Which level of the JLPT should I take?

Which level of the JLPT should I take? post image
Which level of the JLPT should I take?

So, which way do I go?

How do you know you are ‘ready’ to take a certain level of the test? I get this question a lot in emails, and it is a tough question to answer quickly because, as you might have guessed, it all depends.

I know registration for the July test is soon for a lot of regions, and you might be teetering between two levels. So some of you might have to make this decision soon and are probably wondering which level to sign up for.

Of course taking the test is always going to be a bit of a gamble. Either the reading will go over topics you are not familiar with or the listening covers directions and you aren’t very spatial organized. Whatever the case may be, you might not pass even if you are that level. And to be honest if you don’t fail at least once, you aren’t really pushing yourself.

So before you fill out that sign up form and send it in, ask yourself the following questions so that you can be confident you have the right level for you.

Did you take a JLPT practice test?

Taking a practice test under real test conditions (limited breaks, timed, no checking answers till the end, in a quiet room) will give you a great feel for the test. It is important to treat these as real because the test will be timed and one of the biggest problems test-takers run into is not having enough time to finish the test especially the reading section.

These first practice tests are significantly shorter than the real thing. They only include two questions from each section and are generally about half the size of the real test. I’ve added some notes about how to time these tests out in the separate posts for each one.

JLPT N5 Practice Test

JLPT N4 Practice Test

JLPT N3 Practice Test

JLPT N2 Practice Test

JLPT N1 Practice Test

The official ‘workbooks ‘ for the test have also been made freely available. I added some notes and made the audio a little easier to practice with in each of the posts below. N5 through N3 are available on my blog, but N2 and N1 are currently available only on the main JLPT site.

JLPT N5 Official Workbook

JLPT N4 Official Workbook

JLPT N3 Official Workbook

JLPT N2 and N1 Official Workbooks

There ‘workbooks’ are really more like Franken-tests that are made up of questions from prvious tests. Most of the workbooks have the exact same number of questions as the real test though, buy some of them have more. I made notes on any differences I could find in the PDFs.

How Long have you Studied?

Another way to judge what level you should be taking is how many hours you have stuied. Keep in mind that these hours are if you are taking a regular class that is loosely based on the JLPT or studying from a standard book like Minna no Nihongo or Genki. If you study in a more unstructured way the hours might be off.

JLPT study hours

If you study a little more unconventionally or you don’t really keep track of study hours, these study hours might not be of much use. For example, if you read a lot of manga or listen to a lot of Jpop songs to practice Japanese you will have to go after a different metric. I wrote up a brief list of questions that can help you decide if you are the right level or not.

Are you job-hunting or are you doing it just for motivation?

There are two main reasons for taking the JLPT. The first one, it looks good on a resume. A lot of people will argue and say that your average HR guy doesn’t even know what the JLPT is and this might be true. But, it is pretty irrelevant, because the test name (in Japanese) pretty much explains exactly what it is and its purpose.

And in general, recruiters in Japan respect tests and qualifications. So putting that you passed N2 or N1 (maybe N3) on your resume will up your chances of an interview. You will have to backup your test result with an ability to speak and use it though.

So if you are going for qualifications you might want to gamble and go for a higher test to get a better job. Especially if your speaking skills are stronger than your reading and listening skills.

The second biggest reason people take the JLPT is because it creates a system of levels that you can use to measure your progress and also to know what books to buy or courses to take. If you are taking the JLPT for this reason I would say you should just move up the levels step by step. For example, if you passed N4, take N3. If you passed N3, take N2, and so forth.

What level are you taking?

Are you taking the July test? What level are you taking? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Pebbledash Grey

{ 84 comments… add one }
  • Hilary April 1, 2013, 1:54 am

    I’m re-taking the N3 exam in July in Sapporo. I failed the December exam by 4 points (in the reading section). I’ve been doing a lot more reading practice and last week, I did a practice test that focused on reading and I’ve been improving! I’m hoping I’ll pass this time around. My goal is to get N3 before I leave Japan and I’m leaving in October so it’s not or never!

    • Clayton MacKnight April 3, 2013, 3:21 pm

      Good luck Hilary! Sounds like you are definitely on the right track. How is Sapporo? Do you do lot of winter sports? I’ve always wanted to make my way up there but just haven’t yet.

    • Isaura April 5, 2013, 5:18 pm

      It is a good idea. Because in Sapporo it isn’t so hot and humid in July:))

  • Willian April 4, 2013, 11:43 pm

    I took the N2 last year (Brazil). The first part was pretty easy, but I didn’t pass because, on the 20 minutes break before the 聴解, I “overslept on my thoughts” and reach in the classroom too late for it. (–;) I’ve never been so angry before.

    I will take the N2 again in December. I think the N1 is too harsh.

    Thank you for keeping this website, it’s very useful. (^^)b

    • Clayton MacKnight April 7, 2013, 3:07 pm

      N1 is pretty harsh, but definitely possible. I think what is most frustrating is that it is just on the tip of my fingers. It seems like you had a very frustrating test last year. Those breaks are really short!

  • Hugh B April 7, 2013, 10:43 am

    I’ll be re-taking the N4 exam in July in London. I didn’t do particularly well across the board last time but already feel much more confident, particularly with the amount of Kanji learned, and am looking forward to the challenge once more.

    • Clayton MacKnight April 7, 2013, 3:03 pm

      Awesome, keep up the fight. N4 is a good conversational level to aim for.

  • Joshua N May 23, 2013, 7:08 pm

    I’m going to try to take the N4 or N5 Test in December in Atlanta, but im only 17, is there an age requirement?

    • Clayton MacKnight May 26, 2013, 10:58 am

      Nope, I’ve heard of 13 or 14 year olds taking N2 before. 🙂

      • Yuki Imai January 31, 2019, 12:41 pm

        Funny you say that! I somehow got really into Japanese and Japanese culture at age 11, and I’ve been studying Japanese crazily while juggling schoolwork for almost 3 years. I thought about taking N5 as the December 2016 JLPT, but decided not to. N3 as the December 2017? Too expensive. Then I ramped up studying for 2018, and took the plunge and jumped to N1 for December 2018 JLPT. Do I recommend to other prospective 14 year-old N1 examinees? Nope, way too risky I think.
        Online results out today and I passed, however barely but in hindsight I really should have gone with N2 first…
        Let’s just say I was kind of hyper for about 3 hours after the results were out because I really did not expect to pass.

  • Michelle July 6, 2013, 3:06 pm

    I’m planning on taking either N2 or N3, I’ve been taking Japanese classes at my university and just graduating, trying to find a job. A recruiter told me that at N3, they are skeptical to your level but N2 is the border that makes you stand out. I’ve never taken the JLPT before but I think if I study really hard then I can maybe pass N2 in December? D:

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2013, 1:08 pm

      Basically, an N3 will probably not get you a job using Japanese. It’s still definitely possible with an oral interview, but an N2 will probably get you a job interview for job that uses Japanese on a day to day basis. N3 is still good for a job where you might need to do some email correspondence every once in awhile and may eventually have to use spoken Japanese.

      So, long story short, N2 is the money test.

    • Isaura July 7, 2013, 8:15 pm

      But for passing N3 you must know N2 kanji and grammar, too, and for passing N2 you must know N1 kanji and grammar, too:))

  • Stephanie August 22, 2013, 7:33 pm

    I’ve taken 3 semesters of Japanese at my college, and I will be studying in Hikone for a semester January-April 2014. Right now I’m on the line of maybe passing N4, so hopefully after this trip, I will be prepared to take either the N4 or N3… (but probably N4). My eventual goal is to pass the N2.

    • Clayton MacKnight August 27, 2013, 3:49 pm

      That sounds like a very realistic goal. I think with a little reading practice you could easily do N3 as well. Enjoy Hikone, I’ve been up there a few times to climb Mt. Ibuki, the tallest mountain in this area. Lake Biwa is amazing too. Of course in winter, you should be able to do some skiing/snowboarding right?

  • Sakina September 29, 2013, 4:17 pm

    My parents wanted me to study at Kyoto Seika University. But the admission for the university is to pass level N1 or N2 on JLPT test. I don’t think I can easily pass level N1 or N2, so I thought on pass the test from N5. But,do you think I have time to finish all of the level? Cause I’m going to take the exam next year(2014) and my parents wanted me to enter the university in 2015.
    I study japanese language seens I was 13 years old, But, now I’m 16 and I can only read Hiragana and Katakana,I can read Kanji and speak japanese language a little bit.
    – Can I take two test in the same day or month?and did they send you the result on the same day you take the test?
    Please, I really need some help! Thank you >)

    • Clayton MacKnight October 7, 2013, 1:31 pm

      Hmm, Sakina, you’re in a bit of a rough spot. I would say it is pretty difficult to pass N1 outside of Japan. It can be done, you’ll just have to dedicate a lot of time to it. I’m guessing your level is around N5? or a little higher from the sound of it, which means you’ll need to jump 3 levels to pass N2 in a year. If you can dedicate a significant amount of time to it every day (2 hours or so) I think it is possible, but you will really have to immerse yourself.

      The test is given once or twice a year only (depending on where you live). Results usually come about 2 months after you take the test.

      One important question is, do you want to go to Kyoto Seika University? or just your parents?

  • Xenia November 9, 2013, 5:31 pm

    Hey,thanks for all the great stuff you’ve posted here.I’m really trying hard to pass the n3 level but the vocabulary is just killing me,I have a question about the scores,for example in listening(mock exam) out of 28 exercises I’ve done 5 wrong how do I score that?I’ve been searching all over the internet to see how exactly the scoring works but I didn’t quite comprehend how I should evaluate myself after taking the test.

    • Clayton MacKnight November 14, 2013, 11:37 pm

      The test is based on a curve, so there really isn’t a correct way to score it. I think you are okay though. Only 5 wrong is a pretty strong score.

  • Abhi January 29, 2014, 9:06 pm

    Konnichiwa clayton san.I am Abhi from india and have cleared n5 in 2012. Since then im not in touch of this language but now im back and would like to pour my energies to prepare for jlpt.but im looking to go for n3.is it alright or i should try for n4?thanks in advance for your advice.

    • Clayton MacKnight January 29, 2014, 11:50 pm

      I lot of people skip around moving to the top. It depends on your pace and how much you’d like to study without seeing a score. Some people would like the feedback from passing the N4, so that they can focus their studies for N3, but others just want to go to the top. It depends on your character.

  • John Eder February 19, 2014, 7:59 am


    Just want to say thanks for being nice and helping everyone out. I’m after N3 in July… at 450 Kanji, and 1,300 words now, and live my Japanese wife in Japan ‘-).

    I wish everyone luck with their goals / tests!


  • Shweta March 22, 2014, 6:33 am

    Hi Clayton,

    I took the N3 in December 2013, and passed with a good score in the Listening section (which, I believe, is one of my strongest points) and decently in the Reading and Grammar section too. I suck at kanji and vocab, and just got through that one somehow. Now, I’m thinking about taking the N2 in July although I don’t expect to pass. The thing is, I don’t feel too sure about my level. I think I’m okay grammar and listening-wise, but I struggle with N3 kanji and vocab even. N2 just seems so impossible right now. How do I even go about it?

    • Clayton MacKnight March 23, 2014, 2:13 pm

      I started studying for N2, by doing a lot of native reading. The problem is finding that material. Because you don’t want to get too difficult stuff and waste time getting caught up in, but you don’t want too easy either. I read a lot of books aimed at elementary school kids here in Japan. They are incredibly cheap to pick up at the local used bookstore.

      But, if you are outside of Japan, it can be a lot more difficult. Reading old 二級 tests is a good start. But, you really need to get all the grammar phrases down as well, so picking up a grammar book is a good idea. The one that gets the most mentions is Kanzen Master, but So-Matome is also good. Have you been following the JLPT Study Guide Posts? They go over what to do each month.

      The key difference between N3 and N2 is the reading speed and comprehension. You will have to be a good, speedy reader to pass, so that is something you’ll want to concentrate a lot on, even if you scored well on the N3 in that area.

  • dino March 31, 2014, 6:59 am

    hi Clayton,

    You have a very resourceful blog.
    I want to take the JLPT 2 because I want to go to Japan and get a job as an accountant. It is my understanding that any level lower than 2 won’t be beneficial in job hunting, thus my aim is to take the JLPT 2.

    Right now, I know basic grammar, hiragana and some verbs. Do you think it is possible for me to pass the JLPT 2 exam in December? If yes, how would you advise me on studying? I am willing to put in the work.

  • Ellah May 24, 2014, 5:10 pm


    I’ve only studied Hiragana few days ago and Im up to Katakana now. I also went to japan before when I was a kid (6) and Im 16 now. My aunty was trying to admit me on a Japanese language program school, and it requires JLPT. I’m an upcoming 4th yr High School in my country (Philippines) so I’m also reviewing for my entrance examination on a university here. Is it really okay for me to take JLPT? The level of my confidence is about 20% only and I was telling my aunt to look for International School, is it a good idea?

    Also, When I take the JLPT am i able to choose sections i want to answer only? What’s with the July tests and December tests? Sorry Im not very familiar and google hasn’t been answering me.

    Im looking forward to your answers! Notice me senpai! Thankyou! 🙂

    • Clayton MacKnight May 28, 2014, 2:26 pm

      Ellah, There are 5 levels of the test, and even N5 takes around a year of regular studying (4-5 months of intensive/immersive studying). If you are able to put in that much work, I think you can make it, but I would think a Japanese language program school would need N4 or higher, which takes more time. I’m not sure how much time you have so, I can’t really recommend anything too strongly.

      The July and December tests are the same format, with different questions and content obviously. You have to answer all sections of the exam, wrong answers aren’t count against you.

      I hope that all makes sense.

      • Ellah May 29, 2014, 6:29 am

        Yes my aunt told me passing N4 is good enough for me to enroll but I’ll be doing the exam this July so I only have 1 month left and it’s a little bit risky but I can read and write Hiragana and Katakana now.

        Thankyou for your answer! I’ll do my best!

  • Sammy June 3, 2014, 9:00 am

    I should be in Tokyo for 2 semesters of immersive Japanese courses, which involve 5 hours of classes/day (5 days a week) along with living in dorms with other language students. I shall be entering after doing a couple of basic Japanese classes (so therefore at N5 level). How many levels COULD I jump/semester, in theory?

    I know it is very difficult to judge as it depends on aptitude and the amount to work put in. But in theory could I get to N3 from N5 in 3 months (one semester), lets say?

    Appreciate your help and the information on the website in general on this website.

    • Clayton MacKnight June 3, 2014, 2:53 pm

      Mmm, well, I can’t say impossible. You can probably get your comprehension up to N3 level, and be able to pass the reading and listening sections. The precision needed for the grammar and vocabulary sections might be a little rough in that short of time though. But if you blitzed the vocabulary (with reading, listening and SRS) in the beginning you might have a chance. Then, you could review and refine it over the remainder of the course.

  • Mary June 7, 2014, 5:38 pm

    I was planning on studying abroad in two years, but the registration for it is next year and the requirement is to have done the JLPT N4. I won’t have time to take the JLPT N5 and N4.
    Can I take the JLPT N4 without having done the JLPT N5, or do you have to do all of them?

    • Clayton MacKnight June 10, 2014, 3:03 pm

      Yes you can take N4 without N5. You can take N1 if you want. There are no prerequisites for any of the tests.

  • Winson January 2, 2015, 4:40 pm

    Hi Clayton, I have never taken any JLPT test and my eventual goal is to reach N1 but I will take N2 first. Or maybe N3 first if N2 sounds too hard. If I aim to take N2, should i try doing N4 and N3 test by myself or just skip N4 and N3 test and read all material until N2 and started doing all N2 test?

    I just finished reading N4 material and I am Malaysian Chinese so kanji is not a problem for me but listening is because I don’t watch anime nor Japanese drama. I find that in N4/N5 the questions are mostly written in hiragana instead of kanji even if that word has kanji, for example ひさしぶり (久しぶり ). If i were to see ‘ひさしぶり’ I might not able to remember what it means but if I see 久しぶり I would remember the meaning even if I forgot how to read it. In other words, sometimes I have to see the Kanji to know its meaning and if they show hiragana only I might forget what it is. That being said, it doesn’t mean I know how to read the Kanji even if I know its meaning but in mock tests mostly I can guess the hiragana well for the kanji word because I started to remember when i see the choices given.

    I would rate reading as my best part followed by speaking and then listening. For listening to someone who speaks japanese I can only focus on the keyword and assume the meaning. For example I tell a japanese ‘私は日本語を勉強している’ and then she replied ‘bla bla bla daigaku?’. I can’t catch what was said before the word daigaku and I said yes anyway because I am a daigaku student. I thought she was asking if I am a daigaku student, but in fact she was actually asking if I learn Japanese in university (daigaku). Actually I am learning japanese by myself and not from my university. This is how bad my listening level. I can only grasp the word I understand and assume the meaning by myself.

    So now i will do listening test after each level I finish to make sure I can hear the word being said well. Now i am listening to Japanese audiobook (miyazawa kenji’s storybook) everyday to make me get used to Japanese voice even if it is fast and I only understand like 5% of the speech only.

    After I finished N5 official test book a month ago I had many mistake in grammar section so I need to improve my grammar as well. What I want to know is if any of you who have taken N2 or N1 as your first JLPT exam, did you try doing n3/n4/n5 test before going for the level you took? I mean should I waste time trying the test(N4/N3) which I do not plan to take?

    • May March 23, 2015, 3:52 am

      To answer your question, I think you should still take a look at exams for lower levels.
      – Gives you an idea how the exam is done
      – You might learn new things from them
      – Give you an honest personal assessment of your skill

      BTW, What is your reason for taking the JLPT? If you are very well-adept in Kanji, maybe you can pass N1 from what you know and from the context clues you can get from the exam. But given your daigaku question example, maybe your actual communication skill is around N5 or N4 at best?

      You may want to check this out:

      I think, if you pass an exam but you cannot live up to the skill level expectation for that, the purpose is defeated and the cert becomes useless.

  • Kiri February 25, 2015, 2:29 pm

    I passed through N1 last year, trust me it wasnt too hard. You just need more confidents.
    I dont goto school, but self-study. Of course I ve never gone to study in japan since
    I didnt get a chance, Maybe it’s because I spent most of my times reading japanese books.
    I do speak chinese, it helps me with kanji, just some.
    Hope this will help.

    • Winson February 27, 2015, 3:09 pm

      May I ask how long have you been studying japanese by yourself? I am chinese too and kanji is not a problem but vocab is because there are many vocabs to be memorised. I have seen my chinese friends pass N1 at one shot without taking any previous tests too

  • terrence March 19, 2015, 6:38 am

    can I directly take n2 test without taking n3 test before?

    • Clayton MacKnight March 19, 2015, 2:02 pm

      Yep, there are no requirements to take an individual level. You can take N1 from the start if you want.

  • Kay June 18, 2015, 12:20 am

    Hi! Thank you so much for this website it has been incredibly helpful. 😀 I just wanted to ask if you have an idea on whether we’re allowed to take two levels of the JLPT in the same year since they offer the test twice a year now.. at least in where I live. I’m planning to take my Graduate Studies in Japan next year and while the degree doesn’t require passing any level of the JLPT (it’s in English), I wanted to make sure that I’m fairly capable of speaking and reading enough Japanese to survive living there by myself. I’ve signed up for the N5 which is coming up in a few weeks; can I sign up for the N4 in December right after? It’s because I really want to take the N3 next year before I leave for Japan but I need to pass the N4 to have some assurance that I can take on the N3.

    Sorry for the long post. 🙂 thanks so much again!

    • Clayton MacKnight June 18, 2015, 3:20 pm

      There are no requirements for taking any of the tests. You obviously can’t take two levels at the same time, but other than that their are no restrictions. You can sign up for N1 right now if you want 🙂

  • John eder June 18, 2015, 9:00 pm

    The short answer to your question is “yes. ” they will not start registration for the December test until after the July test is over anyway. I’m taking N3 in July and if I pass them will move on to N2 in December.

    Good luck!

  • Mak July 26, 2015, 4:15 am

    Hi Clayton,
    Nice and very helpful information I found on this trail. Keep up doing good job.
    My question is very simple. Can I apply for N4 directly by skipping the N5? (Curious to know form rules point of view – Skill point of view is of course a different aspect of it )

  • Akash September 19, 2015, 8:33 am

    Hi , I am Akash Sharma, I have done it Japanese language course from NIhonogo center but due to some reason i have to leave the course . Now i want to prepare for jlpt exam so that in future i can work for japanese company or i can go japan for work perpose…please advice which level i should go & how to prepare the things coz m nt taking any classes??please advice some books also..

    • Clayton MacKnight September 20, 2015, 2:34 pm

      Do you want to know what level to take to get a job? You really need at least N2 to be proficient in Japanese for work. But outside of Japan, you might be able to get a job with N3 or N4.

  • Akiko October 6, 2015, 5:38 pm

    Hello !
    I’m Akiko and I am half Japanese and half French. I live in France, and my mother (she is the Japanese one in the couple) taught me Japanese since I’m a kid (until a 5th grade level approximately).
    I am now in high school, and I’m starting to think seriously about my future. I think that passing a level of JLPT will help me after high school.
    But, I am really hesitating about the level to pass: I think my skills right now are around N3, just studying a little bit would help to get it by the first try. I am thinking about passing N2, but I feel like there’s a pretty big gap (or at least for what I’ve studied) between N3 and N2.
    So my questions are:
    -Can I pass the test even if I’m half Japanese (considering the fact that I’ve been in the French school system the entire time) ?
    -Should I pass the N3 and be pretty sure that I get it or should I challenge myself and try the N2?
    Sorry for this really long message ! Your site is really amazing and helpful !

    • Clayton MacKnight October 9, 2015, 2:12 pm

      It’s really about your reading speed for N2. Can you confidently read easier native materials at a good speed? like novels and things? You basically need double the reading speed for N2 (N3 reading speed x 2 = N2) as well as be able to understand kanji and what you are reading of course. Are you pretty good at reading?

  • John Eder October 9, 2015, 10:11 pm

    If your in the planning stages of your study aporoach, then I recommend looking through this website / blog written by the author of the wonderful Anki study app. The knowledge shared in here is a gift to those of us learning additional languages add adults.

    In terms of tests, I would consider taking the N3 to start out unless you have a strong need to get the N2 quickly. This way you will have something to show people (you pass on the N3) while you prepare for the N2.

    Some other tools / apps I love using:
    Hesig’s Remembering The Kanji
    Tae Kim’s Learning Japanese (app is wonderful)
    Dictionary apps: Japanese, imawa, midori, remembering the Kanji

    90+% of my studying tired back to the first link I shared and Anki as a support for this method.

    Good luck and please keep asking questions as they arise.


  • Joseph January 25, 2016, 8:15 pm

    Thank you Mac for this website, your help is much appreciated.

    I start University this Spetember studying Japanese. I love what I do and I want to be fluent.
    I am confident with the N5 test and will be taking it this July.
    By practising every day I know I will be fluent.
    A thing to note is no matter how much material I cover in books, having a conversation with a native Japanese speaker is diificult as I may not know the verb I want to use, spontanious talking etc… but with practise I will be great,

    Thanks again,


    • Clayton MacKnight January 26, 2016, 2:10 pm

      Yeah, at first it can be a little hard, kind of like making a snowman, you first have to do a lot of rolling around before you can see a big result, but then it just gets easier and easier.

  • Nidhi January 27, 2016, 5:06 pm

    I took level 4 but Unfortunately I couldn’t make it. My listening was better than vocab and grammar.
    I want to try next level bcoz in USA exam helds only once in a year in Dec. I don’t wanna spend whole year for level 4 again. But I don’t know that I can go for level 3 or not without passing level 4.
    Any suggestions????
    I’ll appreciate.

  • Nidhi January 27, 2016, 9:52 pm

    Hi there !
    I took level 4 in Dec 2015 but unfortunately I couldn’t make it.
    My listening skill was better than vacab and grammar as I have lived in Japan for 5 year.
    Well now I’m thinking to take level 3 this year as in USA exam helds only once in a year (Dec)
    But I don’t know that I can go for level 3 or not without passing N4 as I don’t wanna study for
    N4 for whole year again.
    Any suggestions????
    I’ll appreciate.

  • Shoo January 28, 2016, 11:30 pm

    Hi. I am interested in learning Japanese since a way back due to my interest in anime and japanese games (most probably I am also interested in my school’s Japan summer Programme too) but I did not have the time to do so. Now I’m having my semester break, I was thinking to study at my own pace and probably taking a JLPT N5 exam next year December. Is it possible? Or should I take it the following year instead? I learnt some basic Japanese during my high school days but I haven’t been in touched since years…

    • Clayton MacKnight January 29, 2016, 2:49 pm

      I think it is definitely possible. Some people can pass the N5 in only about 7 months of regular study, so if you have even a small background in Japanese, you should be able to pass within a year.

      • Nidhi January 29, 2016, 3:22 pm

        Hi Mac !
        I took level 4 but Unfortunately I couldn’t make it. My listening was better than vocab and grammar.
        I want to try next level bcoz in USA exam helds only once in a year in Dec. I don’t wanna spend whole year for level 4 again. But I don’t know that I can go for level 3 or not without passing level 4.
        Any suggestions????
        I’ll appreciate.
        I’ll appreciate if you could give me any suggestions

  • Mary April 23, 2016, 7:29 am

    Dear Mac,
    I want to sign up for the JLPT but Im still on the fence about the level. I took practice exams for both tests and in the N4 I did poorly on the kanji, but on the N3 I did poorly on the grammar. My original goal was to take the N3 but now I think I have no chance of passing it? I could buckle down and study hard for the two months before hand, do you think its possible I can actually succeed? Or should I just go for the N4 first and then carry on that way?

    • Clayton MacKnight April 26, 2016, 12:29 am

      If it is your first time taking the test, it is probably best to take the lower level. It all depends on how good of a test taker you are. If you are pretty good at tests, you can try the higher level, but if you generally do poorly on tests, you might want to take some time to refine your test taking skills.

  • Mani July 3, 2016, 7:03 am

    How many questions must be correct to get pass mark in N5 listening section

    • Clayton MacKnight July 3, 2016, 9:19 am

      That all depends on how difficult the test is. It is graded on a curve, so it is a bit difficult to guess how many you need, but if you get about 70% correct in a section it should be considered a pass.

  • mouad July 5, 2016, 9:17 pm

    i will take n4 next december , i can speak japanese little bit , im looking for the right resources for the test ,i’ve tried lot of resources but some of them doesn’t have the right amount of vocabularies , i want a real resource that i can use it alone to study for the jlpt test
    thank you

    • Clayton MacKnight July 6, 2016, 2:27 pm

      There are a lot of great resources to use, but Memrise has a great N4 list if you are looking for vocabulary practice.

      • mouad July 6, 2016, 5:47 pm

        I used memrise about two months ago , but I felt like the learning way is kind of slow for me !!, now im using apps such us : obekyou and ja-sensei !
        thanks clayton-sensei ^^

  • Bagher August 6, 2016, 10:17 am

    Hi Mac thanks for the post
    I did the N2 practice workbook in a somehow similar situation to real test. I got 37% right answers for grammar-vocab section and 61% for listening. I got bored and didn’t do the reading section.
    So how are these scores ? because of complicated scoring system of Jlpt I don’t have any idea that I did a good job or not. Considering the fact that I have 4 months full of immense amount of study ahead, what should I do ? Should I take the N3 or N2?

    • Clayton MacKnight August 9, 2016, 7:14 am

      With those scores, you should try for N3 before N2. The difference between the two tests is pretty big.

      Generally speaking you should be getting 75%+ on all sections of the practice exams in order to pass the test smoothly. You can still try of course.

  • LongNguyen August 24, 2016, 4:54 am

    Hello Mr.Clayton.
    You said above that we could take whatever level we want.
    I have failed N4 by 5 point and I have no intention to re-take it. Instead, I want to take N3 next year. Is it okay if I take the higher level without passing the lower one?
    Thank you so much for all your replies. Have a nice day :>

    • Clayton MacKnight August 24, 2016, 2:33 pm

      I think that is possible with a good year of regular study. 5 points is a bummer though.

  • JPDAVID December 7, 2016, 4:23 am

    I took JLPT N3 and it showed that I failed the listening sections by 1 points even though the reading sections and vocab/grammar is almost near 40 points. Should I still move on to N2 level and improve my listening continually? Or just revise N3 level again? Thanks. 🙂

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:14 pm

      I think that is all up to you. Some people want to completely pass a level before moving on, but the N2 is worth a lot more, so in my opinion I would go for it. Take N2.

  • Erii January 4, 2017, 2:12 am

    Not sure if I should try N4 or not.. Been studying the JLPT practice test, Japanese children’s books, Toshokan masters series for grammar, wanikani for kanji, two Japanese college classes and speaking practice daily. However atm I can pass the N5 JLPT practice test, but I have a feeling I’m going to choke on the listening section, so it’s going to be rough to shoot for N4 in six months

    • Clayton MacKnight January 4, 2017, 9:25 am

      That all depends. If get some regular listening practice in before then with something like japanesepod101, you should be okay. It is not that much of a jump. Same style of questions really, they just involve more vocabulary and some extra grammar points.

  • Malaki A Garrett June 15, 2017, 1:31 pm

    I have no experience with Japanese and I can’t really speak much of it. I would like to take the n4 this year and then the n2 the next year due me wanting to work overseas in 2019. How hard should I study for these tests?

    • Clayton MacKnight July 2, 2017, 11:59 am

      You should probably study every day for around 2-3 hours to be honest. N2 is no joke, you will need to be able to read a pretty good speed in order to pass.

  • Lakshmi February 26, 2018, 8:17 am

    Thank you for the articles and abundant (& useful) information. I am planning on taking N3 this July in India. Hoping I will be able to pass this in my very first attempt. So far, concepts of grammar and Kanji+Vocabulary till N4++ level are mastered (in a way ^^ ). Planning on taking up some challenging reading materials. I do have TRY N3 and Somatome series along with Tanki Master Drill, but I sense that wouldn’t be enough. Do you think I should try another books before I take up this July? Your advise is greatly appreciated. 🙂

    Thank you in advance.

    • Clayton MacKnight March 1, 2018, 3:04 pm

      Well, the Kanzen Master series is pretty good: http://bit.ly/2FdxKqh
      You don’t have to buy the whole series, the grammar book is great, the reading and listening books are good if you need practice in those areas.

  • Wesley Schravendijk July 12, 2019, 6:27 am

    I love this list.
    Great resources for students.

    I would love to reach N1 someday!

  • Shivani January 23, 2020, 5:35 am

    Recently,I am in Japan .To search job In IT company in Japan I need to clear N3. I have given N4 in December 2019 but recently I got result and by 2 marks I missed it.Now I am confused should I give N4 again in July or I should give N3 because my plan was to give N3 in July after clearing N4 and now as I couldn’t clear it by 2 marks (where 3 questions I did wrong even though I knew it correctly) I am confused.I have already started learning N3. syllabus should I stop?

    • Clayton MacKnight February 8, 2020, 10:40 am

      I would say continue on to N3. N4 is good, but not that useful for job-seeking. N3 has a lot of useful language and sets you up for N2 and N1 which are much more valuable.

  • Luther May 25, 2020, 1:31 am

    Hi Clayton, I need your advice.

    My name is Luther and at the moment I am working in Japan as a Software Engineer. I barely passed N2 exam 6 months ago with only 3 marks above the minimum passing grade. I have been
    immersing myself with Japanese culture through game, anime, manga and movie in Japanese since then (I have abandoned textbook but I always search for any grammar or vocab that I don’t understand whenever I encounter them). I realized that N1 level differences with N2 is quite huge and the leap between the level is just more massive than N3 to N2 (which took me 1 year).

    The thing is, my company encourage me to improve my Japanese to be as good as possible but does not necessarily “dictated” me to take JLPT N1. To be honest, they even accepted me as an employee when I only had JLPT N3 certification.

    My question is should I take JLPT N2 this December knowing that I will probably pass the test or should I challenge myself and take JLPT N1?

    • Clayton MacKnight June 4, 2020, 2:11 pm

      It depends on how you feel really. If you can optimistically go into the N1 knowing that you will probably fail and still be okay with that, then I encourage you to do so. If you are someone who really wants to perfect their language skills before moving on, I would recommend taking the N1. Just keep in mind that the amount of time and effort to get from zero to N2 is the same as N2 to N1. So if it took you 3 years to get to N2, it will probably take you 3 years to get from N2 to N1 (on average, in general).

  • Christopher Dittmar June 24, 2020, 2:36 am

    Hello, I was wondering, is there like a standard for where you should be in your Japanese studies before taking the various JLPT levels, especially if using textbook like Genki or Marugoto

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2020, 2:33 pm

      Most books have some kind of JLPT level to them. Minna no Nihongo book 1 generally matches N5, book2 is around N4. Genki book 1 I think is around N5, book 2 is N4. But, you should probably get a grammar book for the level though.

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