Advice for JLPT listening section?

I’m coming up on the JLPT next week, taking the N3. It’s my first time taking the test.

I’m fairly confident in every section but listening. In practice, I’ve still been getting over two-thirds of questions correct, which is, crazily enough, still passing, but it’s definitely my weakest section.

Though I live in, and listen to, Japanese every day, and always get the gist, I find myself often selecting the closest trick answer based on missing some essential piece of information right away.

For example: In a recent question about what a patient was supposed to do, I answered that they needed to get an X-ray and return to the nurse for further instructions. Which was right, except for the fact that I’d missed that he was getting a blood test first, mentioned once at the beginning of the conversation.

In another, I incorrectly selected an answer that said someone needed to return their books to the library by such-and-such dates, when the correct answer was the same dates but for pick-up. I’d missed 予約した本 right at the beginning of the conversation, where the rest went on to focus on dates.

How have you handled the actual test-taking elements of the listening section? My inclination is to take notes, but I’ve found questions go so fast that if I try to take any detailed notes, I wind up missing a piece of essential information. I’ve had better luck just crossing off answers as I listen, but I’m not sure if there’s an optimal or recommended strategy here.

The comprehension isn’t usually the hard part, if I can see everything written out. It’s just that you only get one shot to catch all the info. What’s worked for you?


I have found that the more questions you do, the more you get ready for the twists and kind of look specifically for them. And of course, the better you get at listening the more you can hold in your short term memory while still processing the coming audio.

If you’ve ever tried to listen to something like a low level TOEIC or Eiken question, you’ll find that if you are focusing on holding things in memory it’s trivial to remember almost the entire conversation exactly even after it ends. But if your attention lapses even a native can miss the critical info. It’s just a fact of listening questions, they are quite different from real conversations, because real people cooperate to clarify everything rather than purposely obfuscate things.


Probably your test taking approach is the correct one. I wouldn’t be able to take notes and listen to audio at the same time. And you’ll probably do fine if you get 2/3 of the practice questions correct so don’t worry too much.

But as far as studying for future tests, The only thing I can think of is to listen to practice questions and then try writing down as much of them as you can in order to increase your listening capability and your memory capacity. I’ll try to take my own advice as a study for the N3 in December. Meanwhile, good luck!

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Aye, the listening passages intentionally include all of the wrong answers as well, so that you can’t cherry-pick the correct answer out of context. So far as taking notes goes, since you’ve already got the options written out, all you need to do is scribble a reminder next to each - even if it’s as simple as crossing them off when they get ruled out, as you mentioned.

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