Another JLPT Failure - Any Advice?

I’m genuinely impressed with your mentality. Personally I’m so weak minded I’d probably have quit by now. Props to you for sticking to it and looking forward.
I shall test that resolve with one more harsh opinion :neutral_face:

If someone told me that out of context, I’d instantly categorize you as “Could probably pass N3”. So yes, I think you’re probably not doing things the most efficient way.

There has been lots of advice for passing the N4 - revise what you’ve studied, use test prep books, … - but personally I don’t think that’s what you need, because that’s not where the issue is. Yes, you’d probably pass the N4 next time around, but that still leaves the “Why are my 2h per day not getting me as far as others?” issue unaddressed.
I don’t think anyone can help with that without more information and some discussions on how you like to study, so I’ll just recommend to take Vanilla up on his offer. He’s someone that has reached impressive levels of Japanese and put a lot of thought into “How to study Japanese?”, so he should be able to help you out.


I now have an N5 fail 2019 (an N1 fail 2021, for the heck of it) and an N3 fail 2022 under my belt. I think the N5 and N4 are very hiragana, grammar and listening-focused. I was too kanji-dependent when I took N5, and bad with listening. This time with N3, my grammar and listening was still too weak. I think that to pass, one should know and be able to use the content for that specific test… be able to hear it said and use it in sentences… I noticed that the grammar is very picky (as teachers tend to do, wanting to test that you know the rules and the exceptions).

I tried an immersion-focused route, but it really didn’t drill me the grammar hard enough. And I was listening over my head and don’t do much production, so it was slow unlock complete understanding. Sadly, it should have helped with my listening, but I want in my zone enough to get really fast with recognition upon hearing.

For this next round of repeating the N3, I’m going through Genki and BunPro (and Nihongo Sou Matoume at the end for review, it’s not great to learn out of, but good sample tests) and trying to listen more AT my level, and to speak with natives more, and force myself to do more production using what I know.

If you want a pass, maybe play it safe and get the win in choosing the test. I imagine you didn’t want to take N5 again, because everyone says it’s worthless and you were close last time and had been working hard all year, so you should be up to N4 by now. That’s the logic that got me to N3 this past time…I just HAD to already be there! It’s frustrating…I could have had the N4 win, but had to pray for an N3 low pass. :roll_eyes: (missed it by 2 points in listening)

Somewhere, someone talked about studying FOR the test… I hadn’t done that enough. The short conversations and questions were very different (in store and subject matter) from what I’d been listening to. The grammar had gaps…


I feel like if I got skewered over my raw score I would feel genuinely discouraged, so here are the letter grades instead:
Vocabulary A
Grammar B
Reading B
Listening doesn’t have a grade, but I would say it is my weakest area.


Also @Empyral do you play Rocket League because if yes then you get me included for free.


I have a really, really good reason to not feel sorry for myself and for wanting to catch up and pass the N3–I take the test with my brother every year. He studied casually for a year before he told me he was learning and I jumped on board, and has passed both the N5 and N4. I feel bad even telling him I failed because I don’t want to take away from his victory. So I have to have a good attitude and accept responsibility for my failings and improve. I had so much fun going with him both years and we want to take our family to Japan for a trip someday.

If you’re willing, I would definitely take you up on that. I’ll take any advice I can get, but honestly the more people post here the more transparent my issues are to me already. I bullet journaled and tried to track my time so I could pull as much info as possible on what I’ve been doing (I was not very consistent at the beginning though) and anything you’d like me to focus on I can try and get more stats on. Thanks for such a generous offer of your time.


Haha I don’t, and I would probably suck at it tbh.

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My discord is Vanilla#4107 if you have it. Thats the most convenient way of communicating for me, so I’ll follow up with some questions to get a better idea of where youve been and where you’re trying to go.


I do, friend request sent

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It’s only a test.

My advice would be to aim to the N3, so you’ll be closer to understand and enjoy Japanese culture and interactions with native speakers.

One advice I struggled to find was that specific books such as Nihongo So Matome are not enough. Personally I think that for the JLPT you need both books Nihongo So Matome and Kanzen Master Series. I know it’s expensive.Then you practice with particular attention to time training for reading and answering questions. Kemushi-chan channel on Youtube is great to explain this.

Lick your wounds and bon courage for your come back!

ps like in school, a test is not an indicator of your intelligence or of your worth. The trick with the JLPT is that you should study to pass the test, not to learn the language.


My Japanese teacher say that for his course, 1 evening 3H a week and 2 school year , you can pass 50% the Jlpt n5 , this is about 222 H of study and you do way more so i think you need help ,maybe try to take some lesson or a teacher that can answer your question .
Even if the course that i have taken is slow , he have corrected a lot of mistake / missundestanding
it can be expensive or not , mine is 60 Euro a year ( funded by the government ) look if there is the same ^^ .


you failed N5 and tried N4?

Shouldn’t you pass n5, gain confidence and then try the next level? :wink:

I know when I lived in America and it only had one test a year, the idea of repeating a level was not so appealing… Thankfully I never ended up in a repeating situation until I was in Japan.


it’s odd, isn’t JLPT held in July and December every year?

Many places yes. For the US, it’s only December unfortunately.


I live in the US and it’s only in December. It is definitely less appealing to retake the N5 or 4 for that reason.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it! :slight_smile:

To add to this a lot of the European sites will offer either July or December but not both. For example Dublin only offers the December round, you’d have to fly elsewhere to sit the July round.


When I was young, you know how hard college admission exams are, right? Well I failed it on my first try, but what I discovered is something others are telling you here.

An exam such like these covers a determinate amount of topics, so instead of studying hard in lots of topics and do an endless amount of exercises and quizzes I ended up just solving all the available past exams published online and focusing the training on those way more narrow and specific topics.

In my case I had a limited amount of time, so I just focused my energy in acing those exams and only went beyond that when considered necessary.

So maybe doing a lot of N4 or N3 tests before sitting the real exam again might help

And failing, sometimes a lot, is normal while trying to master anything.

It is what it is


I would argue against just moving up without a lot of review.

Being close to passing is an awesome achievement because you’ve obviously learned a whole bunch of new material. That said, it also means that you couldn’t answer about 50% of the questions about N4 level stuff. If you continue your study by moving up to N3, then you will learn a lot of advanced grammar structures and vocabulary, but you will continue to make N4/N5 mistakes.

Of course, it all depends on how you want to use your Japanese. If you are ok with having fluent conversations but inaccurate grammar (a lot of people are), or you just want to get the gist of manga and anime, then you can go ahead and move up. I live in Japan, and a lot of my friends are fully capable of communicating with locals and doing what they need to do in daily life but can’t pass N3.

My friend and I share the same study plan, which includes going through each textbook twice (we used Minna no Nihongo) and putting every single example sentence into Anki + overlapping/shadowing with every practice conversation. He didn’t study N3 material at all, but knew Minna no Nihongo I & II backwards and forwards. He passed N3 (about 115/180) in December. He’s planning to take N2 this year and starting his studies with…an N3 level textbook.

I don’t think a super nitpicky strategy like “memorize the whole book!” is great for intermediate and up, but I think making sure beginners have a solid foundation is massively important. As an English teacher, I see SO MANY advanced students who can read newspapers and communicate well but have a lot of bad habits because they kept moving up without making sure that they understood the basics (ex. subject-verb-object). For some of them, it’s fine because their goal is communication. For others, they’re frustrated because they want a higher EIKEN level. I’d much rather teach extra vocabulary to a beginner student who makes simple but clear sentences than try to correct subject-verb agreement in a student who is already summarizing the New York Times.

TL;DR Scaffolding is important. Go back and check what N5/N4 stuff you’re missing before moving up.


I haven’t taken the JLPT so I can’t advice on that, but I did used to do work where I helped people prepare for exams and design study routines.

It sounds like have a solid routine going. Do you think your results are an accurate assessment of your level or could stress mean you’re doing worse on the exam than you could do? Some stress can be a good motivator, but after a certain point it makes it harder to think. So often people do worse on exams just because of getting too stressed and that can get worse the more you’ve taken it.

If you think stress is playing any role then I’d suggest looking into ways to have a calm mental state during the day of the test.