we are to bring to the examination hall and also a list of banned items (cell phones, alarms, etc.) and infractions. In spite of this, people are still thoughtless and fail to follow instructions. They deserve to be thrown out and banned from writing the exam ever again.

        • Mac December 4, 2012, 12:42 am

          I think so, too, but think again, they might just be nervous and not paying attention to what is being said (or not understand what is being said :)). Anyway, it is common sense to switch off your cell phone in the listening section. But it is also common sense to not put your child in a washer, but there is still warning label about it. 🙂

          • Nagareboshi December 4, 2012, 5:56 am

            Common sense, indeed. At my location the test-host warned us numerous times. She told us to check, and double check. She even gave us the advice that we should remove the batteries, just to be absolutely sure they don’t go off. And she even gave everyone the chance to check one final time, one minute before the test started, and after reading to us the rules. Someone took this final chance and handed out his watch, it had an alarm function, and could go off every hour. Luckily, no phones rang, and no alert went off in our room. 🙂

  • Mitchell December 2, 2012, 9:47 am

    Sat N2 today for the second time after failing it back in December last year. (In Australia, we can only sit the test in December – there is no July session) After barely studying last year and being very confused in the test, I think I got around 82/90 so it wasn’t that bad of a fail. This time round though, the test seemed a lot easier and I think that might have something to do with the fact that I actually put in more effort and studied for it. The vocab and grammar sections I was fairly pleased with. I was quite surprised by how many I was really confident in answering and the other ones that I wasn’t so confident about I did guess but they were relatively educated guesses so I might pick up a few extra points from those if I’m lucky.

    The reading seemed easier this time around (again, I actually studied so I could read the Kanji!!) but this is still easily my weakest point of the entire test. Some of the shorter passages were quite easy. The information retrieval question was very simple so I’m confident I got both of those right. Similar to you, I started with reading. I start with the long essay (second last question), and then the information retrieval, then I work backwards from there doing the comparative question, the medium-sized passages, followed by the short passages. Then I find that I can fly through the kanji, vocab, and grammar questions at a relatively quick speed. Did manage to finish this first test section with about 20 minutes to spare. Checked some of my answers and changed a couple (hoping that was for a good cause *fingers crossed*)

    The listening seemed around the same as last time in regards to content and difficulty. However, given I’ve had my eyes glued to Japanese television as of late, also listening to a lot of Japanese music, and making Japanese friends… I feel my listening has improved greatly, as have my note taking skills so I’m expecting a relatively good score from this. I am worried about a couple of questions that I may have read too far into, but I guess we’ll find out…

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:51 am

      Sounds great! N2 is a tough hurdle because you really need to get your listening and reading comprehension down in order to pass the test. After N2, N1 is just more vocabulary really.

      I hope you passed it this time around!

  • Geraldine December 2, 2012, 9:51 am

    Wow thanks for sharing your experience! Really an informative one. Hope you pass! Go N1, Go MAC!

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:51 am

      ha, thanks, I hope I did too. N1 is always a roll of the dice.

  • carolina December 2, 2012, 9:57 am

    man, listening sucked, it just sucked. It was hard but accessible, but I just couldn’t focus. next time going to bring some food and drinks for the test… |:

    It was damn tiring. I sincerely don’t know what to expect from this. from the first part of the test I think it’s a pass, but I’m afraid of listening…very much…

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:52 am

      yeah, listening can be frustrating, like you are trying to grab something that is just on the edge of your fingers, just out of reach. I hope you made it,though!

  • Adrian December 2, 2012, 10:30 am

    Just finished N4 in Brisbane, Australia. First time taking any JLPT. Best thing about the day- seeing all the different people who are studying (with you, sort of) that you don’t get to see in the late night slogs.

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:16 pm

      Yeah, especially if you are doing a lot of self-study, it is good to see all the others that are doing the same thing.

      What’s also a bit strange is that, in Japan, you are in a room full of people that don’t speak the same language and the lingua franca is Japanese.

  • Afoofoo December 2, 2012, 10:44 am

    Wonderful to hear that you’ve improved! N1 is still the highest level; give yourself some credit! 🙂

    I gave the N3 last year and did well. So I gave the N2 today! Everything was all fine and dandy, and I had 30-40 minutes to spare in the first section… But listening just broke my heart ;_; I scored least in listening last year (although it was a 52) but I thought that was because I didn’t have breakfast. I was perfectly alert this time. The volume was just at a level that it sounded a little muffled, so those big business-y words were incomprehensible. WHY SO BUSINESS-Y?? I’M NOT A BUSINESSWOMAN ;-;
    I wanted to do the listening section of my mock test at least, but my laptop can’t run audio files anymore *cries* At least I was able to get into it after a while. I really liked the last question where they just talk and talk. It was more of my thing; watching talk shows and all. Or maybe I got used to note-taking by that time!

    Overall, I hope listening doesn’t have any drastic effect on my score. Can’t wait!

    • Afoofoo December 2, 2012, 10:58 am

      Now that I think about, I wish I wasn’t as nervous as I was for listening. That probably ended up for the worse.

      (Sorry for the ramble!! The test was 4 hours ago but I’m still feeling down from my mum giving me a mocking look when I said listening didn’t go well ;o;)

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:59 am

      My listening was a little muffled sounding too. Oh well, what are you going to do for a test? I try to do listening practice with my dinky little stereo sometimes for practice. 🙂

      Sounds like you did well. Looking forward to hearing about your results Afoofoo!

  • Dan December 2, 2012, 10:51 am

    I took N1 today too and I agree with everything you said. Usually kanji and vocab is my strong point but this time I had to make educated guesses for most of the questions. In terms of grammar I wasn’t confident in the first place, but the questions were different to what I expected. Reading I think was okay and the topics weren’t too obscure. Listening on the otherhand, I had trouble grasping bits and pieces and had to focus to keep my concentration – a couple of times I lapsed and missed important details in the middle.

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 10:56 am

      Good to hear from somebody with the same experience. I really liked the reading actually, no completely bizarro topics to try to wade through this time.

      For listening, do you use Japanese at work or do you have to do a lot of extra practice?

      • Dan December 2, 2012, 1:17 pm

        I study abroad in Japan in 2010 and since coming back home worked in a Japanese company. Because of that I’ve had more listening practice than what I would have otherwise, but naturally being a company, most of the conversation centred around business matters – it was actually easier for me to understand the listening questions that were more business focused, as opposed to some of the daily-life situtations. Still, it was pretty hard overall. I’ve since left that job so if I don’t pass this time, I have no idea how I will practice for listening next year!!!

        • Can December 2, 2012, 1:25 pm

          The listening has since changed quite a lot… Grammar was ez… 読解 was ok too. (^_^)
          Had to do some guessing for 文字・語彙
          E.g 言わせてもらえた…

          • Dan December 2, 2012, 1:53 pm

            Yeah I feel that all of that endless grammar drilling I did was a bit of a waste of time…Now just to wait until March for the results (I think it’s only February for Japan?)

          • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:07 pm

            Grammar is always easy for you though 🙂 I needed probably another month or two to really review my grammar and get confident with it. It just wasn’t there this time. I ignored it until the last minute. 🙁

        • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:06 pm

          All signs seem to point to working at a Japanese company in order to sail through the listening section of the N2/N1. I guess I need to do more immersion. I work at a school in Japan, but I teach English so 90% of the conversations I have are in English with students and such. Thanks for the info!

          • Can December 4, 2012, 3:56 pm


            You are right. Most of the N1 conversations revolve around business Japanese environment. Even for me when i am in a business Japanese environment, it’s still hard for me. LOL

  • nikhil December 2, 2012, 11:07 am

    hi mac…
    I took N5..
    by the way..your 5 biggest mistake pdf was helpful..
    i stay far off from the place of the exam center.Therefore i had leave by 6 30 in the morning.There were no canteens or Hotels to eat since it was a an early sunday morning.so i just ate some biscuits made of oats..It was quite helpful..I was about to eat Instant noodles in the morning ..but i gave a thought about it after “dont eat what you have never eaten before “line dawned upon me. thanx mac..
    Overall it went well…the last listening part was not that easy…


    • Mac December 2, 2012, 1:52 pm

      Good to hear the pdf helped. For the N5, you need a 80 overall to pass, and 38 in the vocab, grammar, and reading section and a 19 in the listening.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • nikhil December 2, 2012, 2:13 pm

        do i need to get 19 out of the 24 questions correct????

        • nikhil December 2, 2012, 2:14 pm

          also..could you please share the site where you registered to get the result early??

        • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:18 pm

          no, no, 19/60 sorry, here is all the official info:


          • nikhil December 2, 2012, 6:04 pm

            are you staying in japan now?
            One of my friends took up N1 exam..he said that the listening section was very difficult.Was it?
            thanx for the links.

          • Can December 4, 2012, 3:57 pm

            Yes, the N1 listening was difficult….

  • gkdl December 2, 2012, 11:21 am

    I took the N2 and the last question I had time to answer was a smaller point value reading question. I made an educated guess but didn’t have time to erase my answer sheet (I put small circles next to the questions I want to recheck if I have time in light pencil), now I’m worried that the questions might become invalid…? Of course all the answers are circled in dark but the small circle i wrote on the side is still visible on quite a few questions…

    They stopped me (i didn’t get a card) but I asked them if I could erase them. They wouldn’t let me, and also said they didn’t know if they would turn up invalid or not on the machine.

    I took the test in Japan and I don’t really know the systems they use for correcting them and how touchy the machines are but I’m sort of worried about it.

    I think I passed the reading and the listening, but the places where I put the side notes are all in Language Knowledge which has been my weakest subject lately. I don’t recall having a whole lot of trouble on the grammar aside from the questions with the big black stars, but the vocabulary and kanji were a little tricky. If the questions I marked go invalid I’m sure I’d failed that section bad :/

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 1:54 pm

      That’s too bad about the marks. I’m not quite sure if the circles are outside the grading area, then it should be okay I think, but I haven’t really had any experience with it and haven’t heard from too many others about it either.

      Cross your fingers and hope they didn’t count against you.

  • Hendra December 2, 2012, 11:42 am

    I took the JLPT test…
    The N2 test was very bad today especially the reading section, I didn’t have enough time to do all the reading questions. I am worried about that section. Next year, i’ve to try the N2 test again and do the best.

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 1:56 pm

      N2 reading is quite a bit more difficult than N3 for sure. The best way to practice really is to do a lot of essay reading, even the old tests can help you out.

  • vivzilla December 2, 2012, 12:16 pm

    I took N5 in Brisbane, Australia. Overall I think I have definitely improved since last year. I noticed when I took the test last year that my vocab really let me down so there were a lot of questions that I didn’t understand and just guessed an answer. This year I really focused on improving vocab and kanji via flashcards and I think I got a result to match. Reading and grammar on the other hand…. I fear that particles will be the death of me. Hopefully I did enough to get my pass. Listening was also a definite improvement on last year, less questions where I completely blanked out. I found the last part of listening that didn’t have pictures the easiest. Maybe the pictures distracted me!?!?

    This reflects my general progress. I have so many words that I can use and lack the grammatical glue to put them together. Oh well, one day!

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 1:58 pm

      Yeah, those particles are always a pain. Even at the higher levels, you still need to know them! A few of the grammar questions today on the N1 involved particles. :p

      Have you been able to check out my videos on them? I hope to make more as fast as I can. Just need to pass this darn test. 🙂

  • Nick December 2, 2012, 12:50 pm

    Took the N4 again today after failing the test in July. I learnt that I was terrible at reading; reading simple vocabulary with kanji used to drain me. So I went back to basics and practiced using drills and flash cards, so that you could wake me in my sleep and I would be able to tell you what that kanji stands for! Today, I’m happy to say that my reading was significantly faster, but I somehow felt in the back of my mind that the complexity of the reading passage was taken up a notch. I guess I’m still not fast enough! Also the grammar slayed me despite my best efforts at self-study. I used Tae Kim’s Japanese grammar guide and also a number of free resource websites… Still felt like a fish of the water with the tenses and all!!

    But I’m not giving up! If I pass N4 this time (even barely!) I’ll take a whole year before attempting N3. I need that certificate to prove to myself how much self discipline and self-instruction can bring you along.
    Hope you pass your N1 with flying colors; looking forward to your celebratory blog post. Gambatte!

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:03 pm

      Nick, I’m glad you had a better time at N4. It seems like such a simple test, but it can be quite difficult. Especially things like reading, because it is hard to get native materials that match the test.

      I’m afraid I might not have made it this time. Really hoping I improved in some areas though. We’ll have to wait until the end of January to see for sure I guess.

  • Soham December 2, 2012, 1:52 pm

    Took the N5 in India! Vocabulary was great, but I ended up making a silly mistake in the ~ぼん counter (using ~ぽん instead). Sigh. That, and I had no idea that the kanji for 聞く was also read as あいだ. Grammar gave me a hard time, but went better than expected. I was ready for reading and that gave me very little trouble! (^o^) Listening, on the other hand… my attention slipped up a few times and I’m disappointed with myself; even though the questions were on the easier side. 🙁 Hopefully I passed.

    Looking to take the N4 in July by speeding things up a bit with your memrise lessons!

    • Soham December 2, 2012, 1:56 pm

      *時間, not 聞く. My bad. ^^;

      • vivzilla December 2, 2012, 9:47 pm

        I did N5 and messed up that counter question too. My other silly mistake was erasing one question to change an answer and not realizing til the end of the test it half erased the answer underneath. D’oh! Hopefully there’s enough pencil marks to register in the machine (or I don’t fail by one question…)

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:10 pm

      The kanji at the N5 level can be tricky. Counters still throw me off sometimes, especially the rare ones. I hope you can move on to N4 in July!

      • Can December 4, 2012, 3:58 pm

        My student told me that 3本 came out for N5. She was so happy that i managed to spot questions for her.

  • Axe December 2, 2012, 2:03 pm

    took n1 today and felt that all the pass marks I got from simulated exams go to nothing because the actual test is kinda.. wayyy further! i agree especially the listening… i dont know if it was just my bad concentration that time. a friend who always get high pass marks or nth time in said particularly this times listening was a beast..

    hope we get positive results. cant wait

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:12 pm

      Well, if it was difficult for everyone than that means the curve will help us all out, so maybe we will all pass? 🙂 In my mind, as long as you are improving your score you are passing 🙂

      Still, I want to hang that N1 certificate in my room. haha

  • Andrew December 2, 2012, 2:07 pm

    No I didn’t register on the Internet. Do you know if one can register there app info even after the test date already occurred or will I just have to wait for the mail results?

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:30 pm

      Unfortunately, only those people that registered for the test online can get the results online. It is a pretty wonky site to be honest, straight out of the 90s internet:


      • vivzilla December 2, 2012, 9:45 pm

        Really? I registered via paper (its the only option in Australia) and had the ability to specify an online password that I am supposed to use mid Feb to check my results on the voucher. Maybe check with the local branch of the japanese foundation (or whoever administered your test)

        • Mac December 4, 2012, 12:47 am

          You would think so, but the test is administered differently in each country (and sometimes by different institutions within the same country). In Japan, you have to register beforehand to see your results online unfortunately.

          I know for a lot of Asia you can get your results online, but in the States it is currently unavailable (because of some kind of security breach a while back?). Anyway, each country does its own thing for the most part.

  • Azad December 2, 2012, 2:16 pm


    I took N4 in Chennai, India. To me, the listening was tough. I did reasonably good in other sections. Now let me wait for the results.

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:22 pm

      It’s always a long wait for those results…

  • Kay December 2, 2012, 2:23 pm

    Haha I shouldn’t even be here reading the reactions; my JLPT is in 3 hours! I’ll come back when it’s over to say my reactions for the N2 though ^^ I only studied from mid Sept-Nov, I think I should be fine since the practice tests I’ve been taking have been telling me so.

    • Mac December 2, 2012, 2:25 pm

      You’ll do great! I kind of envy you, though, you get to see what is coming.

      Anyway, 頑張って!

      • Kay December 2, 2012, 10:09 pm

        Ok! I’m back, and that was pretty easy. Finished first section in about an hour, (out of 105 mins). By the listening section, my head started hurting and I think I missed a few key points. But overall, I’m sure I passed 🙂

        • Mac December 3, 2012, 2:57 pm

          Wow, are you a pretty fast reader? That is good time for the language section. Usually people have a hard time finishing.

          Good to hear it went well.

  • Perry December 2, 2012, 3:22 pm

    I took N1 today as well, and right on what you said. I’m in Japan, and my room was full of Chinese students, (high school/prep school perhaps????) and so I didn’t have a chance to go over the test afterwards with anyone….(didn’t want to break into the chinese high school club to see if they put りんご on the last one…lol.)
    I have taken level 1 once before, back when it was 1 kyuu. I must say the listening was much harder than back then. I couldn’t concentrate either on the short answer ones…
    I don’t know if I have progressed since last time or if the reading section was more digestible, but that was the one area I thought “hey, I can read this stuff!” since the first time I took 1 kyuu, I was scan reading for most of it, looking for any kanji I knew, and trying to make an educated guess…
    this time however, I think I got most of it, there were a couple passages that after a couple sentences, I thought, frack it, move on, and mark 3…
    namely…the short one on fashion…and another one on who knows what….
    here’s what I recall, from the reading: please tell me if anyone concurs, or critiques what I say:
    -a long passage about a kind of festival about adults dancing in the street, and how it is not meant for children, but adult-oriented, and perhaps how kids should respect the fact that adults can get crazy???>>>?
    -a passage about reading children’s books to remember how to relate to today’s children, since all we have to do is recall our “inner child”, by going back to see how our view has changed, and recapture what it means to look at the world through kids’ eyes.
    -an internal memo? of a company’s use of cell phones, and how they would no longer accept personal calls on company phones, and dates to distribute the new phones as well as when personal calls would no longer be permitted????

    As for the listening,
    I wonder what you put on the last one, there was the man and woman talking about the novels, i think, and she liked the one about the ronin, aki no…something, and he liked that too, but at the last second…he changed his mind to ringo? that’s what I guessed…any thoughts…
    there were a few like that, pretty easy straight-forward listening problem, and then right at the end, a dumbass says, いや。。。やっぱりこれにする。 and it throws the whole thing into question…really tough, and I’ve been in japan for quite a while…

    ditto on the voc/kanji, but then I never do well on that section….grammar was challenging, but not as bad as I thought it would have been.
    gl to you sir.

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 2:44 am


      I think you are spot on for the readings. They are always a little crazy. I think those were all the medium passages right? Anyway, I need to do more of that kind of reading, just to speed up my comprehension. Right now, I have a general idea of how to put everything together just not fast.

      There has been a lot of talk that these new, post-2010, N-tests are more difficult than the old tests. I can agree with that because I used to take the old 二級 tests to study for N2 and I usually used to ace them. Then, I just barely passed N2. I think the same goes for N1. But the advantage of the new tests is that they are curved and so if everyone does poorly, we have a better chance of passing. So that is one optimistic way of looking at it.

      I think for the last listening question the man chose りんご (or was it the woman?), now I’m confused.

      Anyway, let’s hope we passed! or at least improved.

      • Perry December 3, 2012, 2:02 pm

        cheers for the reply, after posting here…I checked out the wiki on the JLPT, and it said that the 2 things that were changed from the old style was:
        1. a new level in between the old 2-kyuu and 3-kyuu.
        2. Higher-level content “added” to the Level 1.

        But what you said is true about the scaling, so there is hope! It also had the percentage of entrants-passers… bout 30% for us N1ers…. don’t know if that brings hope or not, considering the people I was taking it with were done with the reading part well before me. Helps to have Chinese characters as your base….eh? Japanese must be a cinch to read if you’re from China.

        Luck to you, hope it goes well, and thanks for the post, I was looking for any kind of feedback, and found your blog site, as well as fb…I’ll stay tuned. cheers.

        • Mac December 4, 2012, 12:50 am

          Thanks Perry,

          I’ve heard they are trying to make the test ‘more Japanese’ (using more Japanese grammar and kana) in a sense so that native Chinese speakers don’t have such an easy time at it. But still, just having experience working with Chinese characters is going to give you a huge advantage.

  • Fernando U. December 2, 2012, 4:20 pm

    Took N4 today in Brazil. Vocabulary was kinda easy (in spite of some words I didn’t remember), think I went horrible in grammar but somewhat well in reading comprehension. About listening, not so hard but still not sure of the answers because I don’t remember the questions at all hahaha. In general, hope I can get at least the required 90 points \o/

    Let’s see if this time we’ll pass!

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 2:45 am

      The wait for the results is always the hard part after the test. Good to hear about the reading. A lot of folks have been commenting that the N4 reading was a little easy this time.

  • Rani Tarmidi December 2, 2012, 4:20 pm

    I just took the level N4. Hosh, hosh, hosh, felt like marathon during the reading section. An hour felt so short. However, I felt well after the test. I hope the result will be as well as I felt.

    By the way, Mac, thank you very much for your advices. It really loosen the stress. Glad to found your web 🙂

    Cheers from Indonesia 🙂

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 2:46 am

      Thanks Rani! I hope the advice helped you pass the test.

  • Silviu December 2, 2012, 5:14 pm

    I took the N3 and it was my first time to take the JLPT. It’s funny to find out I’m not the only one who found the Listening section more challenging than expected. During the Listening part I felt like I just couldn’t concentrate enough and on many questions I found I had missed the most important part to listen. When I practiced, I didn’t really have such issues and I was farly confident I was going to cope well with this section. Hope I didn’t screw too badly…
    The Grammar & Reading section, which was my weakest point, I found to have been fairly easy; managed to get the main point out of every text, so I didn’t have to guess the answer. I managed to answer all questions and have some spare time to check my answers, which I never was able to do when I practiced for the test.
    Vocab section was tougher than I expected, hope I didn’t do too many screw-ups.
    All in all, though before the test I was fairly confident I’m going to pass it, but after the Listening section I don’t feel quite as confident as I was.
    The next 2-3 months are going to be murder on my nerves as I can’t wait to find out the results. By the way, when did they say they’re gonna put the results on the JLPT site?
    Congrats on an excellent site and hope you’ll get a positive result!

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 2:52 am

      Concentrating during the listening section is always a bit rough if you haven’t done a lot of marathon listening sessions before. I’ve started to just listening to Japanese as much as I can to try to get used to it and not fatigued.

      As for the results, if you took the test in Japan and registered on the internet, you can get the results at the end of January online, and they will be mailed out at the beginning of February.

      For other countries, it widely varies, so be sure to check with the institution that is administering the test in your country if you are outside of Japan. You can check that list here:


    • Alexandra December 4, 2012, 12:51 pm

      By any chance, did you take the exam in Bucharest?

  • Karri December 2, 2012, 6:46 pm

    Hey Mac. Love the site keep up the good work it’s much appreciated 🙂

    I took the N5 in Finland. I thought the vocabulary section was easier than i expected, whereas the grammar part was a tad more difficult. A few kanjis i had absolutely no idea about but i was somehow lucky enough to know/figure out the 3 wrong choices for the question, which left me with the right one 🙂

    My listening part took an unexpected turn for the worse when midway through it there was an example question where they asked “What country are you from”. The cheerful male voice said “Arashi!” as the first option, and this older Japanese gentleman who was supervising the test just burst out laughing 2 meters in front of me. Then as i watched him bite his lip with an all out red face trying not to laugh it obviously caught on to me too. I spent the next few minutes trying my best not to laugh and to concentrate on the questions but I don’t think that went so well 😀

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 2:57 am

      Karri, that’s a funny story. I mean, it’s a bummer that it interrupted your listening section, but still funny.

      The N5 listening section seems to have a lot of ‘jokes’ if you know enough Japanese to get them. If you don’t know the Japanese well enough, they can just make you more nervous. Did you have some trouble with particles in the grammar section or was it something else like tenses?

  • Nagareboshi December 2, 2012, 7:00 pm

    Hi one and all!

    I took the N2 in Vienna, Austria. It was my very first time taking the JLPT. The Vocabulary part was very easy, so was the part with the words with same meanings. The others parts weren’t that difficult either. Except the sentential grammar, if that is what the star questions are called. They aren’t for me. 😀 In this section I ended up with about 20 minutes I used to check my answers. The listening was somewhat easy, except for two things. The audio was of great quality, the volume just right, but the speakers on the CD … It felt to me that they were mumbling, this is why I think I didn’t answer one question correctly.

    Overall I had a good feeling during the test, and it being my first time, I really didn’t know what to expect. Reading from your experiences on here, mac, or on other blogs and websites is one thing, taking it oneself, another. It was worth taking it, and I can just hope that it is a pass. 😉

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:00 am

      I’m glad you had the opportunity to go and take the test for the first time. A lot of people consider the N2 to be quite difficult. It is kind of the hump you have to get over to move on to advanced Japanese, so if you thought it was easy I think you are well on your way to being quite advanced.

      Do you work in a Japanese speaking environment or do you just have a lot of natural exposure to it? I think the higher levels of the test (N2, N1) are pretty difficult for those that live outside of the country.

      Anyway, fingers crossed, let’s hope we passed.

      • Nagareboshi December 3, 2012, 9:59 am

        I’m retired, so I have taken the test just to see how far i’ve come, for my personal CV so to say. All the natural input I got off the internet, news, podcasts, reading sources, communication, writing, you name it. There aren’t any Japanese people living anywhere near me, sadly.

        I spent lots of time to learn the language up to now. And if you’d ask me, it was way more, than ever needed for this test. On the other hand, I was never learning just for the test, but to improve overall. This is why test felt to be so easy. It doesn’t necessarily follow that I got all the answers right, though. There have been some questions I was in doubt about. In the reading passage, there was one about natural colors, and the other I can’t remember. And I swear that I have seen the one about colors once before somewhere! One answer an educated guess, and the other pure guessing because it could have been one of 2.

        I can only hope that it is a pass, and if not, it is no catastrophe. I hope that everyone else passed, and keep my fingers crossed everyone. 🙂

        • Mac December 4, 2012, 12:52 am

          I think that is the best way to learn a language and to take the test for. Just for the fun of it and see where you stand.

          Thanks for the reply, it is always good to hear about how people have made it to a higher level.

  • Barbara December 2, 2012, 7:36 pm

    On the train after the N4 test and pretty wiped out. I have to go to London for mine – 2hr journey. I stayed in a hotel the night before. That said, I think I’ve done ok on the vocab just not sure about the Grammar. Found it hard to get my brain working and the room was really cold 🙁 Really not sure. Listening section okay but you can never tell with my answers! Ah well, the fact that I put myself through is enough. Ours didn’t start on time which meant I missed my train. Must admit to feeling really ill at the minute, so I’ll be glad to get home.

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:04 am


      I’m sure you did well. A lot of people have said the grammar on the N4 was pretty difficult.

      What is it with climate control? They didn’t seem to be able to control the temperature where I was taking it either. They would turn up the heat and then shut it off, hot, cold, hot, cold. I guess you have to dress in layers.

      You have the right attitude though Barbara, you went and did it, you challenged yourself, which is really important. Now, we just have to wait for results.

      • Bart December 3, 2012, 9:38 pm

        It’s funny to see this is a common phenomenon across countries. Our room in Boston was freezing!

  • Louise December 2, 2012, 9:34 pm

    Hello, long time lurker here.

    I sat the N4 today in the UK. I’ve been reading your site for a long time and find it really useful, and knowing that there are others out there using self study to learn motivates me. I too have a baby daughter. She’s 5 months old and it does make revision challenging sometimes, juggling it with parenting.

    The N4 was easier than I was expecting, and I’m hopeful that I have passed or come close to passing. The vocabulary section was good for me because I love revising kanji, it’s my favourite part of Japanese study. The reading and grammar section was okay too, although I found the last 2nd to last reading comprehension section difficult. The listening wasn’t too terrible either. Although the last part without any reference material to go on I found particularly hard. I think listening is the hardest part to practice with self study and since I live in the UK and don’t work in an environment where I’m surrounded by Japanese language I think the listening portion is only going to get harder as I head towards the higher levels.

    I planning to attempt the N3 in July as we’re lucky enough to have 2 tests a year here in the UK.

    I’m really pleased to here that N1 is a matter of consolidating your vocabulary and grammar, that makes me feel a lot happier about one day attempting it.

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:14 am

      Good to hear from another fellow parent! My little daughter just turned 8 months old. Uninterrupted blocks of time are a luxury in my house at the moment, as you can imagine.

      Kanji always has a love/hate relationship with people. Some people love the art of it and the symbolism and such, others just want to speak the darn language already. I can kind of see arguments for both.

      For listening, yeah, you’ll probably need to start surrounding yourself more and more with listening materials. Jpod101 is always the good standby for that, but also just reviewing any listening CDs you have from drill books or textbooks. N3 is still too soon for native materials to be that useful for you (or at least they were too difficult for me at that stage). What I did a lot post-N4 is listening to a lot of jPod101 lessons and then review with their special dialog-only tracks, just so listening became automatic for me.

      N1 is a beast, but if you get past N2, which is where you’ll need good general language skills, you can get pass N1 with just more grammar and vocabulary knowledge (or at least I think, still haven’t passed yet :)).

      Good luck with your studies!

    • Isaura December 26, 2012, 9:08 am

      Louise, it is nice to read that Your favourite part of Japanese studies is revising Kanji:)) I like Kanji very much, too:)) I am studying Japanese since June 2011. My first Japanese teacher often gave homeworks, so I had to write in Japanese very much. So I am learning every new Japanese words with Kanji, too, since beginning times:)) And I love writting by Kanji by hand very much:)) I have some Japanese penpals, too. I am writting them my Japanese letters by hand, and I am scanning my handwritten letters, so I am sending them in e-mail. I think it is more easy to memorize Kanji by this way. I sat the N4, too, in Budapest in 2 December 2012. I hope I passed, but “koshou”shita written by hiragana depressed me very much, because I didn’t know meaning of it.

      • Mac December 28, 2012, 2:51 am

        It always seems like kanji is either really loved or really hated by Japanese language learners. I personally love the characters and the challenge of learning the alphabet. In a way it makes learning new words in Japanese a lot easier to do. I haven’t started practicing writing that much (at least on paper that is), but I love the art of it all. I hope you passed!

        • Isaura December 29, 2012, 7:25 am

          And I love the “kango” very much. I am writting a kango collection every week in this site: http://www.szaku.hu
          I hope it is helpful for other Japanese language learners:))

  • Joseph December 2, 2012, 9:38 pm

    I just took the JLPT N5 exam in London, England (a two hour drive from where I live!). The journey really wiped me out though so I went into the first section feeling pretty unwell 🙁 That said, I am very confident with my Vocabulary section. But I really am not sure about the grammar, I had a very very bad day in terms of grammar D:

    Listening had always been my weak point, but it seems this time around that actually it was a lot easier, which I’m happy about! (*.^.^.*) However, I wouldn’t be surprised which way it went (pass/fail).

    Fortunately, I was in another room to the person above me (N5 was with N2, the others were somewhere else) so I wasn’t too cold and the speakers were very clear for the listening section.

    I got a little bit of confidence from talking to the guy next to me ( with the same name 😛 ), who seemed to be thinking the same as I about the questions. (:

    Given all-in-all, I’m proud of myself even if I didn’t pass! ^-^ I had the confidence, with help from Mac of course ;), to take the exam with only self-studying under my belt so thank you very much! (:

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:21 am

      Thanks Joesph! Always good to hear from readers that this blog helped them out.

      I think you really touched on a good point about the JLPT. A lot of us study on our own outside of a classroom and so it is good to meet with others that are sharing the same frustrations as us and to just talk about Japanese in general. The Japanese studying community is really a great community to be a part of, so thanks for commenting and being a part of the community.

      Good luck with the results, be sure to come back and check in with us.

  • Derrick December 2, 2012, 9:41 pm

    Took the N2 in Ireland today after passing the N3 with almost 100% (lost 4 points in the reading) in July. Based on that, I thought I would be ready for N2. Man was I wrong! Sadly, I havent had much time to study the last three months but I was still relatively confident this morning. It is a MASSIVE leap in difficulty level from N3 to N2. I honestly dont know whether or not I made it to a passing grade, but my gut feeling is I didnt. Vocab/grammar I think were pretty okay, they didnt seem overly difficult, apart from a few of the ‘star’ questions (hate them!) The reading section caught me out though – it wasnt that I couldnt understand the passages or make sense of them, it was just that I couldn’t do it fast enough. The topics were actually pretty clear and straightforward, I just wish Id had a bit more time. My problem is, once it gets down to 20 minutes remaining I start to panic a little and I lose my concentration, which kills me. As for the listening, it was pretty tough going as well. A lot of them I was confident on, others not so much and had to guess, and then there were a few that totally lost me – mainly the business conversation ones. Id like to think I did enough to pass listening and vocab/grammar but I reckon the reading will do me in. Oh well, theres always next year!

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:26 am

      I think the major difference between N2 and N3 is that you need to have a lot of good general language skills (like skimming, reading comprehension, note taking for listening) whereas for N5~N3 there was more of focus on knowing the grammar, vocabulary, etc…, in other words language knowledge. I was never very good at language skills, so it has been tough going for me. N2 took a lot of study for me, and I think N1 might end up being the same.

      Anyway, attempting the N2 outside of Japan, and passing the N3 with nearly full marks are both big successes. I wish you luck with your results. Be sure to check back in.

      • Frankatino December 3, 2012, 9:43 am

        If you passed the N3 with such a high score my guess is that your expecations might be a bit high of how you should feel after the test. Most people get quite a bit wrong and still pass. And we all have our strong and weak sections. For me I use my listening to pull me through on the reading. As you say – I just cant finish it!
        I’m sure you’ll be fine. Good luck for results day.

      • Derrick December 3, 2012, 11:41 am

        This is for sure, and I’m the same as you. Given plenty of time I can understand the articles just fine , but time is what you don’t have and I was never great at skimming, even in English!! That’s definitely the section I have to work on. Well, it was worth doing anyway. I’m definitely close to N2, just needs a bit more work.

  • Eduardo O. December 2, 2012, 11:35 pm

    Hi! I took the N1 (for the first time, last year passed N2) in Brazil today. It was really harder than expected, though I confess, I didn’t study much for this exam. I have the 模試と対策 N1 book (from the 総まとめ series), and the exam was much harder than the book. I’m usually very comfortable with the listening part, but I’m afraid I missed many questions today. Overall, I agree with your impression on this test. Well, now we can only wait for the results. Cheers!

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:00 pm

      I took the second book of those practice tests (this one) and I can agree with you. The listening on that test seemed a lot easier than the real exam. The reading was about the same, but the vocabulary was more difficult on the real exam.

  • Oliver December 3, 2012, 12:02 am

    Took the N1 today in London after passing N2 (2kyu back then) in 2008, having failed it in 2007 in Japan. I totally agree with all the N1 comments, but was just astonished at how different it felt to all the practice materials I’ve been using so far. Maybe I just chose books that seemed a little easier or something, but everything I’d been using just gave me a lot of false confidence. Hardly any of the grammar that I’d learnt came up. All the listenings I’d done had been near perfect, then today was just a disaster. Did anyone else in London think the speakers in room G2 were insanely loud?

    Since N2 in 2008 I only read in Japanese and am married to a Japanese woman who hardly speaks English, so, N1 aside, I’m pretty confident with my Japanese.

    Pretty certain I’ve failed. Determined to pass in July!

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:05 pm

      Oliver, sounds like you should be able to tackle N1 with a little more practice. The grammar for the N1 is definitely a beast. You’ll see grammar points that are listed in 新完全マスター and 総まとめ, but then they add in nuances of grammar points that you learned before. In a way, they are testing your grammar knowledge from all the levels.

      Have you went through the 新完全マスター for N1 or N2? They have a pretty good section that really drills in the differences even for the lower level stuff. For example, the N2 book has a section on the difference between は and が and even though you think you might have it, they really drill the nuances.

      Anyway, now we just wait for the results.

    • Nick December 3, 2012, 5:56 pm

      Oliver, I could have written your comment exactly. I was in G2 and the sound quality in the listening section was disappointing to say the least. I was in one of the corners and the speaker was only about 10 feet away from my head; it was hard to catch individual words because it was just a blast of sound. I had been getting over 90% during listening section practice at home but think I might have only got about 60% on the actual test due to the sound quality and a noticeable increase in difficulty.

      I too feel a little cheated as the test seemed different to the practice materials I used. I’ve been through all the Shin Kanzen Master books and must have spent hundreds of hours studying the grammar and vocab yet very little of what I’d studied seemed relevant. I even bought the official JLPT practice test and that gave me lots of confidence as I passed it comfortably under test conditions but yesterday I felt like a complete beginner again.

      I think perhaps yesterday’s test was evidence of why they have lowered the pass mark from 70% to around 55%. The old 1kyyu tests which are available online to practice on seem incredibly easy compared to the N1. Particularly grammar where the usual suspects like たりとも、ときたら、そばから、が最後、were very straightforward after a little practice. Lol at that last question in the grammar section where you had to rearrange words to make the sentence. It was more like five full sentences.

      Also, I feel like the time allowed makes it very hard to properly read the passages in the reading section. As they are often about abstract topics and themes its quite easy to misunderstand the writers argument if you are only skimming for answers to specific questions rather than trying to understand the passages fully. Because the question choices are often very similar and try to catch you out I think if students were able to read the passages properly it would be a better reflection of their ability. Even reading in your native language its possible to miss subtle points and nuances if you don’t read carefully.

      Having said all that said I now know what’s required if you are to do well on N1 so the whole experience has been useful and fun. S

  • Bart December 3, 2012, 12:18 am

    Hi Mac,

    I took the N2 today. The jump in difficulty from N3 to N2 was pretty big. The kanji part was ok, but definitely not as easy as previous tests. The vocabulary section had a lot of my weak spot, the double words (wakuwaku, gogoro, etc) and no slam dunk katakana questions. The reading was diffcult (and the topics were pretty boring) but I’m hopeful for this section. I had about 30 minutes leftover to review my answers. The listening part was half goog, half bad. When the intro to one question said a profesor was talking, I knew what would follow would be unintelligible. They also had my least favorite type of question.

    Speaker A: I absolutely, positively, can’t do A.
    Speaker B: Well let’s do B.
    Speaker A: That will be difficult. How about C?
    Speaker B: I don’t want to do C
    Speaker A: Well, let’s do A then.

    Overall, I felt the test was pretty tricky and most of the people at my site were frowning on the way out. All we can do is hope for the best, I guess.


    • Afoofoo December 3, 2012, 12:32 am

      I gave the N2 as well. Hope you pass!

      Do you happen to remember one of the listening sections, where a boy wanted to attend a summer school or something? I’m almost positive he said he would ask a 経験者 at the end. I picked “3 weeks” anyway :c My listening section was a bit regretful, but I found everything else N3-ish (Thank you Tadashii Kanji Kakitori-kun? XD)

      • Stan December 3, 2012, 12:47 am

        He said he would follow a 経験者’s advice (that being, his sister who had gone on one before)
        His sister said that she had gone for 3 weeks, but she wished she had gone for longer (4 weeks) so I’m pretty sure the answer was 4 weeks.

      • Kay December 3, 2012, 1:39 am

        The answer is 4 weeks. ^^

        I agree with the listening; there were several small, quick words that changed the answer completely, and you had to pay attention to pick those up. Unfortunately the listening is last when a lot of people are tired as hell XD

        • Bart December 3, 2012, 4:18 am

          That’s one thing I don’t like about the test. The reading comprehension part asks you what the selection is about or what a certain phrase pertains to. To me, this is what comprehension means. For listening comprehension, a lot of the time it seems they’re just trying to trick you by switching things at the end.

          On a side note, I wonder how much information in real-life conversations is captured in one pass. If you ever watch Japanese news, they’ll restate certain facts 2-3 times in a 30 second story.

          I know we have to learn to take the test as it is given. Just venting …

          • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:46 pm

            Pro-test people will tell you that the test is supposed to be more difficult than real life. That way, if you pass the test, which is more difficult than reality, you will be able to use the language easily.

            That’s theory at least. But yeah, nobody talks like those listening dialogs. Or if they do, you can ask them to clarify in real life. 🙂

        • Derrick December 3, 2012, 11:06 am

          Im glad you said that! I picked 4 weeks but it was a real gamble. I was following that conversation perfectly right up until the last sentence, as Afoofoo said above. That threw me. But I figured the boy wasnt interested in the other 3 options so went with four!!

      • M December 3, 2012, 2:12 am

        I picked 3 weeks, too, and was annoyed that I heard/understood so much, and then just wasn’t sure on the last bit.

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:12 pm

      They always have that type of listening question, don’t they? Just wait for N1. They have all sorts of treats for you. Kind of like this pattern:

      A: We need a present for Mr.Bob
      B: Let’s get A, he loves A.
      A: But, we don’t know what kind of A he likes.
      B: Hmm, good point, how about B or C?
      A: Well, B might be a good idea. But isn’t C a little too blah?
      B: Let’s just fricking get D then.
      A: Yeah okay, he’ll love D. I’ll get it right now.
      B: Hmm, or we can ask Joe in accounting about his tastes.
      A: Let’s do that.

      Answer is A

      It’s like trying to follow a drunk around to see what bar he is going to go in next. 🙂

      • Louise December 8, 2012, 7:45 pm

        “It’s like trying to follow a drunk around to see what bar he is going to go in next. :)”

        Haha. Great analogy.

  • Cameron December 3, 2012, 12:25 am

    I took the JLPT N5 in Washington, DC. I think for the most part, I think I did very well! I mostly focused on grammar and reading practice when I studied. The only part that was tricky was listening. I don’t think it was impossible – I still think I did well, actually – but I’m betting it will be my weakest score come February. There were some moments where I had to sit back and really think; one commenter above talked about the reading of “aida,” and I think I may have gotten that one wrong because all the answer choices looked similar enough that I got confused. But for the most part, it went a whole lot better than I thought it would. I feel more confident in pursuing my Japanese studies than ever before.

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:16 pm

      Awesome! Good to hear the test gave you confidence in your skills. N5 may seem like a small thing, but I remember when I first started out and particles drove me crazy (they still do actually). Listening practice is sometimes a little hard to come by outside of the country, so keep up the listening practice. It only gets trickier. 🙂

      Good luck with your studies.

  • Bryan December 3, 2012, 1:47 am

    Hiya Mac, hope it turns out well for ya!

    This was my third attempt at N4. This time I really studied the vocabulary and felt a huge improvement in my overall performance. I can’t stress how useful Memrise has been in this aspect (more for vocab, than grammar, but still… ).

    But I’m interested to know why so many people say the listening section is the ‘easiest’ part. For me it’s by far the hardest, and I fear that it’s undermined an otherwise pass-worthy performance for me! 🙁 I don’t see how having only one listen, and comprehending in real-time can ever be considered easy. Clearly I’m in the minority! Any listening tips for next time?

    Also, what will you do if you pass N1!!? What will you blog about!? haha

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:39 pm

      Those living in Japan usually score a lot higher on listening, whereas those living outside of Japan score a lot lower, statistically speaking anyway. I think for those of us that are surrounding by Japanese TV, people talking on the train, at work, etc… it just comes a lot more natural to us. I’m guessing anyway. Listening was usually my strong point (before N1 :)), now it is something I have to work on like everything else.

      If I do pass the N1, which I guess I eventually will, I’ll probably blog about what to do once you have gone ‘beyond’ JLPT. N1 has all the grammar you’ll ever need, but certainly not the vocabulary. Also, I need to improve my speaking, it has gotten really dusty, so I’ll probably end up blogging about that. Or I’ve thought about giving myself a 満点 challenge, trying to score full points on all levels of the test. That would probably take me the rest of my life, so I’ll never run out of things to talk about. haha

      Anyway, good luck with your studies!

      • emjay December 4, 2012, 5:26 am

        I agree. I think those who say listening is the “easiest part” are living in Japan or working with Japanese people .
        I am living in Japan now and I took N5 last July and got full marks in listening, but mind you i cannot understand them come real life conversations. maybe it’s because my ears just got accustomed to hearing Japanese words/sounds. 🙂

        And Mac, im glad you will still continue to blog after passing N1, your site is really a helpful one for us jlpt-hopefuls 🙂 and I hope you passed your exam now!

    • Isaura December 29, 2012, 5:56 am

      Dear Bryan, the listening it’s by far the hardest for me, too, because I am living not in Japan, so I can read and write more time, that listening Japanese speakers. In language school I have a Japanese teacher, but language school is every week only one hour, and it isn’t enough.

  • M December 3, 2012, 2:30 am

    I took N2 yesterday, and some of it wasn’t so bad (kanji, vocab), other parts were tough (the sentence ordering with the stars), and the reading it was hard to tell – pretty sure I got the info retrieval and some other questions here and there, but, of course, I was rushing through it in about an hour. Listening, I don’t know what happened, but I somehow wound up marking answers in the wrong place and had to try to go back and remember what answer I wanted where to fix it. I am usually so careful about stuff like that, and it was such a silly mistake, so my brain must have been more worn out than it felt (I actually still felt pretty sharp, but apparently I, um, wasn’t ;)). It cost me, though, and there were one or two listening sections I missed entirely because I allowed myself to be distracted/rattled by the mistake and trying to go back and fix it.

    I just want to thank you, though, Mac, for all of the great info I’ve found here. It hadn’t occurred to me to go into the test with a strategy beyond just studying hard for months in advance, but I took your timing advice to heart, came up with a strategy I thought would be best for me, and I am convinced that it gained me at least a few points just by having a plan. So many people came into the test with no watch, even, and there was no clock, so I just can’t even imagine how they could pace themselves. Maybe they hadn’t thought about it, or maybe they just knew they could finish everything in time. Thanks to you, I had thought about it, more so this year than when I passed N3 last year.

    Everyone has to do what works best for themselves, but after reading your timing advice, this was my strategy: I did all of the language knowledge questions first, very careful not to spend too much time on any one of them and to mark the ones I needed to re-visit, then onto reading the easy-ish info retrieval question at the back, then working my way through the short ones and then the long one (just trying to get at least one of the questions without reading the whole thing), then the medium ones. What I didn’t have time to read, with 5 minutes left, I just marked random circles rather than leave them blank. Then I took a few minutes to revisit the marked questions in language knowledge that I thought I could get, and I am positive that there were at least two that I would have gotten wrong had I not taken some time to let it sit in the back of my mind before coming back and picking the correct (hopefully!) answers.

    Sorry for writing a novel, but that’s how it went. Thanks again for so much good info!

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:23 pm

      Sounds great M! So glad the timing advice helped you out. I think at the lower levels this isn’t too much of a factor (especially since things are divided out into 3 sections instead of 2 giant ones), but for N2 and N1 most people need to think about timing in order to get the edge they need to pass.

      Sorry to hear about marking mistake in the listening section. It can be tricky to stay focused on those questions, especially the quick response questions where they are one right after another.

      Let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.

      • M January 28, 2013, 11:26 pm

        So, results are in. Passed each section, did pretty well on listening despite the annoying marking issues, but I missed passing overall by 4 points! The reading section is what killed me. So, July, again. Thanks again, Mac!

  • Francisco December 3, 2012, 2:32 am

    Hey, Mac!

    First of all, I’m happy to hear you’re confident you’ve improved your results. Reaching N1 is already a huge achievement and even if you don’t pass this time, pretty soon you will.

    I took N4 again, after having failed by 9 points last year. This was my first time sitting for it in Japan, though. I’ve arrived here two months and a half ago, for a one semester stay as an exchange student (actually, I’m the guy that sent you an email asking for your opinion on wether I should take N3 knowing I most definitely wouldn’t pass, or N4 again, knowing I would probably pass).

    About the test: I thought it was pretty easy, to be honest. Especially the kanji/vocabulary part. I also felt pretty comfortable with the listening. The grammar had some tricky things and the issue with the reading was that at my current speed, it’s just too much stuff to read. Also, some of the answer options are a bit confusing. Having said, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna have that great of a score. I messed up on some silly stuff and there were quite a few questions I didn’t quite know. I don’t like setting my hopes too high, but still I’m fairly confident I passed this time. It will be a tremendous disappointment otherwise.

    Now, the goal is N3 next year (unfortunately I’ll be back in Brazil by July and they only have the December date). I’m going to work really hard, because I really want to eventually get to N1 as well.


    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:28 pm

      Good to hear back from you Francisco!

      Reading is always a bit of a pain for a few folks. Be sure to pick up some used young reader books here in Japan before you go back. You can go to Book Off and pick up a few Disney novels are something. Probably should stay away from Harry Potter at the moment though. They will be a huge challenge at first, but day by day, you’ll read faster and faster until your speed won’t be that much of a problem anymore.

      Anyway, I look forward to hearing about you passing the N3 next year!

  • viji December 3, 2012, 3:34 am

    Hi Mac,

    I took my N2 test in India. My preparation was fair not great. I was really worried about Dokkai. For me, surprisingly Dokkai was much much easy as I could read all the kanjis and content was not complex. But the toughest part was listening… content wise. Probably It required more focus. By the time i was marking the prev question, the next one had already started. I need more practice here :-). Having said all this, I still feel that I would be able to make it.

    Not the least, I appreciate your website. It is helping lot of us here in many ways.

    Thanks much!!

    Thanks, Viji

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 2:55 pm

      Thanks Viji for the kind words! Listening at the higher levels takes some getting used to. Your really need to have focus and the skill. I once took an English test (for non-native speakers of English), and I almost missed some because I wasn’t focusing 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Matt December 3, 2012, 3:49 am

    I took the N1 in the US today…I felt like it went pretty well, I think I passed although I doubt I passed well. Two things I was happy about:

    1) There were a few vocab words I had picked up in the past week from reading novels, that I know for a fact I would’ve gotten wrong if I’d never seen them before.

    2) There wasn’t a single kanji on the test I didn’t recognize, an a few with furigana that I was miffed about having furigana because I knew the word and didn’t want other people getting help. I learned the hard way damnit!

    I hope you’re right about the quick response questions not being worth a lot of points because I kept spacing out during that section, I think I was tired + those questions are very monotonous.

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:42 pm

      Matt good to hear!

      I think it is a huge challenge to take the N1 outside of Japan and it sounds like you did really well on it to boot. Reading novels and just doing a lot of reading for fun in Japanese can give you a huge boost for the higher levels.

  • Hendry December 3, 2012, 3:57 am

    Hi, i am Hendry from Malaysia, i took JLPT N4 yesterday in K.L, crowded of people. Section 1 and 2 was ok for me, but for listening, I regret did not do much practice on this, hope that can pass the exam and study on further level. Mac, good luck 😉

    • Mac December 3, 2012, 3:43 pm

      Thanks Hendry. N4 is great level to be at. I think most of the grammar you need to be conversational in Japanese, you learn at the N4 level, so incredibly useful.

      I hope you can move on to N3 next time!

  • david December 3, 2012, 4:58 am

    Hi all,

    I also took the Level1, in Los Angeles. It was my first time at level 1, and I have to say that I agree with other posters. The listening was difficult – it was my best area in the practice tests, etc. leading up to the test, so I don’t know if I just blanked out or the speed was too fast. There may have been so unfamiliar words – there were plenty of those in the vocabulary section.

    Reading didn’t seem so bad, but the grammar I had studied and know reasonably well doesn’t appear on the new test (I used old tests and Kanzen Master for much of my study).

    Oh well, there’s always next year. Best of luck to you all.

    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:31 pm

      Yeah the grammar for N1 is really just a big mix of stuff that can’t really be found in a lot of books. The July test was the same way. I remember there weren’t any ‘N1 grammar points’ in the grammar section that time. At least this time there were a few.

      I’m generally pretty confident of my listening (I can watch jDramas with relative ease and such), but boy was that difficult. I guess I need to listen to more. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing.

  • Dara December 3, 2012, 5:02 am

    N2 yesterday. I found it very difficult. In truth, my level of Japanese is more like N3, but I had already passed N3 last year so there was nothing for it but to try for N2. To have a chance to pass, I needed a lot of luck, but I didn’t get it.

    Somebody mentioned past papers. Do some people have access to past papers? I wasn’t able to find any, which is a big problem in preparing for any exam.

    Only two parts of the exam gave me a positive feeling: (1) the information retrieval (about troubleshooting a fridge) was quick and easy. I had extracted the two pieces of information within a few minutes. (2) the first half of the listening comprehension, I was able to understand many of the conversations.

    I really struggled with the reading. In some cases, having invested a lot of time in understanding the passage and the questions, I couldn’t relate the questions to the passage at all. Very frustrating.

    I am amazed to read people saying they finished with 40 minutes to spare. How is that possible? There is no way I could get through all the exam even in the full 105 minutes.

    Anyway, I didn’t pass this time. In the long run, maybe that’s for the best; I’ll study more and try again when I am better equipped for this level.

    My hearty congratulations to all of you no matter how you did, you deserve every credit for taking on this challenge!

    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:36 pm

      There are past papers available for the old 二級 tests. You can get a few of those at White Rabbit Press or something similar. They would be good reading practice and kind of good listening practice, but the grammar and vocabulary sections are pretty different so not much help there.

      It’s possible to speed through the test if you are pretty comfortable with reading, for example, you read 30 minutes to an hour a day in Japanese. I think I could get through the N2 pretty quick nowadays. You just have to make it more automatic.

      Anyway, sounds like you had a good experience and you’ll at least know what to do next time.

  • subramoniam December 3, 2012, 5:17 am

    i took the JLPT N5 test in india. The kanji was 80% easy for me. For grammer section i experienced welll. :istening section was good. clear voice and easy.I think hopefully i will pass.

    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:37 pm

      Sounds great! The N5 is just the first step, but you took it! I hope you passed!

  • Lucy December 3, 2012, 5:51 am

    Took the N5 yesterday after failling the last time, this time I went in with more confidents and the exam was actually easier than I thought! I only had about 2 or 3 problems in the grammar part, which is a great improvement seeing as last time I had to guess many questions. I do think I can pass this time, your website had been a great help to me. Since I stay out of Japan I have to wait still early February to check my score online though I will start studying for N4 around this month.

    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:39 pm

      Great Lucy! That is always a great feeling when the test gets easier. You can feel the progress you made. Sometimes when I’m doing research for some articles for this site I look at N5 material that I used to struggle with and see how easy it is now. That is good feeling to have.

      I know you can get there too! Good luck!

  • Chris December 3, 2012, 5:55 am

    Hi Mac,

    This was my first time taking the JLPT and I took N2 in San Francisco. I have to say that everything that I’ve read from this site has been really helpful and I appreciate the good tips! As for the test, I think I finished the reading part too quickly..I had forty minutes left, and I couldn’t help but think that I didn’t read carefully enough! I don’t think I passed, but it was fun, and I learned a lot of things.

    I think I’ll keep reading your suggestions for next year and hopefully improve my study habits. Thanks again!


    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:42 pm

      Thanks Chris!

      It does sound like you read a little too quickly :). I did the same thing for the July N1 and scored a 9/60 on the reading, oops. Oh well, like you said it is a good experience. The first time you take the JLPT it is hard to know what to expect.

      Keep up the studying, hope to hear good news from you in the future!

  • Russell December 3, 2012, 6:08 am

    Just took the N5 for the first time. Honestly I did really well on the vocab part, got rapped on the grammar portion and did borderline on the listening. Feel like my score could go both ways pass or fail… I hate this long wait for the results. It’s like waiting for an HIV test report of something.

    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:44 pm

      Annoying right? When the test was once I year, I think we had to wait until like April or something. It was absolutely terrible. Two months isn’t so bad. Christmas, New Years, then a little wait and you have them.

      Let me know how you did!

  • Frankatino December 3, 2012, 6:29 am

    I took N2 in Singapore.
    The reading and listening were both as expected, but I found the vocab/ grammar section way harder that what I had been practicing for. Its a bit of a shame, becuase I normally run out of time on the reading (as I did yesterday) and I rely on the vocab bit to average out the marks for the missed questions. I was happy with the listening part.
    Fingers crossed for February results everyone!

    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:50 pm

      It seems like the vocabulary and grammar were a lot harder for N2 and N1 this time. Don’t worry too much, the new test is curved, so if it was hard for everyone, your score will get pushed up.

      I hope you hear good news in February!

  • Jinnie December 3, 2012, 7:58 am

    I took N4 in Malaysia. Self-study. I took the test just to test my knowledge in japanese.
    Oh.. Its listening… choukai choukai…
    I was in a big hall with about 300 candidates (due to seating number list).. I couldn’t hear the conversation very well. Like how many times I want to raise up my hand to ask for ‘replay please’.. but there were 300 people in there and the clock was ticking. I really hesitated to raise up my hand though I wanted to. Maybe it was my ears that didnt function wery well… but then when we finished the exam i heard a lot ppl whispering… choukai .. choukai .. choukai… ^^

    Btw, thank you for your website and all things you’ve shared. Really appreciate it. Hope you pass with flying colors 🙂 okade.

    Arigatou gozaimashita.

    • Mac December 4, 2012, 2:56 pm

      Thanks Jinnie. I had that problem when I took the N3 (the sound was too soft), but, luckily, enough people raised their hands and it was a small enough room that they could turn the volume up enough for us to hear.

      I know it sounds strange but sometimes I practice listening without head phones in my apartment and since the neighbors upstairs seem to love it when their little kid stomps around everywhere, it is really good practice for listening concentration. 🙂

  • shish December 3, 2012, 8:15 am

    I took N1 yesterday, as all of you said listening was awful. Do you suggest some good listening sites for N1?

  • Mariano December 3, 2012, 9:41 am

    Hi Mac, i felt exactly the same.
    It was my first time taking N1, a year after passing n2. I took a few practice tests and went through kanzen master reading and grammar fairly comfortable and with good pass rate. Yet the test felt really difficult, specially the hearing part, where i had no problems at all.

    grammar felt much easier, but its my weak point though, will have to wait the results.

    • Can December 4, 2012, 4:04 pm

      Mariano, to be honest, grammar is the most important in any language.
      Advise you to revise your N5-N2 grammar. =)
      Good luck

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 12:55 am

      I’m glad they at least curve it now. Before when it was really difficult everyone just failed. 🙂

      Anyway, now the long wait.

  • Virginia December 3, 2012, 12:48 pm

    Hi Mac! I took the test in buenos aires. We only have the december test, but its ok because I was definitely not ready for N3 on Juy. Im not confident in how I did on the tet. Im still not ready but I wanted to have some practice for next year. I sat for N4 on dec 2011 and I wanted to know how far or near I am from N3. I didnt have tine to finish the reading section, so my focus next year will be kanji and reading.
    I think I may finish my N3 Books and try N2 kanzen master.
    Lets hope to have good results for all of us on
    february 🙂

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 12:56 am

      Have to drill that reading. It can be tough at that level to find good material. You either have to slowly read native material or keep buying textbooks. I hope you made it and you can move on to N2!

  • Dean December 3, 2012, 7:12 pm

    I took N1 this past weekend in NYC after a long japanese studying hiatus after passing 2kyuu in 2008. 80% of my effort was simply (re) learning kanji because I figured it would be useless to attempt the test if I could barely read anything and I hoped that everything else would kinda fall into place by combining that with as much reading as I could of articles, etc. I pretty much ignored grammar until very close to the test date. As such, I was hoping for reading comprehension/listening to make up about 75-80 of my points, with Listening contributing the most.

    I had a hard time with the grammar/kanji/vocab and found myself spending about 15 minutes more than I had planned on that section. Since I felt sort of at risk of not getting the 19 points, I made the extra effort for educated guesses in this section. Nonetheless, I was able to make up speed on the reading comprehension. Generally speaking, I was able to read through the texts and grasp the ideas. Listening was supposed to be my bread & butter, but I didn’t feel good about those answers as I was taking it, so I largely agree with everything you’re saying.

    No matter what happens, I definitely plan on taking the test again next year because given the progress I’ve had over the last few months I know I can kill it with a sizeable margin if i continue learning at a similar pace. (Definitely taking a little break though)

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 1:00 am

      Sounds like the JLPT at least gave you some motivation to kick it up a notch and start actively studying again, which is really good. I’m guessing you use Japanese on a daily basis? Do you use it at work a lot?

      I always love to hear from people outside Japan taking the higher levels of the exam. It is a great challenge I think.

      Hope you have good results!

      • Dean December 10, 2012, 2:33 pm

        I actually don’t use it on a daily basis aside from my self-study. I felt that I reached the point in my japanese studies where you hit the biggest plateau and just stop completely or you go all in and really try to master it. I decided that it wasn’t a skill that I wanted to lose, so I started studying for N1. My goal at this point is to be able to use it in a professional setting (I work in finance), so the next phase in my studies will probably focus on japanese used in the work place (presentations, meetings, emails, phones, etc).

  • ben December 3, 2012, 7:50 pm

    Took the N2 yesterday in Paris, after 3 years of studying Japanese at INALCO ( French SOAS). My classmate and I were a little overwhelmed by the dokkai, which seemed very long, and ambiguous. I usually do pretty good in this (did a timed mogi shiken the day before and got something like 4 mistakes ) finishing five minutes before time up.

    But yesterday it seemed way too much to handle, ie way harder than what I’d been exposed to, lost a lot of time double checking both the questions and texts, and I can’t say i’m really confident with any of my answers in the reading part. I’m surprised to see most people found this easy and finished early, I guess we’re really behind on skim reading practice. Questions seemed quite ambiguous as well.
    Ended up with 5 minutes left on the second last text, had to guesstimate, which felt dreadful.

    Kanji were easy, yet the grammar points we’d been studying we’rent really there, so this was a little unnerving.
    Listening seem much easier than stuff we’d been working on, no time schedules, calculations or weird road directions, which was a pleasant surprise.
    I’m really not sure I’ll pass this time because of the reading section. This is definetly something that I need to work on more, even though I hadn’t had any problems before when working with prep books or mogi shiken.


    • Mac December 5, 2012, 1:03 am

      I think for the N2 and N1 they have really worked hard to move away from the standard list of grammar and try to be a lot more practical with it. I still see N1 grammar points in the reading and a little in the listening and occasionally in the grammar section so they are still useful I think, but you can’t just study the list and expect that to get you through. Need to use the language as well.

      I hope you did well!

    • Afoofoo December 5, 2012, 10:34 am

      I find it so interesting that the people who found the first section hard found the listening easy :’DD Wish I could have some of your listening skills!!
      Hope you pass!

      • ben December 5, 2012, 9:10 pm

        thanks to both of you and wishing you all the best as well.
        Mac, I get your point about the grammar part. It’s probably for the best, but it was still quite a surprise, and something to take into account (ie review some N1 listed points as well, and aim for a more global approach / stategy).
        On the listening, these impressions are shared by pretty much all the students in my INALCO year, so I guess there’s really something to work on there. For listening, we’ve been forced fed JLPT style 読解 for two years in oral class, regimen which included using them as dictation material, which helps, gradually sharpening vocabulary recognition and formal vocab, but we still have major gaps on shapes for instance. I remember a 対角線上 which pretty much baffled everyone in a listening exercises this year…
        What I personnally find really difficult in listening are questions where your have to calculate (add substract 10 minutes to get the correct departure time), details (a list of airlines with destinations departure times and prices, and two questions at the end asking which company they chose and… how much the ticket cost….).
        But reading that people can easily finish ahead of time for reading section is a real eye opener, means I’m really not doing something properly to extract the info… We’ve never really practiced this in class (well, only short snippets), most of the reading we do is translation orientated (novels, magasines, articles), and though we did have stuff to sum up in french based on NHK articles on evolution of family structures in Japan, we’ve never really been exposed to speed reading, and JLPT style questions, where two answers are possible but you have to find the one which fits just so… Oh my, last sunday’s safety glass 記念 article is definetly popping in my mind there…..
        I’m usually pretty confident in mogi shiken, but even then, I never finish more than 10 minutes early. this was my first real test, and it was so hazy and rushed that I think I’ll probably get a non passing not on the first section. At least I know what to work on from now on.


        • Bart December 5, 2012, 10:51 pm

          Hi Ben,

          I too found the N2 reading section to be really challenging. The “medium” length sections seemed like the “long” length sections I practiced before the test. Two books that really helped me for reading were the Shin Kanzen Master N2 Dokkai and Rapid Reading Japnese. SKM really drills in to look directly around the underlined parts to find answers. I think there is some controversy on whether to read the answers before reading the section. For me, it helps me to find the answer quicker. Rapid Reading is a pretty difficult book, (probably between N2 and N1) but it gives you good drills on how to scan paragraphs for vital information. Good luck with your results!


          • Mac December 10, 2012, 3:29 pm

            Those are some great recommendations Bart. Rapid Reading Japanese looks like a pretty interesting book to help with reading skills. I think I’ll have to pick it up and give it a look to help speed up my listening.

          • ben December 11, 2012, 5:57 am

            thanks Bart, good luck to you too.

            I ordered “rapid reading japanese” and will get “shin kanzen master” if i need to take N2 again. I also found some good pointers on time management on jlptbootcamp, wish I’d found them earlier 🙂


          • Ben January 31, 2013, 10:13 am

            Well, it’s been a long wait. Sorry to read it didn’t go as planned for you Mac.

            I finally got good news this morning
            I passed, score is 60/60 in Language Knowledge, 36/60 in Reading and 60/60 in Listening, total 156 out of 180.

            So yes, reading needs work. I’ve started working on honing speed reading skills with 速読の日本語. I don’t have any major issues reading books or articles, but I really need to work on speed and JLPT type quizzes if I ever intend to take N1.



  • Alexandra December 3, 2012, 8:43 pm

    Hi Mac,
    I hope you get good news when the results come. It’s nice to read everybody’s experience after the test ended. I traveled 500 km in 10 hours on Saturday to take the N3 exam. (train is really slow here). So in the last three years I made a habit of traveling to Bucharest, to take the test there. (I also end up with a cold every time I take the test, but I call that tradition). The test was different than I expected. The grammar part, I’m surprised I got to read it all in the given time, considering I didn’t have enough time to study this year. The listening went really well, though some parts where really fast and I didn’t manage to understand them completely. I know I could have done better, but considering my free time dedicated to studying Japanese, I am quite pleased with myself, even if I won’t pass the exam,

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 1:07 am


      That is some serious dedication! Traveling 10 hours to take the test. I had to take the train once to take the test, but it was only for 3 hours. I had to wake up at 5am to catch it though 🙂

      It is also good that you got to read it all and finish in time. That can definitely be tricky.

    • Ioana December 10, 2012, 5:41 am

      A fellow student who takes 10 hours to bucharest ^^. I especially liked the part where Crivatul started blowing on the exact same day of the exam. Nothing like an early Siberian wind to keep you company on a cold morning, eh?

      • Alexandra December 10, 2012, 8:37 pm

        The world is small, isn’t it? And on Saturday it was almost 20 degrees outside. How was the exam for you, Ioana?

        • Ioana December 11, 2012, 11:24 am

          Meh, so-so. Wasn’t as scary as I expected it to be, but I got a few mistakes in either way. Trying not to think much about it until the results come in =).

  • Frankatino December 4, 2012, 2:13 am

    I’m just curious – does anyone on here retake the same level even though they have previously passed that level?
    I’m thinking that even if I do pass N2, I’d like to get really good at N2 content before taking on more kanji and vocab. I mean I feel it would be better to get a great score on N2 rather than scrape a pass on N1 and still have lots of gaps in my Japanese knowlege.
    Any thoughts anyone?

    • andrew December 4, 2012, 3:30 am

      I think my reply got erased by this slow computer. Sorry if this is a double.

      I think retaking a test you barely passed is fine, especially if you do not have time restraints or are trying to get a job or into a university.

      Me personally, I scraped by N2 and I wanted the challenging of going for the N1 pass or fail and boy I got it.

      I agree with the many comments that the N1 was difficult and possibly felt unprepared. This all rings true that the N1 has added a lot of content compared to the old 1級 test. Which also means the textbook companies have a lot of catching up to do as well. And also that they cant put everything that could possibly be on the test in one book. This is where outside reading and listening to news comes in handy.

      Regardless of whether I passed or not I feel great about how much I accomplished just in preparing for the test in 2012. Maybe if I do not receive passing marks it will compel me forward that much more to prepare for it in 2013.

      Although the piece of paper and extra marks on my resume would be nice….


    • M December 4, 2012, 7:29 am

      I’ve pretty much decided that I will likely take N2 again in the summer whether it turns out that I passed or not (I really wouldn’t be surprised with either result, really), unless it turns out that I did ridiculously better than I think I did. I feel like the toughest part is now past, the part where I was first learning so many new kanji and vocab words, so if I just maintain what I learned and then practice it in various ways in my real life in Japan, I think should be able to do better in 6 months and with less of the hardcore book studying I did this time.

    • Mac December 4, 2012, 8:41 am

      I just passed n2 last year so I was kind of in the same situation. I was thinking about moving up to N1 or retaking and finally decided to try N1.

      The main reason was because I figured if I was missing some grammar or vocabulary and i needed it bad enough I would learn again eventually.

      I really don’t think you need to master a level to be at that level. You don’t need to be able to use every grammar point and vocabulary word perfectly in other words.

    • Can December 4, 2012, 4:03 pm

      Frankatino, Yes. Me. =)

      I passed my N1 in 2010 and retook my N1 this year. I must say overall, the listening was harder than before. But overall i think the difficulty is normal. =)

      I would expect my N1読解 score to go higher, but listening to drop from 43/60 to maybe 36/60?

  • Hannah December 4, 2012, 2:56 am

    Things did not go as smoothly as I woulda liked on Sunday for my N1 in Nagoya.
    My test site was a goofy university in the middle of nowhere, so we had to all cram on to buses, but due to the school’s normal Sunday schedule, the buses dropped us off to hang for an hour in the cold outside the school. I was starting to catch a cold and not feeling well, so that didn’t help much. The room at least was nice and toasty at first, but then they shut off the heat during the test! So it was pretty chilly by the end of the 110 minutes. It got a lot worse after opening the doors for the 30 minute break, and I spent more effort trying to stay awake for the listening than actually catching all the details. >__<

    Annnnnyway, complaining aside, I'm not sure I'd pass even in ideal conditions. I passed N2 no problems this summer and thought N1 wouldn't be so bad after all my studying and practice tests the past few months. I'm used to blowing the vocab sections, but I'm usually better at kanji. Grammar wasn't too bad for me, and I was pleasantly surprised by the readings. But the listening was much more difficult than I was prepared for. Maybe if I were fully attentive I would have been fine, I usually do well with real life listening and watch TV all the time. But compared to the ridiculous "stupid person Japanese" my listening practices had, I kinda had my mind blown on those 3-choice questions. :/
    But at least it seemed like I could pass it by next summer with work. And then the weather should be more comfortable. lol

    • andrew December 4, 2012, 3:33 am

      Hannah, do you work in baseball or are possibly a fan of the marines? Just curious. I work for the Carp and it is always nice to spread out my connections within the baseball community, employees and fans alike.

      • Hannah December 4, 2012, 8:40 am

        I wish! I’m a big Marines fan, but I forgot I put that there on one of my posts shortly after I saw some games this year. Didn’t realize it was saved in my Comment info. ^^;;

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 1:13 am

      I swear heating and cooling concerns seemed to be a big factor in taking this test. In my experience, it seems to be extremely difficult for heating and cooling systems to maintain a certain temperature in a room in Japan for some reason.

      One of the offices I teach at is hot and stuffy in the winter, hot and stuffy in the summer and sometimes too cold in the fall and spring. Is it really that difficult to maintain a steady temperature? 🙂

      Anyway, sounds like you went and did it, which is awesome no matter what the results.

      • Isaura December 29, 2012, 6:55 am

        Yes, heating-cooling concerns is really a big factor in taking this test:)) And the weather, too. In Budapest for example, it is “dantou” in last years, and a week before JLPT it was +18C, too, but fortunately, in 2 December it was “only” +10C. I hate “dantou” very much, because I can’t concentrate so well.
        Mac, in 1 July in Japan it was “taihen mushiatsui”, wasn’t it?:)) How could you concentrate during N1?:))

        • Clayton MacKnight January 3, 2013, 4:10 am

          It wasn’t too bad in early July. Late July and August is when it gets really bad here. It is completely unbearable sometimes.

  • Surabhee December 4, 2012, 9:17 am

    I appeared for N2 in Bangalore and i would say it was まあまあ. The vocab and grammar parts were pretty easy than what i had expected. The listening was also okay except from some questions from quick response section.

    But the reading part really disappointed me. It took much time than expected to comprehend and the content was really dry. I couldn’t finish reading all the passages and ended up making wild guesses for almost 9 questions of the reading section. So I am not very confident whether i will pass the exam. I am hoping that the total aggregate somehow crosses 90.

    • Can December 4, 2012, 4:01 pm

      Surabhee, it means your reading skills are not really good. It would be good to brush up your reading skills by learning how to read fast. =)

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 1:15 am

      Reading is a big problem for a lot of people at the N2 level. The best solution is to just do more reading, preferably on a daily basis. You might want to pick up some easier Japanese books to try to read so you can speed up your recognition of kanji and things.

      I hope to hear good results from you though!

      • Surabhee December 5, 2012, 5:18 am

        Hi Can, Hi Mac,

        Thanks for your comments! For about 4 months before the exam i used to practice reading for about 30 minutes about 4-5 times a week. Before the exam i had finished reading the sou matome and speed master dokkai books. I had even re-read many of the passages which i found difficult to comprehend. I am really confused as to what should i do next to improve my reading skills. If given enough time i can comprehend the passage totally.

        Can, you have mentioned that i should learn how to read fast. Could you please me some tips on the same topic? What strategies can i use to improve my reading speed?

        • Julian December 5, 2012, 6:01 am


          Sorry if I’m butting in, but the simple answer is just: read! Read a lot, and make sure it’s at a fairly high level. Even at N2, you should already be trying to read novels, but don’t worry if you don’t understand everything. Like with weight training, you need to increase the difficulty in order to improve and gradually you’ll get stronger.

          I was able to pass N1 last year because I read a ton in addition to the test prep books, which are of course helpful but often not enough to fully prepare you.

  • Gail December 4, 2012, 4:49 pm

    I took my first attempt at taking the N2 in London on Sunday. And first impressions are, it may be the first attempt of many! I have a new kind of respect for anyone who has made a serious attempt at passing this test, it’s definitely on a whole new level to N3 (which I passed with no problems in the summer).

    I ran out of time on the first paper, which is always a bad sign. I ended up having to put in random answers for one of the reading questions and most of the rearranging the sentence grammar questions as I ran out of time to solve them properly. I did the official practice test a few weeks ago and did better on the vocabulary than the grammar, but this time I seemed to know so few of the words that came up on the vocabulary section, I’m a little bit worried about that. The main grammar questions and the grammar reading bit were on the whole ok though, I’m hoping that counteracts the running out of time problem a little bit.

    Using the Shin Kanzen Master book really helped with the short reading questions but in retrospect I didn’t get enough practice with longer passages before the test. I’ll really need to start reading more, simply to get my speed and stamina up.

    Overall the listening section didn’t seem too bad. However, I had the same feeling when I did the official practice test in the comfort of my own home a few weeks ago, but when I scored my answers I had got just over half of them wrong.

    Overall I’m glad I took the test, I felt like I’d really pushed myself this time and whatever the result is, I know my Japanese has improved since the summer. But I won’t be too surprised (or even disappointed) if it’s a fail this time.

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 1:20 am

      Good to hear Gail. One of the reasons I like taking the test is because you can pretty easily feel (and see) how much progress you have made with the language (at least with reading and listening). N2 takes a lot more language skill than the lower levels. I was (and still am a little) bad at language skills so it was a tough hurdle for me too. Just takes some practice I guess.

      My recommendation is to re-read some of the passages in Kanzen Master that gave you trouble. Re-read them on a regular basis until they just flow. It’s a bit boring, but there is some research that supports this as actually helping to speed your comprehension of other passages.

      Good luck!

  • Barbara December 4, 2012, 11:03 pm

    Kinda suffering from post-test blues. I posted the other day about my N4 experience and keep beating myself up about the Grammar paper. I’d worked so hard. Every night after work I would prepare my lessons for the following day and then get straight into Japanese. I was doing about 2-4hrs a night. Did really well on the practice tests. Yet on the day I feel I really screwed up. Really miserable that I was ill, the room was cold, the exam started late, the breaks were only 10mins and not 15… Hum. Now its been two days without any Japanese at all. Sorry for being gloomy just not sure what to do next. I wanted to start N3 work and spend time strengthening my N4 skills but don’t seem to have the energy or the will. Is this normal? Any advice?

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 1:27 am


      I sometimes get in the same funk as well. Especially now because of the holidays and such. My best advice is to do something fun and easy with Japanese. It is important to keep the habit up (and not replace it with another habit). You created the daily routine to study so you just need to make sure you are doing something Japanese-y during that time.

      Something like Anki or Memrise might be good because those generally don’t take too much motivation. Or you could listen to some random jPod101 podcasts or play Japanese video games. The point is to just keep the habit.

      Also reward yourself generously for the next week or so. Study for 30 minutes, then go watch a 2 hour movie or whatever. Just keep the habit no matter what the costs.

      • Barbara December 8, 2012, 3:43 pm

        Thank you for this. It’s really tough to pick myself up but I started the vocab and the podcasts today:)

    • Ioana December 10, 2012, 5:38 am

      I was also feeling down after the N4 and didn’t feel like studying for a while… I actually ended up passing it though! With flying colors even (A on all fields, though a pretty low total score). I’d suggest just ignoring it and moving ahead =). There’s no use in stagnating just because of a failed test. Just aim for the N3 and study hard for it.

  • Noodle December 5, 2012, 6:01 am

    I took the N3 test in Japan. Kanji/Vocabulary and the Listening part were easy. The hardest part was the reading section. I had to read everything two or three times to understand the meaning. Normally I’m not bad at reading but this time they used words I’m not familiar with. The puzzle sentences were also quite a bitch. I hope I scored the minimum of 19 points on the second section.

    • Mac December 5, 2012, 3:49 pm

      The scrambled sentences are a real pain! I hope you have good results!

    • Ioana December 10, 2012, 5:37 am

      Oh god I HAAAATE the scrambled sentences! I never get those right.

  • Lorelle December 6, 2012, 10:54 am

    I took the N3 in Gifu, despite studying for about a year for N2. I changed my mind because I’ve never taken the JLPT itself before, and considered it a good practice run.

    It made me realise that my listening skills are really, very poor. The first two sections were a breeze, and I flew through them. Listening was quite hard for me! There were a few where I had no idea at all and had to guess. I was tired by that time as well, so perhaps that had something to do with it. All the practice tests I had done in the past were fine so…

    All in all it was an exciting experience. Now to wait for the end of January with fingers crossed that I scraped through! 🙂

    • Mac December 10, 2012, 3:26 pm

      The N3 is a good ‘warm up’ to the N2. I took it about a year ago for the exact same reason. I can imagine it would be pretty easy for you overall if you have been studying for the N2. You should try the N2 in July though! Good luck!

  • Jen December 7, 2012, 1:26 pm

    We were at the same place at the same time! It was a damn cold day and finding the rooms was a bit of a nightmare Oo
    The CD for the N4 listening broke or somethingsomething and it threw me off my game. Plus the annoying people talking, kicking my seat, etc during the exam. It was my first time trying the JLPT and I didn’t really study for it, but I reckon overall, what with the low pass mark for each section, I probably passed.

    • Mac December 10, 2012, 3:35 pm

      Isn’t kyodai one of the most poorly organized test taking places? No signs for JLPT for the most part. The staff is generally outnumbered. I’ve started to get used to it, but a bit of a pain.

  • Ioana December 10, 2012, 5:35 am

    A bit late since I just got home, but I took the N2 :). There’s a 50/50 chance of passing, imho, but after the initial “oh my god I can’t believe I failed” phase I’m feeling pretty good. Went through the reading well, but the trick questions got to me. I was surprised to find that the grammar felt pretty easy but I know for sure I got at least 2 mistakes in vocab….which is baffling since vocab is my strong point. (I even practice onomatopoeia for the fun of it, but it just so happened an onomatopoeia I couldn’t remember was on the test… my educated guess was mistaken =( ). The Listening part was, as usual, kind of a flop. Most people I know that had issues complained that it was caused by them forgetting to take notes; I actually DID take notes, but on the wrong things (there was a reaaaalllyyy messed up question which had a huge talk regarding which day of the week was which activity, and I took down notes for all activities, but there was a small bit where 2 employees were discussing on which day they would arrive at the end which I didn’t pay enough attention to. Obviously, the questions were regarding the bit at the end >.<).

    Either way, I felt pretty good throughout the exam. I actually finished the written part 15 mins early, but I stopped myself from going through my results since I tend to erase good answers and replace them with wrong ones since I'm unsure of them. Kind of regret that one now :P)

    Either way, off to the N1 next year.

    I also wanted to ask… I didn't register online, but I had to input a field with a "password" on the sign-up sheet. However, there is no info that I can find on the main website regarding where that password is to be used, when the results are posted, et co. Do you happen to know?

  • Prabhavathy December 14, 2012, 6:25 am

    Hi Mac,

    I took N4 exam in India (Chennai). Not too tough. But not sure what my result would be. Anyways, planning to start N3 in Jan’13 and attempt for July’13. Could you pl. suggest books other than SO MATOME series.

    • Mac December 16, 2012, 4:18 am

      Recently, they released some New Kanzen Master books for the N3 level. They currently have grammar and listening out I think. Kanzen Master books are generally pretty good overall, so it might be worth it to pick it up.

  • niño January 15, 2013, 9:04 am

    Just wanted to add my experience here 🙂 Took the N4 last December 2012 at Keio University. Vocabulary was fine, fellow testers in the classroom were actually cheerful but then it all changed after the Grammar section, everybody (and myself!) looked dazed (no joke). Listening was OK. Not very confident about passing but I did study very hard and took lessons (though my main 先生 had to go to 青森 to tend to her ailing mother and had to study under a 先生 that I did not like too much because of her teaching style.

    Now it is time for the agonizing wait until the results come out 🙂

    Best of luck to all of us!

    • Isaura January 15, 2013, 5:49 pm

      Now I am agonizing, too, because I remember my 4-5 mistakes in the Vocabulary section. For example, I didn’t know what means “koshou”, because it was written with hiragana. And I didn’tt know that “zutto” means “during all the time”, too, etc.
      From Grammar section I don’t remember anything. What don’t you confident about the Grammar section?

    • Clayton MacKnight January 21, 2013, 4:06 am

      the style of your teacher is almost just as important as how qualified they are.

      Good luck!

  • Nina January 26, 2013, 3:38 pm

    Hi, I also took the JLPT N1 on Dec. 2nd 2012 in Poland. I am a 15 year old German high school student and now I am waiting for the results on Jan 30th 🙂

    As for the N1, at first I was really worried because I actually never had a teacher except right before my decision of taking the JLPT to check myself. But after talking to the Japanese teacher he said I am ready for the N1 which of course made me happy 🙂
    The test was really a challenge. Still though I was really confident with reading because there wasn’t too many vocab I didn’t know so all those hours put into kanji payed off but sometimes I was hesitating with the grammatical structures (I just thought too much I think). As for listening I don’t really think it was really extraordinary hard. So I think I managed that one well.
    I never took the JLPT before and I am really impressed about the level. The excitement level was really high for me but I am used to stress from the English exams like CAE I took last year. (will take CPE this year)

    Anyway, 🙂 I just wanted to share my impressions
    Now, all that’s left is waiting (hate that!)
    I’ll be sure to let you know about the results (If somebody is actually interested :))

    I wish you all a good year for studying Japanese and good luck for the upcoming July session.

    • Clayton MacKnight January 27, 2013, 3:33 pm

      Wow, That’s pretty amazing to be taking the N1, 15 years old. I don’t think many native Japanese speakers would be able to pass it at that age.

      Sounds like you know what you are doing though. I wish you luck, let’s cross our fingers and hope we passed. The results are just a few days away!

      • Isaura January 28, 2013, 5:10 am

        Yes, the results are just a few days away, and I have now colon irritable:))

        • Nina February 1, 2013, 8:27 pm

          I finally could see my results
          Mou~ they were delayed for some strange reason I don’t know. Well I passed with Language Knowledge 49-60
          Reading 48-60
          Listening 50-60

          SO , I am very happy I passed
          What about your results?

          • Isaura February 2, 2013, 6:04 am

            Omedetou gozaimasu ne!:)) You are really a language genius! Didn’t you be a “nihonjin” in your previous life?:)))))
            I passed, too, but I took N4. My Vocabulary, Grammar and Reading are “A”, but in the Listening section I received only 31/60. The present time I know 1000 or so Kanji, but Listening is my “nigate”. Because I am living not in Japan, so I can reading and writting letters to my Japanese penpals every day, but language school is only 90 minutes every week. So I can speak and listening native Japanese speaking only 90 minutes or so every week.

  • Nina February 9, 2013, 1:41 pm

    Thnx, and omedetou too! I am glad you passed and I hope you will aim even higher wit hthe JLPT. Well, as for listening you should look up some tv-raidio programs or streams. That helps a lot, especially the ones where normal people talk (not the news where only the polite form is being used). Getting used to the casual speech and such is crucial when surviving Japan, at least that’s what I think. When I started learning, I somehow started backwards 😀 first I was only learning casual, cause that’s what everyone was talking like in anime (most of the time) then switching to formal was pretty easy 🙂 I envy you ’cause at least you have real lessons, I haven’t got the opportunity to attend such lessons :/

    Well, have a nice day and while enjoying it enrich your Japanese 🙂

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