July 2013 JLPT – First Reactions

July 2013 JLPT – First Reactions post image
July 2013 JLPT

Yeah! No rain, err, wait, can I have rain please?

It was a bit of a draw this time. I feel like the level of the test was fairly on target this time. Some people say they make the July test a little easier, but I didn’t feel that way at all. It was a fairly well-balanced test all around.

I took the N1 at 京大 (Kyoto University) again, which has to be one of the most poorly organized places to take it. There is one building with 3 wings (that are actually kind of 3 separate buildings), but that isn’t very obvious from the test vouchers. They could, you know, put a sign with a basic map that showed what voucher numbers are being tested where but they seem to prefer to have large numbers of people asking volunteers where their rooms are.

For this test, I set a loose goal of passing the reading section after getting an abysmal 9 for the last two outings. I also wanted to obviously keep up or improve upon my listening, kanji, vocabulary, and grammar score. I can’t really say for sure if I reached that goal, but I tried.

I mostly wanted to take the test as a basic diagnostic of my studying. I’ve been watching a lot of jDramas, reading Japanese blogs, and studying more naturally instead of specifically for the test. I’m really not sure if that helped my score or took away from it. I know my Japanese has improved. I can do a lot more with it, but it’s still not there.

Kanji, Vocabulary, Grammar, and Reading Section

The vocabulary for this round seemed to be a little tougher than usual. I can usually identify about 60% or so of the vocabulary pretty easily, but this time I did a lot of guessing. Maybe I read through the section a little too fast, but it seemed like a lot of the vocabulary was stuff I had never seen before, which is pretty rare.

I tried to speed through grammar pretty quickly to have more time for the reading section. I had the hardest time with the Text Grammar section (the last of the 3 grammar sections). This was mostly cause the topic was pretty bland, talking about a tree at a temple (if I remember correctly). It seemed a little difficult, but mostly because I just couldn’t get into the essay.

I had plenty of time for the reading, which was good. The smaller passages seemed a lot more difficult than usual, but the other passages were a bit easier so it all seemed to average out. The information retrieval (last passage) seemed too easy. It was basically about how to sign up for medical tests. Here’s to hoping that I didn’t make an idiot mistake on that one.


The listening seemed to be dead on to me. Not too difficult, not too easy. As usual, I’m pretty sure I almost got all the questions right for the 1st 2 sections. The 3rd section of the listening (where they don’t give you the question ahead of time) always trips me up. Mostly because, since I don’t know what to listen for, I sometimes lose focus.

The quick response section seemed fairly tricky for some reason. A lot of the answers I had to just go with my gut on what I felt like the answer was. There was the typical 擬音語 (giongo, onomatopoeia word) question as well as some trick intonation and negative questions. Pretty typical stuff, but some of the vocabulary I didn’t quite recognize fast enough.

I can proudly say that I think I have mastered the 5th section though. This is a pretty difficult listening section that pops up on N2 and N1. For all of the questions, you don’t get the question beforehand. You just have to listen to the whole thing and then answer. The first two usually involve somebody selecting something (in today’s test a television) and a shopkeeper lists up all the features of 4 items and then the shopper buys an item based on their preferences.

The last question usually involves one person giving information about 4 choices of some kind and then two people arguing over which one they want to choose. This N1, they were talking about different kinds of watches and the benefits of each one.

This last section just involves good, fast, note-taking, and if you prepare for it, it can be fairly easy. It is also suppose to be worth the most points because it is more involved than other questions.

Biggest Enemy → Focus!

I really could not clear my head for today’s test. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe I just haven’t been getting the sleep that I should this last week, or the 6 day workweeks are finally getting to me. Either case, my concentration really started to fade just about the time I started the reading section. I feel like the longer passages were fairly easy this time, and if I had had more focus I could have pulled off a better score.

Of course the heat didn’t help at all. The insufferable Japanese summer managed to sneak in a couple of days early. It wasn’t too hot, but definitely humid and air conditioning seems to be a precious resource at 京大. I started the test with a nice slimy layer of sweat, never a good thing.

Other Randoms

This time around two students were actually stopped from entering the classroom for the listening section even though they were just about 30 seconds late. The one student managed to talk his way back in, but unfortunately the other one wasn’t able to make it, which is an automatic fail. The break is only 35 minutes (to eat, drink, go to the bathroom and high-tail it back) that also includes the time it takes for them to count the answer sheets too.

The moral of the story is pack something you can inhale and get to the bathroom ASAP, because it might cost you the test.

I guess I should add that this is for Japan, is it like this in other places? Do you only get 35 minutes break between the two testing blocks?

I Want to Hear from You!

How was the test? What level did you take and where? I’m always curious to here about the different testing conditions in other countries. Let me know in the comments.

{ 78 comments… add one }
  • sapna July 7, 2013, 11:54 am

    I think i have done it well in reading section

    In grammer I was a bit overconfident as in the reading section I finished 10 min earlier. So I started rereading the questions . The result was my last three questions were messed up as I did not have any time for them .I blindly marked one answer for them so 12 marks are totally on luck .

    Listening section was easy and I think I did it well.

    Now I am not sure what will happen.
    Whatever will be the result I will prepare for N4 now.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2013, 1:12 pm

      Sounds good to me, I think, for the first couple of tests it is okay to just keep moving if you are confident with the grammar. Do you think you’ll take the N4 this December? It’s definitely possible with some elbow grease.

      • sapna August 6, 2013, 11:41 am

        I think whether I pass it or not I will give N4 as I think that if the result is not good , it will be just because I did not manage my time well. As the comprehensions are my strong part in which I did not do well due to time mismanagement.So I think rather than studying again for n5 I will study for N4 . I think we can give any level irrespective of passing the easier level.

  • John July 7, 2013, 12:30 pm

    Grammar section was awful on the N5

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2013, 1:12 pm

      What was difficult about it? It is mostly particles right? What particles are giving you issues?

      • Can July 7, 2013, 3:03 pm

        I think there was a question like this.

        ________ __________ __________ ________でした。

        1. 150円の
        2. りんごが
        3. 250円
        4. よっつ

        Answer is : 1243

        • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:15 am

          Word order at the level can be tricky. Especially since in the real world you could probably mix up 3 and 4 and still be understood.

  • aozora July 7, 2013, 12:42 pm

    I think the test overall were in line with the general scope of the N1 description. Not too easy not too difficult. Compared to last December’s exam, I must say it is relatively easier. Kanji, vocabulary and grammar were also spot on to what I expected. Listening section is also just right. The reading section, I think, is better than that of last December.

    And now we wait.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2013, 1:14 pm

      Yeah, I think all in all, I pretty balanced test this time around. Did the short passages (the 1st 4 questions of the reading section) give you trouble? For some reason, I tripped over those big time and they should be easy.

  • Sayuri July 7, 2013, 12:46 pm

    Thanks a lot for the post Mac.I was looking forward for your post.
    I took the test from Colombo,Sri Lanka.No complains what so ever with the organizing.
    This is the first time I took N1 (new syllabus) .
    Vocabulary and Kanji were difficult.Except for the巧妙and需要,i kept guessing. As the test started from this section, I started worrying.Grammar section had conversational type which I had to really struggle with.I really don’t know how should I prepare for this sort of questions in the future.Text grammar part was really bland.I cannot agree with you enough.I was struggling to understand the meaning and realized that I am going to screw up my comprehension section if I worry on this too much.No complains on the comprehension section.It was manageable. But like u said, short passages were tough.I had to mark two answers without even reading the questions.Sigh!Should work on fast reading next time.

    Listening section had lot of grammar points (~かたわら)and onomatopoeia words.I lost my focus time to time.But the last two questions on selecting the Flat screen TV and Wrist Watch were piece of cake.

    We had only 20 minutes break in between the tests.But it was not an issue since we had only 19 candidates from our country.:).I really feel for the people who couldn’t complete their exams.:(

    I studied only Shin kanzen Masuta books since that is the only thing I had.I might pass or I might fail this time.But I am going to repeat the exam in December as well.I wanna keep pushing myself and improve my Japanese every day.So I will be very much grateful if you can recommend be some good books and good sources for listening.We don’t have ANY SOURCES available in Sri Lanka for N1 students.We have no choice other than get them ordered from Japan.Since I am preparing for December test from today,your recommendations are very much appreciated.Can’t wait to order the materials from Japan.

    Mac,I was following your posts for a year now.Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences.It really helped me a lot.Wish you all the very best!

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2013, 1:55 pm


      Wow, that sounds like a really unique experience, only 19 students. I think there were somewhere around 100 in the lecture hall I was in and I think somewhere around 600 to 700 taking the N1 at 京大. You are really lucky to have the test in Sri Lanka. The July test isn’t even available in North America.

      I think the Shin Kanzen Masuta (新完全マスター) books are pretty good especially the Grammar book. That book is really tough, even when I go back through the answers I’ll sometimes get a few wrong. It really does a good job of picking out the fine differences between words. The reading book is also good of course, because it offers a lot of explanations, although the business letter samples are way too easy.

      Hmm, you’ve worked your way through the official practice workbook and practice test, too right? Both are free.

      Other than those, I think it is important to just do a lot of reading, and you might have to dig in and read some boring stuff, which is always a little difficult. You can try Lifehacker.jp for something a little light. Or perhaps ほぼ日刊イトイ新聞. It is a bit strangely organized, but there are some interesting things to read about there.

      Also, you can use the old tests for reading materials. It really depends on what you are weak at. Most people at this level need reading speed and comprehension, which means doing a lot of reading.

      Good luck with your studies! And let me know if you have anymore questions.

  • Hannah July 7, 2013, 1:17 pm

    Your reaction sounds an awful lot like mine! Even the test site. The rooms at least were comfortable this time, but you have to take a bus to get there, and after the 30 minute wait to board and a run to the campus, I was covered in sweat and made it with just four minutes to spare. I feel bad for the people who were a few bus loads further down the line. 🙁

    I’ve been doing way more kanji/vocab/grammar exercises and drills lately than is healthy, but feel pretty strong in that section, like I can get a good passing grade and do it fast. But things didn’t go so smoothly. I did a little searching after, and think I got 50% or less on kanji and vocab. Grammar is my strongest point, and the first few sections weren’t so bad, I think I got all the rearrange-the-sentence questions right. But that last part was killer. The grammar in a reading always was a weakness for me, but I’d hoped I would do better. :/

    Reading was rougher than I expected. I screwed up the end time and was too slow, and ended up filling in the last question just as they told us to stop. Luckily I think it was right. lol Really not sure how it will end up. If I’m lucky, I could pass N1, if I’m unlucky then I might not even pass this section. :/

    Listening was much easier for me this time, but I was in better shape at that point than in December. ^^;;

    Overall I think I’m 50/50. Not -too- bummed, but I really wanted to feel confident so I can just move on from JLPT-focused studies. Woulda been nice if they had just used the research test they administered last month though. It was so much easier! haha

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2013, 2:35 pm

      Overall, sounds pretty good. I do agree the listening seemed a lot easier than the last test. Too bad you had to run in and take the test. At least I can walk to the test site from the station so I can get there earlier and double-check everything.

      Now it’s just time to cross our fingers and hope for the best. Did you sign up online to get your results early?

      • Hannah July 11, 2013, 2:45 am

        Yep! The waits already long enough, don’t want to wait that extra few days waiting on the mail.
        Here’s hoping we’re all happy come early-September!

  • Hilary July 7, 2013, 1:22 pm

    I wrote N3 in Sapporo and it was 33C and the room was probably around 36C. It was awful and when it started to cool off and the wind picked up, it was time for the listening and they had to close the windows.

    I studied and I tried, but, I’m pretty sure I failed again. 🙁
    The reading section kicked me and it was very hard to concentrate at times during the listening because it was so hot.

    I think it’s N3 in December again for me….

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2013, 2:39 pm

      What?!? 33C in Sapporo! Wow, this heatwave is crazy. It was 35C here, but that is expected for Kyoto. I always heard Sapporo is nice and cool in summer.

      And they didn’t have air conditioning? Well, I guess it’s best to take it in December. At the very least you can wear a heavy jacket 🙂

      I hope you passed though! Fingers crossed.

  • saranya July 7, 2013, 1:32 pm

    I took N5 today….
    Vocabulary, Reading and Grammar were quite easy, but Listening …..although the surroundings were quiet the room had bad acoustics so the sound was echoing a bit and I had to strain my ears a lot and guess the answers for some…..and when it was finally over I was unable to decide whether I did it well or not!! 🙁
    Hopefully I will take N4 this December….
    Thank You Mac…your posts on particles helped a lot to nail them correctly!

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:18 am

      yeah, sometimes it is those little things that make you lose your concentration. I try to take at least one practice test with my cheap CD player in my family room with terrible acoustics just to get used to it a little bit.

      Do you usually do your listening with headphones and an audio player? (iPod, Android thingy)

  • Can July 7, 2013, 1:35 pm


    Hope everything went well… 2 Keigo questions heh…
    Doesn’t seem that ez… =/

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:20 am

      Yeah, keigo always makes me confused. I hardly use it, just read it a lot. It doesn’t seem to pop up in too many TV shows either (that I can find).

  • Mitchell July 7, 2013, 2:05 pm

    Great wrap up of the test!! I took N1 too so it all relates.

    This was my first time taking the test in Japan (currently on exchange at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo), but took the test at Tokyo Electro-communications University (電気通信大学) as did MANY MANY MANY other people. I’m from Australia, and the processes are A LOT less formal back there. I kind of wasn’t used to it. For example, they pretty much call you back in for the listening section so that nobody can really miss it.

    After passing N2 back in December in Australia, I thought, “why the hell not?!?” and applied for the N1 in July. In Australia, we can’t do the July test, so it was kind of new to me! Still though, like any JLPT test, I tried to be as prepared as I could for it.

    The Kanji and vocab: I feel kind of the same as you. I only recognised about 50-60% of the vocab; the rest were just guesses (which hopefully some of them paid off.) The grammar, I felt pretty confident about, but again, like yourself, I could really not get into the essay about the leaves falling form the tree. I sort of just picked what sounded natural in my head at a quick guess, but hopefully at least a couple of them will pay off. The reading, much like my N2 in December, not sure how it will turn out. I agree that the shorter passages were pretty hard. The first one about what the author considered to be love – the last 2 options for the question were so insanely similar I just guessed because I could barely differentiate.

    The listening, however, I felt went really well. Like you, I’m pretty sure the first 2 lots of questions I didn’t get anything wrong. I really loved the one about the environmental club at the university and getting the poor boy to raid lectures and tell people to stop littering. Pretty much everyone in the room I was in, was giggling a little bit. Also, one of the quick response questions, about the girls 報告書, and that it was pretty bad overall, and the first option was: thank you for your praise. Even the supervisors were really trying hard to not laugh at that. But overall, I think I did well here. I got all of Mondai 5 correct; I know that for certain. And if what you say is correct, that’s really boosted my listening score.

    Overall, I’m sort of on the fence. If feel I’ll either JUST pass or JUST fail. Hopefully the former, of course. Hope you did well, too. It’s not something I really want to have to take again but I guess we’ll find out at the end of next month.

    As a random note from me, a girl in my room got a red card right at the end of the first test. They had said “pencils down” and had started collecting answer sheets, and one girl was still writing. They asked her to stop 2 or 3 times, and she didn’t. So, she got the red card – well deserved in my opinion. At first, I wasn’t sure if she’d been officially red card’ed; but, they did put one of the answer sheets in a separate pile, AND, she also was not present for the listening section – thererfore, I’d say she did score the dreaded red card. Still though, serves her right in my opinion.

    • Mitchell July 7, 2013, 2:08 pm

      Correction: the processes are a lot more formal in Japan. My brain is clearly fried from N1, hehe.

      • Can July 7, 2013, 3:04 pm


        1、存じます    2、うけたまわります  3、あずかります  4、頂戴します

        • iwano0 July 7, 2013, 3:38 pm


          bam! felt like i nailed the VERY short 敬語 section… 就活活動 helps!

        • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:31 am

          I think I managed to pull that one off. It was 1 right? 存じます? But, only from feeling and not actually knowing the rules behind it. 🙂

          • Can July 8, 2013, 3:07 pm


    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:26 am

      I think some people in Japan need the N1 in order to get jobs or in some special cases qualify for a visa, so I can see where they might get a little desperate to pass the exam. I’ve heard of one student that graduated from 京大 but had to go back to Korea because she didn’t get her N1 in time.

      When she did take it, she got 満点! Kind of sad that she still had to leave.

      Anyway, thanks for the recap, let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.

  • Jperb July 7, 2013, 2:34 pm

    Took N5 for the first time at Kokushikan Univ. in Tokyo. Amazing how many people there were. Several different rooms just for N5, and there were other levels as well. As someone else said, it was very formal (the instructions were in more advanced Japanese than the exam). The listening section was my big worry, and that was a bit easier than expected. The reading/grammar section was tight on time but otherwise manageable, and the vocabulary a bit easier than expected (of course, they threw in a few things that left me wondering, this is N5?). The long reading sections were really quite long for the easiest level, and the potential answers were surprisingly subtle. Thrilled of course to be done, thanks for the recap, Mac!

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:13 am

      Yeah, I remember that too. When I took the old N4 (三級) I was amazed that all the instructions are in Japanese. But in Japan, I guess they don’t really have a choice. Can’t really give instructions in 3 or 4 languages. Sounds like you came prepared though.

      The subtle reading answers will haunt you all the way to the highest level. I hope you get good results. Did you register online?

      • Jperb July 11, 2013, 5:36 pm

        Well, I thought I was prepared, until I realized that the pencils I brought did not have erasers; fortunately one of the proctors let me borrow one.
        Thanks for the warning regarding the long reading sections, I thought it was just me! I did register online.
        From the comments here, it appears that my test location was ideal; the proctors and set-up was well organized, air-conditioned, there was a wall clock, the listening section was plenty loud enough, and the University was a fairly easy walk from the train stations. Good to know this may not always be the case.
        I actually felt that the test was a challenging but reasonable test of language proficiency for the level. I may not feel that way at level N1 or 2 of course (and kudos to all of you who have reached that level).

        • Clayton MacKnight July 15, 2013, 9:51 am

          Wow, in Japan that is a little rare (at least in my experience). Here’s to hoping you get the same test site again!

  • Ridi July 7, 2013, 5:33 pm

    Hi Clayton and everybody reading!
    First of all, big thanks to you for always giving nice pieces of advice, and always having a positive attitude in your blog 🙂

    I just took the N3 in Edinburgh (I actually live in Sweden but Sweden does not have the JLPT at all, and the July test is not done anywhere else in Scandinavia so I decided to make a small weekend trip out of this test 😉 )

    The organization here was brilliant. Great rooms (although a bit hot inside due to insanely hot temperatures for that part of the world where air conditioning is usually never needed), very few people (about 15 persons for the N3, probably the same for the other levels), and everything on the clock.

    The test was an ass-kicker for me, as the reading part completely put me off track. No time to properly read and understand, stress building up, I was just not trained well enough, I really felt it. I will focus on reading from now on, there won’t be a day where I am not reading something in Japanese, at the right level (thanks for the sites you recommended in a previous answer).

    The Kanji / language part was hard, but just as it should be. The same for the listening part, although I felt that the part without any answer was a bit too hard. There is just no possibility to hesitate or lose focus, not even for one second. I thought it was a bit too harsh, but that’s the way it is 😉

    So I will start regrouping for the N3 in December! Even though I miraculously pass, I just know I don’t really have the proper knowledge, so I owe it to myself 🙂

    • Paul July 8, 2013, 5:28 pm

      Wow that’s quite a trip just for an exam!

      I took N4 in Edinburgh and had much the same experience. Likewise I’m going to sign up for N4 December regardless of passing as there were just too many questions I had to guess….

      London next time though (a bit closer)

    • Clayton MacKnight July 9, 2013, 2:48 pm


      Normally in a test taking situation like this, when people take a test for the first time, they generally score lower (based on TOEIC scores I’ve seen). Then, after the first test, test-takers tend to do much better. The theory is that you feel more relaxed and ready since you know what to expect.

      That listening section where they don’t give you the question beforehand is pretty freaky at first. I remember when I walked into the test (thinking it was the old format) and freaked a little when I encountered those. But, they get pretty easy after a little practice because you learn to predict what they are going to ask about.

      Just practice with some practice tests, the free workbook, and other resources like the So-Matome Listening book and you should be fine.

  • Isaura July 7, 2013, 6:38 pm

    Dear Can, watashi ni totte wa 4. (choudaishimasu)(getting, being given) ga seitou desu.

    Dear Mac, kekka wa tomokaku, otsukaresama deshita!:)) Atsukutetamaranakattasou desu ne! Watashi wa danryuu ni totemo yowai de, tatta dantou de tsukareteiteshouganakunaru hodo desu:))

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:39 am


  • Paul July 7, 2013, 8:26 pm

    Even here in Edinburgh it was 25 degrees (and that was before they closed the windows)! Much cooler than some places though so I won’t complain too much 😉

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:41 am

      Does it every get above 30 in Edinburgh? I was there in April and it was nice and cool. Beautiful castle, too.

      • Paul July 8, 2013, 5:49 pm

        I don’t think it’s supposed too! But with a heat wave and some big windows seems it’s possible!

        You mentioned above about struggling with focus during the exam. I kind of had the same thing. I thought the pressure of the situation would help me focus, but it didn’t seem to work that way. I’m wondering about doing a mini warm-up test a couple of hours before next time. Maybe just a handful of questions from the practice test, that would get my head in the right place (without wearing it out). What do you think?

        • Clayton MacKnight July 9, 2013, 2:54 pm

          Mmm, there are a couple of theories as to what you can do. It really depends on what kind of person you are. Personally, I veg out a little before the test, and then maybe do some light reading the day of the exam.

          But, outside of the big test day. I try to just listen and read as much as I can for as long as I can, even if I’m falling asleep on the train. Meditation is also said to help for language learning, too. I tend to do some meditation in the morning every once in awhile when I have time.

          I’m a bit more scattered brained these days because I have a one year old that likes to get into trouble. She completely destroys any focus I have. 🙂

  • tsutomu July 7, 2013, 10:39 pm

    hello !

    Well, I took the N2 exam, as my first attempt at JLPT. Been in Japan for a couple of years, household back home is half Jap, so in all technicality, my Japanese education although below the national standard, seems to be akin to that of any foreign university standard.

    I had bolted through Vocab in 15 minutes, and steadily made my way through grammer. I actually panicked when i realized i had only 1hr left for comprehension.. i barely had 1 minute left.

    Stickly speaking listening, question 1 ~ 2, 4 was easy (been living in a homestay), 3 and 5 was.. an utter disaster. Passages that have no pillars of support aside from strict, succinct, and focused note taking, which i had not exactly prepared for..

    As I have not taken any other JLPT standard exam prior to this exam, I cant exactly comment on a comparative basis.

    A total assumption, but I think I`ll pass. I did answer all questions..

    I guess the most important thing, that I had learnt from this experience.. is not to limit studying materials. N2 is diverse, and from what I can assume, N1 is even more diverse. Although there is limited cultural aspects within the exam itself, contextually, there are issues that are prevelant to Japanese culture.. which only reinforces the notion that one must not learn japanese, but breath it, think it, assess it, grasp it.. and i guess live it.

    As Nelson Mandela would say..

    If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 9, 2013, 2:59 pm

      Exactly, there is a wide variety of material that goes on the test from the interesting to the quirky. N1 has a lot of abstract essays that sometimes take a little bit of an understanding of the ‘Japanese mind’ to understand clearly. You also really need to know vocabulary well, not just the meaning, but connotations, idioms, etc…

      That’s why, I think, a lot of people taking the N1 will tell you that it all comes down to what happens to be on the test matching up with what they happen to have read. I’m starting to feel that myself. I need to read more diverse materials in order to be able to comprehend things at a good pace. Right now it takes a little time for things to click sometimes.

      • tsutomu July 9, 2013, 11:13 pm

        Certainly. What i do is talk to lots of people.. in a variety of fields. Of course in the first instance, formality is a tough nut to crack, but, gradually the conversations become more immersed in intellectual thought.. driving up the idioms, connotations, jargons used.

        As an examinee, the key is to attempt to think like the examiner.. what topics, or rubric should we use, that would be limited (non-cultural), that can be comparative to an international issue.. and from what i can see.. from my first attempt, this is the case.

        Abstract, certainly.. but the silver lining is that perhaps the examiners expect the examinee to have, an understanding such issues.. i.e. a diverse issue. Ecological, environment, demographic, socio-economic.. etc.

        • Clayton MacKnight July 15, 2013, 9:42 am

          Sounds like a great way to approach it. Thanks for the different perspective on it. I guess I ‘know’ that, but I hadn’t thought of it that way. If that makes sense.

  • Janice July 8, 2013, 12:16 am

    I took the N3 yesterday in the hinterlands of Tokyo–three trains to get there and a twenty minute walk from the station. It was so hot I thought for sure someone would pass out walking to the test site. Incredibly there were no buses or taxis! At the vast university there was not a single sign indicating where to go for the test! There was a very hidden reception office and after a few people asked for directions they were followed en mass. It was still another ten minute walk through the campus. At the entrance there were two people handing out what I assumed were much-needed maps but it turns out they were falong gon protesters handing out brochures against China.

    Finally we found a few buildings with volunteers. I totally agree, it seems like they just want you to ask the volunteers.

    I actually thought the classroom was too chilly and the air con was a bit loud but after reading other comments I guess that is much better than being too hot!

    The test was exactly as I expected–challenging but I hope passable! My teacher really prepared me well and her advice was no matter what, answer every question.

    My only complaint besides the total lack of signage is that there was no wall clock and the test monitors didn’t write actual start and finish times on the board which would have been very helpful, ie to ensure everyone’s watches were in synch. For the first part of test I think we were ripped off by a precious couple of minutes as checking photos and handing out papers took so long. I took the test ten years ago and they wrote the time on the board. Anyway now I’ll resume studying in a more natural way too. I hope everyone passes!

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2013, 5:48 am

      Yeah, it seems really strange that they don’t have a posted clock in Japan. All the testing sites I’ve been to, didn’t have a clock of any kind. I kind of remember when I took the 三級, a million years ago that they gave a 5 minute warning at least. Now, I always bring my handy Daiso wristwatch with me. It is not even remotely close to the real time and I have since forgotten how to reset it, but it works for the test. 🙂

      Where I took the N3 (about 2 years ago) they had pretty clear signs. I just think some universities have no idea how to organize something like that.

      I hope we passed!

  • Ken July 8, 2013, 1:07 am


    I took N3 yesterday and it was my first JLPT. It was really inconvenient as there were no signs around the building, only classroom number markers. I didn’t realize at first that we had to take our test slips with us into the class and wait. I assumed there would be a main check in of some sort.

    The test proctors were very strict and followed the rules exactly. There was nothing on our desks expect pencils and erasers. The guy in front of me got a yellow card because his watch beeped on the hour during the reading section. A watch is necessary for this exam, but make sure it doesn’t make any sound! I was later told to make sure my watch wouldn’t beep during the listening test. So I took it off and put it in my bag (you don’t need a watch for this section).

    Despite the proctors being so strict, they did nothing about the people from N4/N5 (who finished early) making noise while all other levels were doing the listening test. They also set the speakers at a level that was just barely audible.

    This was my first JLPT, but the exam was just like the mock exams I used. The content was different, but the style was pretty much the same. I feel confident that I should get a passing grade. I’m going to start building my N2 SRS today.

  • Gigoutou July 8, 2013, 1:53 am

    I took the N1 yesterday at Kôbe University.
    As you said, I thought this test was really well balanced.
    For example, in the vocabulary section, there were difficult words to me (憩い、跡地) but also easy ones (愚か、巧妙、需要、緩和). Well, When I say “easy”, I mean words that figured in pasts tests.
    I can also remember of おおむね、従来.
    仰天 was really difficult, It’s hardly impossible to guess the meaning with only the kanji (びっくりする、驚く). I chose “とても喜んだ”, ah ah.

    Then, the grammar section was not too difficult no too easy. The text about the tree was not that easy but you don’t have to understand all in details to answer the questions anyway.

    The reading part… hmmm… The firsts questions was the hardest ones to me, about the small texts. I think It’s because I was a little nervous, I couldn’t focus like I use to do at home.
    But I could reach to finish the test in time, which is the most important to me ^^

    The listening part was easier thant I expected. I think It’s because I have been working in a japanese hotel since january. The most difficult section to me was the one you have to choose between 3 answers. If you don’t know the vocabulary, It’s difficult to guess because it’s too short. But you can also infer from the emotions and the ambience.
    For example, There was a man talking about his interview for a job. He seemed a bit angry, so I guessed he had failed his interview. So, the answer couldn’t be “よかったね”. Ah ah.

    Overall I think I passed it. Maybe 70%. Let’s wait until the end of august ^^

    Ps : Sorry, I’m a french man, my english is a little strange I guess. T_T

  • Afrin July 8, 2013, 5:36 am

    Hello Mac,

    First of all thank you soooo much for the valuable information..It has been very inspiring.

    I am Afrin from India..I gave my N1 test here,last year I appeared for it from Chiba,Japan for some reason I missed makin for it by THREE MARKS.

    Talking about yesterday test. Well well well for me it was a total disaster.I thought I was well prepared for moji goi,but i realised that I wasnt when I saw the questions. As you said,i hadnt even seen a few of those words ever,bunpou seemed to be so vague,it was not limited to N1 grammar pattern. In dokkai the tanbun was way more difficult,infact I did not have enough time to read and answer the last choubun. And choukai..the first half was pretty easy,i guess I managed it,but the part where the questions are not mentioned before in that u dont know what to focus on.

    Overall a tough a really tough exam,
    This is what N1 is about,the third attempt was a disaster. I am going to study for the december attempt right away.

    Please continue with the good work you are doing. It is genuinely of great help.


  • sayuri July 8, 2013, 8:48 am

    Thank you for the recommendations.I think my strongest point is comprehension and would love to read.I don’t have much listening sources though.I should really improve my vocabulary and Kanji.

    I did the official practice tests.I couldn’t find the practice work book though.
    There were set of recommended books for each level and they were not for free.

    Thank you!

  • Caroline July 8, 2013, 9:28 am

    I took the N5 exam yesterday.
    So the first part (vocabulary) was really easy for me, I didn’t have any problems.
    The second part (grammar and reading) confused me a little bit, I guess I had some problems with grammar.
    And the listening part was really easy, although there were some more difficult exercises.

    I hope I will pass the exam!

  • Lucy July 9, 2013, 4:25 am

    I took the N4 exam, the vocabulary was a bit of a problem but grammar&reading and listening part was easy, Although when I double check my answers that I was not sure of, I spent some time thinking and change the answers to a couple of them. Then when I got home I realize that I had selected the correct answer the first time around. So I’m pretty sure I lost at least two questions for the grammar part.

    Also I’m surprise you have a 35 minutes break, here in Singapore the break was only 20 minutes and the line for the bathroom is really long. So I actually skipped the bathroom break in favour of eating after the 2nd test.

  • mahendra July 9, 2013, 7:05 am

    I took JLPT N2 here in Pune (India). Last December I passed N3 so I thought to take a chance and appear for N2 as a preparatory test not proficiency test. After the test I think I have to do a lot of study now as N2 is far ahead in difficulty from N5 to N3.
    I could not attempt all the questions in first test because my reading speed is very low. kanji and reading comprehension makes me slow…….That I need to really take care of ……… (due to that last 5 to 6 answers were only throwing arrows in the empty sky)
    Comparatively listening section was easy but confused me in the last question where we have to answer two questions simultaneously …….I think answer were going to kaimono on first day and watching dvd on the next day …….fingers crossed………….
    Other things like number of candidates appearing for this july test were less compared to last December exam. Arrangements made by JALTAP to conduct JLPT every year in Pune are really appreciable…………
    I really appreciate your blog work to keep motivating the Japanese language students……. 🙂

  • Victoria July 9, 2013, 4:20 pm

    Took N2 at Todai Komaba campus. Got to the station half hour before the room opened to allow plenty of time in case of train problems, to discover there’s almost nothing there. I mean, there’s stuff, but it was a 5-10 minute walk from the advised exit all the way around the station to get to the nearest 7-11. JEES hadn’t arranged any space for people to wait, so several hundred people sat in midday heat. When the building did open, there were only two toilet cubicles for women. I joined the queue at about 12.10, and was one of the last ones to get into the test hall before 12.30. The hall itself was in surprisingly poor repair. The air-conditioning was set to 27, but the actual temperature was 29 because the wind speed was set to low. The proctor demonstrated her professionalism by wearing a playboy t-shirt.

    I couldn’t really think about anything for the first fifteen minutes of the test, because my mind was just registering “HOT”. Several people were using the answer sheets as fans. I’d taken off my shoes and was starting to wonder what would happen to candidates who passed out during the test when one of the assistants turned up the air speed.

    I don’t know why, but compared to the other exams I’ve been sitting since January (which are just as formal, and almost exactly the same format) this time around I felt much more acutely aware of being the disempowered other. The whole thing had a slightly “Immigration Center” feel about it; everyone in that room had paid good money (more than the non JLPT tests), and now they were being subject to several hours in uncomfortable conditions with no recourse but unapproachable administrators in whose hands success or failure rested, with all the implications that must have held for many candidates. It was an ordeal, and so little effort had been made to consider the experience of candidates that it felt as though it was intended to be that way.

    The test itself seemed as difficult as I’d thought it would be, but I stuck to my plan of spending just under half time on the reading (first), then the rest on the other half of the paper (grammar/vocab etc) and the last few minutes filling in what I could. We did at least have a generous 50 minute break. The listening was slightly more difficult than I’d thought it might be, although again I think my main problem with this exam is vocabulary (and kanji) which would impact listening as well.

    Overall, it seemed there is still a really substantial gap between N3 and N2 (god knows what it must have been like before the change, if it has been improved). N2 probably is a valuable measure for reading, vocabulary and kanji knowledge if you regularly work with dry, awkwardly written documents, but the material seemed quite divorced from anything I’ve encountered in over four years of daily life here in Japan (including working in an office with almost all native Japanese speakers). I think if you’ve passed N2 it probably is enough for most things (which echoes what I’ve heard from many people who have succeeded here with 2-kyu and “real” Japanese fluency).

    In summary, I felt the money I had paid to JEES had not been well spent, and that they were more interested in maintaining a barrier to people trying to achieve a qualification needed for employment than in getting a fair measure of language capability. That said, and as much as I resent perpetuating that system, I probably need the pass and will have to keep re-attempting until I succeed. From now on I’m going to work towards raising my score in the J.TEST, though, and try to only take the JLPT as few times as necessary when I’m fairly confident that I can get the pass.

    • Victoria July 11, 2013, 1:06 am

      Sorry Clayton, I probably shouldn’t have posted such a long and negative rant here in your comments section. This year’s study has been a long slog and while I walked into the exam room this time already knowing I’d have to take the test again, it troubled me that on another occasion those kind of test conditions could make a difference to whether or not I get a result I really need. Still, that’s something I need to think about. The comment box on your blog post probably wasn’t the best place to vent/decompress!! 御許しいください m(_ _)m

      • Clayton MacKnight July 15, 2013, 9:44 am

        We’ve all been there, there have been times where I’ve been tempted to just throw all my books out and take up Karate instead, but these let downs usually just drive me to work harder or better yet, smarter.

        Good luck!

    • Clayton MacKnight July 15, 2013, 9:40 am


      Definitely sounds like an ordeal. Sorry for the late reply, I had a few fires to put out last week, so I’ve been a little late getting back to everyone.

      Anyway, I agree that they really need to set some standards as to how the test is administered. Especially since they seem to be pretty strict with it (like checking our faces? for each section), but don’t carry through on the environment side of things.

      I have to say that N2 is all you really need to say become a translator or just function at a job in Japan. N1 is good boost though. I’ve found it really helps with some harder translation pieces I’ve worked through recently. N1 is just good on a resume, because Japanese employers (even if they don’t know what the test is) will recognize you for studying your butt off and passing.

      If you are reading some heavier novels or philosophy or something like that N2 comes in handy for that, but conversationally, you are only going to use about N4 grammar. Of course you will use a lot more vocabulary than N4 does, but you can pick that up ‘along the way’ so to speak.

      Anyway, I hope next test is a better experience. Good luck!

  • John July 18, 2013, 1:34 pm

    I took N1 in Sapporo where we were shunted off miles from nowhere to Tokai University. It was very hot during the whole test and they didn’t seem to be using any air conditioning. Considering this is a private university, air conditioning must exist but they didn’t bother to use it. Very poor I think, they just didn’t care or they wanted to save electricity costs?? I was sweating the whole time and drips of sweat found their way onto my answer card from time to time! This is no way to be doing a test. I was only doing N1 for fun and if I had known about the conditions, I certainly would not have bothered.

    Having lived in Japan for 20 years, the listening test was extremely easy as you would expect.
    The vocabulary and grammar sections were reasonable. But the reading section was ridiculous. So many boring, uninspiring and obscure passages you have to wade through in so little time.

    The N1 test is a very poor test in my opinion. Throw out all the useless obscure grammar and most of the reading passages and bring in a conversation test. Without a conversation test, it’s very second rate at best. What’s the point of it?

    • Clayton MacKnight July 19, 2013, 12:40 am

      yeah, I admit the reading passages were real snores this time around, but I guess the point is that if you can deal with those, you can deal with anything in the real world.

      I do wish there were a speaking test of some kind. I’m sure one will pop up sooner or later. The TOEIC now has a speaking and writing test, maybe JLPT will follow suit. Of course, TOEIC charges 1万 for it though! Yikes.

  • Sanjay July 19, 2013, 3:17 am

    I took the Test in Mumbai, India. My 4th attempt at N2, listening is a bit challenging especially the 5 part as you said, comprehension also requires a lot of focus a little distraction and I loose track. Missed out by a whisker the last time but not sure this time as well …. on a wing and a prayer.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 22, 2013, 2:03 am

      How is the test in Mumbai? Do you get a lot of breaks?

      The JLPT seems to be really popular in India, especially since they offer both tests.

      • Sanjay July 26, 2013, 1:26 am

        No more breaks just one before listening part, Yes JLPT is popular here, but as we go higher level the number decreases rapidly.

  • Andrew July 20, 2013, 8:25 am


    I did not take the exam because of work and plan on taking the winter N1 this December. Out of curiosity what were any words on the N1 that you all can remember that were difficult and tripped you up? Thanks !

    • Clayton MacKnight July 22, 2013, 2:04 am

      I can only remember the ones I got right at the moment. What paid off for me with vocabulary this time is just being familiar with kanji and its different meanings.

  • Paps August 17, 2013, 4:11 am

    Hi Mac,

    While searching for JLPT related information I came across your posts. I appreciate your guidance on JLPT exams.
    I appeared for N1 this July it was too hot even though the AC’s were on here in Tokyo. I passed 2 kyu in 2005 and never thought I will appear for first level in my life but for some reason I appeared this year. I found the test quite balanced. Kanji section was really tough for me and it was even difficult to guess, but Vocabulary and grammar was ok and I am more confident in grammar section. Reading section was ok though I had to read few small paragraphs again and again to understand what exactly the writer wanted to say. I think I got 17-18 questions correct in that section, not sure on the rest.
    Listening too was ok though I lost my concentration few times. Not sure on the result, waiting desperately for last week of August to come.

    • Clayton MacKnight August 26, 2013, 12:03 am

      yeah, I lose focus way too easily in hot weather for reading and listening. If you registered online, the results will be posted tomorrow, or more specifically shortly after midnight tonight. I’m pretty sure I didn’t pass, but hoping for an improved reading score. Just a few more hours.

  • sapna August 19, 2013, 10:09 am


    Anybody having clue when the results will be out. In India somebody told me on 20th of August ie tomorrow. Plz. let me know if somebody has any latest info. Thanks in advance.

  • Mayur December 1, 2013, 1:01 pm

    It made wonderful reading comments posted here. Today (Dec 1) was my 3rd attempt at the N2, but in reality, the first attempt last december was ‘just because I passed N3 in July’.

    I am in Japan for about 9 months now, studying. I must say that overall I found the July exam (or less scary to start with) than this one. On the other hand, now that I can read fairly fast, more, and understand a fair bit too, the dokkai was interesting. In these situations, sometimes I have to remind myself that ‘I am reading to answer questions, and not because it is interesting.’

    Anyway what I understand based on the new pattern (have passed old level 4, N4, N3, attempted N2 thrice now) is that the N2 has a vast and a very diverse scope. One of the jokes I make is, take a hundred mogi-shiken books, a hundred preparatory books, read everything – vocabulary, grammar, kanji etc – but the JEES will still put questions in the next N2 exam from ‘the hundred and first book’ (that you have not read).

    Last time, the ‘new format of passing’ cost me the N2. I had passing marks or more overall, and in two sections. the third (reading) i missed by 1 mark.

    This time, the choukai was great as usual, the dokkai was interesting and kinda nice, the grammar section was the hard one~

    Cheers, and I am gonna follow this site more often now onwards 🙂

    • Mayur December 1, 2013, 1:02 pm

      err, sorry to have posted this under July 2013 jlpt first reactions.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 2, 2013, 11:19 pm

      Sounds like you made it this time. 1 point is extremely painful. It’s encouraging to hear that you were able to really enjoy it this time around. There were a lot of folks that actually said the opposite – that it was a bit boring and difficult.

      I hope you passed and you can move on to the next level.

  • Afrin December 3, 2013, 7:17 am

    Hey Mac,

    How have you been. Did you take the test this time, I remember reading that you were gona be busy shifting. Well I took the N1 test again here in Pune, India. the Moji goi was pretty difficult, and dokkai was boring a few of them were interesting but I could barely concentrate. Listening was easy this time, may be because I practiced a lot. every time I take the N1, no matter how much of effort I put in they always come up with something new. ehhhh..

    I am just hoping that I get through this time.

  • MrMackerel December 3, 2013, 7:59 pm

    Anyone else take the Dec2013 N2? I did well on the mock tests and study info I got from the JLPT site, but the real test totally blew me away. It was far harder.

    • Kenty March 25, 2014, 7:53 pm

      Me! It was my first time taking JLPT but I skipped to N2 already. I’ve been self learning since mid 2009 (by watching drama,shows,etc) so I was wondering if I should take N3 or N2 at first but then decided on N2. I think I did well for it given that I did not studied for it properly with books. I scored 137/180 , 38/60 for the reading but I was expecting to do better for it since I understood 95% of the passages. Still very pleased with my results though! 🙂 How did you do?

      • Mrmackerel March 27, 2014, 6:12 pm

        I ended up acing it, but don’t ask me how. I thought for sure I was going to fail. From fail to ace just doesn’t make sense.

  • Mrmackerel March 27, 2014, 6:12 pm

    I ended up acing it, but don’t ask me how. I thought for sure I was going to fail. From fail to ace just doesn’t make sense.

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