How is the listening portion of the JLPT administered?

I’m signed up for the JLPT N5 for December 2022. I know that the listening portion is 30 minutes, but I am curious how the actual audio for the listening section is played for test-takers.

Does each test-taker have their own way to play the audio on like a CD player or is it played for everyone at the same time? Do you have the option to have the audio repeated? Or do you only have one chance at translating the spoken question/answers?

This is probably the section I’m most nervous for. I’m taking the test in Seattle if that matters.


It’s played for everyone to listen to from whatever that room’s sound system is set up for. It might be anything from a CD player in a small room to a convention hall speaker system. Depends on your individual testing facility.

No, it just plays from beginning to end for everyone at the same time.

You can find example listening questions on Youtube if you want to see what it’s like.


Thanks for answering!

When you say “it plays from beginning to end for everyone” does that mean it will play each question back-to-back without pauses? Or will the audio be stopped between each question while people write down their answers?

I’ve been doing practice listening questions from the JLPT site but I’m still afraid that’s the section that I will struggle with the most. I’ll go look at YouTube for longer videos of question compilations.

Thanks again!

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Think of it like one long audio file. You can experience it on Youtube like I said. No one stops anything. The full time of the listening section is predetermined exactly because it runs at a predetermined length. That doesn’t mean there’s literally no time to think, but I mean, all you’re doing is filling a bubble in. You don’t need a lot of time for the actual pen-to-paper moment.


through a CD player from 2002, with speakers designed to duplicate the sound 3 times so you are unable to make out anything being said with even the greatest focus. Godspeed.


And just out of curiosity, @emiri_learns_jp have you ever taken a test with a listening section that let you pause or replay things? I’ve taken a lot of Japanese tests, not just the JLPT, and I’ve only ever seen it where you just get one chance to listen and no one has any control over the audio. Even when I’ve taken computer-based exams alone (like BJT) where I’m the only one taking the test at that moment and I have headphones on, it’s still out of my control.


There are pauses baked into the audio stream. They even have a short break in which elevator music is played - all baked in to the stream.
I highly recommend to listen to some samples because then you will understand how this all works. Just searching for „JLPT N5“ on YouTube should be enough, like Leebo said. Most of them also have the correct answers at the end or in the comments.


Have you taken tests for other languages as a foreign language? I recall every German/French/Spanish test I took in high school and college playing the audio twice per question on listening sections. Japanese language tests are the only ones I’ve heard of that don’t play the audio twice.


I wasn’t really considering something like that when saying I’d never experienced it. If the test maker decides there should be a repetition of the question in the actual audio, that’s the standard for that test.

It’s not like individual students are sitting there and replaying questions as they see fit, which is what I was responding to.


It’s played on huge speakers, so loud that the reverb kicks in badly, and so many that it sounds like a baseball stadium with the sounds stretched.
But that might just be here in Tokyo.


As with most questions, I highly highly highly recommend taking a few practice tests before the real thing. You not only need to get used to the style and format of the questions, but you also need to get used to hearing a stream of dialogue and not stopping to dwell on something you didn’t quite catch.

Every second you’re trying to pick apart a sentence is another second of dialogue you’re not paying attention to, and it’s very easy for our brains to get distracted like that, so if you don’t get it right away, let it go and keep paying attention.


What everyone said.

I realized that I was addicted to replaying audio until I understood it in my studies. That listening last was very difficult.

The advice everyone gives about practicing is, in my case, so I can practice not freaking out that I can’t hear a danged thing! Like wanitsunami described, usually it is far from optimal listening!

There is a blank sheet of paper so you can quickly note down what you think you understood… that’s helpful for me, because my brain tries to shut off while scrambling for the next info.


It was too much information for me to memorize and piece out at the end, so I wrote what I heard in Spanish and chose the answer at the end based on that. Got a pretty good score. I’m not good at that kind of test in any language, but even less in Japanese.


I honestly can’t remember ever taking a test with a pre-recorded listening section. This is my first standardized foreign language proficiency test.

I’ve had Chinese classes where the teacher will read some questions aloud, but often they would repeat it at least once. Or if it was a 1- evaluation I could ask them to repeat what they said.

Part of my confusion is that originally I thought it would be a computerized test in a computer lab where you have the controls of the audio like when you do the practice questions on the website.

But after doing more research and seeing that it’s a paper/pencil test, I realized that wasn’t how the audio would be played. Hence why I wanted to hear what it was like from people who have taken it.

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Oh no! Now I’m even more scared…


Don’t be afraid. I am mostly joking. If you are actually the level your testing at then you shouldn’t have any problems. Just keep doing the practice tests for listening and try to feel whats being said. Don’t hyper focus on words you didn’t understand.


Be afraid.

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JLPT N5.55: (Don’t) Be Afraid


Every second you’re trying to pick apart a sentence is another second of dialogue you’re not paying attention to, and it’s very easy for our brains to get distracted like that, so if you don’t get it right away, let it go and keep paying attention.

This is reminiscent of so many situations in real life, I think it’s a good skill to be tested on


This is how the listening goes:

Hearing Thinking
Do you know those girls over there?
Yes, one of them is my sister Ok, this guys sister is in the picture
“Is the the one with glasses”
“No, she doesn’t wear glasses” She’s not the one with glasses, one of the other 3
"Is she wearing long socks?
“Yes, she has long socks” Ok, long socks
"Are they black socks?
“No, they are not black socks” What was that about black?
“Something something hair” Wait, did she have black socks or not?
“That’s her friend Megumi” Which one is the friend?
“Something something else” Oh crap, I missed that bit
Ding - Time’s up Er, which one do I circle?
Next question Long black sock girl, please be correct

There’s only one long one though, and the shorter ones are a bit easier. Even if it was in your native language, they bamboozle you with a lot of information and then you are like, all I remember is they talked about glasses. You can get the main one wrong and still get the shorter ones right. Do the practice test downloaded from the official website with the timer running. I can’t remember if the printable version comes with the listening section and the audio track, for some reason can’t find a copy on my PC even though I know I must have downloaded it several times over the years. The online sample questions include some listening ones though.