N5 practice test help

Hi team-

I keep plugging along with learning Kanji and grammar, but I’m finding the N5 tests a little challenging because some of the official JLPT test questions are written in just hiragana, no Kanji, and it’s tripping me up. Does anyone have any recommendations on how to overcome this?


Learn vocabulary.

The JLPT tests Japanese, not kanji knowledge. There’s an element of kanji knowledge in it (though I believe it’s minimal at N5), and grammar is certainly important, but if you don’t know enough vocabulary, you’re not going to make much sense of it no matter how many kanji you know. Make sure you know the readings of vocabulary too, to make sure you’re not overly reliant on kanji.

Listening may help too, as it forces you to identify words by context and reading, rather than relying on kanji for clues.

If your sole source of vocabulary is currently WaniKani, you might want to take up Anki or Kitsun with a Core2.3k, Core6k or Core10k deck. These decks go over the most common 2.3k, 6k, or 10k words in Japanese, in order, and learning the first 1000-1500 or so should be plenty. I think I knew about that much when I fairly comfortably did an N4 practice test.

WaniKani does teach useful vocabulary, especially now with kana-only vocab added, but it certainly doesn’t teach it in order of usefulness.


Another source of vocabulary can be immersion, read books at your level (the Book Clubs here on the forum can be a good way to start)


I’d personally recommend some foundation in vocabulary before doing that, just to make it a less frustrating experience - but yes, immersion is great. It’s been my main method of learning after getting those first 1000-1500 words under my belt, and my first book club taught me a ton.


Im planning on skipping N5 and going straight to N4 but when I started doing the tests I did notice that they were harder than I thought. What I have did is installed the Language Reactor plug in to my browser and started watching the JLPT listening test practice videos and then using that plug in to study the sub titles, I started creating my own Anki deck from the vocab that I need. Then since the structure is very similar, the patterns start to get easier and the vocab list required for the tests starts to build up quickly.

I am also studying Genki books and have Anki decks for the vocab in them that I make each chapter and I have a tutor on italki and having all these avenues you start to see it all come together for to JLPT practice materials without the need for Kanji.

Then for Kanji practice I find myself on google street view in Tokyo looking around quite a bit. Its quite relaxing.


That’s such a smart method!
Thank you so much for sharing it


I’m studying Kanji and Vocabulary on WankiKani. I’ve tried Anki but I don’t find it very intuitive to use. I’ll try it again.

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Unfortunately if WK is your sole source of vocabulary, you’re going to have a hard time of it. The good news is, those first 1500 or so words are really all you need before you can easily move on to other methods of learning, so you won’t have to put up with it for very long if you don’t want to. The possibilities opened up by that foundation of vocabulary are immense.

I do agree that Anki isn’t necessarily very user-friendly. Kitsun has a much better user experience in that regard, and quizzes you like WaniKani does on vocab items, you could give it a try - but it is a paid service, so keep that in mind.

EDIT: actually, I just remembered, Torii is free and offers the possibility of learning vocab by JLPT level or in Core10k order out of the box. Works pretty intuitively too. Give it a whirl! https://torii-srs.com/


thank you for the suggestions! i’m primarily looking for tactics to help sort out kanji <> hiragana specifically around the N5 test. i understand it’s general japanese, reading comprehension as well as hearing.

i do practice the readings and vocabulary available, yet when i attempt a question and get it wrong, then translate it, i often understand it if it was written in kanji, which is where im getting most frustrated.

as an aside, is there a reason everyone believes wanikani to be limiting and is suggesting other resources?

It’s because WK largely teaches just one aspect of the language (reading kanji), and you’re reporting that you’re having troubles that are not about reading kanji: naturally you’re going to get recommendations for other resources.


You need to strengthen those words. The kanji can definitely help you remember what a word means, but if you don’t have the kanji, you simply have to learn the word to a higher level.

Words aren’t known or not known, there is a whole range of knowing. Top tier “knowing” you could definite it, explain it, kanji or no kanji, or understand it spoken and speak it or use it (Active vocab)

Low tier “knowing” is if there is enough stuff around it, like context, kanji, I could maybe remember it. But I probably can’t produce it. (Passive vocab)

Remember, they are all on range, you level them up, and some times they down level, and you re-level them again.

So the reason I say all this, is you simply need to level vocab up. Practice them more, listen to them read them. Once they are high enough, you wont need the kanji.

TLDR: Keep practicing!


This is exactly what I did last year in July. I noticed that my reading was not enough to parse the hiragana at the time and I was frustrated so I studied a bit more (skipped the test then) and went straight to N4.

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Torii is a great alternative if you can get past the terrible ergonomy

Unfortunately I couldn’t :sob:

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Honestly, this is why I’m gonna take the N4 as my first JLPT instead of N5.
It has more kanji in place of hiragana like actual native Japanese writing would, and the amount of grammar you need to study to reach N4 from N5 isn’t a huge stretch.


I have seen N5 described as more of a test to see if you will be ok to do N4. More like a pre test, just as N3 is that for N2 and most people skip N3 as well. Im going to be taking N4 in December in Edinburgh.

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I don’t think most people skip N3.
When there were 4 levels, they were about equivalent to the N5, N4, N2 and N1 levels, and the gap between the two middle tests was very very challenging for a lot of people - that is why N3 was introduced.

N5 is a good introduction to the JLPT exam and question format (including that the exam is all in 日本語, and for example: the grammar question format where you have to pick the correct location in a sentence for word or clause).
If you’re confident with the format and level of N5, then I think it’s fine to target N4 for your first JLPT.


This is true, but I think it’s also true that there’s quite a large group of people who skip all the lower levels and don’t take a JLPT test before N2 or even N1. This is because it’s only once you get to N2 that a test pass starts to have practical utility as a demonstration of proficiency for trying to get a job or similar.

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Here are applicant numbers and pass rates in Japan, oversea and total, from last July: