Number of JLPT attempts and self learning strategies

Hi everyone,

I read a post on the forums recently about post-JLPT depression. Whilst I haven’t personally found it this time around, I have found the countless fails to be somewhat demoralising to say the least. I’ve been saying for ages that I’ve failed N2 four times now, but after checking the JEES website, its actually five times! whelp!, so this last test in Dec was actually my sixth attempt. Holy mother of f**k. Even though I have studied and put in exponentially more effort into each attempt, my scores have only so slightly increased each time (my listening actually dropped below the pass mark for the last test!). I decided to put all my results into a spreadsheet so I can take it in to my Japanese teacher for my next lesson. It’s time to objectively look at my weak areas and see what needs to be done.

As expected my vocab/grammar scores have been steadily increasing, my listening also has, but it peaked in the middle and actually went down slightly during the last attempt. The worrying statistic is my reading score hasn’t really changed over 3.5 years. It’ll be interesting to see my results after a 1.5 year gap, I did study grammar a lot and felt much more confident with the first half of the test, however my reading may have let me down again as I actually felt that this year the reading was the hardest so far, so don’t except any improvement this time around either. So there it is, it seems, I really need to focus on my reading comprehension this year and solidly work hard at that.

Its not a great feeling when you study solidly for a year, and your score only increases by 1 or 2%. It really makes you wanna cry and give up the language forever. If I don’t pass this time around, maybe i’ll take a break from the JLPT. Thanks for listening, what are your JLPT nightmares or stories??


I failed N1 3 times before passing, though it was more like 2 times because I wasn’t at a sufficient level yet and then 1 time because I had the flu on test day, but yeah.

I guess I would say if your reading score hasn’t changed in 3.5 years… how much reading are you doing? What are you reading? Are you reading every day? Don’t even worry about reading comprehension questions or anything. Just read a lot. That would be the first step, I think.


Yeah, I don’t read much outside of the textbooks and reading comprehensive/grammar examples. I used to write a lot on Lang-8 and do translation stuff but was always very light. I started WK, to give me some motivation to pick up some light novels and start moving into native reading materials not just textbook stuff. When I lived in Japan I read newspapers a lot but mainly in the teachers room just skimming the headlines. I dabbled in manga too, but its not really my jam, and I was often perplexed by complex kanji or slang speech. I read subtitles a lot I guess. I haven’t been able to make the successful jump yet into grown-up native stuff, but you are dead right, reading is what needs to be done.

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Well yeah, you can’t expect to get better at reading without reading. If you need something to kick things off, the beginner book club will be reading a book targeted towards elementary school kids starting next week.

If you want something more “adult”, intermediate book club recently read コンビニ人間, which was quite good and not too difficult.


I guess it’s a matter of finding what you’ll be motivated to read. Have you tried blogs? Twitter? Magazines? There’s plenty out there beyond newspapers and manga. It’s important to have a varied reading diet, but the most important thing is to read at all.


No I haven’t, I just gotta find something i’m interested in. I’ll look into the bookclub definitely!


I’ve taken it 0 times. I was supposed to take the N3 a few years ago and the stress of the test made me actually quit studying Japanese for 2 years. I’m back on track again, but I agree with the above, and will add that I think that making the effort is better than not. I wish I had more self confidence and think you should be more proud!


Have taken and passed N3-N1 (without failing any, but I think I seriously lucked out on the content of my N1 test, which I was expecting to be a practice run. Got a 53/60 on reading, so that was fine, but I still feel like I could easily have been killed on vocab and listening on a different day).

I second @Leebo above. The JLPT isn’t an amazing all-around test as far as Japanese proficiency, but to its credit, I think it’d be genuinely impossible to pass N2 or N1 without spending substantial time reading and listening to native materials. If you aren’t already dedicating study time to prose-reading (native fiction or informational material in addition to test-style reading questions for practice) and listening (pick a podcast or a show; turn on Japanese closed captions for the latter if you need to), I’d start doing so. A lot of the higher-level tests are just about comfort with the language/being able to comprehend it quickly, and there’s no way to attain that without practice.

Plus, it’s fun. Just pick up a book and promise yourself you’ll read X number of pages a day (pick a healthy target), taking notes on new vocab. (I like throwing new words from the wild into virtual decks on, but whatever works for you.) Also constantly try to have at least one show you’re watching in Japanese, with or without native captions.

Also, don’t skimp on little things you can do–set some devices to Japanese (phone, etc.). Browse Japanese Twitter and news sites. It all adds up, just as far as increasing your reading speed and accuracy. Also read out loud. The less time you spend just trying to parse sentences in N2 or N1 passages, the more time you can spend on actually scrutinizing the larger points and question choices, where your focus is needed.


Thanks for all the great tips, I will definitely start focussing my attention on those aspects. Wow, 53/60 for reading is seriously impressive and congratulations for passing!


I personally hate the type of reading you have to do in the reading section of the JLPT. You don’t even have time to really read the text, rather just skim through it to find answers to the questions. It’s a very different kind of reading compared to say, reading a book. That’s why I think it’s not that applicable to real life situations. It definitely helps to train this type of ‘fast-reading’, if your goal is to pass that is.


I guess it depends on how good you are at reading relative to the level test you are taking. I didn’t have to skim at all for the N3 reading section.

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That’s pretty much the case for exams in any language which have reading passages, even your native language.

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I really love the idea of comprehensive programs - like WaniKani - that push you to build a solid foundation with spaced repetition but are limited in their scope to give a sense of accomplishment when you “finish”. I used this kind of system when I was learning how to play Igo (boardgame: 囲碁). When I was studying for JLPT level 2 (now N2), I only had Anki Decks, books, and internet forums. I ended up using a prep book with a cool red transparent plastic sheet that hid the answers - written in red - when you had it on the page over the text. On my first attempt, I failed about 30 points below the necessary level, and on my second attempt, I passed with 6 points over the threshold.

Now, ten years later, I’m excited to use modern tools to really push myself to master the knowledge I need for N1 next year!


Guess it depends. I don’t think I’ve ever had an exam where time was a real constraint. Let alone one that had reading passages in my own tongue. Maybe some exam where you had to write a counter essay but even then there’s plenty of time to even rewrite the whole thing.

I think for me the questions in the reading for N3 took more time than the actual text :stuck_out_tongue:

Now I’m depressed. :frowning: I know reading speed is my weakness, though.

You must be better at reading than you give yourself credit for! (referring to your other thread)


Well, at the risk of upsetting you more, I think it’s more an indication of how low the bar is for N3 reading.

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Yup, you’ve done it. Did otherwise very well on the July JLPT N3 but failed the reading section. :grimacing:

Well, it is only N3. Guess it’s all relative. I’ve done very little formal study and that’s why other people felt very different. For me the listening was way easier than anything on the exam. (well maybe kanji, thanks WK!)

Meanwhile, listening was super hard for me. Which isn’t surprising since I rarely listen to Japanese at all.

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Isn’t grammar and reading together in one section for the JLPT? If reading were all alone, maybe you could formulate how much time you generally are comfortable spending on that section and then make it work better for you next time. I just tried the N3 for the first time and I definitely wasn’t prepared enough, but skimming through I could understand the passages simply, but as mentioned by another, the questions are usually what I struggle to understand. XD

I was listening to an audiobook yesterday, and it made me wish there was something like that on JLPT. You just listen to a story for a few minutes and answer a couple questions.

The conversions they test on are nothing like real conversations, so it would be nice to have something like real-world content.