JLPT N1 Study Tips

Hey everyone!

I’m currently self studying to pass the JLPT N1 in July. That leaves me an intense ~6 months to finish up 新完全マスター N2 books and go through the N1 books.

I wanted to ask those who have taken the test, if they had not only study tips but also mistakes that were made or different areas of the language that were underestimated in regards to the test.

I’ve heard that reading speed and vocabulary nuances are important, what else should I put more focus on?

Thanks! :christmas_tree: :gift:

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Sorry I have nothing to say about the N1, but I did want to ask a question. Do you find that studying towards the JLPT improves your Japanese significantly? My experience with studying for exams during school was that studying for exams only made me better at taking the exam and not necessarily better in the material.

頑張ってね!

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Anyone is welcome to reply!

Regarding your question, I think it depends on your goal. If your goal is to pass the test, then you’ll naturally study in a way that makes good at that; meaning you might disregard speaking, writing or any other skillset/areas of the language that aren’t required to pass the test.
On the other hand, if your goal is to become fluent, you’ll naturally want to explore with curiosity all of the areas of the language.

As for me, my goal is to become fluent in the language, and to do so I use “passing the JLPT” as fuel for motivation to study harder than I would have otherwise. In this way, I not only work hard to pass the exam, but I also speak a lot and try to focus on the language as a whole, not selecting specific areas. It’s the best of both worlds.
In the end, whether I pass the test or not doesn’t matter much to me, as I would be satisfied enough with the level of fluency I attained along the way.

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That’s awesome. Might put you at a disadvantage compared to other test takers cuz they might be focused solely on exam material but yea fluency doesn’t mean passing an exam. How long have you been studying Japanese?

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Did you pass N2 already? That would give us a better indication of what you’re starting from.

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No I haven’t passed any JLPT tests yet, I’ve gone very thoroughly through Genki I & II, Tobira, 新完全マスター N3 and I’m currently ~50% through 新完全マスター N2. I also read novels and listen to JP-only podcasts.
I feel like my weaknesses are listening comprehension and nuances. My strong points are reading and grammar :open_book:

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Have you taken any of the JLPTs? I think it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the format and the kinds of tasks they make you do so that you’re not wasting time reading the directions.

I think if you’re focusing on learning Japanese you’re not at any disadvantage compared to those who study for the test. Though if you haven’t taken any of the tests, you may feel completely blindsided by what is actually on the test (thus this thread).

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Yeah, it’s always a good idea to go into the test such that you won’t be expending energy on merely figuring out what they want you to do. You want to see a section and know what to do without reading the instructions for the section (except maybe at a glance to get your bearings).

I feel bad for people who have never tried the 4 blanks and a star grammar questions until test day (unless they already have a very well-ingrained grammar sense).

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Thank you @LucasDesu and @Leebo for your responses. I understand that sitting the test at least once for experience is a huge plus, as one is able to take in the timing and understand all of the types of questions.
I’m already conscious of the types of questions that can come up (thanks to 新完全マスター), what I probably lack is the timing; how long I should focus on specific questions, how fast I should read, how thorough I should read etc.

I am aware that this might make me panic the day of the test, but I’m planning on spending my last month going through many mock tests and questions to really engrave the flow of each question type.

Were there any questions or parts of the exam that were specifically difficult? In regards to time management for example?

Well, for me personally, reading was probably my biggest hurdle until I passed N1. A few times I failed N1 with very low reading scores and ran out of time. When I did pass, I finished the section with some time to check answers.

For the first parts, kanji, vocab, and grammar, you usually either know the answer or you don’t pretty quickly. So that means most people will probably get to the reading comprehension in around the same time, unless they are unusually slow readers.

With reading, I personally cannot bring myself to skim around for answers. I absolutely have to read from the top or I just feel disoriented. That doesn’t mean you need to linger over anything you don’t fully understand though.

The only one you can skim through is the “information seeking” one, where you just need to get the relevant information from a flyer or poster.

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For time management, I have used this website before for guidance:
https://jlptbootcamp.com/2011/06/jlpt-time-time-management-for-the-test/

And I did some mock reading questions timing myself (but no complete test), and seeing whether I managed the short reading questions in 2 minutes and so on, just to see how much I had to hurry / skip.
I usually found that grammar and especially vocab and kanji can be done faster than the proposed time on there, so you might have more leeway for reading.

I think if you do several mock tests for preparation you don’t need to have taken another JLPT before, since you’re gonna get used to the format through that, especially if you’re usually fine and not especially nervous during written exams.

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I see, I also read that the reading section was the hardest in terms of time management, and I also need to read the whole text for comprehension. What would you say is the most effective reading material to read for practice? I understand that a wide variety of material is best, but which one do you think will prepare you the most if you had to choose?

For the grammar, kanji and vocab sections, did you feel like the questions were “anticipated”? Meaning, were there any surprises or things you really haven’t see before? Or were the questions pretty much what you expected?

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Thank you for the link!

I think with enough timed mock exams/questions, I’ll be more orientated during the exam. I’ve also taken several other language tests in other languages so I’m quite aware of the atmosphere.

You can find collections of essays, which are usually very similar in style to N1 reading passages.

Novels and newspapers are not bad, they won’t hurt you, but they tend to not have a similar structure to the test.

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I agree with Leebo. In addition, people who aren’t accustomed to conversing in Japanese find the listening section to be tricky because it doesn’t reflect natural listening conventions or the way the speakers speak is meant to confuse you.

As for timing, I would recommend getting a past exam so you can make the determination on how you should divvy your time because you can tailor time management based on your own strengths/limitations. Secondly, you’d have access to scripts to previous listening sections that you can study.

Frankly, I feel that what you’re currently doing will suffice.

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As you do mock tests you’re probably gonna find a good rhythm for yourself, but the advice I always give to people is to learn to give up when they don’t know. Especially in the early portions of the test, you wanna read the question, pick the answer and move on. If you don’t know the answer, trust you gut, pick the one that seems the more natural and move on. New knowledge is not going to come to you no matter how long you stare at an unknown word.

Same for reading, there’s usually that one text that for some reason doesn’t jive with you, either the vocab feels off, you’re not getting a metaphor or you’re just not used to the topic. Pick something and move on. A lot of people get stuck on one text and it kind ruins the rest of the reading section for them.

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This is what I usually do on tests, but I also usually mark the questions were I am most unsure in some way (not on the answer sheet though), so if I have time to go back, I can find the ones I’m most unsure of and see if that extra time will help me. (Sometimes it has, sometimes not.)

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The registration for JLPT july will open in a few months so in the meantime why not try a N2 mock test ? It just takes a few hours and you will have a much more clearer idea of JLPT difficulty.

I have some classemates who registered for the wrong level, both way, and it really suck when the exam is either considerably too difficult or too easy.

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Thank you everyone for your helpful responses, I realize that time management is the main concern as opposed to the difficulty of the content (which I don’t underestimate either by any means).

Some (@Kqaotix, @Myria, @MissDagger) have pointed out that the exam questions were pretty much hit or miss; if you know great, if you don’t, guess and move on and perhaps come back later. I will try to direct my studying in this mindset, as I have been quite picky about absolutely finding the right answer and checking it by either re-reading a paragraph of the text and trying all other choices in the multiple choice to make sure that they were wrong.
By doing this hit or miss strategy I will hopefully develop a more accurate aim in choosing the right answer in one go, thus reducing time used in answering.

In addition, studying content that reflects the content that will come up on the exam is probably a good idea. As @Leebo mentioned for example to read N1 essays, or @LucasDesu to converse in Japanese to get accustomed to the speed and natural mumbling of words.

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