A question for those who have passed N3+

Hello There,

I decided to jump back on the learning Japanese train after about 30(stopped actively studying in 1992) years away from it. I can already speak Japanese on a conversational level, but reading is my weak point.

As a benchmark I decided to try for the JLPT with the eventual goal of getting to N1. Whenever I speak to Japanese people they always give me the stereotypical “your Japanese is more than enough already, you don’t need to learn anymore”, but knowing Japanese, these types of sayings are to be expected as even if you can rattle off some basic conversation most people seem to be amazed.

I have always been self conscious that my reading didn’t keep up with my conversational skills. When I was in Japan I knew enough to get by in most situations, but I have always lacked the confidence, especially now after all these years.

One thing I didn’t want to do was take an exam and barely squeak by, or have lucky guesses that got me across the finish line. I have decided I want to really crush the tests when I take them and feel like I have the material mastered to a high degree.

I looked into N1, and the reading level isn’t there and although there are a lot of individual kanji that I remember I don’t think I am there yet. I similarly looked at some N2 material, and although it seemed easier than N1 it was still more than I was comfortable doing now. I purchased some N3 material(shinkanzen masta 5 books) and the level seems about right. I am able to read many of the passages as I do recognize some words. I took a few online assessments and N3 was very doable(not sure how close those assessments are to the real thing).

I usually watch Japanese TV shows and am pretty comfortable without subtitles(wouldn’t say I get every word in every instance, but key points and about 95%+ for most).

The test is in December, and although I think I’ll be ok I wanted to ask the opinion of those who have come before me. Is my study mentality(wanikani for kanji with some supplemental books), Japanese native listening practice the way to go? I still have 5 months until the exam and almost feel like I could challenge N2, but don’t want to pass due to guessing on questions I don’t know.

Any advice would be appreciated. Do most people try one level a year?



Passed N3 2 years ago. Missed N2 last year because of covid. Now I’m sure I’ll pass N2, so I don’t want to waste my time on it. But N1 seems like a significant hike in the difficulty. I read very slowly, so I think I won’t even finish reading a half of the reading section…

I’ve set a goal to read at least a few pages of a Japanese novel every day to practice reading and pick up more vocab.

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Thanks for your reply. Did you feel that you crushed N3 when you took it, or was it up in the air after taking until you got your result? What did you use for reading practice? I have that new shinkanzen masta- book I have been going through, as well as NHK easy mostly. I also found a book of Japanese essays that I had from way back in the day. What would you recommend reading?

I don’t think I was super confident right after taking it honestly. But in the end I got almost maximum score.

I lost points in the reading section, which I fully expected. I didn’t have time to read the last assignment at all.

Shink Kanzen Master was great. I think it was very close to the actual test. Perhaps N3 practice book was a little harder than the real deal.

I’ve started SKM N2 reading book but it’s too easy for me now. Just need to focus on the questions and scan the text for the answers. Still pretty useful for getting familiar to the assignment format.

Haven’t purchased N1 yet.

I haven’t practiced kanji/vocab and listening before N3 because WK made me pretty confident in kanji and listening has always been my strength.

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I am only at Wanikani lvl 10, so far I haven’t really ran into any “new” words yet(maybe yamabiko?), but I have seen a lot of “ah, that is how you write that” moments. The first time I started learning everything was new, so I learned a lot, but found I would forget a lot. Now with 30 years of practice, I have the vocab I think, just need to learn to read it lol. Are you looking to hit N1 this year, or next year perhaps?

I don’t know for N3 but reading speed is really important for N2 so I think you could try to focus on the Shin Kanzen reading book. And if you don’t feel like using your textbook just reading anything is still great practice.

You can try a few listening practices but if you understand 95%+ on Japanese TV shows you should be fine even for N2.

I passed N2 without much kanji knowledge so I’m sure you’re going to be fine for N3 in December if you stick with WaniKani. I’m only level 10 but it’s incredible how confident I’m becoming (I used to kinda guess the meaning/reading relying on what I heard and saw) .

I don’t think you mentioned grammar in your post but you should also make sure you know all the patterns if you’re planning on crushing the test.

JLPT is also a standardised test so keep studying with previous tests to understand the logic and what is expected from you. :books:


It’s interesting how you learned the language without focusing on the writing. Probably learning to read and write will be relatively easy given your conversational fluency.

I want to try N1 this December and see how it goes.

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When I learned in the beginning it was all book learning. I ended up moving to Japan and living for a while, and even ended up with a Japanese wife! She lives with me here in the states, but refuses to speak any English. Since I can speak, and don’t live in Japan I never really felt the need to read/write as well. I have worked for some Japanese companies and can manage correspondence in Japanese with google and wapuro. I use google translate for words I don’t understand in their message, and can generally write want I want to say using IME. It is a crutch, and probably makes me look like I can do more than I actually can from a reading standpoint. The kids are getting ready for college soon and I was thinking about moving to Japan for a while to work once the pandemic settles down. I still realistically have a year or 2 until the kids are 100% out of the house, but I figured I would put some energy into getting job ready if that is the path that we take.

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I also took N3 in 2019 and passed, but I wasn’t particularly happy with my score. I got 54/60 on vocab/grammar, 45/60 in reading, and 38/60, for a total of 137/180. I wasn’t surprised that my listening score was low, as I never really spent time practicing that. I was most disappointed in my reading score since I spent (and still spend) most of my free time reading and was fairly confident at the time. The only studying I did specifically for the test was Shin Kanzen Master N3 grammar and one practice test (an official past test).

I think for N3, using WaniKani to improve your knowledge of kanji and vocab in kanji form makes sense. Beyond N3 you might need to supplement with additional sources, but I’m not sure. It sounds like you already do plenty for listening practice, so I’m not sure you need to do anything specifically for that (especially for N3). The main thing I’d suggest to practice for the test is scanning bodies of text for key information. Personally, I really struggle to do that, so I wasted a lot of time during the test reading (nearly) every bit of information in the reading section. That’s probably why I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. While I did answer every question, I didn’t really have time left to reread anything and check my answers.

Also, I don’t really have immediate plans to take the N2 or N1. Now that I’ve started actually doing listening practice (watching anime with Japanese subtitles) and I’ve gone from reading a book in 3+ months to 3-4 weeks, I could probably pass N2 with a little bit of prep. Highly doubt I’d pass N1. But personally, I don’t have a “reason” to take the test other than to check my progress, so I’ll probably skip it this year.

In case you didn’t know, in the U.S., the JLPT is only offered in December. So you don’t have a choice to take multiple levels in a year unless you plan on taking a nice trip to Japan (or elsewhere) for the July test. If you can do both though, I think doing N3 this December and N2 next July would make sense for you, as I think you’d be able to get a comfortable pass at both those levels on that schedule. Probably not worth a trip to just take the JLPT though, which might make it tougher to decide what to take this December (N3 vs N2) and next December (N2 vs N1).

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seanblue thank you for your insights. I think I need to improve my reading speed, well just need to read more in general. With N3 so far I haven’t really run into any grammar patterns that I don’t know and everything seems really easy and natural. I did have a look at an N1 book a couple of months ago and it was far past my level. I’ll probably take the N3 as I’m not planning on taking a trip to Japan in the super near future. I plan on going through all of the ShinKanZen master books before the test. I just got the reading book on Saturday and am already about 30 pages in! I hear most companies would consider hiring with N2 level. Is there really a reason other than your own personal satisfaction for taking N1 if you aren’t planning on attending university in Japan? I work in the computer field and most of it is usually gairaigo anyways.

I could probably work on my keigo a little since I speak common language for the most part. I can rattle off the common phrases if I need to, but if I had to give a technical presentation it might be hard to say it with keigo without some practice.

Your resume is impressive, let’s see if we can get to N1 at some point!


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Thanks Loli, I just saw your reply. I plan on hitting all 5 ShinKanSen Master books. I hope the grammar in there is enough. I have listened to some JLPT listening practice online, and even N1 hasn’t been tough at all. They just talk a bit quicker and might use a little more technical language. I know N1 would crush me at the moment, I just didn’t want to try N2 now and squeak through. It sounds like from what people have been saying they weren’t so sure of their score after taking the test, but ended up with pretty good marks. I want to make sure I feel confident and am not in a super rush. Once I get my Kanji and reading speed up I hope I’ll be in good shape.


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