Another JLPT Failure - Any Advice?

Last year I took the JLPT N5 and passed every section but failed to get the overall score necessary by a couple points. New year, new test (N4), almost the exact same result. I have studied an average of 2+ hours a day for 2 years, splitting my time between grammar/reading/vocab/wanikani and adding some fun Japanese stationary videos and anime on top for exposure/immersion.

It seems like lots of people who study a comparable amount are much more proficient or at least get better scores. Has anyone been in the same boat? Does it seem like it’s just poor test taking skills or inefficient study? Have people found that at some point it “clicks” and becomes more manageable?

By the end of this year, I want to change the script and feel confident that my time spent has been fruitful. I want that certificate, or at least to feel like I can use my knowledge practically with some proficiency and I need help knowing how to get there. Any advice, but especially if you’ve been in my shoes and overcame it, would be so appreciated.


Sounds like you should try the N3 next and keep it going. :slight_smile:

The JLPT tests for specific things that you don’t necessarily need, but serve a general purpose of “proficiency”, so I wouldn’t worry about not passing if you’re not studying specifically to do so, and especially if you’re doing well, just not passing.

If you were nowhere near, then it might be an issue.

2 hours a day for 2 years does sound like a lot (1460+ hours), but it depends on how you’re spending them.


Maybe nervosism a lot or other causes for occur this. But, I think that if you relax and study throught specifics books for example “nihongo sou matome” or “kanzen master series” you certainly can pass in next test.


In regards for JLPT study (levels N5-N3) you have to study the test, not the language. N2 and N1 is a little more difficult to advise on since I have yet to pass those but the amount of preexisting knowledge required is more substantial too. 2 hours isn’t a lot as it sounds like you just kind of do flashcards and watch a youtube video or two. Rather than strive for the JLPT it sounds like your still kind of in the beginning stages of figuring out how to incorporate japanese study into your daily routine and the quantity/quality is still not quite there yet.

If it makes you feel any better I failed N5, N4, and after the N4 failure I really buckled down and studied for the N4, I did every workbook I could get my hands on and had a very rigorous study routine. Due to COVID, the N4 for July was cancelled but I was so confident I was gonna pass if given the chance I moved on to the N3 material and did as much as I could every day and passed (not by a crazy number, but it was a solid pass). After N3 I thought I could replicate the same success I had for the N2, but I was wrong… twice. So now I am just reading books, watching anime, and going through all the JLPT grammar points through Renshuu and doing kanji + plus looking up new words if I see them enough in my reading or listening. I want to take the N3 in July again and get a higher score. Then in December, I want to take the N2 again and hopefully pass.

TL;DR You have to study for the test, but don’t confuse study for the test for studying the language.


It depends on why you’re failing - whether it’s knowledge that’s the issue or applying it. Did you do any practice tests? One option would be to look over one with a teacher to see where your issues are.

If your knowledge is fine but you’re not able to apply it to the test, it might be worth some more focussed study so that you understand the kind of questions they might ask and the potential traps etc.

Otherwise just persist with what you’re doing and your level with improve over time, but aim to work on your weak spots, whether that’s grammar, vocabulary or other.


Just to clarify, I don’t count watching videos in my study time. I mean I study at least an average of 2 hours every day and I watch videos for fun in addition. I create a study plan and try to work steadily on the vocab, grammar, etc. for each JLPT level over the year. Hopefully that helps gives more prospective, I should’ve been more clear before.


Did you ever do any beginner books or intermediate textbooks (non-JLPT focused)?

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I’ve gone through Genki I and II, not sure if those are technically JLPT focused or not honestly. I’ve tried and used a lot of different resources for grammar, reading, etc. trying to find what works for me.

They’re not JLPT focused, but I would suggest reviewing or going through them again (once a week with an iTalki teacher/TokiniAndy [when you don’t have the money]) plus do the workbooks. That way you can get some feedback and get real practice in that isn’t multiple choice. The problem I have with JLPT prep books is they’re basically guessing games. They’re fun and all but not good enough for real study IMO.

After going through Genki again, I recommend doing Quartet + workbooks (N3 and N2) and then once you finish those going through JLPT materials again.


That’s a really good point. It’s about impossible to judge if you know something sufficiently enough without being quizzed on it one way or another. I think my listening skills were also a huge factor and that’s why I’m trying to dedicate additional time to that on top of studying. Is there any way that you know of to be more intentional in improving in that area or is it enough to just engage in listening every day?


You know I found the answer to this question not to long ago. Its too simple, but can feel difficult to start and the honest to god truth is just do it, accept you don’t know 100% of what your doing, but keep doing it. The pieces will start coming together, but its literally just “Keep doing it and you will get better.”


I think language acquisition and pleasure, relaxation and emotional connection are quite closely related. Obviously you are not going to learn a language like Japanese without getting an occasional headache, but maybe when effort degenerates into drill with a highly stressful goal in mind that’s not what your brain needs for long term memorisation. Sounds like you have learned masses but those Hugo “Dutch in 3 Months” kind of products give out a confusing message. Learning a second or third language or whatever is a long term project and while it sounds like you have amazing study habits, you are maybe stressing yourself out about something that is part Alchemy. One thing that convinced me to try Wanikani is it’s a rare product that doesn’t promise a miracle just via purchase. The messaging makes it clear that nothing will happen without consistent effort. So that honesty won me over. But also the product is very fun and approachable and communication from the company aimed at putting the learner at ease. But I do feel the community here has a somewhat Top Of The Class mentality at times which I don’t feel is helpful for language learning. The app takes responsibility for what we need to learn each day, we just have to keep showing up. It doesn’t really matter who gets highest, fastest. It sounds like you have learned an amazing amount. Enjoy the journey (it never stops being a journey)


Disclaimer is I’ve never been “in your shoes” really in the sense that I’ve struggled with efficiency much, but I’m also someone who has dedicated hours a day for years (going on 6) and just have experience learning the material you are trying to learn.

My honest take is that if you have spent close to 1500 hours studying, then yes you probably have very inefficient study. But I mean the reality is, neither I nor anyone else here knows. We just don’t know enough to say like anything. So I really can’t give any advice as is, but I can give you an offer.

I’ve never been done this before with anyone on wanikani but you seem serious and I like that you aren’t just feeling sorry for yourself, so if you want I’m willing to consult with you privately and get more information so I can give more personalized advice and suggestions. If imma do it imma be serious about it so expect a lot of questions lol. If you’re not interested, it won’t hurt my feelings, but if you are then I’m fine with giving you a couple hours of my time sometime.


Ineffective study? Probably. But also due to the fact that people underestimate how time consuming learning japanese is. 2hr a day for 2 years is still just 700 hours and some change. According to this chart you’re pretty much on track.


1400 hrs, corrected. I just woke up. Probably a mixture of both.


Double that.


It’s more like 1400 hours isn’t it?

Btw, one other recommendation - I think the comment about trying N3 was mostly joking, but I’d definitely recommend NOT doing that. I think you need the boost of passing an exam. So even though missing N5 then N4 is actually an improvement, I’d sit N4 again next time you choose to sit.


Yeah, that’s true, corrected.


Unless 2+ hours per day might be miscounted.

It has been mentioned in another topic that 3 years might be reasonable, even if it actually depends (like 5 years).

And there are always outliers (like N5 to N2 in a year).

You could consider the Shin Kanzen Master series. Those are specifically JLPT focused, but they’re also useful for review and drilling in skills that you can apply in the language in other ways. They are split into Vocabulary, Grammar, Reading, and Listening books.

There are other JLPT book series that other people like, too, but my recommendation is to find one that works for you.

But otherwise, just keep going… you clearly are close to passing, so unless you are getting lucky guesses, you’re most likely improving enough… I’m not sure at which level it would be appropriate to retake a test, but for now it probably makes sense to set N3 as your next goal (which might include reviewing N5/4 along the way).


What are your scores per section?
What are your strength and weaknesses in regards to the language and the test?