JLPT 2019? Retake N4, Attempt N3, or wait till 2020?

Hopefully this is okay for its own topic.

I just took N4 on Sunday, I was feeling cocky during Characters/Vocab, a little unsure in Grammar/Reading, and felt like I was absolutely destroyed during the listening. I’m fairly confident I’ve failed unless my deduction-based guesses are spot on.

EDIT: I passed N4 December 2018 and I’ll be hoping for N3 December 2020

It was a surprise considering I took several practice exams and tests (under the same conditions as the real exam) including Tanki Master and the Japanese Foundation Practice Exam and did quite well, especially in the listening section, where I always got near perfect mark and I always did well with the Kanzen Master and Speed Master examples

It was my first JLPT ever and my first exam since my last university exam four years ago.

I’m now wondering how I should proceed and would appreciate some input.

  • I can try to retake the N4 in July, however, my city is one of the few Aussie cities that doesn’t hold it, so I would need to take an hour flight to a city that does.
  • Retake the N4 in December
  • Skip N4 and take the N3 in December
  • Take the N4 in July and then the N3 in December
  • Skip the JLPT in 2019 altogether and take N3 in December 2020.

If I failed the N4, I’d be iffy attempting the N3.

On the off chance that I don’t fail, I can either take the N3 in December 2019 or December 2020? Which sounds better.

I work full time and my study is self-study and not in a class. However, I was dedicated and studied after work daily until bed for the few weeks leading up to the exam, and I did (and still do) vocab and kanji every morning for at least an hour. I’m mainly taking the JLPT for personal level gauging to map my own process. I’d like to live and work in Japan one day, but it’s not my one true goal.

I’ve been learning Japanese on and off since 1999 where I learnt Hiragana and 2006-2009 where I learnt phrases, some kanji, basic particles, etc, but I wouldn’t say I was serious until late 2016 and I wasn’t REALLY serious until possibly late 2017.

In addition, studying for the JLPT was fun, taking the JLPT was fun, I wasn’t stressed until during the listening and after the exam itself. So studying isn’t necessarily an issue.

I’d be interested to hear the thoughts of others on this topic and the experiences of anybody who has done similar in the past.


In a similar boat here! (Self-study, working full time, first JLPT/first test since college, just took N4 and felt good about the first two sections, pretty bad about the last one).

I remember reading something @jprspereira posted at one point arguing for moving to the next JLPT level even if you failed the previous one, because it’s good to make yourself reach further, and even if you failed, you probably weren’t a full six months/years’ worth of effort away from passing… I can’t find it now lol but that really stuck with me.

I’m definitely going for N3 next December regardless of my score – I think continuing to review the old material would make me feel really demotivated, and I’m kind of excited to have a new far-off goalpost to reach for.


I also took N4 and everything went really well except for the listening and the vocab.
For some reason i can’t link hiragana readings to meanings anymore :sweat_smile:
However my goal is to take N3 in July 2019 no matter my results. Depending on how that one goes I might take N2 in December.

My plan:

  • Wanikani for kanji and vocab (aim for daily)
  • actively practice listening (weekly)
  • Bunpro for the grammar (weekly)
  • light reading whenever i have time

For the N5 => N4 => N3 => N2 group, that makes sense. If you’re fighting for the same goal again because of a previous failure, it can be not as motivating. You might feel stuck in the same place.

My advice: N3 in December 2019.

What’s the worst it can happen?

September comes and you don’t feel safe enough to go for the N3. But since you aimed for it this whole time, you’re probably pretty safe in terms of N4 content by then. So aiming for a higher goal can lead you to take bigger steps, which will then improve your learning speed (even if you don’t reach the new goal at all).

The best it can happen is that you might actually be prepared for N3 by then and pass it :ok_hand:

How to plan for the JLPT:

JLPT tests you on:

  • Kanji:
  • Grammar:
  • Vocab:
  • Reading Comprehension:
  • Listening Comprehension:

Insert the resources you’ll use for each category :point_up:

Then, plan as if you have to be ready by September (time the registrations open - I think). Not only will this allow you to better figure out if you’re ready for it by then (which level to take), but it also give a couple of extra months to study in case failure by September happens.

Then, follow these steps in order:

  • See where you are right now at each of the above categories (I know % of N4 kanji, I know half of N4’s grammar, etc)
  • See at what level do you need to be at each of the above categories (I need to be level x on WK, complete Tobira/N3 on Bunpro, etc).
  • Check the gap from where you are to where you wanna be.
  • Identify the tools you’ll be using.
  • Focus on making these tools part of your routine. The point is for you to start getting rhythm. The same way someone doesn’t fall in love overnight, knowledge doesn’t enter your brain the same way. It requires caring and ternure on a daily basis.
  • Once you have a routine and identify a speed that works for you on these resources (1 level every 13 days on WK, 1 podcast ep every 3 days, 1 grammar point every 2 days, etc), you can start adjusting your speed on these different resources depending on you reaching N3 by September.
  • Divide goals into smaller goals. So, instead of learning N3 grammar in 12 months, aim for half of N3 grammar in 6 months, or even 1/4 in 3 months. We have a monkey brain that forces us to think short-term. This helps you keep focused. If we think we have all the time in the world, we never do anything… until it’s too late.

Obs: I’m assuming N3 is your next aim for December 2019 for the sake of clarity. You can adjust if you choose to aim for something else.

Idk what to add more. It’s late :rofl: おやすみ :heart:


I’m weeks into trying to write blog posts, but no motivation… But now I just wrote a freaking bible in like… 5 mins at 2am…



Maybe wait until you get the marks back before you decide you’ve failed. You may be in for a pleasant surprise.

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Thank you for your advice everyone!

I think I’ll aim for N3 in December 2019.

I’ll probably keep my N4 books and material for now just to study anything I haven’t fully learnt yet before I sell them, then I’ll move onto N3 books. :slight_smile:


Many success aimimg for N3 next year!

I also wrote (I really like that phrasing since I learnt it here) the N4 last weekend, and after talking with my mum I think I’ll also aim for N3, but in July, so I don’t have to travel (same reasoning you had for skipping July 2019). But this will probably be a tougher goal for me, since I haven’t had any discipline studying vocab, haha.

I will probably start by doing a practice test soon, to gauge my level. See how much I get through in the time allotted.


In my experience, it took 12 months after passing N4 to be ready to take on N3, but that’s just me.

I want to take N2 in July, even though I’m pretty sure N3 wrecked me on the listening this time around.

  • Kanji: WK + Games
  • Vocab: WK + Games
  • Grammar: 文プロ
  • Reading Comprehension: Games + News
  • Listening Comprehension: ??????

If anyone experienced knows how to make good progress with listening in 6-month’s time, hit me up :ok_hand:


Well, I’m not experienced, but this is how I’ll do it (ps: it requires money):

I’m going for the “are you crazy” mode: one iTalki class with a community tutor for 1h, every day for 100 days (period to be extended if money/time allows and results continue being significant). You can find around 50 different community tutors on iTalki between 5 and $10 per hour. Advantages of this method:

  • You get exposed to a lot of different people, which helps with diversifying your listening/speaking ability.
  • You don’t have to do any favors to anyone. In other words, that time is fully spent on yourself. No teaching English for half the time. No having to look for people to chat with. You get to choose who you want to talk with. You decide the pace, etc. It’s all about you.

The downside being… money (if range between 5 and $10, 100 classes are between 500 and $1000).

Consider this as a challenge. To me, I intend to do 100 classes in 100 days (I haven’t started yet cuz I wanna get financially free first). Depending on your availability/money/discipline, you can go for like 100 classes in 1 year or 50 classes until JLPT or even 1 class every 3 days. Whatever you feel like it fits you best.

Of course, there are podcasts and other stuff, but I feel like conversations allow you to have a steadier progress (plus u become like a boss at speaking, which eventually turns into confidence). But you can also:

  • Listen to podcasts
  • Watch youtube videos
  • Watch anime/drama/stuff on Netflix


Or just move to Japan… and have them speak in English to you instead… facepalm

PS: It is scientifically proven that I write best at 2am.


So how does iTalki actually work? I always thought time zone differences would be a huge issue.
I’ll also be wrapping up my university degree, so finding time (let alone scheduling) would be even harder.

I enjoy Kizuna AI’s gaming channel every so often (especially her horror playthroughs!), and the Japanese subtitles there are a huge help. Unfortunately, that only makes me better at comprehending terrified people rambling to themselves in Japanese, and the JLPT didn’t test me on that :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Haha, exactly. The other day I was watching an anime and I realized how poetic the speech was. I was like, welllll they don’t speak like this but at least I’ll look like an old man reciting poetry? :man_shrugging::rofl:

  • You create an account.
  • You go find a teacher/tutor: you can choose availability, cost, native language, etc etc etc. Check pic:


  • You check the profiles of those that interest you.
  • To arrange a class, you’ll have to select a time. You can only select a time that the tutor/teacher confirmed to be available (so no timezone problems). That’s your time that you’ll be choosing btw (locate yourself in the settings first). You get to select the tool that you wanna use (skype, as an example).
  • You’ll get a notification before the class starts. Once it ends, you’ll have a page where it asks you to rate the tutor/teacher and confirm that the lesson actually happened (so that they can get paid through iTalki - once u schedule a lesson, iTalki removes the money from your account and holds it, once you confirm that the class happened, italki delivers it to the tutor).
  • There’s two types of “teachers” btw: tutors and teachers. Community tutors have no licence to teach, while teachers do (they have to prove it to iTalki). Tutors are just there to help you out, but 90% of them are native. So for example, if u wanna study grammar, you’d go for a teacher, while if you just wanna chat, u’d go for a tutor (they’re cheaper).

Just create an account and give it a look :man_shrugging: No need to arrange a class right away. Feel the environment and how everything works. Let me know if you have any other questions :v: I’m dying right now and I’m not sure if what I just wrote was still in English. おやすみ


So you can schedule lessons individually, instead of committing to a whole bunch at once? That would actually make this an amazingly convenient resource.

Edit: Also, I notice you call them “classes.” Is it not just you + teacher? Or are there other learners in the same conversation?

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Yes, you totally can! Sometimes teachers offer packs of lessons (think 5 lessons with a 10% discount). Tbh, I don’t know how that works, but the interface is pretty intuitive, so you’ll figure it out if you try it.

You can even schedule lessons to start immediately. But this is a less used tool (u might not find anyone available) and usually they’re more expensive.

Also, you can cancel your lessons 24h beforehand and u get your money back into your account (let’s imagine that you can’t attend, for example).

Lessons, it’s lessons. That was my English falling apart. It’s always 1 on 1. My bad :sweat_smile:

I told you I wasn’t sure if I was still Englishing…

That’s a cool verb… I English… You English… He/She/It English… Ok, I’m not well.


No worries man, it’s 大丈夫です。 Very bueno :ok_hand:


italki is super convenient. I just had my 100th lesson with my main grammar teacher this week and I don’t want to know where I would be when it comes to grammar without her. I also have a second tutor with whom I just chat in casual language. My grammar teacher is a „real“ teacher that does more formal grammar practice with me and those lessons are a bit more expensive (17$ maybe?) but soo worth it for me.

It doesn’t help a ton with listening (which I know now, thanks JLPT :wink:) since I got used to these two teachers and they are doing a great job of speaking at a comprehensible level for me. Might be different when using a lot of different tutors as JP suggested. That sounds like a good challenge but too much of a hassle and too stressful for me personally (I‘m not a huge fan of reaching out to strangers for the first time…)

When you buy a lesson package, the scheduling will just work as always but you get a discount on the lessons.


See, I’ve taken 6 semesters of Japanese classes that were all taught in Japanese, but that didn’t help me on the JLPT listening section either. The only people I’ve seen claim that the listening was easy are people who either A) have lived in Japan for months/years, or B) used the “AJATT” method where you basically no-life it and spend as much time as humanly possible listening to Japanese audio. I’m just hopeful for a happy medium that’s feasible and effective.

Getting tons of 1-on-1 speaking practice before I even land in Japan would still be awesome though, so I’ll still look into iTalki when I get a chance :upside_down_face:

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So true :scream:
Whenever I am in Japan most people just want to talk in English
It is also much easier to meet people who want to speak English because the Japanese only speakers are usually afraid to talk to you :sweat:

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So I ended up passing N4! I’m going to study for N3 and see if I’m ready, though I might skip it this year as my N4 score was pretty low and I’d like to do better with N3, but we’ll see how I feel when registration opens up after a few months of studying!

Grammar really dragged my score down (and I knew I’d do poorly at listening), it’s not an amazing score but I’m so happy to have actually passed!

Though, since taking the test, I feel my Japanese has improved - I went to Japan for three weeks I’ve been working on listening and reading ‘real’ material. I’m also going to brush over Genki a little (since I kinda dropped it to just study N4 textbooks) before I jump into N3 content and Tobira.

Wanna nail pre-N3 stuff before I take the jump!

Thanks for everyone’s advice!