Does my plan for the JLPT N4 (within) make sense?

TL;DR: I want to stop doing new lessons at WK lvl ~18 and focus on reinforcing what I’ve already learned, hoping to get the majority of N4 kanji to Burned level by December. Good idea or no?

Context: I’m planning to do the JLPT N4 in December (was going to do N3 but opted for N4 instead, not important but I’ll elaborate at the end for those curious). I’m honestly struggling with WK right now because the sheer volume of information is so overwhelming, and tacking on new content every week in addition to what I’m already having a rough time cementing… well, for my current goal, I think past a certain point it’ll hurt more than help.

According to WKstats, nearly every N4 kanji is learned by level 16, with only three more coming at 18, 24, and 27. Indeed, at level 13, I’ve got less than 25 kanji to unlock to know all of N4, and well over half of the N4/N5 combined are already at Enlightened.

What I’m thinking about doing is stopping new lessons entirely after I complete level 18 in about June, and from that point focus on just doing reviews, getting everything burned by December (which I think the math works out). This would make sure I actually know the content before the test, keep me from getting bogged down by even more kanji (which I will certainly get confused with current ones; this is already a huge problem), and allow me to dedicate more time to other non-kanji studies (since WK already takes at least an hour or two every day anyways; this would drop considerably if I pause doing lessons). I would still be keeping up with reviews, just not adding more fuel to the fire.

The 2 missing kanji after level 18, I can study individually without WK’s SRS, so I can be 100% prepared for N4 without having to trudge through 9 levels worth of content just to unlock 2 kanji.

After the N4, I can resume lessons (looking at like a 6-month break) and work on getting my N3 and beyond over the next few years.

Thoughts? Does my logic make sense here? Thanks in advance for anything you’ve got to say!

Optional context: Originally I was going to do the N3 this year, but between WK taking much more time (both daily and overall) than I thought, the vast amount of other non-kanji points I have to study, and the inside scoop from a friend who has lived in Japan the last five years whose Japanese is leagues beyond mine and even she failed the N3, I’ve decided that N3 level is unrealistic for me this year, and instead I want to do the N4 this year.


Yeah, that sounds reasonable. Even regardless of the test, slowing down and cementing what you’ve learned so far is a good idea if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed.

One thing to keep in mind is that the N4 kanji list used by WKstats isn’t official - there may be kanji on the test that aren’t on the list (though it will be a small number, and you don’t need to know 100% to pass the test anyway).


Honestly, the whole “stopping a bit to get ready for the N4” is not a bad idea. But I wouldn’t say that that’s the case because you need to cement the kanji knowledge you’ve gained. Kanji make up a small fraction of the JLPT tests. Actually putting in the time to learn vocabulary and grammar is most likely the more important thing to do. If you feel WK is taking away the time you would have to study these, then taking a break isn’t a bad decision.

The JLPT is like any other test. You need to study for it. This just means, that your friend didn’t practice the necessary skills for it, or there’s some other situation going on that stopped her (like handling stress poorly, not being able to concentrate, just being a bit out of it, it depends). The best thing you can do is try yourself at mock exams. See how you do there, gauge about what you would need to achieve to pass them and set yourself a schedule.


I took the N4 exam last December (and missed the passing grade by 3 points). I had not yet started Wanikani at the time, and did not formally study much in the way of grammar or vocabulary, rather most of my studying included reviewing Anki decks and listening to broadcast media such as anime and news. I do need to strengthen those areas before next December.

In retrospect, my impression was that the N4 kanji that I encountered during the test represented an almost insignificant part of the exam (although I suppose that is subject to change).

Much more important were things like vocabulary, grammar, speed reading, and listening comprehension in the face of attempts by the test writers to confuse the examinee - plus overall test-taking tactics and familiarity with the types of questions that are on the exam.

So IMHO your strategy with respect to pausing WK makes sense - and you will likely benefit from bolstering your skills in areas other than kanji ahead of the test.


The kanji is probably the easiest part of the JLPT, I’d recommend studying everything else, and like others have said, preparing for the test itself.


Frankly, not really. Do you have any specific reasons for only focusing on JLPT? I would never put taking a test before learning more and enjoying the language. Taking over half a year to grind the same kanji feels excessive? You will learn much more and be more ready to pass if you just keep on learning new things and words. You can’t really master the basics. The kanji and vocabulary in N4 is so common, you will see it anywhere anyway.

Just doing a small amount of lessons on WK will not be that big of a burden, unless you are extremely time constrained. I would be pretty demotivated if my learning was basically frozen for half a year.

All that said, @servette has a good point that kanji is pretty insignificant part of N4 and N3. If you are lacking a lot in other aspects, it’s a good idea to focus on those. But I still think doing a small bit of WK everyday is good for overall learning and motivation.

TL;DR If you just keep studying new stuff, it will help cement your current knowledge more than keep reviewing the same stuff. Language is a web of knowledge, not stuff you memorize. Taking some mock exercises before is a good idea, though.

I mean, you can’t draw any conclusions from that really. This just sounds like she hasn’t interacted with the language that much (living in an English bubble?). I nearly passed N3 after living there for 4 months (did have daily classes, though). Maybe she just doesn’t read much and kanji were a problem?

I guess that depends what you mean with studying. But as long as you are somewhat familiar with the test structure and your Japanese comprehension is OK, you should pass (bar the other situations you mentioned). You don’t really need to cram specific grammar or exercises, as long as you’ve had enough input.


By study, I mean practice common task types, get familiar with gotchas and stuff like that. It’s a result of how tests like these are put together, because it’s trying to get the mistakes shown, that would normally be solved with context.


I feel like perhaps you’re misunderstanding my issue here.

To rephrase: WK is overwhelming. Keeping up takes hours each day (which as someone who works full time is a huge demand), and I’m really struggling with retaining the current material. My thought process is that adding even more material to try and retain, while I’m unable to retain what I’ve already unlocked, it makes the problems worse. It’s like trying to finish my dinner, I’m getting full, there’s still a lot on my plate, and then someone comes along and dumps even more food on my plate. I want to finish my current plate, digest it a bit, and then later, when I’m hungry again, come back for seconds. Your argument is that I will “stop learning”, and that’s not what I’m trying to do; what I want to do is focus on actually learning what I’m studying now without trying to add even more.

No, you can’t master the basics, but you’ve got to at least get a good handle on them before going into more advanced stuff. No one is going to pass a calculus class if they haven’t passed basic arithmetic first.

The reason I’m focusing specifically on the JLPT is to have some concrete goal. Of course I’m aware that there’s a whole language to learn, but the fact is this: I’m doing this as a hobby. I have no plans to move to Japan, I’ve got next to zero use for Japanese in my everyday life, and other than taking a vacation in Japan every few years, I’ll never have an actual need for it. But I want some sort of goal. I figure that “obtaining a certificate from the metric that the Japanese government uses specifically for determining the proficiency level of foreign speakers of Japanese” is a reasonable goal. I’ve been teaching myself for a few years now, and want something to show for it. And so, as others have put it, since if I want to pass this test, I need to study specifically for said test. So while I’m not prioritizing a test over learning the language overall, I am prioritizing that short term goal on the way to (not in lieu of) increasing my overall proficiency with Japanese.


Sorry for coming off maybe a bit harsh earlier.

I just feel like if you only do reviews for half a year (or even a few months), your workload will reduce to the point that you can finish WK once a day really fast. Depending on your time, just learning a few items per day would add an insignificant amount of work and at least for me would be motivating. But if you really don’t have the time, then it can’t be helped.

I did take breaks from lessons, but for the longest maybe for about a month, which is when your guru pile really starts to dwindle. WK was just a means to an end for me to read books, so I thought new kanji as one step closer to getting to experience real content.

Maybe I just wanted to say that, you don’t have to feel that only until you have burned an item you have really learned it. That will come with interacting with the language. Maybe that’s not what you meant, but just putting that out there.

Yeah, I guess I just have to agree to disagree here with others :person_shrugging:. That just sounds like a really long time for me, but I don’t know your situation or how much time you have.

Anyway, good luck with your studies!

Gotcha; I understand a bit better what you’re saying and will consider it.

Thanks everyone for your input!

A quick side note: Everyone seems to be focusing on my friend failing the N3? I kinda regret mentioning that. The only reason I put that in there is as a point of comparison; she is really good at reading and speaking Japanese, with her skills far surpassing mine, spent a lot of time studying, and she still was unable to pass the test. I’ve consistently heard that even if your Japanese is excellent, the JLPT can be really hard, to the point that apparently even many native speakers would struggle with the N1. Less about not knowing the language, more about the questions themselves being tough to understand. The “it’s her own fault she failed, didn’t study hard enough”, I honestly don’t think that is the case.

It really isn’t super hard, in the “near-impossible challenge” sense. At N1 and N2 you need to be able to read reasonably quickly (reading speed is usually what trips people up), but you do not need to be anywhere near native-speaker level. The questions (especially the listening) are arranged in a confusing way, yes, but you can deal with that by having a bit of test prep so you’re not running into the issue for the first time in the test room (or just by being sufficiently better that you can figure it out on the fly anyway). The idea that “many native speakers” would struggle is IMHO just wrong, even at N1.


Yes take the break

Lots to learn outside wanikani
If you’re overwhelmed it could lean to burn out and that’s not helpful.
Nothing wrong with review!

I think people (including myself) are focusing on it because we don’t want you to think, “even though she’s a lot better than me, she couldn’t pass the n3, so it must be impossible”. Yeah, the N3 is not easy, but it’s more of an intermediate test.

The thing about studying for the test itself is less about trying to game the system and more about being ready for what the test will ask of you, which is not “be good at Japanese” but “know these kanji, vocab, and grammar points, and listen to this audio once and figure it out”. Sure, being good at Japanese means you should do well, but speaking, or output, aren’t the qualifications they’re looking for in the JLPT, though they are of course useful in your overall learning process.

I think most people have done JLPT-like tests before, in English class, or any subject really, standardized tests.

It’s just that people sometimes forget that the JLPT is a test that’s testing for something specific, and hit a wall when they don’t know said specific topics.

Some people also don’t do well in tests, or with pressure, etc., so they might do poorly even if their Japanese is good.

My Japanese was very basic when I took the N4, and I didn’t have much trouble with it, but I’m good with tests, and I dedicated a few months before the test to read up on what I was missing for the N4 level, and to practice the type of questions that show up in the test.

Has your friend told you what they had a problem with? Were the questions tough to understand? (In my experience, they’re pretty straightforward, you can even just read the question and find the verbatim answer in the text.) Were there too many questions and not enough time? Did they think they knew everything but failed, or did they realize they were missing vocab/kanji? Did they struggle with the listening portion?

All of these mean something different, and it could help you prepare.


I don’t really have anything to add, but I just want to say, I’m also level 12 and aiming for the N4 in December! we got this!! :smiling_face:


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