Berry's JLPT and General Test Prep Guide and Checklist

Night before the test

  • Pack your bag, so you just just grab it and be ready to go in an instant.
  • Make sure your transportation is planned and prepaid if possible. How long does it take to arrive? What happens if you run into traffic or your bus/train is delayed? Did you check that your car has gas? Etc, etc. Have a time cushion or barrier train/bus to ensure that you arrive on time.
  • Get a good night’s sleep, or at least give yourself enough time to get a good night’s rest. You want to be in peak condition- well rested and energized in order to give yourself the best chance possible on the test

What to take with you

  1. ID
  2. Testing ticket
  3. Pencils
  4. Erasers (test them to see if/how they smudge before the test)
  5. Pencil Sharpener
  6. Watch (analog, not the kind that can connect to the Internet, make sure any alarms are off)(you can get a good one off Amazon for <$5)
  7. Snack (depending on your test)
  8. Water (plastic bottle, no label/removed label)
  9. *Change (optional, for vending machines. be careful if testing in Japan as some machines will not give change)

Morning of the Test

Eat breakfast if possible. How do brains work? They need energy, preferably energy from food. Eating something will help you be able to think better, especially given that a big test like the JLPT is like a marathon for your brain. Would you run a marathon on no breakfast? Be kind to your body and mind. If you don’t normally eat breakfast, try to at least eat a granola bar or something small. Avoid things that might upset your stomach. Make sure to use the restroom before the test so you don’t have to worry about needing to use it during.
Also, try writing out your feelings about how the test will go. I’m not sure if my Psychology degree friend published already or not, but she found that students that wrote a short freeform about how they felt they would do before the test did better on their tests than students or did not.

Taking the Test

  • Keep track of your time. If you struggle with timing, calculate how much time you can give yourself per question. Use this as a general guideline though. Don’t overthink it and stress yourself out. The main point is to give yourself enough time to bubble any unanswered questions at the end.
  • Save 5 min at the end to bubble in any questions you haven’t gotten to. Blank answers give you a 0% chance of getting points. An answer at least gives you a chance. Pick a specific letter for your not yet answered questions. If the correct answer is randomly distributed, then you’re less likely to be wrong across the board with a consistent answer. Math/proof available upon request. If you have eliminated some answer choices for a particular question, chose one of the remaining letters instead.
  • Look up strategies for sections you’re worried about. For example, many people have trouble with the reading section timing. One strategy is to read the questions before reading the passage.
  • Do easy questions first. If they feel easy to you, you’re more likely to get them right, right? The hard questions will still be there, but you can come back to them. It’ll help you to get more answers right to do the easy questions and save the hard ones for later.
  • No one said you have to do the questions in order. Of course, don’t change sections if that’s not allowed for your test. If there’s a question type or passage type you prefer, do those first.
  • If you write your answers in the test booklet before your transfer them to the answer sheet, make sure to transfer your answers often. I’d recommend writing them on your answer sheet at least every 3-5 questions.

The Week or Two Before the Test

  1. Take a full length practice test. Note how well or poorly you handle timing. Make sure you do the actual test timing if possible. You can see how your body and mind react to the timing (fatigue, stress?) in the comfort of your home/your preferred study space. The test center will likely be less comfortable. You can also use this to familiarize yourself with the section breakup. Are your grammar and language sections combined or separate? It’s good to know before the test itself.
  2. Focus on review. Not that people tend to actually take this advice, but cramming isn’t particularly helpful with long term retention or your stress levels. Why are you taking this test? Is it just to get a piece of paper? Or do you have a practical use for it? If you’re taking it for practical reasons, would cramming actually help?
  3. Work on getting a good night’s sleep the whole week if possible. It’ll help combat your stress levels and put you in better physical shape for the test. The better your general mental and physical state, the easier it will be to take the test well.

2< Weeks Before the Test

  • Study. There are plenty of test specific study guides out there. If you’d like more advice in this department, I suggest you look them up with a search engine.

After the test

  • Don’t worry about it. You did better than you think you did.
  • NOTE THE FOLLOWING BULLET POINTS APPLY TO TESTS THAT ALLOW DISCUSSION AFTER THE TEST. SOME TESTS MAY INVALIDATE YOUR SCORES IF THEY FIND YOU DISCUSSING QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS OF TESTS THAT ARE NOT PUBLICALLY RELEASED.
  • Immediately write down every question you can remember, before your memory fades. (answer not important). This will make an invaluable study guide/practice test for yourself or someone else later, especially if you combine all the ones you can remember with other people’s lists.
  • Resist the urge to look up all the correct answers. That will only make you feel bad because the ones you got wrong are more memorable than the easy ones. Talk about the experience with other people, but don’t ask about specific questions. Same reason. If there are one or two questions you must know the answer to, write them down and wait a week before looking them up.

I’m sure this guide isn’t exhaustive yet. If you have any content recommendations, please share and I will likely add them. Also if you’re wondering about the order of this guide, I ordered it in what I think is the most helpful/timely order.

Filed under resources so this can be indexed by Google and the like for future test takers.

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I usually leave all the unknown ones blank, then a few minutes before time is called, pick one answer and make ALL the blank ones that, non-randomly. (Usually answer ‘B’).

A properly balanced multiple-choice test will have correct answers evenly distributed between all the available choices.* So doing that is likely to get you 1/n of the rest of the questons on an n-choice test, and it’s fast. Guessing randomly is a little slower and you could get every guess wrong.

I also make a note of any questions that I’ve eliminated some choices, but I’m still 50/50 undecided. Before the “all B” strategy, I pick an answer on all those.

(50% of the 50/50 ones) + (25% of the rest) can add quite a bit to your score.

Athough “questions you don’t know the answer to” aren’t necessarily evenly distributed. I think it’s a close-enough assumption though.

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Another tip: if you finish early and are reviewing your answers, never change one unless you are SURE it’s wrong. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m at all unsure, my initial gut feel the first time turns out correct a lot more than when I go back and over-think it.

Guess anyway. I have never heard of a test where the penalty was enough to make the expected value of guessing negative. At worst it offsets your odds of randomly getting the correct answer to make the expected value zero… same as if you left it blank. They would like you to believe that you shouldn’t guess, but that’s not what the math says.

And if you can eliminate one (or more) of the choices as clearly wrong, your expected value is positive for guessing.

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Yes, thank you! I had forgotten that one! I’ll have to rephrase it from what we called it at my old job lol. Would you be alright if I mostly quoted you or would you prefer I rephrase all of it in my own words?

However you like. Just trying to help, not get rich writing a book :smiley:

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I don’t think this one is quite universal enough to include :thinking:

That’s a great point. I’m not sure if there’s anything worse than like the old SAT where wrong answers where -.25 points, but so long as it’s not more than that, you’re quite right about the math. :slight_smile:

Yeah, that’s not to say I don’t ever catch errors; I certainly do. But if I’m unsure (just me doubting myself without evidence), it stays with my initial hunch.

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Lmao, thank you. I just wanted to make sure I don’t step on any toes, plus I had to make sure I wrote the op differently enough from the materials we had at work, although I changed so much I’m not sure it’s possible to figure out which company I worked for.

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I think it’s all common-enough advice that nobody in the world could claim to have dibs on it.

I especially like the tips aimed towards eliminating all possible uncertainty beforehand. I took the JLPT in Japan, in an area of Yokohama I was unfamiliar with. You better believe I made a practice trip out there on the weekday and time of day I would have to later, so on game day I knew what I was doing and had one less stress-inducing detail.

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After the test

  • Dont worry about it. You did better than you think you did.
  • Immediately write down every question you can remember, before your memory fades. (answer not important). This will make an invaluable study guide/practice test for yourself or someone else later, especially if you combine all the ones you can remember with other people’s lists.
  • Resist the urge to look up all the correct answers. That will only make you feel bad because the ones you got wrong are more memorable than the easy ones. Talk about the experience with other people, but don’t ask about specific questions. Same reason. If there are one or two questions you must know the answer to, write them down and wait a week before looking them up.
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That’s a good point :slight_smile:

That’s a great point! I had forgotten about this one because my test site was too far to reasonably visit and Google maps didn’t have street view over there. Plus hearing about the long train rides some of the German regulars had to take.

This is very good. I’ll make sure to make a note though since some tests do not allow talking about test questions afterwards (at the threat of invalidating scores). Of course people are going to talk anyway, but I don’t want people to think it’s in general ok to immediately discuss test questions on public forums.

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It’s possible the testing org might have rules about it, you’d have to check. When I write a test, I place zero reliance on it being a question nobody has ever heard of before. The only secret is WHICH questions are going to be on the test. And that will be different next time, so I don’t care if they share. (Assuming they wait until all examinees have already started. A world-wide thing like the JLPT would have to have at least a one-day blackout)

I learned this from a Chief in the Navy who used to sit us all down after the Navy-wide advancement exams and make us do it. Very annoying at the time, but between us over the years we had an amazing bank of study questions. Even if they weren’t going to be on the next-year’s test, it was still a great study guide for the knowledge. (And bonus: a lot of the questions were repeats from the previous year)

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Yeah, some tests are really picky about it. I don’t recall the JLPT having such rules, but I know all College Board tests require signing off that you won’t discuss the questions afterwards.

I agree that it is silly on the basis of which questions will be on the test since if a test is to determine a quantifiable measure, then it follows that it should have certain limits/content.

i’d add that the day before the test it’s best to rest.

you’ve been preparing for the test for weeks if not months. any last minute cramming is not going to significantly improve your results. on the other hand, arriving at the test well rested will be huge!

so go for a walk with a friend, have a nice meal, read a book or watch a chill movie, things which help you wind down.

if you can’t quite let go, then it’s okay to do some light reviewing, but only enough that you don’t feel guilty about not doing anything.

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Did they allow drinking water during the exam in your case? This year my place had a no drink/food policy inside the test room :unamused: Almost 2 hours without water is almost a human rights violation…

I’d also add not drinking an hour or so before the test (or at least knowing your limits) because at least in at my testing place you were not allowed to leave the room after the test started.

I’d add that you can solve the questions in the test booklet but you should transfer answers to the answer sheet regularly, otherwise you’re running a risk of running out of time before you fill out the answer sheet.

And also be strategic about which questions to do or not do. For example, on yesterday’s test I had 2 similar length texts in the reading section but 1 text had 2 questions, while the other one had 3. So it makes more sense to read the text that has 3 questions first because you can get more correct answers quicker. Also I was planning to not read the longest text at all unless I have extra time. So I was mentally prepared to skip questions and therefore wasn’t panicking :wink:

I agree. Language studying is not something you can do much progress in a day, but the test itself takes lots of attention and energy. It’s best rest and organize your thoughts. For example, this Saturday before the JLPT I got up late and spent the day doing some chores, went for a walk, and just chilled.

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I was playing 二ノ国 on my DS in the lobby while waiting for my N3 test to start, and came across the word 生える, which is a reading for 生 I hadn’t encountered before. Guess what was literally question number one on the test. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I often suffered during lessons and practice because of this :sweat_smile:

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I was looking through a 漢検 word list booklet of some extra readings and saw 押収.
Guess what turned up on the JLPT on Sunday? :joy: I couldn’t guess the meaning though so :woman_shrugging:t6: if only the meanings accompanied the readings in that little booklet lol

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Oooh, yes, I’ll add this to the night/week before prep once I have time, thank you!

They did thankfully! I can’t believe that some schools don’t let students bring water even. A long test is bad enough, but 4h of nothing between arrival-lunch-departure? yikes

Oh yeah, great point!

Ah, I forgot some people do it that way, thank you!

Great point!

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I agree with most of what you said. There is one thing that I never understood : the watch and keep track of time. In my case, looking at time just makes me more anxious and if I am late it doesn´t help me being faster… (maybe I am a strange case)
Except for that, I do agree so much with everything.
I would like to suggest a few things, based on my personal experience and regret. First, I regret to not have started with reading, which is my strong point (I can read the text once and get the answers. Sometimes I just need to re-read a part, but that´s okay). Instead, I started with grammar (not a strong point) and lost a lot of time and had to rush the reading part.
Second, 1 or 2 months before the exam I should have made an Anki deck for N3 vocab because I really failed this part. I know some vocab but since I didn´t specifically studied for N3, well, I didn´t do good in this part. For Kanji though, it was very easy, Wanikani was plenty enough.
Last, I think I should have trained my listening more. I felt that this part was slightly difficult for me (not too much either). I was not surprised though, since my only training is japanese lessons 2 a week. Fortunately, my teachers speak with me in Japanese only so I guess that´s why even without training, it wasn´t a total mess. Though, I think it could really help me to listen to more Japanese. But no beginner japanese, I need something closer to natural japanese.
These are my personal regrets regarding the exam in itself. Other than that, I am quite happy with my progress, I can read simple stuff, have a conversation and even catch some parts of what being said in games/anime/…

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