July 2016 JLPT First Impressions

The July test is a new addition that came as a welcomed revision to how the JLPT was conducted from 2010 on.  For those of you living in Asia and in some locations on a few other continents, you are able to take the JLPT twice a year.  In Japan, it seems like they like to give the test in a hot month and a cold month just to see how you perform under temperature restraints.

I hope everyone was able to get all the studying they could get in before the big day.  There is nothing more motivating than a looming deadline to get you off your duff and start studying.

No matter what is going through your head at the moment, you did, it’s finished.  It’s time to get some rest and patting yourself on the back for all the hard studying you did.  You did study right?  Well, even if you didn’t study that much, the test will serve as a good wake up call for you to see where you are with your learning and how to adjust your studying for next test.

What your impressions?

Anyway, what were your impressions of the test?  I’d like to know how it went.  Take some time to leave a comment about your experience below.  Could you let us know:

  1. Where did you take the test?  (in Japan?, Europe?)
  2. What level?
  3. What was the most difficult section of the exam?
  4. What was the easiest?
  5. And how did you prepare for the exam?
  6. Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time?

Letting us all know how you prepared is a big boost to your fellow JLPTers so take the time to brag about your awesome study methods.  It will be a huge help for everyone.

Results from the 2016 JLPT July Test

So, you might be wondering when the actual results will be headed your way.  If you registered online in Japan, they probably told you that they will be available in the first part of September.  But, if history is any guide, the results will be electronically available on the last Tuesday of August.  To be exact, they will be available just after midnight, August 30th.  However, the server is usually completely overloaded at that time and it will take a while for you to get in.  So, you can either try to hammer your way in for 30-40 minutes or simply wait until morning of the next day and hopefully make your way in then.

Either way, I hope you all did your best, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you about what worked and what didn’t.  I’ll have another post in August for everyone to share results and tips.  In the meantime, it is time to relax and take it easy.  I hope you enjoy the summer!

{ 50 comments… add one }
  • Claire July 3, 2016, 10:55 am

    I hope everyone is feeling happy now that the JLPT is out of the way.
    I just sat the N5 in Japan. I found the grammar section to be the most difficult. I find this hard when I am studying at home and the extra pressure of the exam room makes it harder for me so I wasn’t too surprised about that. I felt a lot more comfortable with the vocabulary and listening sections and I am hoping for better scores in these areas. This is my second go at the N5, I previously sat the exam in December 2015. I found the listening section of that test so much harder than today’s exam. I felt that the listening section of the test today was more representative to that of the test booklet and online sample questions on the official JLPT website.
    I prepared for today’s test using a mix of textbook and on-line methods (Anki and Memrise). I also practised with the past listening tests available on YouTube.
    Thank you Mac for your great website, it really helped motivate me!
    After a very hot test day here I’m off to cool down with some ice-cream now…………

    • Clayton MacKnight July 4, 2016, 1:34 am

      Yeah, incredibly hot. It seems like the rainy season finished just in time for the test. Now we have two months of sweating ahead of us.

      Were the particles the most difficult on the test? Usually this is the biggest problems students face at the N5 level. Glad to hear the listening section was easier this time around. Now to just wait for the results!

      • Claire July 14, 2016, 2:16 pm

        Sorry for my late reply. Yes, the particles were a bit tricky. The part I found the hardest was the scrambled sentences. I spent far too long on them second-guessing my initial answer. This reduced the time I had to answer the longer reading comprehension questions in the later part of the test.

  • Fung July 3, 2016, 12:48 pm

    Where did you take the test? (in Japan?, Europe?) – Malaysia.

    What level? – N2

    What was the most difficult section of the exam? – Listening.

    What was the easiest? – Vocab.

    And how did you prepare for the exam?
    – I studied N2 grammar and also vocab books daily and attempted quite some practice and trial papers too from some books. I read online news and articles from Japanese sites daily.

    Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time?
    – Partially effective. My method is good for part 1 (vocab/grammar/reading) but it was not sufficient for listening. My focus tends to wear off before I realized a part of the conversations have passed… missing these small parts can make a huge difference in answer selections. I still hope I can pass this though. Will it help if I start to listen to Japanese news/radios and watch more J-dramas/movies? Let me know.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 4, 2016, 1:38 am

      Listening to native materials at a level that is slightly more difficult than your current level is good practice. Listening to something like simpler j-dramas (that involve a love story and not a crime investigation for example) is good practice because it helps build up your listening stamina. I think one of the biggest problems people have with the N2 is the amount of listening. I think even if the material were in English, I would have a little difficult time focusing. In fact, when I take mock English exams (like TOEIC and EIKEN) for work, the most difficult thing for me to do is focus for that length of time.

      Try to find something enjoyable to listen to and practice with it on a regular basis.

  • Patricia Louise Yambao July 4, 2016, 1:38 am

    Where did you take the test? Philippines

    What level?

    What was the most difficult section of the exam?
    Reading, I suppose?

    What was the easiest?
    Listening (because I watch too many animes)

    And how did you prepare for the exam?
    Because I didn’t have much time to prepare for the exam (aside from my TTh Japanese classes), I mostly just practiced using sample exams.

    Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time?
    I planned to do other things before. Maybe if I am to take N3 this December, I’m gonna prepare longer and do some things differently.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 4, 2016, 1:40 am

      Yeah, if you are not used to readying Japanese, the reading section can be a beast.

      How do you watch anime? Do you watch with subtitles first and then without? Do you use the Japanese script?

  • Koh July 4, 2016, 2:15 am

    Hi there,
    My name is Koh and I come from Singapore. I’m writing this to give back to the community, which (through this site), has benefited me a lot since I started learning Japanese exactly 2 years ago.

    I took the N2 in Kyoto this summer, while doing homestay. Although I did the 模擬試験 and pretty much the entire 総まとめ and 新完全マスター series (so I consider myself decent in textbook material), the N2 paper really threw me off track this time.

    First, I’ll start with the Listening component. I felt that this was a real letdown, considering how my score for the 模擬試験 was actually good. I was rather confident considering I had been doing homestay and CD practice from the N2 books, but for some reason the JLPT audio speakers spoke even faster than in anime/drama/TV/模擬試験. Or it could really just have been my nerves.

    I’m thinking of moving on to N1 now, but given my dismal performance yesterday, I’m not sure if I’ll make the cut.

    Moving on to Vocabulary and Reading, I think I fared well. The most effective study plan for me was actually just consuming A LOT of material on a daily basis. To do this I had to inconvenience myself – I read nothing but Japanese articles, websites and news for a couple of months. It was painfully slow at the onset, but after a while I developed speed and JLPT passages suddenly appeared much easier. I remember getting destroyed by the first chapter of 新完全マスター(読解), but by the last chapter I was ready.

    It also helps to search up the “uncommon” or “useless” vocab that appears on news/websites; the N2 tests a lot of vocabulary that appears beyond textbooks. Most of it is actually part of the 2000 常用漢字, and on at least 3 occasions throughout the paper I smiled to myself, because a “random” word I had googled weeks ago actually appeared. Having a firm grasp of vocabulary really builds confidence when it comes to reading too.

    Third, I would add that that at the N2 level, one should venture beyond the textbook and work towards competent fluency. Regrettably, I’m still unable to do this. However, lang-8.com has been an indispensable tool for me in improving my writing skill. Because N1/N2 level requires you to stay afloat in an open sea without a buoy (ie non-textbook material), I would write essays on topics such as the “Subconscious Acquisition of a Foreign Language” and native speakers would correct my essays in exchange for my journal corrections.

    Beyond JLPT, I highly recommend this if you want to pick up natural expressions. One example is me asking a lang-8 friend for the best way to express the phrase “can I stay at your house?”. I was thinking along the lines of “滞在してもいいですか” but her response was “お邪魔さかていただくことは可能でしょうか?” You get the idea!

    Fourth, exam tactic is absolutely essential too. Because it’s virtually impossible to finish reading those long chunks, let alone absorb everything under time constraint (unless Japanese is your native language), I actually used the mock paper to get a feel of the pace. I ended up assigning 40 minutes to the Vocab and Grammar, and then 65 minutes to the Reading section.

    For Reading, I would first read the question to identify the issue, before reverting to the passage and sieving out the relevant portions. The only trouble with this is being over-confident and stumbling into common traps which the examiners have deliberately set out – the passages beat about the bush, and reading too fast can cause you to misinterprete them.

    Lastly, for Grammar, this may sound exaggerated, but it REALLY appears as though the test setters deliberately set out to omit the common grammar rules from the N2 books. None of the “わけではない”, “わけがない”, “わけにはいかない” actually appeared. Nor did “ものか”, “ものだから”, “ものではない”, “ものだ”. Instead, they tested random, general grammar which could have been from N3, or just daily life: ついでに、ことになっている eg.

    With that said, I still highly recommend that any aspiring N2 test-takers work their way through the textbooks and pick up these grammar rules. Oddly, grammar patterns which didn’t come out, such as そういうわけじゃないけど。。, are actually bread-and-butter phrases for daily conversations.

    Beyond JLPT N2 (pass/fail), I don’t intend to redo this level. I’m moving on to N1, but I acknowledge that my listening needs to be ironed out if I want to have a shot at passing.

    It’s long and tough, and the pressure we place on ourselves to achieve JLPT Level X can be crushing at times. That aside, if we take the time soak ourselves in Japanese anime/culture, and make Japanese friends along the way, it’ll be a rewarding journey!

    Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! To my fellow test-takers, let’s keep our chins up no matter how we think we fared, and come back stronger this December! お疲れ様です.


    • Clayton MacKnight July 4, 2016, 12:39 pm

      There is a lot of valuable advice here that I totally agree with. Starting at the N2 level, the test doesn’t really follow any clear guideline for grammar or vocabulary, so you really just need to dive in and start reading and using a lot of native materials. They don’t seem to really test you on the grammar patterns but they do pop up in the reading and listening at times, so it is good to go over them.

      I guess the best strategy is like you said, just consume lots of material and look up words of interest. You don’t even really need to drill words that much anymore as long as you keep your reading up. Thanks for all the great tips!

  • Koh July 4, 2016, 2:27 am

    Hi Clayton, I reread my comment and just realized it’s indeed a whopping chunk, I’m sorry for making you read THAT!

    In any case, your site has been awesome! Keep up the good work! :))

    • Clayton MacKnight July 4, 2016, 12:36 pm

      No worries, it had a lot of great advice!

    • EskimoJo July 9, 2016, 9:42 pm

      It was really good to read and probably the kick up the backside I need if I am to attempt N2 this December. I will work harder on my listening! Thank you.

  • Anne July 4, 2016, 6:47 am

    I took the N1 in Japan for the second time. The reading section has always been the most difficult part for me (I`ve taken the N2 three times before passing it, by the way) because of the time limit and the annotated vocabulary they throw in that don`t appear in the vocab prep books. Even in my native English, I`m a slow reader. Processing especially heavy material takes time for me. I marked an answer for every question, but I didn`t even set eyes on the long text that appeared before the information retrieval. I had 10 minutes left, so I decided to mark random answers for that one and skimmed over the information retrieval since it was shorter and more straightforward.

    Although there were a few questions where two of the choices seemed like they both could work, or I was straight up stumped, the kanji, vocabulary, and listening sections were the easiest for me. A friend and I thought the grammar section was interesting, for the lack of a better word, because it seemed that a few of the answers we thought were the most appropriate were grammar points more emphasized in N2 or other levels. This made us second guess ourselves, since we expected to have more strictly N1 grammar as answers.

    As for prep books, I mainly used the New Kanzen Master series and So-matome towards the end for review. Kanzen Master is really good for heavy-duty studying because the Japanese explanations are good for understanding the nuances of similar words and grammar points. I enjoy reading articles on NHK Online and I try to read about current events in Japanese before reading them in English.

    As much as I told myself that I should, I didn`t plan and follow a strict and detailed study schedule. Part of it is my personality-one day I`m down to study only vocabulary, one day I feel like studying kanji for one hour and grammar another hour. Basically it depends on my mood haha. I think that having a tutor played a large part of me passing the July 2015 N2 exam since I was assigned work every week and I had more or less a set routine going. This time I wanted to try out self-studying.

    What I would do to improve my study plan is to commit to a more structured study schedule, include more variety in my reading materials, and use Anki for memorization. One thing I regret is leaving the reading practice of N1 sample texts at the very end rather than consistently working on it from the beginning. However, leaving it at the end has some advantages that I realize just now. It was the very last thing I dedicated my time to, so when it came to test day I felt that my scanning skills were still fresh.

    I can`t say that I feel that I passed for sure, but I think I that I scored higher than I did last December (scored 60-something/180). It`s my second year working and living in Japan, so the everyday interactions with all aspects of the language has been helpful, especially in listening. Side note, but I always feel that the listening section would be the section I would score the least in/ the section that would fail me, but surprisingly it has always been the section I score the highest.

    Knowing the flow of the exam is definitely crucial. You can`t help getting anxious every time, but at least you more or less know how the questions and answers are going to be presented. I remember being confused during the listening portion of the N1 December 2015 test where part 2 involved listening to the dialogue first, then hearing the question and answers after. Maybe being really tired after the 読解 section had to do with it, but for some reason I thought there was only one or two questions of that format. When I realized that we were still in part two and not part three, I panicked, missed hearing the the following two dialogues carefully and didn`t get to answer with decent judgement. Out of all the times I`ve taken the JLPT so far, yesterday`s exam is the one where I felt the most comfortable.

    I read somewhere that a little caffeine and chocolate before the exam and during the breaks can boost your energy and focus, and I think that worked for me 🙂

    I wonder if anyone has tried doing the reading section first, then the kanji, vocabulary, and grammar last. I`m always tempted, but everyone recommends that following the order of the test as it is is better, for reasons which I understand why.

    I really appreciate your blog. Looking forward to hearing more tips from you and your language-learning progress.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 5, 2016, 2:22 pm

      The grammar section of the N1 is a real hodge-podge of grammar. I think they even say in the test specs that they are not specifically testing particular grammar points and they aren’t. It is more your understanding of style and advanced uses of some earlier grammar that you might have went over before, but didn’t get all the nuances of. At least, I’ve never seen a whole lot of ‘N1 grammar’ on the grammar section.

      As for what to answer first, I think it all depends on you and how you feel. I have tried to tackle the reading first knowing that my focus is the best and I’ll be able to skim and scan a lot more effectively when I’m fresh. I usually ‘drop’ a few questions though like the long reading (second to last passage). That way I can circle around and spend any remaining time I have poring over that. You just have to make sure you remember to do it.

      But, if you feel like it is better to have a few ‘softballs’ before the main event, it is good to go through the kanji and vocab first. I think the standard rule of thumb is do what you hate/ are worse at first then move on to the easy stuff, but if that makes you queasy, what is the point?

  • chee July 4, 2016, 12:00 pm

    Where did you take the test?

    What level?

    What was the most difficult section of the exam?
    Reading Comprehension. There was simply not enough time to properly understand the paragraphs. I finished the entire section, but it was quite a challenge for me.

    What was the easiest?
    On a related note, it was quite a bummer because I remember memorizing loads of Kanji, only to find out that there’s furigana for every kanji.

    And how did you prepare for the exam?
    I started attending Japanese classes last December because it was needed for work. It was only this March that I decided to apply for the JLPT. Besides my continuous Japanese classes, I also took various mock tests and used Unicom as my main practice material for the JLPT.
    During the mock tests, I always failed in the listening section, but somehow, I was pleasantly surprised that the listening section was easier than I was expecting.

    Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time?
    I only started preparing for the JLPT two weeks prior to the exam. While cramming was my main method, I do think that this won’t be effective if I plan to take N4 and above.
    I’ll pass on taking the N4 exam this December and prepare for the July 2017 instead.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 5, 2016, 2:28 pm

      Sounds like a good plan! As for studying a lot of extra kanji, don’t worry! That will definitely come in handy as you move up to the next levels. And it will obviously help you out in real world usage. It wasn’t wasted time.

      I hope you did well, and look forward to hearing about your results!

  • athos July 4, 2016, 1:23 pm

    – Where did you take the test? (in Japan?, Europe?)
    Europe, Hungary (Budapest)

    – What level?

    – What was the most difficult section of the exam?

    – What was the easiest?
    Probably grammar.

    – And how did you prepare for the exam?
    It’s a bit hard to learn a language having a fulltime job and also some life, but I’m slowly but steadily walking through Tae Kim’s grammar book, and occasionally I write some posts on lang-8, exchange messages with Japanese friends and sometimes I watch a few movies and anime (including Japanese movies and Japanese-dubbed Hollywood movies, both with Japanese subtitles). I also use JapanesePod101 and follow various Youtube channels dedicated to learning Japanese, e.g. Nihongo no Mori. I use Skritter for learning kanji and memorizing vocabulary (there, aside from the Genki I-II and other official vocab lists, I mainly study my own vocab lists that I keep putting together from various words that I encounter anywhere).

    Specifically for the test, I did a few sections of the 日本語総まとめN3 文法 book (sadly, I did not allocate enough time to walk through the entire book) and I completed some mock tests with time restrictions matching the real thing.

    – Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time?

    Well, maybe it could have been more effective. Since passing N4 in December last year, I feel I became a bit lazy but at the same time overconfident this year. I think this N3 showed me that I need to put more focus on kanji, vocabulary and reading. The test would have felt much easier if I could read more fluently, and also, if I had less frustration due to unfamiliar words. Approaching the reading section by reading the questions first definitely helps, but a decent reading speed is still invaluable in all the text-based sections.

    Comparing the real thing to various practice tests, I found that the questions of the real exam tend to be more integrated. For example, in the Grammar section, a lot of questions have multiple grammatically correct answers, but only one of them fits the tone/politeness level of the question, or one of them makes more sense in the context of a given sentence than the others. (May be there are not as many, but this experience was quite noticable to me as I don’t remember having the same feeling while doing practice tests.) Also, there are a lot of trick questions where you really need to pay attention to tiny details to figure out the correct answer, and it’s really easy to loose precious time re-reading the question and the answer options.

    The listening section feels a little bit like gambling: eg. if the player is too loud and unwanted echo or slight distortion makes some syllables less clearly audible, or if someone has to cough at the wrong moment, then you may miss important nuances.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 5, 2016, 2:36 pm

      That is a list of great resources. I used jpod101 when I first started learning Japanese. It is an invaluable resource with a ton of content.

      Reading seems to always be a difficult section for everyone. It takes a lot of practice and there isn’t much available at the N3 level. For N2 and N1 you can start reading a lot of native material, but you still need material specifically written for Japanese learners at the N3 level. I know when I was at the level, I struggled to find good reading material. One good source is News Web Easy by NHK. I think you will find that the articles are kind of easy. They are also pretty short so it is easy to get through them. A really nice thing about this is they usually link to the main article about the story, so after you are done with the easy article, you can try your hand at the native-level stuff. Pretty cool.

      • athos July 6, 2016, 12:54 pm

        Thanks for the tips, the News Web Easey by NHK site is really awesome! Also, thank you for JLPT Boot Camp as well!

  • Stewie July 4, 2016, 9:15 pm

    Place- London
    Level- N1
    Most difficult- Listening
    Easiest- Kanji

    First I went through Shin Kanzen Master N1 for Grammar, Reading, Listening (I don’t bother with kanji/vocab textbooks these days I just look up new characters/words as I encounter them). Then I did 4 practice tests in the fortnight before the exam.

    Outside textbooks/practice tests, I’ve read about 10-15 Japanese novels/self help books, binge watched lots of drama series, read online news every day, watched online news every day, studied a little Classical Japanese. Basically as much non-JLPT, real world Japanese as possible.

    I’m quite confident I’ve passed Language Knowledge/Reading. The Listening was an almighty disaster- a shame because in all the practice tests the Listening was my best. I don’t know what happened- heat, tired from first half, concentration, being sat right in front of the speakers blasting it loud enough for those at the back of the room- probably all of it. We’ll see anyway…

    Advice: take practice tests in the most uncomfortable conditions possible- on a long train journey, on a park bench, on the hottest and coldest days of the year, with Chinese radio in the background, with a hangover… Prepare for anything to catch you out on the day!

    To end on a positive, the practice tests definitely worked wonders for timings in the Language Knowledge/Reading part. When the guy called 5 minutes left I was all done and checked 🙂

    • Clayton MacKnight July 5, 2016, 2:42 pm

      Sounds like a pretty sound strategy. I think for N2 and definitely for the N1, you need to get away from the textbooks in order to pass. You need a lot of real-world usage. There is simply way too much content for those little books to cover. They are still definitely useful though. The Shin Kanzen Master series is just the right level of toughness.

      I used to take practice tests in my noisy apartment with the neighbors pounding around upstairs. I think another thing to note is do practice tests with actual speakers and not headphones. During the test you get lots of lovely echos and reverberations from it blasting from some dinky stereo.

    • NihongoLover July 8, 2016, 2:07 am

      Outside textbooks/practice tests, I’ve read about 10-15 Japanese novels/self help books, binge watched lots of drama series, read online news every day, watched online news every day, studied a little Classical Japanese. Basically as much non-JLPT, real world Japanese as possible.

      I want to say Wow.. Being outside of Japan, you read many books. I appeared N1 first time in this July after 1 years of study (Only 4 or 5 months of countable study) Mainly I studied kanzen series (except kanji) For me exam was difficult. I think there are many factors, as I did not learn Kanji specifically, or did only Kanzen series. I think N1 expects real life knowledge as you said.
      Could you tell about the novels/self study books you read. I would like to start reading novels for the first time 🙂

  • nekorodeo July 5, 2016, 5:52 am

    1. Where did you take the test? Japan
    2. What level? N2
    3. What was the most difficult section of the exam? Surprisingly, the kanji section. I study many kanji every day (admittedly via N2 lists) and I’d NEVER seen many of the kanji on this year’s test.
    4. What was the easiest? Listening
    And how did you prepare for the exam? I studied using various grammar books, memrise daily, and some various short article reading.
    5. Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time? Considering that I studied harder and longer for the N2 this time than any other time and STILL failed it miserably…I’m going to have to do something different.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 5, 2016, 2:45 pm

      Sounds like you might need more native exposure. Reading native materials like kids books or newspapers. I got my reading speed and vocabulary up by reading Harry Potter. I use words I learned from that book on a daily basis.
      Good luck with studies!

  • Siri July 6, 2016, 4:45 am

    1. Where did you take the test? (in Japan?, Europe?)
    — Manila

    2. What level?
    — N4

    3. What was the most difficult section of the exam?
    — The grammar part on picking the correct phrase that fits the star.

    4. What was the easiest?
    — Vocab/Kanji. It was the shortest (only 35 items).

    5. And how did you prepare for the exam?
    — Brushed up on Minna no Nihongo 1-50 (2-3 lessons/day since mid-May), did bunpou and kanji drills every morning while still groggy to test if my brainwork is really working, browsed notes before going to sleep, taped kanji posters around my room to practice reading faster, did 2-3 rounds of tests using Nakahara’s Japanese app wherever I am if I have spare time.

    6. Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time?
    — Until the results come out, I can’t confirm anything yet lol. I did notice there wasn’t much that took me off-guard (like a word or kanji I’ve never seen before), just that there are tricky times when two answers sound alike and you have to choose which fits best. If there’s a plan to take N3 in December, I guess maintain the same methods but increase the study content; study more new kanji, vocab, sentence patterns, work on faster reading and listening comprehension. Maybe watch more NHK on TV.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 6, 2016, 2:29 pm

      The scrambled sentences, where you have to choose the correct phrase that fits in the star are pretty difficult. The best cure for them is to just do lots of drills, and try to focus on grammar more. They are difficult even for native speakers though.

      • Siri July 7, 2016, 11:58 am

        Will do. Thank you for the additional tips! 🙂

  • Chie July 6, 2016, 6:39 am


    Good day!

    Sir Mac, I just took the JPLT N4 exam last Sunday here in the Philippines. Your materials were so helpful especially during review period. Though, I had a hard time to fully focused my day by day review routine due to my shifting schedules at work, I had a difficulty to fully understand questions in Grammar section and Listening. But, your materials were truly helpful. For the upcoming exam this exam I hope everyone will have sometime to focus in reviewing before the big day. Here is my simple advice fof those who will take the exam

    1.Manage your time
    2. Stay focus
    3. Practice writing and reading

    Ohayou Gozaimasu sir Mac!


  • Thomas July 7, 2016, 4:41 am

    Hi Clayton.

    I took the N4 in Singapore. I found the vocab/Kanji and grammar papers quite OK. Mostly in line with the level of difficulty I had encountered in practice papers. I was a little slow in the reading sections, but finished just in time. What I found difficult was the listening part. The speech was a little faster than what I expected. And for some of the questions in the last section (with 3 responses), none of the 3 responses were exactly what I expected, so I went for the best one. Maybe it’s just me, ‘cos listening is not really my strong point (even in “real life”!).
    I prepared for the N4 by enrolling in a prep course, as well as doing my own practice papers.

    • Clayton MacKnight July 7, 2016, 2:33 pm

      Sounds like you had a pretty common experience. Reading at the N4 level is so tough. It is hard to get good practice material for it, and you can’t really read anything interesting at that level. 🙂

  • Alain July 11, 2016, 1:35 pm

    Hi there, first time here !

    I’ve been studying japanese since october last year and I’d like to take the test next december in France.

    Having said that, I have a few questions regarding the test (N5 of course ^^):

    – How many kanji did you guys learned? Some say that 80 are enough for N5 while others say that you should know about 150 of them.

    – How did you prepare for the listening part? I feel pretty confident about vocabulary, kanji and grammar, but the listening part … not so sure about that.

    – Do you have to know a lot of counters? I find it pretty hard to remember tbh. My teacher taught quite a few, but I just don’t know how many of them are necessary for the N5.

    Thanks !

    • Clayton MacKnight July 12, 2016, 2:34 pm

      I don’t know what everyone else has to say, but the generally accepted number of kanji for the N5 is around 100. Not that many really.

      As for listening, I would say the best way to prepare is to well, do a lot of listening at your level. JapanesePod101 has a great podcast with regular updates of material for all sorts of levels. At N5 level, you can just listen to the podcast when you can to get the practice.

      For counters, there are about 8 or 9 of them that you should learn. This video should cover what you need.

      • Alain July 13, 2016, 8:13 am

        Thank you for your answer! And thx for the link to the video and podcast, it’s very usefull 🙂

        • athos July 14, 2016, 10:27 pm

          (This comment is going to be shameless self-promo, Clayton, please remove it if you find it inappropriate.)

          I found counters to be one of the hardest things to memorize so far (especially the date related ones and the crazy rules like using the bird-counter 羽 [わ] for rabbits*.) For such memory-intensive stuff, what seems to be working for me is music. I heard that when it comes to counters and dates, even Japanese kids are taught via children’s songs. Fortunately, there are a lot of such songs on YouTube, but I also tried to compose a more adult-compatible one which includes many basic counters (with some emphasis on exceptions and pronunciation changes) and the date and time related ones. Once you are familiar with the grammar of counters, I recommend listening to this song a few times to remember the counters themselves:


          * As far as I know, nowadays it’s okay to use 匹 [ひき], but the traditional one is 羽, because some Buddhist monks were allowed to eat bird meat only, but once upon a time they run out of it, so they declared rabbits flightless birds on the basis that their ears must be atrophied wings so they could eat them. 🙂

          • Alain July 20, 2016, 10:58 am

            Thx for the link to the video athos, but music’s not working for me ^^

  • Jam July 12, 2016, 7:13 am

    Where did you take the test? (in Japan?, Europe?)
    What level?
    What was the most difficult section of the exam?
    Grammar. Because of this, I missed 3 reading items. I should’ve done it first since I read slowly (and I really want to improve it :3)
    What was the easiest?
    Kanji/Vocabulary, Listening
    And how did you prepare for the exam?
    It’s my first time taking my JLPT, just to test my progress with the language, after years of being an enthusiast of the culture. It’s sort of a self-fulfillment for me if I pass this. I asked tips from my friends who already got their N5 certificates and it made me quite confident. However, as the date came close, I became worried as I have not studied well yet. Reading and understanding the N5 kanji and vocabulary list whenever I have free time is one preparation. Honestly, even if I always tell myself to study even for an hour each day, it’s not happening because I was always pre-occupied and I fall asleep 🙁 so a week before the exam was actually the only time I seriously reviewed. I focused a lot in Kanji that I ran out of study time for Grammar. I thought I will be able to do well just by knowing the use of particles but NO, it was really confusing and I have to know the sentence patterns well, too.
    I also took some quizzes online even if I have not reviewed yet, to know how my stored knowledge from the Japanese words I encountered when I watch dramas/movies/shows would help. If there are words that seems familiar to me, but I have forgotten its meaning then I check it through jisho.org especially for the kanji. That helps me with vocabulary quite easily. Taking the Sample test from JLPT N5 2012 was a great help! That way, I was able to know how the test would be. Also, I really love watching Japanese dramas and movies, the times I supposed to review was actually spent for those, but it eventually came handy for Choukai.
    Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time?
    That, I still don’t know. I really pray that I’ll pass despite my difficulty in the 2nd part of the test. When the results are out, I can share which part of my study plan was effective. Just one thing is for sure, I should allocate more time for studying if I really want to pursue the next level. Cramming is effective for me, but it somehow increase anxiety. I think it’s only applicable when you just want to refresh your mind before the exam, after going through all the study materials needed for that level, months before.

    By the way, the study tips you gave helped a lot, Mac! Thank you. If I pass N5, maybe I could go for N4 on July, next year, with an improved study habit to make sure I’ll pass it, even if I only self-study.

    • Jam July 12, 2016, 9:14 am

      Sorry it became so long ;A;

    • Clayton MacKnight July 12, 2016, 2:37 pm

      I think the test is really helpful for studying because it is a force to get you to take your studies seriously. 🙂 I don’t think I seriously study Japanese until I started moving toward passing the JLPT. Before that, I didn’t take my studies so seriously. I hope the test motivates you to keep with your studies and you can understand dramas and movies in the future!

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Sisi August 11, 2016, 10:30 pm

    I sat the N1 in Tokyo (yeah, in that university which is 1000000000km far away from any sign of life, walking 15 minutes from the station under the 38°C sun of July haha).
    Everything was pretty easy, the kanji part was so easy I thought it was a joke, or there was a kind of trap somewhere. Same for grammar. Same for listening. Can aim 50/60 in those parts.
    But holy cow the reading part was awfully hard! Well, not “that” hard but too long! I was constantly stressed out by the time running I couldn’t focus on those huge texts about brains and whatever (lol my memory of it is quite a bad sign)
    I spent 3 years learning literary Japanese at university, and I may say i’m wayyy more comfortable in reading than in listening/speaking. But this time reading was too tough for me. For the listening part, well, I spent 1 year in a Japanese univ and was living everyday with a Japanese guy for 2 months, so, no problem. Kanjis and grammar are no problem as long as you learn all the vocabulary/sentences patterns in the books such as “日本語総まとめ” ou “完全スピードマスター” or something, and if you create vocabulary lists by yourself in addition to that, well, it’s as easy as pie. I bought some Nintendo DS games designed for Japanese who suck at Japanese (it’s called 金田一先生の日本語レッスン) and even if it’s not the most useful tool out there, it makes the kanji part look ridiculously simple compared to it!
    I’m still wondering if I’ll pass. I fear I’m right when i say i’m going to have less than 19p in the reading part. My advice for the next generations of JLPTers: don’t trust the mock exams you find on the net, which are too easy (those are the samples of the questions of the exam, just to test if the material works properly, not representative of the JLPT level questions at all)! The reading part is more difficult than it looks like! And for the kanjis, relax a bit, all the jôyô kanjis and all their readings aren’t necessary. Read scientific books, articles, essays (there was an essay on what a family should be for its children if I remember well), etc, and the kanjis/vocab will be assimilated automatically.

    • Clayton MacKnight August 12, 2016, 2:43 pm

      I think to get over the reading part for N1, you really just need to fall in love with reading in Japanese and just read a lot, every day. That seems to be the advice for just about everyone I’ve ever talked to that has passed the N1. I’m surprised your university experience didn’t help you more though.

      • Sisi August 17, 2016, 2:58 pm

        I can’t agree more!
        I hope I’m just being pessimistic, afterall, I felt like I didn’t even reach 80/120 on the TOEFL test but eventually got 110 haha. I master bungo perfectly so I can read Nagai Kafû, I was a level 7-8 at the Waseda Japanese classes, I play games and read academic books (economics mainly) in Japanese everyday but that didn’t help, I was as lost as a baby fawn on the road. Guess I’m just bad at it haha
        If I failed I’ll try to time myself while reading.

  • Marina August 24, 2016, 4:34 am

    Hi everyone!
    I took N2 this July and passed with 117. Actually I didn’t study for the test, just studied in the university in Japan for a year.

    Score 26/36/55. Reading part I passed due to my classes at the uni, we were reading similar texts, I didn’t study well for the words and kanji so I hace what I deserved here.

    Anyway I have some questions.
    Is the first section considered to be the easiest? I find it the hardest after all.

    As for listening, I did’t listen to any CDs but I did bukatsu and the guys were talking quite fast explaining me all the stuff, so I think it makes sence in my case.

    • Clayton MacKnight August 24, 2016, 2:46 pm

      um, most people say the first section is the easiest, and a lot of people dread the reading section. The reading section can be a nightmare for some, so it is good that you were able to do that part well.

  • Leslie Furlong September 4, 2016, 1:36 am

    First, a little background.
    Although I’ve been in Japan since the Clinton administration, my exposure to Japanese is somewhat limited. Back in the day I failed the old 2nd grade test THREE TIMES before giving it up for guilt-free viewing of Battlestar Galactica . It was liberating, but recently with middle age creeping in a voice inside my head started repeating “what have you accomplished here?” So I decided to take the N3.

    1. Where did you take the test? (in Japan?, Europe?) Tokai region of Japan
    2. What level? N3
    3. What was the most difficult section of the exam? Reading. It took me forever to do the questions, since I started with the last and worked backwards. Grammar might have been difficult, but honestly I wasn’t paying that much attention. NO TIME!
    4. What was the easiest? Kanji and Vocabulary. Thank you, billboards and road signs.
    5. And how did you prepare for the exam? Poorly. Osmosis aside, I just ran through the Shin Nihongo 500. It might have helped a little, but there was never a moment in the grammar section where I thought “AHA! I know this!” because of that wee book.
    6. Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time? Change is in the air. There were questions I was underprepared for, and I need to shift my attention to reading, not just uncontextualized kanji and grammar.

    I just barely passed the N3. I thought it was a lot harder than the old 2nd Grade tests, but back then the pass mark was a flat 60% and I could only manage 50%. Now it’s, what, 55% for N3, and 50% for N2? Apples and oranges.

    Oh, and the travel time to the new test site is measured in minutes rather than hours, so yay.

    • Clayton MacKnight September 5, 2016, 1:43 pm

      Everyone has problems with reading at first. You just need to start small and slow and get into the habit of reading as much as you can. If you are in Japan, it is pretty easy to pick up some books at a secondhand shop like Book Off. Good luck next round!

  • Rob Colonico December 4, 2016, 8:48 pm

    I just got home from my N5 exam, which I wrote in Toronto, Canada. I definitely aced the vocabulary section, but I really struggled with the grammar and reading section. It wasn’t even the particles that threw me off, it was that they used a few words and grammar structures I hadn’t prepared for. None of my practice exams included them. Luckily for some of them, the vocabulary I didn’t know wasn’t crucial to the question, so I still think I did alright overall. I have no idea how well I did on the listening section, but I can tell you right now I pretty much guessed for half of them. A lot of times I just completely missed what they said. Oh well, I’ll find out in March.

    As for preparations, I had been studying for 2 years prior, mostly via self-study. I completed 2 amazing apps called Human Japanese and Human Japanese: Intermediate, and also took a weekly course at the University of Toronto. Since the summer, I’ve been working on my speaking and listening skills via weekly Skype lessons, which I arranged through iitalki. I’ve also used a few books for kanji, including one specifically designed for JLPT N5, and one that details the history and etymology of each standard character. And to review and brush up on my reading, I’ll regularly visit Satori Reader, from the makers of Human Japanese.

  • Gaeru December 7, 2016, 12:51 pm

    Where did you take the test? (in Japan?, Europe?) – Paris
    What level? – N2
    What was the most difficult section of the exam? – Kanji
    What was the easiest? – Listening
    And how did you prepare for the exam? – Got sou-matome for kanji, grammar and reading… But I mostly just did the grammar one. I didn’t study very well. I also listened to exercices on some sites but they were much more easier than what the test really was like.
    Was your study plan effective? or are you going to change something for next time? – Not so much, I wasn’t diligent enough. Had I properly studied kanji, I would have done better. Next time I’ll study much harder on kanji.

    • Clayton MacKnight December 10, 2016, 1:15 pm

      Yeah, kanji is a pain, but probably the easiest place to pick up points. Something you just have to trudge through. Do you use any vocab training programs?

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