Monday, December 14, 2015

Passing the JLPT

The JLPT is held twice a year, and every year I read about the frustrations of people prepping for the test.

I took the New JLPT a number of years ago, and I've decided to write about the (somewhat) simple method I used to pass both tests in one go.

The best test advice I got was from my boyfriend. He told me that Japanese people prepared for tests by finding past tests, making multiple copies of them and taking them over and over until getting their target score, then moving on to the next practice test.

I bought the white book on the right long after passing N1.

For N2, since this was when the N2 had just come out, I used old versions of the JLPT 2-kyuu and borrowed some grammar books from a friend. Taking the old version of the JLPT over and over became my main method of study.

I took N2 in July? of that year and turned my sights to N1 soon after.

For N1, I was gifted an N1 study guide and I went out and bought a thin book of level 1 and 2 grammar (all written in Japanese). Again, I made multiple copies of the two or three tests in that book and took them over and over again. I used the other book to check unfamiliar grammar. At one point I was trying to write down each unknown word and memorize it, but as study time wore down, I put that aside.

In fact, it was my boyfriend (if I remember correctly), who told me to forget about memorizing all of the kanji and grammar. Basically, there was just not enough time to memorize everything and it's better to practice with old tests since sentences and types of questions are often reused. 

I am going to guess that most Americans probably study the way I started to: by diligently going through each grammar pattern, thinking of different ways to use it and trying to make sentences...writing down each kanji and trying to make flashcards for each single kanji and other words that kanji used. The idea of copying old tests and focusing mainly on that was totally unheard of to me.

Maybe that's why I bombed the SAT? Perhaps everyone else already had this "knowledge"?

Anyways. If you are like me, and you want to pass the JLPT, I recommend making old tests the bulk of your study. Take them over and over. Yes, you will memorize the answers. Yes, you will feel like you are cheating. But, isn't that really what it's about?
The JLPT isn't a true test of your knowledge. It's a test of how well you can test. And if you are looking to work in Japan in something other than an ALT position, N2 is usually listed as a minimum requirement.

By memorizing bits of the old test, your subconscious should start to point you in the direction of the correct answers on the real test.

Don't believe me? That's fine. I'm the one that passed N2 in July of one year and N1 in December of the same year. First time ever taking either test. 


  1. Thanks for the advice! I wasn't able to sign up for the JLPT this year, but looking to do it next summer, obviously not thrilled at the thought tho and wasn't sure where to start until now. c:

  2. Good luck! I hope it helps!
    When I decided to take N2, I began seriously studying in January of that year to meet July. I would read through the grammar book, which I'll try to bring home and post a pic of, for about an hour, answering the practices questions there. Then I'd work my way through the past tests.

    And it was really frustrating taking the same test again and again over weeks and months. I really felt like I was just memorizing answers and cheating. It went against everything I was taught in school. However, it did work. If I could go back and do anything different, I would have actually listened to the test CDs. I thought that watching the news in Japanese everyday and other TV shows was good enough, but the way the test presents information is different from real life. >_<