Final Questions before the JLPT December Test

Final Questions before the JLPT December Test post image

Some of you have been emailing me a few questions about the test next week.  I thought I would take a few moments to answer some of the questions that come up a lot during this particular season.

First though, let me apologize for being a little MIA over the last few weeks.  I took on 2 massive translation projects for Memrise – the A1 English Course (for Japanese speakers) and another project that is not yet live.  I know you might be wondering when there will be an A1 course for Japanese, and there was some talk about it, but there are currently no serious plans.  I’m happy to see a serious course for English learners in Japan that I can recommend to students though.  I hope it gains some traction.

And while I’m bragging, I’m happy to see my Introduction to Japanese course take the top seat on Memrise with 335,000+ users (at the time of this writing).  I’m sure that this will probably be a short-lived victory as the A1 courses for the other languages are quickly climbing the ladder, but still pretty good to see.

By the way, they are having a pretty cool kickstarter at the moment to take a bus around Europe recording native speakers.  Alas, they are not coming to Asia (yet), but if you are interested in learning some European languages check it out.

Sorry, okay, I’m finished promoting Memrise unabashedly.

So let’s go over some common questions you might have going through your head about now.  I’ll go over each one, and if you have anything else itching your brain let me know in the comments below.

Are the mock tests as difficult as the real thing?

Maybe.  The problem with mock tests is that they are not created equal.  Some were even created before the new test even really started, so they could beat the crowd and be the first company to publish a mock test.  These tests tend to give you a good example of what the test will be like, but not a good feel for what the difficulty level will be.  Other tests, like the ones developed by ASK publishing tend to be fairly accurate, especially the vol. 2s of the series.  Unfortunately, they are only available for N3-N1.

The official ‘workbooks’ on the other hand, are made of old test questions for real exams, making them ideal for getting a good feel for the exact level of difficulty.  Most of them follow the exact format of the real test.  I believe the N3 workbook is a little off in number of questions, but the other levels are pretty much the same size.  If you haven’t worked through these workbooks, they are freely available from the JLPT website, but the copies available on my site and listed below have added comments to help you with the exam:

JLPT N3 Workbook
JLPT N4 Workbook
JLPT N5 Workbook

The Workbooks for N2 and N1 are only available on due to copyright restrictions.

Higher levels (N2 and N1) tend to have mock tests that are less accurate in terms of difficulty.  This is basically because the test itself can actually vary in difficulty from test to because of the type of content that they go over and discuss in say the listening and reading.  Sometimes people have to take the test a few times to be able to pass just because the content is a different from what you are normally exposed, too.

Some people would brush this off and say you are not ‘truly’ prepared for the exam if you haven’t covered all topics.  This is true in a way, but let’s be honest with ourselves, there are some subjects you really don’t need to know that much about to get around in Japan.  And sometimes those subjects come up on the test.

I’m totally behind on my studies, is there anyway I can boost my score?

Generally speaking, there is no way for you to boost your true level by that much before the exam.  Language learning generally takes a while and perfecting your language skills takes a little while longer.  So, yes you can cram in some last minute grammar points and vocabulary, but the key to adding on points at this stage is building up your focus.

If you are not used to listening to and reading Japanese for long periods of time, now is the time to build that skill.  Try to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible with content that is just at your level.  If you go too high, you might burn out. The key here is to listen to a lot of content and build up a good ear for it, so your mind doesn’t ‘reject’ it even when you get tired and worn out.  You want focus.

This is what separates someone who can use the language well, but doesn’t ‘test well’.  They probably need more focus in order to push through the exam.  Because let’s be honest listening to a CD with not a lot of pictures, then reading content without the usual bells and whistles to keep us focused (pictures, headlines, highlighted quotes, etc…) is tough on your attention span.  Mastering those skills is half the test really.

Also, be sure to take care of yourself.  Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule.  No, I know am not your mother, but it does actually make a real difference.  If you start screwing with your sleep schedule even by a few hours here or there, it can really affect your concentration on test day.  And concentration is an important ingredient to passing the test.

One last thing you can do to give yourself more focus, is to eliminate as many distractions as you can. This might mean putting a few things on hold, or simply writing them down so you can think about them later. It’s a good idea to get them out of your head so that you are clear thinking enough to focus.

I lost my certificate, where can get a new one?


I want to be absolutely certain I pass, I’m so worried that if I fail I will go completely bonkers, it’s all I think about all day.

Okay, take a deep breath and calm down. Tests have been built up to be these giant mountains that you need to climb to the very top of and plant your flag. There is a lot of pressure to be perfect, to pass with flying colors. But, simply taking the test and seeing your weaknesses can be a huge benefit as well. Tests should be there to provide valuable feedback, not keep you up at night.

If you fail, you’ll know what to do for next time. It’s not a loss. And sometimes it takes a few fails before you pass. It’s just a reality check to help you refocus on what is important for your studies, and what is still a weaknesses.

Even if something big depends on this (like a dream job or entrance to a school), try to put that behind you and do your best. If you don’t pass this time, there is always next time.

Good luck to all those taking the test this weekend! If you have any final questions let me know in the comments below.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Melanie December 1, 2015, 7:31 pm

    Thank you for this! The advice doesn’t all apply to me, but it helps and most of all it is reassuring! I hope I will do well in the JLPT N5

  • Hendry December 2, 2015, 9:34 am

    Thanks Mac, your advise is always useful, to let me felt that i am not alone. I am taking JLPT N3 this weekend in malaysia, wish me luck and good luck for all who take part of this JLPT exam this weekend. Have a nice Day 🙂

  • Arin December 4, 2015, 2:10 pm

    Thank you! I feel much refreshed after following some of the advice! Hope for the best for everyone!

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