Missed my chance for the JLPT N4

Fairly pissed off about this. Nobody told me that the spots would fill up so fast in America, nor did I realize how competitive it was…I was going to register on the weekend as it’s only been a few days since registration opened up for the N4 and then bam, no spots for Washington DC or any state near me. I’m mad and upset as I’ve been studying for it along with my classes at university.

Since I have to wait an entire year now, should I just take the N3 next year then instead? I’m not quite N4 level yet, but I will be finishing Genki II either this year or next Spring, and start Advanced Japanese around the summertime. May be studying abroad in Tokyo next Summer too.

Or should I just stick to taking the N4 next year and save attempting the N3 for later? Thoughts?


I would say, study for N4 as if you were going to take it (same schedule and all), then start studying for N3 and take this one.
The same thing happened to me : I missed N3 registration, then I took N2 later (and failed on my first attempt, but it was more because I didn’t do any mock exam).


Ouch - yeah, the slots fill up quickly - I made sure to be there 15 minutes before the advertised opening of online registration, as I had discovered last year that they open things up early.

Last December I missed passing the N4 by 3 points - and so I’m going to try the N4 again this December. Even though I feel like I’ve made significant gains in my skill since then, I’m not nearly ready to take the N3,

I think that there is a benefit to taking the N4 just for gaining the actual test-taking experience, and passing the N4 will be better than possibly taking and failing the N3 (have you previously taken the N5?). Maybe you can consider taking the N4 in Tokyo next July, and plan to try the N3 in December.


This is a great idea, you could even do a mock exam at the same time as everyone is taking the actual one.

The most important thing is that you don’t get discouraged. My first run of studying Japanese seriously as an adult I missed my chance to get a JLPT slot as I was short on money at the time. It really upset me and threw me off my study groove.

Some people really need JLPT scores for acceptance onto university courses or for job prospects. That’s why they’re so tenacious when it comes to getting their application in.


The N4 is about 6 months worth of study. Focus on getting better at Japanese and next time try for N3. Don’t get caught up in the JLPT study trap.


In a similar boat, actually. Forgot that registrations opened yesterday in Australia and now the only spots left that don’t involve a multi-hour plane flight is the N1.

My goal now is to continue studying and get to the point that I would be confident in passing the N4, before moving onto N3 study. When the next test registrations open, I then get the option to see how I’m doing for either test (although I’ll be honest I’ll probably just stick to the N4 for my first one).

It can be annoying, but what you should do is try not to let it get you down, and continue advancing your Japanese skills to be better than you could be when limiting your skill advancement to infrequent tests. If you don’t feel confident for the next level up, you can at least know that your study over the extra time and content will prepare you better for anything in the lower levels.


@KaiRyuuji This is great advice, imo, if you’ve been very serious about hitting N4 by this coming December. You can even make a “deadline date” where you plan to go to a library, take a practice test, let the hushed quiet of the library serve as some test pressure, and see how you measure up without dropping $100 on the official thing. For added spiciness to the test-taking ambiance, if your university has a law school, use one of the carrel desks in their library for your test spot. Guaranteed pressure, especially in December lol.

My advice is to use an N4 study guide of some sort (like JLPT Sensei’s), come up with your plan of attack (15 new vocab per day? 10 new grammar per week?), and treat it officially. You are NOT the only person who missed sign-ups - even I was truly astonished at how quickly they filled up this year! Like concert tickets! It could be worth it to post in the JLPT thread and/or the N4 thread and ask if anyone wants to schedule their mock test at the same time as you, maybe even multiple people will be happy to join as study partners.

Or even if you don’t do any of this, please don’t let this break your focus! Make next year your N3 year, regardless of whether your N4 score was official or not :pray:


I think that if you’re around N4 already, just finish up what you need to learn for N4-equivalent knowledge, then move on to N3 knowledge. I don’t think reaching N3 from N4 in a year is unrealistic provided you have the right material (and are willing to put in the necessary work). By the way, I’d really like to emphasise knowledge – not test prep – because of this:

The JLPT is ultimately just a test, and spending tons of time on studying the test format isn’t necessarily going to improve your Japanese. Conversely, improving your Japanese will better equip you for taking any level of the JLPT (and frankly, basic test format knowledge aside, I think only the N1 really needs specific study since it’s a little harder to encounter all the stuff it covers through immersion alone within a short period). Having better Japanese will also allow you to use the language IRL, which I think it’s everyone’s real goal.


It’s kind of the opposite. It might have specific words here and there but the vocab isn’t specific like people say it is. It’s still generally words every Japanese person knows and you can find them in immersion fine.

This video kind of reiterates this but with more info.


I originally planned to take N5 in 2020, then it was cancelled everywhere. So I thought I’d do N4 in 2021, but in Australia it was only offered in a couple of states. So ultimately my first JLPT was the N3, which I finally sat in 2022, and passed!

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While the N1 didnt use any specific vocab and grammar and was all pretty standard when I took it, @Jonapedia did specifically say that it’s hard to encounter it in a short time through immersion. I think this is pretty accurate, especially considering how slow some people will be going through immersion at the start. Especially reading.

Now, how much that matters is up for debate. I didn’t actually see any grammar or words I didn’t know on the N1 so I can’t say for sure, but I’m inclined to say that trying to “encounter all the stuff N1 covers” isn’t even the best way to pass the test anyways.

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I took the N1 and passed it in July 2022, and the specific bit I’m thinking of is grammar, not vocabulary. Also, I said ‘within a short period’. Tokini Andy was in his 11th year since starting Japanese, and he’s married to a native speaker, lives in Japan, and is doubtlessly fluent enough to regularly interact with the language at an advanced level. I also expect that he had a very significant commitment to Japanese during that time. Despite all those advantages and that experience, he said, in the video you posted, that he had only encountered certain structures and words (ざるを得ない and たちまち specifically) six months before the test. I took my N1 after four years of Japanese during which I was consistently very busy (30-35h/week of classes for three of them, not counting the studying and homework I needed to do after class), with my main advantage being my kanji knowledge. I hadn’t had much time for reading with the exception of monolingual dictionaries, pages on the Japanese language (teaching sites, articles on keigo and business language usage), and had mostly been immersed in Japanese via anime (which was also the source of most of the words I looked up in monolingual dictionaries. That’s the maximum level of immersion I’m considering as ‘within a short period’. I think that both Andy’s and @Vanilla’s experiences show that you should know plenty for the test if you read enough, but if you don’t (like me), you’ll be in worse shape because the language on the N1, as far as I can tell, is still literary. You’ll find it in books especially, and perhaps also newspapers, but to a lesser extent. I’m not so sure about elsewhere. (The spoken language in the listening section probably turns up on the news and in formal conversations, from what I’ve listened to so far.)

Moreover, if we assume the N1 scores reflect similar levels of achievement regardless of the test session, I think the differences between my scores and Andy’s scores clearly reflect what I said about grammar/vocabulary versus the rest when it comes to acquiring knowledge through immersion. Here are Andy’s, from this N1 score reaction video:

In contrast, I had something like

Section Score
Language Knowledge 51/60
Reading 25/60
Listening 43/60
Vocabulary A
Grammar A
Total 119/180

(Yes, my total score is trash, I know, and I’m not proud of it at all.)
I had maybe a week for focused JLPT study before my test, nothing more, and the only thing I consistently studied until the test (properly focused or not) was grammar with the SKM series. I know with full confidence that I got at most five of the grammar questions wrong, because everything else was fairly obvious. For vocabulary, I know my score was entirely due to giving myself time to make good guesses based on kanji and reasoning by analogy, sacrificing the reading section in the process. However, so, as you can see, with less listening experience than Andy (but still a substantial amount), I got a similar score. With definitely far less reading experience and intentionally sacrificing the time I had allocated for the reading section, I scored far worse for reading (and I think my reading speed did pull me down). However, I scored much better for language knowledge, definitely partly due to vocabulary, but I think grammar contributed as well. This is in contrast to my first N1 practice test (the sample test I had included fewer questions than the actual test though), where I got zero for grammar (all the sample grammar questions were strictly N1 level – nothing that often features on N2 guides, which is a good portion of what I saw on the real test) and maybe 60% for vocabulary despite not putting myself in time-restricted exam conditions.

What I’m trying to show here is this: nothing beats getting enough immersion for improving reading and listening ability, but even with relatively little immersion, you can get massively improved grammar scores through focused N1 grammar study. I think the same improvements can be achieved for vocabulary through focused study of vocabulary or kanji books, but I’m not sure if it’s as efficient. (Most likely it isn’t.) Maybe my way isn’t the only way to achieve a good score – lots of immersion with time spent looking stuff up is probably better – but if you don’t have enough time for immersion before the N1, I think specific study is necessary, or at least quite effective, especially for grammar. The point here isn’t that N1 stuff is super obscure or useless, but rather that you won’t encounter a lot of it (i.e. a decent variety of the stuff) without going fairly deep into immersion at the advanced level.

Oh yeah, one thing I forgot to mention: the JLPT likes to pepper the entire test with N1 grammatical structures, so knowing structures also boosts your basic comprehension of the other sections as well.


Sometimes I really wonder what people do while studying. たちまち is in the top 4300 for frequency on jpdb and I see ざるを得ない all the time. My girlfriend literally used it yesterday. Going 10 years without seeing either is mind-boggling to me as someone who focused on reading.

Makes me wonder if its just a content issue. I feel like certain LN’s use these structures out the ass, so maybe people who read them have a big advantage. The series I always say that could get you to N1 level reading/language-knowledge alone, かのウワ, has both of these, including たちまち in kanji and ざるを得ない on several occasions.


From what little I’ve seen of LNs, I think it’s probably a ‘lack of reading’ issue, because there’s definitely a lot of this stuff commonly in LNs and some other text. I can’t remember when or how I learnt ざるを得ない, but after I first encountered it, I definitely saw it quite a lot. たちまち is also something I saw very recently.

If most of your immersion in convos or other informal audio though… you probably won’t see as much of this. That’s definitely been my experience.

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Honestly makes sense why the people who get to like N1 level in 1-2 years always seem to be people who go hard on visual novels and light novels. You heard it here first, folks. If you want to pass N1, read anime books!

EDIT: Watching the video lmao:

I’m 99% sure I passed and I’m 99% sure its because I played a lot of video games (including vn) and read a lot of manga

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From what I’ve seen he seems to have just gotten to a intermediate plateau and got super comfy knowing what he knew. I think reading and listening help expand these things but he probably went most of his day to day speaking some combination of English and Japanese with his wife like I do. The way we talk I would never hear ざるを得ない. So I kind of get it.

Back to the N1, if you’re consuming a lot of content, that should be enough for the test. I did the sample test and missed 4 questions, 1 vocab/grammar, 2 reading, and 1 listening. So I think the volume of content I have been consuming this month has made me optimistic about taking it, and skeptical of people who say it’s only focusing on niche Japanese. Like you said, I think it comes down to the grammar, as that is genuinely harder to run into as it does rely on very specific situations, however I did the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar Anki deck in tandem with reading the entries I didn’t have a good grasp of and I feel like anything outside of those books is gonna be extremely niche and unnecessary to spend the energy for the N1.


Yeah, I feel this big time as someone who started “studying” like 10 years ago and am still somewhere between N3 and N2. I got to a point to where I felt could convey my thoughts “well enough” and coasted on that for years. lol. Speaking and listening are pretty easy for me, though I struggle really bad trying to listen to someone like Hikaru. Dude needs to frickin breathe a little bit lol. I don’t even think when I speak anymore, and often will find myself thinking in Japanese, which was weird at first, but I’m just used to it now.

I had never heard of ざるを得ない until this thread, so I feel that. I guess I need to start reading LN’s!


It’s in VNs a lot too. Steins;Gate has it a few times.

I have been studying 6 years, and am in the final stretch of my studies before I don’t have to look anything up outside of maybe a few random words here and there. I have my reading/watch list on Learn Natively rn and there is surprisingly not much material at that level to my surprise. So I’m mining and grinding away and taking every rare (and not so rare) word I can find.


Yeah, test prep wise, I agree with this. There are relatively few “grammar points”, so studying them is better bang for the buck because the thing you study this afternoon has a higher probability of actually appearing on the test than if you study vocab. After “general test format familiarisation and practice tests” it’s probably the most efficient use of dedicated short term JLPT study time. Over the long haul you really primarily need “read more” and “listen more” though, and if you’ve been doing that then grammar study for the test is more about making sure you don’t have too many gaps or odd misunderstandings.

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Can you link to somewhere to get it / write the author’s name? I’ve seen you mentioning this series several times but when I look it up I can’t seem to fine any result that fits the description