How to study JLPT N1 grammar

I took the JLPT N1 in December 2018 in the US and passed with a great score. I got a 59/60 on the Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) section and I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to study grammar, so I thought I’d make a thread detailing my experience with N1 grammar. The advice in this post is about N1 but it applies to any level, more so to N2 and N3.

I began to study grammar a little more than two months before the exam. I decided to start by reviewing N2 grammar in order to build a foundation for N1 grammar, so I went through 日本語の森’s N2 grammar playlist (they have multiple N2 grammar playlists, but I picked the least thorough so as not to waste time). I wrote down all of the example sentences they gave and underlined each grammar point. I then took some quick notes about each grammar point’s usage and anything else important that was said about it. It took 4.5 hours in total, and I split it over two days. (JLPT grammar is supposedly cumulative but I didn’t end up seeing much N2 grammar from the levels prior to N1 on the strictly grammar section. I’m still glad I studied it because it came up a lot on the reading section, though.)

After finishing the N2 playlist, I started N1 grammar. I watched 日本語の森’s N1 grammar playlist and took detailed notes, which took around 6-7 hours in total. I did this over the course of a month or so because it was much heavier lifting for my brain than the less thorough N2 playlist. Spreading it out over a long period also helped with memorizing the more complex grammar points. In addition to the playlist, I bought 日本語パワードリル N1 文法 and did one 10-minute multiple-choice practice test every other day. The first one I did, I didn’t know 75% of the grammar that came up in the choices, so I highlighted everything I didn’t know and started taking notes on my computer. I would look up each grammar point in the format “(grammar point) grammar” (example: ざるを得ない grammar) which gave a lot of helpful results. I extracted example sentences from various sources and gave a short explanation (in Japanese) of how to use the grammar point.

The grammar from the playlist and the grammar on the practice drills gradually started to overlap, and my scores got better and better. At this point, I was doing only 20 minutes of grammar study a day, but it was very efficient and easy to fit into my daily routine if I had a free period at school or right before I went to sleep. I would watch a grammar video, take notes, and then do a practice test or watch another video. I continued in this fashion for the better part of two months.

The week before the test, I reviewed my grammar notes, but I was able to focus most of my energy on vocabulary because I had wisely spaced my grammar study out over a period of months. I had created a very detailed index of N1 grammar that I could refer back to whenever I needed, and I feel that this was the factor that contributed to my score the most.

When the actual test came around, I answered every grammar question with ease. The grammar points that came up on the test were all ones I had studied before and taken notes on. I don’t mean for this to come off as bragging, but I really think I couldn’t have done any better with studying for grammar and I want to share my method in case it helps anybody else.

Good luck and happy studying!


Thanks for sharing.

How did you like the practice book that you used? Would you say that the structure and content of the questions were reflective of what you saw on the actual test? Did you use other practice question books for the lower levels (if you took them)?

I very much liked it. The structure was very close to the actual test, except the actual test also had a reading passage where you had to choose the most appropriate grammar point to fill in the blank with (the questions in the practice book I had were just one sentence, not a whole passage).

I never took the lower levels, but I know 日本語パワードリル makes books for N2 and N3. Similar books exist for N4 and N5. I didn’t use any other practice books for grammar. What level are you planning to take?

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Ideally N2 but maybe N3 if I feel underprepared.

I will probably buy the N3 and N2 日本語パウードリル books since I find this style of studying effective.

Have you seen or heard anything about this series while you were preparing?

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How detailed exactly?

Thank you for sharing😊

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I recently began studying N1 material after finding out I passed the N2 this December. I’ll take it just for experience in July, but my true aim would be to (at least have a non-zero chance to) pass in December 2019.

I’m currently going through the grammar and vocab books, taking detailed notes and making flashcards. Then I’ll move onto their reading practice (and listening practice? do they have one? I used Soumatome for previous levels) and kanji books, just to see what hasn’t been covered by Wanikani yet.

My main issue, which I might as well ask about here, is just finding most N1 grammar in the wild. For previous tests, just reading prose fiction, watching TV, and living in Japan would regularly reinforce grammar constructions. While some N1 grammar is part of everyday language, though, a lot of it is hardly ever used outside of specific types of writing, etc.

So this isn’t specifically tailored to the OP, but for anyone who’s passed or is currently aiming for the N1: Do you have any good suggestions for reinforcing the grammar it tests through material not specifically made for the test? I’ll use that too, but I find it’s always better for memorization to encounter something outside that context–whether it’s vocab or grammar.


I’ve never heard of it, but as long as it has exam-style questions and the answer choices aren’t gibberish it’ll serve the same function as パワードリル. Good luck!

I would always make sure to write down all of the information they give at the beginning of each grammar point’s description. I paused and rewinded a lot to make sure I understood it, which is why it took longer than the N2 playlist.

I think a year is more than enough to bridge the gap if you study diligently.

I didn’t even know パワードリル had a vocab book :sweat_smile: I used 新完全マスター N2 and N1 for vocab and made paper flashcards. I wasted so much time making hundreds of flashcards for N2 when I could have just put them into Quizlet or something. I never even used the flashcards I made because there were so many and it would have been a huge mess. The vocab questions on the actual test were still hard for me because 新完全マスター didn’t have any of the words that showed up. I honestly have no idea how I got a 59/60; the grammar questions probably saved my score (which is why I think it’s much more worth your while to study grammar than vocab).

I didn’t “study” for listening, I just watched Terrace House. I don’t think listening is very study-able, but then again, I’ve never actually tried studying for it. The one thing I would make sure to do with listening is the official practice listening exam online. I did it the night before and knowing the format of the listening questions really helped me know what information to look out for in the last two longer questions.

A lot of N1 grammar is very rare in the wild and I don’t get a lot of opportunities to refresh my knowledge, but I’ve noticed some grammar points come up quite often in literature and formal material like news broadcasts. I’d say that in the few months since the test I’ve encountered about 60% of N1 grammar.


Did watch it without Japanese subtitles? I’m also scratching my head on how to study listening other than just straight up taking a bunch of listening tests. Also, how many seasons did you watch? Are the situations in listening test more like business-settings and use keigo/sonkeigo extensively?


I watched all of the one that’s coming out right now and some of Aloha State. I always had Japanese subtitles on which is why I think I didn’t do as well on listening as the other two categories, but I still managed to pass.

I don’t remember exactly how much keigo was on the test but I think it was just a few questions. Definitely know していただく させていただく くれる もらう くださる and some of the other basic 尊敬語 / 謙譲語 verb forms (ご覧になる・拝見する). One of the questions on the December 2018 was a relatively simply structured sentence with 躊躇する in it, clearly included just to test whether or not we knew the meaning of 躊躇する. Luckily I had gone over it in my cramming the day before.

Most of the questions are just testing whether or not you remember the information that was in the question. It’ll describe a situation and then the answer choices will be things that were said in the description, but phrased slightly differently in order to test whether or not you actually comprehended what was said. I honestly don’t think there’s any way to study for those types of questions except practicing past tests and maybe doing practice questions, but I feel the positive effects would plateau after the first few tests. I would just listen to as much native material as possible and also work on vocab.


Thanks so much for all the info! Listening is definitely a weak spot for me so I really appreciate it.

I’m actually shooting for N2 right now but I figure what works for N1 would work for N2.

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No problem! And yeah, most of this is transferable to N2. They’re not that different logistically.


For some rason I failed to type “Kanzen Master” in my previous post. Those are the vocab and grammar books I’m currently using.

Um … tell me more about Quizlet. Because I’ve also been wasting a ton of time making (and actually reviewing) paper flashcards. But it’s drawn out my time spent on vocab so much that I was literally just this morning thinking about putting the whole book on hold until I’d finished grammar, so that I could be a little further along in iKnow and maybe encounter fewer unknown words in the book. I’ve never been a fan of Anki.

(My process up to this point had been to flag unknown words in each section, make flashcards, and then review them prior to doing the same thing with the next batch of words the following day, but it’s getting untenable.)

Re: Can you actually practice listening? Yeah; I used the Sou Matome Listening book for N2 (a multi-week course of listening problems and quizzes, just like all their other books), and a few mock tests afterward. My practice now is just to make sure I’m watching something in Japanese every day, but I do plan on doing something similar again once the test draws near. For me one of the challenges was/is getting used to questions deliberately designed to obfuscate information rather than make everything as clear as possible, the way real conversations or media do.


Thanks for the tips!

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Quizlet is a pretty good app, with the one drawback that it doesn’t follow an SRS system, it’s just like creating a set of paper flash cards but online. Its biggest advantage for me was the fact that if you type in the word, it will search all its users’ decks and find the definition of that word for you, so you can auto-fill your cards with what people have already inserted. You can also add onto other people’s definitions if they aren’t satisfactory. It saved me hours and hours of typing and it’s so much faster than paper flashcards. Quizlet also lets you star flashcards and study just the ones you’ve starred, so it’s not complete madness.

I understand why you don’t like Anki; it’s not the best for memorizing huge lists of unfamiliar words. I prefer Anki for reinforcing vocab that I saw in the wild and looked up (yomichan has an auto-add to Anki feature if you’re interested).

My problem with the JLPT listening is exactly that: it’s not so much a test of listening comprehension as a test of whether or not you know what information to listen for. Especially in the last section of 1-2 minute long listening questions, even if you understand perfectly, if you’ve never done one before, you won’t get the right answer. How did Sou Matome teach listening?

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Basically just by offering a lot of practice structured around similar content themes or similar question patterns in the form of a roughly four-week course. Came with two CDs (or a QR code for download) and three or four listening problems to do each day, along with some notes on general test strategy and vocab/phrases to watch out for.

I’ll look into Quizlet. One of the things I did like about making my own cards was the kanji-writing practice, but for the trade-off of the time-save and not having to keep multiple decks of flashcards on hand, it might be worth the switch.

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I’m at a much lower level of Japanese (probably N4 ~ N3) but I would be curious to see how you laid out your notes for ease of use later on. Like, an example picture or something.

Perhaps that seems a dumb thing to want to see but I’m more of a visual person and although I wouldn’t be able to understand them for the most part, perhaps one day I can look back to this thread and go “ahhh, what a great way to take notes!” …and for now, maybe it might help someone else? n__n;


That’s a sample of the notes I took off of one 7-8 minute video. I took notes on 29 of those videos (3 grammar points per video) and then added 66 more grammar points from the practice problems I did.


I don’t have anything to add, just came here to kiss your hand. :kissing_closed_eyes::handshake:


Thanks so much for sharing! :slight_smile:

And congrats btw for passing N1!! I forgot to mention it last time. n__n;


Thank you! :hugs::hugs:

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