Most time-effective study tactics you've found (~N2 level)

Hi all,

I’m gearing up for the N2 this weekend and it’s gonna be ぎりぎり. What strikes me the most is how slow I seem to be learning. I’ve been doing N2 listening and reading exercises for over six months now, and I don’t feel that much better than when I started? Like, maybe I’ve moved from getting 30% of the questions right to 60%, but I should have gotten further.

So this inspires me to ask the language-learning hive mind, what techniques you’ve found most time effective? I’m especially interested in things that felt significantly better than what you’ve tried before, and really accelerated your learning, so that you’re much happier spending 1 hour/day doing X than doing what you were doing before.

Things I’ve tried that feel slow-and-steady, and so maybe not worth as much time as I’m putting in:

  • Doing JLPT workbook exercises and practice tests, and making Anki cards out of the questions I get wrong or sentences I don’t understand
  • Doing Bunpro, and reading every sentence, and making an Anki card if I don’t fully understand it
  • Satori reader
  • 2/week 1-hour one-on-one lessons with a Japanese teacher. (Probably there’s a whole other post on how to best make use of this time… I doubt my current lessons are that effective.)

Things I’ve not tried but am somewhat curious about:

  • Focused vocabulary cramming, e.g. 30+ words/day. (Will be easier after I finish WaniKani; currently on level 53.)
  • Learning vocabulary in clusters (e.g. going deep on mimetic words or sonkeigo verbs or science words or something)
  • Shadowing
  • Reading aloud
  • Writing, either handwriting (to practice kanji recall) or on computer (to practice general production)
  • YouTube lessons
  • English-to-Japanese flashcards

Things that are probably not what I’m looking for, because I only have 1-3 hours/day for studying and spending it on these seems time-ineffective:

  • Watching anime/dramas
  • Tadoku

Going back to N2 materials now, I gotta say reading books and watching a lot of Japanese media gets you pretty far. Definitely recommend an N2 vocab deck and maybe a grammar book focused on the N2.


I‘m definitely a vocab cramming kind of person. Not knowing one or two words can mess up your understanding of a whole text / whole listening exercise, so at least having heard of the words before was really helpful (I did vocab decks all the way up to N1, N5-N1 combined were about 8000 words)
Especially since you might not come across the more business-y N2-N1 words in your daily reading / listening depending on what you‘re consuming.

I didn’t do 30+ words a day, just consistently 10-15 words, usually starting right after having taken the previous JLPT.


For N2 specifically you need to work on your reading comprehension and speed and listening comprehension. The time limit is brutal and the reading passage questions tricky if you’re rushing frantically through the test.


Hmm, I was hoping to get more specific tactics from this thread. For example, if you were to spend 1-2 hours/day on reading comprehension, what exactly would you do? Are there specific activities that you find more helpful than others? (Same question for listening comprehension.)

It does sound like there are some votes for more vocab cramming being an effective use of time, at least.

I think it’s hard to say because while I can tell you some of the things I did I can’t say if they were the most time-efficient option.

For reading it depends a lot on your personal preferences. If you like reading anyway then it’s probably best to go mostly with “read the stuff you enjoy” because that will maximise your enthusiasm for continuing to put in the effort and you’ll end up with more hours-spent-reading that way. (Plus it’s time spent using the language to do something you get enjoyment out of, which in my view is kind of the endgame in a way that “collect test certificates” is not.) On the other hand if reading isn’t your thing and your aim here is “do the minimum to pass the test, because what I’m really after is watching anime/talking to people/moving to Japan for work/other” then you probably want to focus in a bit more on the kind of non-fiction essay-ish content and style the test has.

On vocab: I tend to think of vocab study as among the least time-efficient ways to prep for JLPT, because the odds of any particular word coming up are a lot lower than the odds of eg a given grammar pattern appearing. I didn’t do any specific vocab study for JLPT2 (relying instead on what I’d acquired in classes and through general reading); for N1 I did do the parts of the Anki Core10k deck I didn’t already know.

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I understand you’re looking for very specific guidelines. I wouldn’t classify them as “activities”, though.

Reading comprehension: variety of sources - newspaper articles, opinion pieces, books, reviews, etc.
Listening comprehension: news reports, commercials, interviews, etc. You need to be able to navigate through fairly complex discussions with a lot of turns between people as well as understand keigo when spoken.

There is no magic behind either of these, though :slight_smile: .


Knowing what to expect is half the battle. The other half is taking good care of yourself.

Good luck with your exam.


I’ve gotten a bit lazi I feel, or rather, used to not knowing a word here and there during my initial fumbles with learning Japanese on my own, that I find myself reluctant to bite the bullet on this one. Because, I agree: it makes a big difference I think to immediately recognize a word, rather than having to looks something up - when I’m going to be tempted to just skip and guestimate things. it just makes reading more relaxed and natural, and you know you fully understood everything. :slight_smile:

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Input input input. I think maybe you’ve maxed out the beginner rote tasks you are searching for. By maxed out I mean , the diminishing returns are starting to get brutal.

Not saying never study from a grammar book or make flashcards, If I had 1-3 hrs a day, I think 25% ‘studying’ max and the rest using Japanese however you like.

So personally speaking, it was increasing input significantly.