How long does it take to prepare for N3 exam?


おはようございます / こんにちは / こんばんは!

I posted on here a few days ago asking about learning Chinese and Japanese together at university and had quite a few people telling me to go for it, so I started looking at different university requirements.

Two of them require an A Level in either language on top of the Access to HE course that I’m already studying, but one of universities would accept N5 as an alternative and the other would accept an N3.

So naturally, I’m wondering if it would be possible for me to pass the N3 in July if started studying intensely and if that’d be feasible when doing full-time college and picking up a part-time job if I had all the right tools and motivation. (I’m probably at N5 level right now.)

The university that’s asking for the N3 is University of Manchester. It’s ranked 22nd in the UK but I know quite a few people who have been there for their degrees and loved it, not to mention all the people online who sing their praises.

The university that’s asking for the N5 is University of Leeds. It’s ranked 14th in the UK and the combined course has two(!) years of study abroad.

I’ve also been looking at SOAS who only require a pass in my course. They’re meant to be quite respected abroad for their language courses, but I come across some really mixed reviews of the uni - some love it, some say don’t bother, others say the uni is slow in regards to admin and loans but love that SOAS is the highest in term of international students, so I’m really unsure about SOAS

As usual, I’m really grateful for advice and “omg no don’t do it” if you think something is a bit too far out of reach. I’m a really optimistic person who can sometimes take on too much, so having someone tell me the harsh, bitter truth is also appreciated!


The Tobira Thread

It took me about a year and a half, but part of that was just the fact that the JLPT is only once a year in America.


N3 is more or less Genki 1, 2 and Tobira. While you could theoretically do this, I’d say you’d really need an intermediate and more tangible goal. However, trying to do it while learning Chinese is pretty much not going to happen. Perhaps you could still pass the N3, but you’d be one of those people who could pass the test but only because they studied for the test and are unlikely to have the actual ability to back it up.


Ah I see, were you studying daily?


I wouldn’t want to go to school full time, work part-time, and attempt to learn two languages.

Personally I would focus on more concrete goals. Why are you going to college? To get a job? What kind of job? What do you need to get/be successful in that job? Do you need Japanese? Do you need Chinese? Do you need both?

Once I was done with school and had a decent job (in theory the reason for going to school in the first place)…then I would worry about languages that I am just interested in for a hobby.


I’d only be studying Japanese (along my Access course) until I (hopefully) start university in September, then I’d be doing both Japanese and Chinese together, starting Chinese by scratch.

I think it mostly comes down to having the self-discipline and study schedule to manage which I don’t think is impossible but I’d need some help/guidance/trial-and-error with that first!


Pretty much. I don’t think I’ve gone a day without at least consuming some Japanese since 2013.


I’d only be learning Japanese as well my Access course (two days a week, but with assignments) right now until I start university, then it’d be purely Japanese and Chinese together.

I’m going to university to get a degree so I can teach English abroad. I technically don’t need to take both, but it made more sense to me to study something that I wouldn’t mind spending 4+ years learning as well as open more doors such as translation and interpretation and teaching either or both as a foreign language at a UK secondary school. In theory, I could study English which has always been my strongest subject, but there’s nothing I hate more than English language theory.

Going to university to study two languages would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, since there’d be no other time in life to study both at a high level without many other responsibilities. I’d be able to teach English as part-time job while I’m there, so everything pretty much goes hand-in-hand!


Gotcha. Thanks for your help!


I’m definitely not an expert on the U.K. university system, but wouldn’t you normally go after a degree in Education with a focus on English as a secondary language . Then maybe minor Japanese or Chinese if your goal is to teach English in one of those countries?


The degree requirement for teaching English in most other countries is just a visa formality required by the government. Your native English speaker status tends to be the only teaching qualification required.

This is just talking about the bare minimum to go to somewhere like Japan and teach English. They don’t care what your degree is, but you probably can’t get a visa without the degree.


You’d only really go for a degree in education if you planned to teach in a UK school (primary, secondary, college (post-16 education, not the same as university))

You can easily* get as job as an English teacher abroad as long as you’re a native English but a BA minimum is required for the visa. A TEFL/TESOL/CELTA is sometimes preferred, but these are separate courses from the BA unless it’s combined.


Guess I was thinking more about the English as a Secondary Language teachers here in the U.S. but their job is to teach you English ASAP so that you can be placed in normal classes. As opposed to my Spanish teacher…who probably didn’t have an Education degree at all.


I think that if someone has the available time, motivation, and dedication to study Japanese, taking N3 after 10 months of study or so is plausible! I personally have been studying Japanese for about 7 months and will be taking N3 in December (although I have not taken it yet, I don’t really find any troubles with the exam problems at least from what I’ve seen from books, practices etc…), but, seeing as you’ll also be a full time student with a part time job and studying Chinese, I don’t think it’s worth it to put in the time to rush for N3.

I feel this was more plausible for me, as I wasn’t a student at the time and had loads of free time to burn into the Japanese language, but with so much on your hands, I feel like you might end up doing a lot of preparation just for passing the exam itself, rather than gaining an actual understanding and comfort with the language and could end up walking out with a shiny certificate feeling you passed the exam just off luck or barely scraped by. I feel in the long term, it’d be better not to try to suddenly rush all the Japanese knowledge in while having a pretty heavy schedule even if you’re up for it or feel like you can do it.

These are my personal feelings as a fellow person who is planning to rush to take N3 after 10 months of study, but as always everything varies from person to person!


It depends more on how many hours you can devote to studying. The jump from N5 to N3 probably takes somewhere around 1000 hours of study total–could be less, or more, but I would say that’s a reasonable estimate.

If you have 10 months, that’s about 100 hours per month, 25 hours per week, or a little under 4 hours every day. Would you feel comfortable studying/using Japanese for 4 hours every single day for the next 10 months, while doing the other obligations you mentioned?

If not, there’s a big chance you might not succeed.


As Syphus said, the N3 essentially consists of Genki 1, 2, and Tobira. Perhaps you could better decide if you made a hypothetical schedule based on these books.

There are 23 chapters that span across Genki 1 and 2, and there are 15 chapters in Tobira. That’s a total of 38 chapters. There’s around 40 weeks between now and July (depending on when the test is in July). Therefore you would have to complete roughly 1 chapter per week in order to get through all the material by then.

Each Genki chapter contains 5-6 grammar points and a list of vocab. Each Tobira chapter contains around 15 grammar points and a considerably longer list of vocab.

Does that seem like something doable for you? In my opinion it’s a real stretch, especially if you’re doing school full time and working part time. But that also depends on your general study habits, how much stress you can endure, etc. I would personally not want to subject myself to studying in such a time crunch, because it can kill your motivation and also force you to study purely to pass the test, rather than actually develop good language skills.