July 2014 JLPT N1 First Reactions

July 2014 JLPT N1 First Reactions post image

I always enjoy my twice a year journey to Kyoto University. It’s a pretty big campus and has some unique buildings on it. Although the buildings are all named almost the same thing on the Yoshida campus, where the hold the test, it is generally a nice facility as long as it is not extremely hot or cold outside. And today was almost perfect temperature-wise. The rain at the end was a bit of a bummer though. Especially since I totally forgot to bring umbrella, despite the fact that it almost always rains when I take the test.

I noticed some of the testing process has changed a bit. Kyodai (Kyoto University) was sporting some hastily made signs this time, which is huge improvement over the lack of any signage at all like previous tests. They also made us put our cell phones in envelopes this time. Normally, we just have to switch them off and throw them in our bag, but this time we had switch them off then stick them in these plain envelopes, fold over the end and set them on the desk. I’m not sure how much more efficient this is at catching cheaters, but whatever.

I also had an bumbling, over-eager proctor this time around. Whenever someone was doing something even remotely against the rules he would run hurriedly to the front and whip out his trusty yellow card (a warning, two of them and you are out of the test). Then, he would mischievously laugh to himself and mutter something like ‘もったいない’. He even stopped to get my attention in the middle of the test to ‘shhh’ me for some mysterious noise I must have created.

As usual, there were no clocks anywhere to be seen. Still not sure why this is. They even cover the temperature controls with a pink sheet. Are they afraid we are going to get answers off the thermostat or something? Anyway, what about the content?

Vocabulary and Grammar

I felt that these were pretty much what I expected. Everything was just about at the level it should be. I especially loved the text grammar questions at the end. It was about fairly approachable topic of telling stories to kids. Sometimes that section can be a huge bore. I think I did better with vocab and grammar this time. There were a lot more, ‘oh, I’ve seen that before’ moments compared to other tests. Did I get those questions wrong or right? Well, I’m really not sure.


Reading was right on target too. Although, I must have been starting to lose focus at this stage because there were a few articles that I read. I understood the vocabulary and the grammar, but I couldn’t get an overall picture of what was going on with it. The vertical reading passage, where the writing is written like a newspaper or novel, was tough to get through. It was really figurative and just had a hard time organize that information when it was written in columns like that.

I was glad to see business letter on the exam. The one question I can answer easily from experience. The fourth to last reading passage really tested my concentration though. For some reason, I could not really understand the first two paragraphs. It was something about new technology and communication and how we are interconnected now. I could understand the words, and kind of the grammar, but the whole picture was just really cloudy.

The reading where you have to compare two passages (third from the end) should have been easy. It was about reading manga. But, for the life of me, I had a hard time fishing out the main points of the two passages. I had just end of guessing out of elimination, which made me feel kind of dumb.


Speaking of feeling dumb, I think I bombed listening. Why? Well, I’m not sure. The only thing I can think of is, is that I didn’t spend really anytime with listening drilling at all. I spent almost all of my time reading, mastering grammar, and pumping up my vocab this time around. I did start watching more jDramas, but I’m pretty sure that didn’t help so much.

The first section of listening was fairly easy, I’m pretty sure I got those right. The second one, there were plenty of tricks in the listening and more than a few of them that I thought were too easy, which probably means I got them wrong. The third section was a nightmare. I don’t ever remember being so lost in that section. 4th listening was quick response, which ended up being a lot of quick guesses by me. Maybe it is my age, but my brain doesn’t seem to process information that fast to answer those well.

But, I really hit a dead end on the last question, which should have been easy. It was about travel plans, and I must have misheard the final question, because I can almost swear that they asked the same question twice (for the last listening passage, there are two questions about it). I mean travel plans are easy, I used to travel a lot, erghh.

Anyway, did anyone else do the N1? How did you feel about the listening? What do you do to study listening?


If I had to bet on myself.  I would say I didn’t pass this time because of the listening.  I was really lost in the middle of it.  I think it might have been a little fatigue or test anxiety that sneaked in there and threw me off course.  I’m optimistic that I did bring up my score, but I could have also totally tanked it.  I was really focusing on grammar and vocabulary this time around because that score hasn’t been where I want it to be.  But, it looks like I might have to do some more listening.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to master quick response.  This is a skill that I have a hard time with in daily conversation as well.

Your Reactions to the July 2014 JLPT

I want to hear what you thought about the test. Tell us your impressions. Where did you take it? What level? What section did you think was the hardest? How did you prepare? I’d love to hear about it all!

Oh, if you are wondering about when results will come out.  It all depends on where you took it.  But, for those that registered online in Japan (and took the test in Japan), the results typically appear online the last Tuesday of August and are mailed out to all test-takers (who took the test in Japan) the following week.

[Tweet “I want to hear what you thought about the test. Tell us your impressions. #jlptbootcamp”]

{ 54 comments… add one }
  • Stephen July 6, 2014, 10:25 am

    Hey! Quick response is just crazy, I never feel confident listening to it or answering it. Ive read so many strategies of dealing with it but even then, its biggest problem is context. Japanese without context ups the difficulty factor by 10x.

    I know what you mean about the last 2 reading sections not only were they hard to grasp but time wise too it was down to the wire for me. I really do think they like to choose those abstract essays the most because they really force you to dig deep. I honestly feel like Id have an easier time reading a Japanese term paper on biology then the more abstract reading passages.

    By the way it sounds like the vocabulary and grammar sections went well for you! Do you have any recommendations for books specifically targeting those? I actually felt like that was my weakest point this time around compared to when I took the N2.

    Its weird I can never tell where I did good and where I did bad. I coulda swore when I took the N2 listening section last December that I flunked every question but then when I got the score back I was pleasantly surprised. My only thing now is just whats done is done, Im gonna get some more N1 specific books especially in regards to Vocabulary, Grammar and study those while I wait for the results.

  • Joost van Steenderen July 6, 2014, 10:42 am

    Went in for N2 today after passing N3 last December. The lack of timepieces, pink papers and the cellphone envelope were no different in Kumamoto, they even put in an effort to remove the pink papers to adjust the air-conditioning. I can’t remember the N3 test that well but I noticed an C on the vocab/grammar question booklet and a D on the listening booklet this time, are these different versions of the test…?

    I already knew my weakness would be reading but I was a bit surprised in the vocab section too. I thought I had that covered but still many surprises… Well, good test-run for December I reckon 😉

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2014, 2:26 pm

      I’m not sure what the lettering is or if it has any real significant meaning. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that in the future though. I hardly even look at the cover of the booklets anymore, just write my name and number on it and wait patiently for the proctor to tell us to start.

      The N2 has that weird vocabulary section where you have to finish the word, that always gave me fits. It’s kind of smart quirk the test makers put in there because it seems like something you can’t really study for. The reading speed that is required of you for N2 is about twice as fast as N3. You need to learn to read at a pretty good clip, somewhere around the speed of your average Japanese reader I reckon. It’s a tough jump, and it makes me wonder if N3 is actually a good bridge between N4 and N2 or not. That is what that test was originally designed for, but it really doesn’t require that much faster of reading skills. I think it was just a way for them to make N2 more difficult than the original 二級.

  • Liling July 6, 2014, 11:02 am

    Hi Mac!

    Thanks for sharing yours thoughts on the JLPT N1 test within 2-3 hours after the test. And お疲れ様でした。I also did the exam today in Tohoku University in Sendai.

    I did the N2 exam at the same time as you did (Dec 2011) & didn’t go back to exam mode till this year. This is my first attempt at N1 and hopefully it will go well (like you, I’m not sure as well).

    It’s good to know that the envelope thing was knew. I was surprised with this too. And also, I think they are getting really strict with cheaters. In my case, they asked us to show our hands and arms (to check for hidden notes). I wonder if this is new or not.

    For the vocabulary and reading section, it was “ok” for me. There are some kanjis that I’ve never seen before, so there were some guess work there. I think the grammar section was nicely done too, nothing too formal. I’ve actually enjoyed reading most of the passages, but whether I’ve really understood them and chose the correct answer, I’m not sure. Time was pretty tight for me and I wonder why the proctors didn’t give any 5- or 10-min “warning call”.

    My thoughts on the listening section were the same as yours. Section 3 was difficult! I did some listening practice exams from JLPT website (the free one) and also the New Kanzan Master series, and I did quite well for them. But this test was definitely tough! I also did some guesswork on Section 4 too. For the last question, part A is about which travel course the couple decide to take on the second day of their trip. Part B is about the same thing on the third day of their trip. That’s how I’ve understood it.

    Overall, I’ve given my best to this exam & am very glad to put away all the drill books!
    And I want to say thank you Mac for your time and effort to your website. I’ve enjoyed your podcast and the premium site so far.


    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2014, 2:36 pm

      Great to hear! Yeah, the hand checking was something they started doing about a year ago.

      I remember at one time, the proctors did give a 5 minute warning, but I guess they have done away with that. I’m guessing because too many people complained that it was distracting maybe? They should at least have an official clock though. It is very difficult to keep track of such a huge block of time and a bit pointless to buy a wristwatch just for that (I don’t normally wear one).

      Ok, so thanks for clearing up the listening section. I must have misheard, and that they were talking about the two of them, instead of day 2, even though it is completely different sounding vocabulary. 🙂 My brain was fried at that point. Now we wait I guess.

  • Umeko July 6, 2014, 11:06 am

    Hello Clayton, I’ve followed you since your first N1 attempt.
    Today I took the N1 test in Vietnam. Yes, you are right about the listening, it was also my nightmare and I will not be surprised if I fail N1 the 3rd time because of the listening. The final section about the travel plan, I figured out their choices but I don’t remember which choice was 3-day or 2-day trip :(. And also many many lucky guesses, this is my worst listening experience ever. I’ve studied for the listening with Mimi kara oboeru and Somatome choukai, along with watching Japanese drama. The final question is often about the man and the woman’s choices, I felt lost this time with the 3 or 2 day trip thing.
    After the Dec 2013 test, I know that I have to improve my reading skill (in my past 2 tests, I only got around 30) so I’ve practiced reading a lot with Shin Kanzen Master and Soumatome dokkai. Now I’m quite confident with the reading and I finished the language knowledge and reading sections with 10 minutes left. The difficulty is just the same as the . I can read very fast now.
    About the language knowledge, I don’t think I did as well as my last attempt, I scored 38 that time but I don’t think I could get that much now. I was confused with many things. Anyway, no lucky guess for this section, this is always my strongest part.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2014, 2:42 pm

      Sounds like you did pretty well on the test though. Yeah, I was listening for the man and woman’s choices as well. I guess the joke is on us. They must have figured that people are on the look out for those types of questions so they switched it up. Something to keep in mind for next time I guess.

  • John July 6, 2014, 11:31 am

    First attempt N1er. I did a few mogi shikens in the last month and wow, what a benefit. I did the n2 last year (that was my first jlpt exam) and although I passed (the reading section was a close one), I think my time management was appealing and almost cost me the exam.

    My thoughts on this exam… Reading was tough. Goi was also a bit tricky for me. I didn’t really focus so much on it in my study to be honest, but still, I should have done better.

    Listening was a piece of cake. I don’t know why but for me the reading part is by far the most “nightmarish “. If anything, I feel that the level of the listening section doesn’t match the level of the reading section… It’s far too easy. I would like to seevthe jlpt evolve into a more complete exam of language skill someday, including speaking. There are far too many n1ers and n2ers that I’ve met who have trouble putting more than 5 words together.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2014, 2:50 pm

      I’m guessing you have a lot of ‘natural’ exposure to the language? like at work or something? If that is the case, most people think the listening is ridiculously easy. When I took the N3 and N2 I kind of felt that way, and even with old 一級 tests, I feel the listening is a joke. But, for some reason, N1 seems to trip me up. I think it is the whole listen without any questions or answers to hint at what you are listening that trips me up. I always need context.

      Yeah, a speaking test would be pretty good, but it is difficult and expensive to implement. And testing strategies might render it almost pointless. I’ve prepped students for Eiken 二級 and 一級 and it ends up me giving them stump speeches and set phrases to memorize that they can pull out to get past the speaking test. Still, they are trying.

      Sounds like you did pretty well for a first attempt though. Will see when the results come back.

      • John July 7, 2014, 2:59 pm

        Bingo! I have plenty of exposure at work, that’s for sure.

        To improve/maintain my reading, I’m just going to continue reading Japanese books, magazine, websites etc. I have a good idea of what type of stuff comes up in the exams now, so will be trying to spend my time on more of that sort of material. Without a time limit, I find I can understand most stuff eventually. I will continue reading for comprehension, and slowly build up the speed aspect as I go.

        Think I might take it again in December either way! I really want to improve my vocab and reading speed! It’s a pretty good way to stay motivated for me too.

  • Tian July 6, 2014, 11:38 am

    Hi Clayon,
    thanks for your quick post!

    I took the N1 today in Beijing.
    Interestingly enough, I felt that the grammar, kanji, and reading sections were very straightfoward. This is my first time taking the JLPT after I started learning Japanese by myself during over Christmas holiday last winter.
    Listening was, as everyone is saying, a total disaster.
    It was so easy to get lost…
    Preparing for next time, I need to practice my listening much more!

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2014, 3:09 pm

      Yeah, it seems like everyone that has a lot of natural exposure at work or through some other source does pretty well on the listening, but if you don’t have that it can be difficult.

      I’ll probably just be increasing my listening practice with a lot of podcasts and watching TV shows.

  • Jon July 6, 2014, 1:43 pm

    Hi Clayton,

    I just took the N1 at Kyoto University too, we must have been in different rooms though because my proctor was reallllllly laid back in comparison. I didn’t see a single person get a yellow card or a red card despite one guy even flicking on his phone before the proctor said it was okay to. He got a really nasty look though. I was in room 411.

    Here is my take on my first N1 experience:

    Part 1 – This freaked me out because I realized that there was no clock in the room and the proctor also said that they wouldn’t be announcing how much time is left to take the test. This was a HUGE detriment for me as I forgot my watch at home (doh), and when I got to the reading portion I just automatically selected 3 for everything just in case I would haphazardly run out of time. I did raise my hand to ask them how much longer we had left, and the proctor did allow me to look at her watch, which was really nice. Strangely enough, I actually finished the first section 10 minutes early… I couldn’t believe it, because I was really strategically using my time on all of the practice tests I took and just barely finishing in time. Maybe I finished early because I had to use the restroom extremely badly for basically the last hour and couldn’t leave the room even for an emergency without being disqualified. Sometimes physical needs cause you to rush through things… Because of that, I am concerned about my performance on the reading section. They have gotten much more pedantic than the last time I took a JLPT 7 years ago (2kyuu at a different branch of Kyoto University). I also noticed that there were only 70 questions as opposed to the stock standard 71 in my practice test books. I wonder why that happened…

    Vocabulary and Grammar – Overall vocab is my weak point. It is what I have been focusing on more than anything, and while I did get some, “Oh, I’ve seen this before” words, I feel like I had to guess at about half of them with sentence context and what the general feel of the word seemed like. That really doesn’t bode well for my vocab score. :< Grammar I felt was quite fair, especially the last 5 create the sentence questions. I am pretty confident I got all of those right. Overall, my luck getting vocab that I was familiar with was a little bad this time around, but about what I have come to expect based on all of the N1 模擬試験 I took before hand. It doesn't surprise me when new words to show up every time I take an N1 test. I think you'd have to be incredibly versed in Japanese to not fall victim to vocabulary.

    Reading – I like to think of reading as one of my strong suits. Last N1 mock test I got 20/25 right, and I got an overall 70% right in my reading prep book (新完全マスター読解N1). The business type letter was fair game, but I really agreed with you about it being quite difficult to figure out the overall gist of some of the articles. The thing that caught me most off guard about the reading were the seemingly lack of clear answers. Just like you, I had to use the process of elimination to find out which answer must be correct as there were no clearly written details in the article itself. Ambiguity is the hardest part about Japanese for me, especially when my prep book warned never to mark an answer that wasn't clearly written in the text. Also it was littered with trick questions and you had to be extremely careful. There is nothing more frustrating when you read an article to the end, feel you understand each point the author is trying to make and are legitimately interested by the contents, but then get tripped up by trick questions that seem like all of the choices are wrong. You have to be very astute with these sections to do well. I have noticed a trend that there always seems to be a technology related article where the author thinks that technology is causing a hindrance to society in some way, and it's so easy to fall victim to answering based on your gut instinct regarding your own opinion as opposed to actually using the contents to guess what the real answer is. I say "guess", because I feel that many of the times there seem to be more than one logical answer in the given choices, but if it is not clearly written (even though the author may be leading you to a clearly implied conclusion), the best answer is always the one that is most closely to clearly documented in the text.

    The comparison question seemed far harder than any of the other comparison questions I had experienced in the N1 mock tests. If I understood correctly, one author was for the use of Manga as an educational tool in Libraries (saying it actually expanded their overall knowledge), while the other author thought they needed more materials linked to fundamental education and that Manga just lets kids goof off. So I knew that the authors had different opinions there, but I couldn't for the life of me choose which of the two remaining choices was right. I remember what my answers were, but I am not sure if it is okay to discuss the answers to any questions on the test. I don't want to get anyone in trouble. :<

    Section 2 – This was really unexpected. Our group actually started the first section of the test 3 minutes late because of some set backs, so we also finished the test late. The break between section 1 and 2 seemed to have finished nearly immediately after it began. I barely had enough time to munch my left over slice of pizza from last night and drink my energy drink. I was so nervous about the test today that I literally could not sleep a wink last night, so the tired hit me HARD right before section 2 started. I bought an Aquarius from the vending machine on the first floor and used it to cool my head to hopefully wake me up a bit before the listening began.

    Listening – This was the longest 60 minutes of my life. Each section had curve ball questions that shared very little resemblance to anything I had heard before in the many mock tests I took, albeit in the same general structure. Each section was littered with vocabulary that was hard for me to retain, even after taking notes the best I could. Section one was the easiest of the five sections, but I feel that I couldn't have gotten more than half right even on that one. Section two was an absolute nightmare, completely different style questions than any of the mock tests I took. I felt that they didn't include the correct answer in the actual conversations at all for most of them, and I once again had to use deduction from the wrong answers to guess what the right answer probably was. Perhaps that was a vocabulary problem for me as well.

    Section 3 was an absolute nightmare. In the mock tests I took, they all were really simple, and I want to say all of them were just, "What type of situation was this?" questions – "It's a weather report." "It's a lecture about the newly discovered uses of egg membrane." I feel like this was the start of the end for my listening score. Section 4 was even worse: abundant Keigo use and vocabulary words I had never heard before, and seemingly faster than any of the practice tests too, I found it just too difficult to retain the information and ended up guessing 70% of the responses. I was able to mark one answer absolutely wrong from all of them, so I really have a 50/50 chance of getting them right. It really comes down to guessing lucky in this section, for me. :<

    Section 5… Easily the hardest thing I have ever heard in my life. To prepare for this listening test, I started watching the news regularly. I very rarely have a problem following what is going on, and I was even able to enjoy a nice debate about the JSDF's anti-terrorism measures for intercepting missiles to minimize risk and threat to Japan on BS Fuji last week. I'd like to think that listening is the section that should really push my score up above the overall passing mark. But all four of these final questions were an absolute mystery to me. All of my practice tests ended these four questions with one dialogue from a family talking about some decision they have to make, one dialogue about some company event, and then a man and woman couple who choose one plan each out of four options that suit them best (In all of the practice tests, I always got these last four questions right, it was my listening score buffer). So for this listening activity, I was naturally listening for things the man wanted to do and what the woman wanted to do. I could hear what the woman wanted to do, but couldn't figure out what the man wanted to do. Then the nail in the coffin came – "What do they plan to do on the second day, and the third day?" I just flat out had to guess for the second day, and luckily the third day was stated at the very end of the listening activity, so I could remember that one.

    I completely agree with Umeko. This is by far the hardest listening section I have ever experienced in all of my JLPT N1 prep over the past 4 months.

    Overall: I feel skeptical about whether or not I passed this test, though I think I probably achieved enough points to pass each individual section. This was a huge disappointment to me upon finishing the exam, because according to my practice tests, it was looking like I had a high probability of passing. The extreme spike in difficulty of the listening means I have to pray that my 言語知識 is better than I am anticipating. I hope that many others agree about the difficulty of the listening section, and we get some leeway based on that for the results, though I strangely doubt it.

    Thank you so much for all that you do for the people striving to pass these JLPT tests. I sure am grateful for the opportunity to share my N1 experience! Take care everyone, and I'll be crossing my fingers that we all scrape by to meet our goals when the N1 results hit the websites this August.


    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2014, 3:17 pm

      Wow, very in depth section by section analysis.

      I total understand the practice test, faux-confidence. I had that too. Note to everyone the Tanki Master for N1 is way way too easy. I almost aced that exam, and felt lost in more than a few sections of the real deal.

      I think they are adjusting and evolving the test to keep it from falling victim to strategies and making it more about being really good at Japanese. Part of me, thinks this is great, because it becomes a truer test. But it pisses another part of me off, the part of me that just wants to pass already. haha.

  • megaplex July 6, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Hey Mac,
    It’s always a pleasure to read your website to see what kind of studying you are up and the tips you give. I also took N1 today in JP, this being my second time. I also was shocked but REALLY HAPPY that they made us put our phones in the envelopes. I always look at the previous exam results that are posted on the JLPT website regarding how many people passed, and the passing rate is higher for the overseas people, despite not even being in Japan, so they is definitely cheating going on there. And I am happy to see they are taking countermeasures against it.

    Regarding the test, vocab was easy except for some kanji reading, and the last usage section. Grammar also I felt was really easy. So for that I feel pretty good. However, I did completely skip the passage and write bs answers since that time is better spent on the reading…

    And with reading, here is where I am pretty sure I failed the exam. I also can easily read everything and barely have any issues with kanji in the sense of what is being written, but to fully understand the content, what the author is trying to convey, and then answer a question based on that takes me just takes a crazy amount of time. I skipped 2 of the middle and the 2 long passages making me randomly mark up 14 questions. Although, since I ended up spending quite amount of time understanding the 4 short, the comparison, and the last info retrieval questions, there is probably a high chance those are correct since I did understand what they were trying to say.

    With listening I am usually pretty good with it, so I felt it was pretty easy except for a few questions where if you didn’t know the vocab word used, you were pretty much screwed. The first and second sections I feel were pretty easy. The 3rd section I feel I got most of of them, but a few had me guessing. The 4th section, which is my strongest part of listening, also caught me off guard with some of vocab words they use. But like everyone else, the last section completely destroyed me. I prepared thinking that the question was going ask “What course will the girl/guy pick?” but I completely got caught off guard when it said 2nd day and the 3rd day. Compared with the top posters, I also used the Shin Kanzen master book for listening which greatly help, but compared with previous N1 and N2 exams, I feel this part gets tricky due to the immense amount of info thrown at you.

    Overall though, vocab, grammar, and listening were all incredibly easy I felt in general. The reading is always a time monster. To give you an idea of how hard the reading section is in general, my Japanese teacher, who I feel is extremely smart compared with other teachers at the school I am going to now, took the practice mock test from back of the Shin Kanzen Master Reading book and it took her almost 40 minutes. She got a perfect score, but the fact that it took a highly experienced Japanese teacher almost 40 minutes to go through 25 questions from crazy abstract passages from the Shin Kanzen master series was enough proof to me that this section is just notorious.

    Anyways, all that aside, I am happy for the level I am now, and I feel confident in what is important and what isn’t and it seems like N1 isn’t one of those things anymore. Thanks to the exam, I earned a lot of skills important to conversation and writing, but I haven’t really focused on those since the exam never has those parts, so I will be doing more presentation prep, documentation, etc from now on.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2014, 11:23 pm

      I hear you. If you don’t need to have the test for work or something else and can seem a little pointless to continue on, especially if you are happy with what you have. Sounds like you did pretty well though, except for the reading.

      I’m taking a guess that you have a lot of regular work exposure to Japanese? That seems to be the formula for sailing through the listening section.

  • Can July 6, 2014, 3:40 pm

    Hi Clay,

    Went to redo N1, but did you realized that they started to shift their difficulties towards others?

    Listening was a bit difficult for me i guess…


    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2014, 11:26 pm

      Yeah, some sections seem easier like vocabulary and grammar this time. For instance, in the second section of the grammar part they usually have a really long and complicated sentence you have to unscramble, but this time they all seemed fairly short and easy. I might have gotten fooled by one or two, but the scrambled sentences seemed really easy and not all that complicated this time.

      Whereas the listening hit me hard. I’m beginning to think I was just too exhausted or something, because I stumbled through the third section of the listening and the end.

  • d July 6, 2014, 6:01 pm

    did n5 in london. it was ridiculously hot and all felt a bit disorganised. did the 25min test fine, messed up the second 50 min test by not finishing -although i went through answering all the easy questions, so the four i missed were ones i didnt know, still really annoyed with myself. listening was pretty straightforward.

    im annoyed with myself, but consensus was it was a hard “n5”. the middle bit felt harder than many of the practise tests i’d done, certainly never not finished before.

    im hopeful for a pass but think i’ll scrape it rather than having a reasonable pass.

    hope everyone else did really well!

    • Clayton MacKnight July 8, 2014, 11:34 pm

      The practice test seem to be easier than the real thing these days. I think they have adjusted the test higher since the new tests first came out. Also, practice test makers don’t have a lot of material to draw from in order to make an ‘up-to-level’ test.

      I hope you have better results than you think!

  • Alicia July 6, 2014, 11:27 pm

    Took the N2 for the first time in Tokyo yesterday. Despite the Kanji, Vocab, and Grammar sections being my biggest weak point when I took past/mock exams, I found those sections to be much easier than expected on this test. I did almost no guessing. Reading was OK; didn’t find it too hard, nor particularly easy. Seemed to be right on level. Listening was much harder than I thought it would be. I also ate too much during my break time, and they didn’t turn on the AC for the second part, which ended up with me zoning out a bit. The beginning was alright, but it was really hard to follow the last two sections. I ended up just guessing on a few questions.

    I’m feeling fairly confident it’s a pass, but we’ll see!

    • Clayton MacKnight July 10, 2014, 1:54 pm

      Good to hear. I think at the N1 and N2 level, a lot depends on the luck of the draw because there is so much material to cover and vocabulary especially. Anything can pop up on the test. And zoning out is always big factor for me too.

      Anyway, I hope you passed on your first run!

  • Tommy July 7, 2014, 12:47 am

    I took the N4 test here in Japan and maybe it’s just me, but it felt way more difficult than anything I did during prep for the test. I really don’t know how it will turn out, but I’m going to take the N3 in December this year either way. All I know is that I have to study more and more harder.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 10, 2014, 1:56 pm

      A few other people have commented that the N4 was a little tricky this year. If it was tricky for everyone, the score might be curved more and you might just slip in. Good luck with N3!

  • al July 7, 2014, 12:27 pm

    Hi Mac..

    i did n4 in university in ise shi (i cant remember the name of the university)… I took n4 for the fourth time but i guess this time i pass the exam… i think this was the easiest n4 exam that i had encountered… i am filipino kenshuusei here at japan, i think i failed the exam three times because it is hard for me to review because im already tired… i focus more on vocabularies this time.

    i want to take n3 this december, what advice will you give me on the short period of time that i have to review… i want to pass this n3 this year but if i cant make it this december i want to take again next year in july because next year of august i will go back to the philippines because my contract will be end next year…

    thanks in advance for your reponse and advice…

    • Clayton MacKnight July 10, 2014, 2:03 pm

      Hmm, N3 is not that big of jump up. You really just need to practice some more phrases and vocabulary to bridge that gap. It’s a bit of an awkward test because you can’t quite read native materials yet, but you do need to read some more difficult material in order to pass.

      I would recommend picking up a few good grammar books like the Kanzen Master N3 book:

      And possibly some reading books as well like Unicom’s book:

      If your listening score was a little weak, you may want to pick up a listening practice book as well, but there isn’t that big of a leap between the levels. If there is a big bookstore near you, you can go and look through what books look the most useful. In general, Kanzen Master is the best, but can be difficult and unclear. So-Matome is more clear, but not as tough as the test. Unicom has a pretty good blend. Good luck!

      • al July 11, 2014, 3:53 pm

        thanks for the advice mr. mac. to improve my listening skills i always watch japanese anime and japanese drama… you think this would help??? right now im reviewing my minna no nihongo 1 and 2 to master all the vocabularies and sentence pattern that the book have and after that i have my pdf file of sou matome book… do you think i would work???

  • Robert July 7, 2014, 11:55 pm

    I also took the N1 for the first time(it was also my first JLPT experience) last Sunday at Osaka University.

    I think I did pretty bad on the vocab in spite of having, at least what I thought until now, a pretty big vocabulary. I kind of felt like I got sniped on this one.

    On the grammar section I totally destroyed the test. I was almost laughing at the ease of the questions(or possibly at my relief after that vocabulary section). I love the questions where you have to put the sentences in order.

    Reading was a mixed bag for me too. I also expected there to be a clock on the wall. It’s a college classroom, wtf. And the trash cans were all blocked so you could buy a drink from the vending machine, but you couldn’t throw it away. That was just annoying, and kind of pointless. Even if everyone at the test drank three drinks there’s no way they would have filled up those trash cans. There were no less than 5 trash cans for cans – all blocked by pink paper with a big X on it.

    Anyway, I did the same thing as someone else above. Took a look at the reading section, guessed I had about an hour left or possibly less, and marked three for everything and erased/changed the answers as I went. I was kind of paranoid about the proctor walking up and giving me a card for doing something like that haha. I ended up finishing with a couple of minutes left. The business letter was the easiest one by far. The one written vertically was not so bad content wise, but I feel like I should practice reading top to bottom more. The two long passages were okay, but I definitely feel like I would have improved my chances of getting the questions right considerably if I had had the chance to read the passages completely more than once. That passage though, with A and B, was really difficult for some reason.

    I have mixed feelings about the listening. Sometimes I felt really confident, and other times I was really worried. For one thing, I don’t know if you guys have ever experienced this, but they turned the speakers up way too loud, so at some points, it was blaring and it really messed me up. I don’t know if it was speaker quality or what, but the volume they had it at was definitely more than those speakers were capable of. Or maybe they had dead spots or something. It was like listening to the loudspeaker announcements at a grocery store or a really old train station – for a solid hour.

    That last question I bombed I think because I thought they were going to ask which course does what, and not which course they chose, especially not for which day. I never really practiced listening before the test so I didn’t know all the question types. I also underestimated the later questions on the listening, and didn’t take enough notes. I was pretty worn out by the end too.

    Well, I wanted to pass on the first try, but there is always December.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 10, 2014, 2:11 pm

      The whole covered trash cans is annoying. I mean the school is being paid to put on the test, you’d think they could have the proctors are somebody spend 2 extra minutes to bundle up the trash on the way out.

      I don’t think there are any rules on marking bogus answers on the test. Guesses don’t count against you, so you might as well try. Yeah, the listening section is really funky. You need to learn good note taking skills and practice them often. I have gotten a little rusty since I first start studying for the exam.

      I feel a little suspicious about the grammar section. Like it was too easy and I was missing something, especially in the scrambled sentence part. The grammar passage at the end seemed the appropriate level though.

      Vocabulary is a total pain. I’ve been combating that with doing lots and lots of reading and drilling words that I think I might use again. Some of the words managed to pop up on the test this time, so I guess I’m doing all right.

      Anyway, I hope you passed on the first try.

      • Can July 10, 2014, 2:58 pm

        Out of the 10 grammar questions: 6 were on N2, 1 on N1, 1 on N3, 1 on N5 and 1 unknown….

  • EskimoJo July 8, 2014, 8:08 am

    Hi Mac,

    I dunno what’s going on!
    I took the N4 in December and missed passing by 7 points. Since then, I kinda slacked off, then went to a language school in Japan for three weeks in March/April, slacked off again on my return, then started to work hard again for the re-take, especially last week which I took off from work. When doing practice exams, I kept coming upon things I had only learnt since my last exam, so I wondered how on earth I managed to get so close last time and felt that I had reason to be a bit more confident. My weakest point last time was grammar and reading so any work I did do was focussed on that. My exam settings mocks went pretty well, with safe passing scores and sections finished before time. Except with listening, which I hadn’t practice at all since December. Apart from my time in Japan, I could technically say I hadn’t listened to any Japanese at all since all the media I consume comes with subs. A grave error!

    But when it came to the real thing, oh how I struggled with reading once again! All the hope the good mocks had allowed very quickly disappeared. There was one question that I had absolutely no idea what was going on (question 5); barely understood the questions, could not comprehend the text. Not even the gist! Something to do with books being sold by fourth year university students…? My mind was just not taking it in. By the time I got to listening, I was tired and made the fatal mistakes of not listening to the beginning of questions and/or the answer choices. I did this repeatedly, including with the quick-fire questions. A disaster!

    It seems like for me, no matter how much knowledge I might have, I need to keep my brain used to Japanese otherwise there is only so much I can take in at one time. Everything was my own fault (although I would say that publishers need to make their practice tests much harder) so really I’m just ranting, except the heat in the room (London), which did not help.

    So. I guess I lied about not knowing what was going on… But now I don’t know what to do in December.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 10, 2014, 2:16 pm

      Some other people have commented that the N4 test was a little tricky this time around. The basic thing you need to do is set a habit of studying a little bit every day. Just little bit-sized things like reviewing or doing SRS or something. And find something in Japanese that you are interested in learning about.

      Another thing is try to find a chat partner since a lot of the N4 grammar and vocabulary is conversational. You can really pick up a lot just by trial and error with someone.

      Anyway, I hope you pulled it out and keep moving on up.

    • Can July 10, 2014, 2:59 pm

      EskimoJo, do you mind if u send me an email? Might be able to tell u where u are weak via Skype… My Skype id is


      • EskimoJo July 10, 2014, 8:04 pm

        I am unbearably introverted/shy… I will try to summon the courage!


        • al July 11, 2014, 4:08 pm

          hi eskimojo, last december i missed passing the n4 exam by 2 points, but i am not that disapointed though, this time i focused more on vocabularies and sentence pattern of my minna no nihongo 2 given by our agency before we came here in japan. then after i took the jlpt n4 last sunday i was easy for me to answer all the questions especially on mojigoi and sentence pattern exam, but the reading section was quite tricky this time and in listening exam i placed an x mark to the choices that was obvoiusly wrong, i think the key for n4 exam is more on vocabularies,

          try this link for kanji https://www.mlcjapanese.co.jp/JK/N4/001-010.html

          and for vocabularies try this one https://www.mlcjapanese.co.jp/image/346verbs.pdf

          hope this would help you…

          • EskimoJo August 30, 2014, 8:28 am

            Thanks everyone! By some miracle, I passed! 113 points, so I must have gotten lucky with the reading question I completely guessed! Lol!
            I don’t mind wasting £70 so I will sit the N3 in December even though I definitely won’t be there by then. But I won’t take any days off like I usually do. Upwards I go!

  • alessia-chan July 8, 2014, 8:49 am

    i also took the N1. last year I took N2 and it was way too easy for me(got 158/180 without opening the book a single time…cause i live in japan since 7 years ago)

    the N1 also i almost didn’t study a thing. I just took a hurried look at the book(the one i had in japanese school 4 years before, then i went to japanese university) and did the test.

    I found the grammar, reading and expecially the listeining really easy. the kanji and vocabulary (like 一律)was my weak point but overall thanks to my grammar skill i think i would pass easily the test N1 too like N2.

    the reading is the part i prefer cause i always learn new things. I liked the one about 自由and the right of speaking out, giving freedom to ppl without realizing what it is and about how 自由にしてくださいactually means the person thinks you are a 頼られてない人. Also the one about reading new story to the kid who’s always coming with his mom.(here i answered あるとき and 彼).

    the last part of listening(fast answer) is actually my easiest part. cause japanese have their way of talking and their always said answer to a sentence. Like 彼は失礼きまわりない has an answer like ええ?困ったねor 大変ですね、お疲れ様。 I always laught badly at these part cause the answer is soo easy to me.

    i also think i confused the 2nd with the 3rd day. the answer shall be 2nd day>4(湖を船で) and 3rd day>1(山?登り).

    • alessia-chan July 8, 2014, 9:00 am

      ps. i took the N1 at kyodai, kyoto daigaku, i was in よしだ美総合館西 2階 きょうにし23号室 and i my class too there was no yellow card warning at anyone… it was actually really quite during all the test.

      ah, they asked us also to show our hands and harms to check out for memo XDDDD

      • Clayton MacKnight July 10, 2014, 2:20 pm

        I think I was right beside you in room 22 actually. Glad to hear you had a cool proctor. Our proctor was borderline crazy.

        Thanks for some of the clarification too. I was unsure about some things but now it is a little clearer what in the world they were talking about in each of the passages. I think I understood. At this point, I have no idea, but I just want my score to go up, not down. 🙂

  • Celia July 10, 2014, 9:24 am

    Hi Mac 🙂
    I took the N2 in Tokyo, for the second time. Last December I took it pretty much just to get a feel of it. After 6 months of (moderate) study, I knew my strengths were reading and listening. So for the first part of the test, I decided to jump to the reading section first, then use the last 40 min to do vocab/grammar. Unfortunately it didn’t really help that much, and I couldn’t finish 5 questions of the grammar (just randomly marked the answer paper). My weakness is definitely vocabulary and kanji. I feel like everything I studied wasn’t on the test! >_< My listening is pretty strong and I found that part of the test to be easy – just guessed 1 or 2 questions. Fingers crossed I passed, but either way I'll try again in December.

  • Justin July 11, 2014, 8:56 pm

    Hi I did the N1 in New Zealand!!! We are a small country so we only had 19 people doing it… I was pretty happy with the vocab and grammar section, especially when I checked afterwards that I guessed 3 usage questions totally correctly 🙂 (Vocab is a bummer section for me).

    I must say, they must have upped the listening standard miles away from the ‘official’ practice test. The quick response one was killer, and I was so intimidated because the guy sitting next to me was so chill about it- no noting taking whatsoever, just casually answering after each question…. (SO MANY UNI STUDENTS ARGH) He finished the reading 30 minutes before the time limit and went to sleep as well xD But seriously I relied on my Japanese anime and drama exposure to answer the quick response section…. I’m a high school student right now, and the N1 level is much harder that what we do at school, that’s for sure.

    Hopefully I passed N1. Fingers crossed though, since I have not done any other levels on the JLPT and started studying N2 material, then jumping straight into N1. Oh yeah I had the same problem as you- I thought they asked the same question twice as well for the last one X.X

  • Liling July 13, 2014, 3:05 am

    Hi Mac,

    I just want to comment on Joost van Steenderen’s post (at the top) about the lettering in the cover page of the test booklet. For some reason, I couldn’t find the reply button for that comment. For the N1 exam, I saw a letter A for the reading/comprehension/grammar booklet & B for the listening booklet. So, I thought maybe its one way to avoid mixing up the test booklets (that is: A and B for N1, C and D for N2)??

    Thanks for your comments & I do admire the fact that you take the time to reply each and every comment!
    Yes, we’ll see how we really did once the results are out. I hope you can finally get the pass result this time 😀

  • sapna July 14, 2014, 11:41 am

    Hi Mac ,
    Thankyou for all the support you are offering through your portal. I appeared for N4 from India .I did not do very well in reading and at the listening time I was unlucky. As and when the cd started running ,a wasp entered my hair I somehow managed to get rid of it but was nervous that it may come again. I am not sure whether I have selected the correct options or not as could not concentrate well.

  • sapna August 4, 2014, 9:26 am

    When are the jlpt
    results being displayed

    • Clayton MacKnight August 7, 2014, 12:34 am

      As I said above, it all depends on what region you took the test in. For those that registered online in Japan and took the test in Japan, we should get our results on Aug 26th.

  • Ianinosaka August 26, 2014, 12:59 am

    Hello everyone!

    Well I just checked the results and I ended up passing N2 which I took in July. I didn’t give myself much chance of passing after the test as I thought the reading section dominated me than I dominated it.. 🙂 Even the vocab section which is usually one of my stronger sections was really hard with a lot of words I hadn’t seen before. Not only not being able to read the kanji but also a fair few words in hiragana that I just hadn’t ever seen before. Of course you just buckle down and try and get the meaning from the context but I was a bit surprised with the vocab section as I thought I had prepared well enough for it.
    The grammar section is usually where I struggle but I found that to be stressful than usual which was good. The listening section is what pretty much saved my test went better than I thought. When I failed N2 the first time around I was really taken by surprise by the listening section so this time around I actually prepared by listening to mock test questions etc. The quick response was much easier this time round which was maybe due to being better prepared (my my Japanese listening has improved too).
    Anyway, passed in the end and now have the N2 monkey off my back which is a relief. I feel the need to post as before taking the test I used this site a fair bit for tips and comments from the administrator and from all of you out there leaving comments. I actually start work at a Japanese company on Monday so I can tell everyone not to worry as I’m N2 qualified.. Ha.. 🙂 said I had taken the test in interviews but wasn’t sure if I had passed or not but they still seemed happy enough to take a punt on me which is cool.

    N1 in December to deflate any confidence I have in my Japanese? You bet!

    Happy studying and thanks again!

    • Clayton MacKnight August 26, 2014, 11:38 pm

      That’s awesome that you have a job using Japanese on a regular basis. Generally speaking, it is your fluency that will get you a job, but the test will get you the interview, but it sounds like you made it through. What kind of job will you be doing?

      N1 is a toughy, it takes some people a pretty long time to pass, but I think if you are having daily exposure at work and doing a lot of reading you will probably score higher than you think. Might as well give it a try and see how well you do.

      • Ianinosaka August 27, 2014, 12:31 am

        Hi Clayton,

        Yeah, I’m happy about the job too. It’s an account manager position where I’ll mainly be dealing with a lot of the American and European clients. We help the foreign companies (my position does anyway) do more business in Asia and in particular Japan through participation in trade fairs and exhibitions etc. I’ll also be taking on a fair chunk of the marketing responsibilities which will involve getting a solid digital plan in action. Of course client interactions will be English but the office is mainly Japanese and I’ll have to speak to suppliers in Japan so will be using a lot of nihongo. Start on Monday so really excited.

        Well N2 was still pretty tough actually so I’m expecting N1 to be something else really. I’m sure if I do end up passing it, it wouldn’t be this year or next year even. Hopefully the new job will help but I’m sure I’ll have to put in a lot of work. I might just take it this year to get motivated to study and also to see how far off it I am. You took it this year didn’t you? Were you far off?

        Thanks for the site – it’s a good community of jlpt test takers..


        • Clayton MacKnight August 27, 2014, 2:24 pm

          Sounds like a really exciting job, best of luck to you! Good to hear you made it into the big time.

  • Katleen Rousseau August 26, 2014, 3:26 pm

    finally? 🙂 did you got your results today? 🙂
    I hope it went well! 🙂

    • Clayton MacKnight August 26, 2014, 11:42 pm

      Unfortunately it didn’t :(, but I am not too disappointed, I can only go up from here I guess.

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