N5 to N3 in a year?

Do you think I could go from N5 to N3 in a year? I have family commitments (young children) but I do live in Japan.

I’m taking classes right now Tuesday-Friday 2 hours a day until Mid march when the term ends. That will be the end of 初級 2 class and after a recent thread I started, i’ve decided to take the intermediate class beginning in April. Unfortunately that class is only twice a week, 2 hours each class meaning my study hours will decrease. I’ll probably add in a private tutor once per week and perhaps negotiate a 2 hour block with my husband for self study outside the home (perhaps in a cafe) to take me up to the 8 hour mark. I’ll then likely do an hour per day day on my apps (WK, KW, memrise and bunpro) and then perhaps an hour a week reading for bookclub. That takes me to around 16 hours study a week, though that will be significantly leas during holidays such as the long summer break.

I’m pushing myself (or rather my husband is pushing me) to try take the N4 in July (I’ve learnt almost all the grammar but have forgotten a lot so definitely need to revise) but I do need to learn more Kanji and vocab for that test.

Do you think I can manage to push ahead and take N3 in December? :thinking: Has anyone else managed N4-N3 in 6 months? Or am I better giving it a year?

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I’d say see how the N4 goes! The JLPT can really throw some people off because it goes really fast and you have to get used to speed reading/skimming through for answers. It the N4 goes well, then you can absolutely make the N3 in December (as long as you stick to your current study schedule).

I generally have been waiting a year between each JLPT level. But I like a slower study pace. Plus driving to Edmonton in December is way too sketchy so I wait for the July test :laughing:


I want to say it’s possible because that’s very close to what I did. It’s not entirely straightforward though – I spent a good year and a half on WaniKani (reaching about level 30) before studying grammar at all, so in terms of kanji/vocab I was well above what you might consider N5, but I couldn’t read even the simplest sentences. Kind of a stupid approach, I know.

Anyway, the biggest thing that got me out of that rut was ploughing through Bunpro as fast as I could stand, and then reading a lot. I got to the end of the N3 material in about three months. It meant a lot of reviews at first but it slowed down eventually.

The most important thing (by my estimation) was that I started reading with a focus on volume, not concerning myself with understanding every little thing. I wrote a post about this in one of the reading club threads, but the gist of it is: you’re going to be studying a lot of new grammar points and the best way to fix them in your brain is to see them in the wild. You want to read as much as you possibly can to increase your chances of that happening; reading at a full sprint, always chasing down the next piece of familiar grammar and skipping anything that might slow you down.

Reading at low comprehension can be rough, so a good way to ease the transition could be to read the manga for an anime you’ve already seen with English subtitles, so you can still follow along based on your memory of the events in the show – I did this with 5等分の花嫁, which would have been far above my level if I was going in blind. Following a book club is great, but in order to be reading at a high enough volume you’ll probably need to read something else on the side as well.

Finally, “reaching N3” depends on a lot of factors, of which reading is only one. Don’t forget to train your listening comprehension as well. The above approach also works for anime, TV etc – in fact, it might even work better because the show goes on no matter how slowly you might read. Keep at it, even if it’s not obvious in the moment that you’re making progress. You will get there if you put the time in.


Yes I took the N5 in December and went through everything as fast as I possibly could and pretty much only just made it in time with about 3 mins at the end for a quick check over on the first section and probably 5 mins left on the second section to check over. I was surprised how quick you really do have to go as I felt like I was always rushing. I was also surprised with only being able to listen to the listening questions one time each. Especially when other people in the room were ruffling things, making it hard for me to always hear.

But yes it’s made me realise that i’m going to definitely need to practice my listening as well as skim reading.

Probably best to see how I go on N4 and this is all hypothetical anyway I guess depending on my N5 result. If I didn’t manage to pass then i’ll have to retake that one first.

Just wanted to see if it is possible to do N4 and N3 in one year. Probably only if I push myself!

I’n kind of opposite. I’ve “learnt” (and subsequently forgotten :see_no_evil:) all N5 and N4 grammar but behind on my Kanji and potentially vocab too (but not as far behind as with kanji) which is why i’m here trying to go as fast as I can with WK (though right now it isn’t letting me go very fast :sweat_smile:). I’ve been doing all reviews and lessons as soon as they come up and it is still taking me probably almost 8 days to level up this time. Anyway got to keep powering though, its the only way forward. I’m rather sick of staying at my current beginners level, always learning then forgetting then relearning beginner material again then forgetting and never progressing. I realised something has to change and I’ve got to push myself more I think (even though i’m not very confident and i’m the anxious type :sweat_smile:). Still If I want to contribute to my community and also have an easier time communicating with my children’s teachers, something has to change.


I’d actually argue against doing this unless you absolutely bombed the N5. If you fail but were pretty close to a passing grade, it’s worth it to just work towards the N4 stuff and then review N5 material along with it.

In a general sense, this is definitely possible.


I passed the N5 with just 3 months of self study with the first Minna no Nihongo book. Granted, I live in Japan so I can practice more freely, but I never had a proper teacher or tutor. I feel confident in passing the N3 by December. I think with a good daily, consistent routine of the right materials, it’s possible. Even just half an hour a day would be useful, as long as you keep it up!

Actually, now that I think about it. Everyone’s different! I don’t think what I did is normal in any sense, but if I did it, then it can be done!

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I managed. I did N4 in Dec 2018, and N3 in July 2019 (N2 in Dec 2019). I never did N5 since I was too late to sign up for the July test in 2018.

Of course it depends a lot on your own commitment and time you have, though if you push yourself to speak with people you meet, the basics should get stamped in pretty solidly. Ask somebody to also correct mistakes they hear you make a lot. But take this with a grain of salt, since some stuff might be more personal style rather than actual mistakes.


Depending on the margin you fail at, I would keep going for N4 regardless. Maybe take some time to go over the basics more. Do you have an idea what your weaknesses are? Conjugations, vocab, grammar, listening?

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Only a day or 2 behind full speed. How many reviews do you do in a day? You need to do at least three to keep up with the apprentice level timings: lessons+4hrs+8hrs+23hrs. Also note that you do need to do all vocab and kanji on the first day of level up. You can spread kanji out over the first 3 days of a level, at which point you guru a bunch of radicals and do the rest of the kanji. Vocab you can spread out over the whole week of a level, though I do recommend finishing one level’s vocab before starting on next level radicals.


Just my memory really :sweat_smile: not much I can do about that. When we get the N5 results i’ll be able to see where my weakness are. In any case I’ve just got bunpro and going through the N5 grammar first. I should be finished with the N5 grammar and memrise N5 vocab and Kanji by the end of Jan, just as a recap. (I kind of took the N5 without revising :see_no_evil: but i’ve been in Japan a long time and seemed to absorb somethings without study. I don’t recommend this method though as it is far too slow)

Actually conjugations are 大変 for me :sweat_smile:

I’ve not messed with the code so I cant prioritise order, i’ve done everything as soon as it comes up pretty much for this last level but I compared the speed of this particular level to someone who finished in just over a year and it was about the same. They were doing most levels in 7-8 days except level 2 and 46以上 which seem to have less to learn and can be done in 3 days. My level 2nwas finished in 3 days too, so just got to keep up at this pace and I can finish in a year, though actually its not my goal. I’ll be happy to get to level 30 by the end of the year.

You can change the order in Settings, though. I feel like doing ‘prioritise by level then item type’ at the start of the level will let you do pevious level vocab and radicals first. Then switching settings to ‘prioritise by level then random’ lets you do the kanji and vocab in manageable hunks for the next couple days. After radicals are gurued you can switch back to first setting to do the remaining kanji, and spread out vocab over the next couple days.

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I think it’s doable.
At least I hope it is.
I’m actually attempting N4 to N2 this year.
Or rather N4 and a halfway to N3 already, to barely passing N2. Lol.

Either way, I think if you keep studying daily, it’s certainly possible. It takes time though, and you have to put in the hours. But like already suggested, I would focus on N4 first and see what the July test results are. (though keep studying while you wait for results, they take ages) And based on that, either push through to N3 or adjust your pace to make it for next year.
For example, if you were to only just make N4, I might suggest to repeat some N4 stuff before continuing N3. But if you fly through it easily, then go for it. N3 all the way.

Either way, good luck!


It’s doable, especially considering that you live in Japan. But it’s not easy. I would say have it as a reach goal, but be satisfied if you end up halfway between N4 and N3 by the end of the year.


Is there any reason for you to think in terms of JLPT levels? Do you need the certificate for something? Especially if you live in Japan focusing only on JLPT stuff omits a lot of skills that would be more useful and would be more beneficial in the long run, like language production and actual talking. Aiming for JLPT also pushes you to grind the same grammar over and over again to perfect it instead of advancing, which personally I think is not so useful.

Of course it can give you structure, but it depends what kind of proficiency you are after.


I mostly want to be able to talk more. So you think JLPT makes you grind the same grammar over and over or trying to talk more does that? Sorry I couldn’t follow which one you were talking about.

I personally want to talk more but in order to achieve that I thought taking my current class again for another term would be the best idea. But people seem to think advancing to the next class would be a better idea to push me. I’m using the JLPT as a sort of way to make me study more myself and try to practice more rather than actually wanting the certification. I guess its a deadline.


Yeah I worded that poorly. I meant studying for the JLPT encourages you to grind grammar to be able to answer the test questions which is not that useful in real life situations. That’s one of the reasons I think classroom settings are not the best to be able to talk, since they have a pressure to aim for the JLPT qualifications.

I also disagree with this :smiley: But taking a class won’t help you talk more, especially if you are not talking with natives. I also suggest just listening a ton of content, even if you don’t understand much at first. Nihongo con Teppei podcast is great and they also have a beginner version. Then of course you need to get out there and talk.


Our classes are more conversational classes, they do go through text books but we don’t do any writing in class, mostly only talking and we have low numbers of people too. Since I live in Japan, after i’ve learnt a grammar point I can go out into the world and use it BUT usually i’ve already forgotten the point before I get a chance as I don’t tend to have conversations with cashiers and honestly not enough time to hang out with friends (I have two young kids). Best I can do is my class and they sometimes bring random volunteers in to talk to us individually for practice, as well as practice on my MIL when we visit. My husband is Japanese but he speaks English really well so To be more efficient (we suffer with lack of time mostly at the moment) we speak English. Of course he often speaks to me in Japanese so I do get listening practice, but I usually answer in English. Also my eldest kid now speaks better Japanese than English so I have yo try maintain his English. Tough being a bilingual kid :sweat_smile:

All in all, i’ve been here far too long and really should know way more than I do and I really need to give myself a kick up the backside rather than succumb to yet more procrastination.

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Also our class is totally not geared towards JLPT at all. More just for daily life but some of us are taking the tests as well.

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