The N4 Thread

Welcome to the JLPT N4 Thread

N1 threadN2 threadN3 thread・N4 thread・N5 thread

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If you are studying for this level now or have it as a goal for later on, feel free to join the conversation, ask questions, share resources, and discuss difficulties.

What is the JLPT?

JLPT stands for “Japanese Language Proficiency Test”. It is the recognized language proficiency exam for Japan and Japanese employers. The exam is given worldwide every December, with some countries also offering a July exam date.

More information: Objectives and History | JLPT Japanese-Language Proficiency Test

What are the levels?

The JLPT is split into 5 levels of N-proficiency, where 5 is the most basic and 1 is the most advanced.

  • N5: The ability to understand some basic Japanese
  • N4: The ability to understand basic Japanese
  • N3: The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations
  • N2: The ability to understand everyday situations and a variety of circumstances to a certain degree
  • N1: The ability to understand Japanese in a variety of circumstances

N2 proficiency is the JLPT level most often sought out by Japanese employers.

More information: N1-N5: Summary of Linguistic Competence Required for Each Level | JLPT Japanese-Language Proficiency Test

Advice for first time test-takers

The JLPT is a standardized test, not a holistic examination of one’s Japanese ability. As KemushiChan explains, most first-timers fail the JLPT because they are unprepared for the unique structure of the test, regardless of their language ability.

Ways to Prepare:

  • Take more practice tests than you think you need. These are the best way to familiarize yourself with the structure of the exam and to get a better idea of where your weak points may be.

  • Use real timing and build your stamina. A sprinter and a marathon runner are not the same - you may be a fast reader, but can you maintain that speed for two full hours? The goal is to read quickly for long stretches - time yourself to tighten your speed, but also use scaffolding techniques to add a few more focus minutes each day to build your stamina for long stretches of reading. Regardless of your skill level, running out of time before being able to finish this section kills the scores of many proficient readers on the JLPT.

  • Do choukai-specific practice. This is listening comprehension - the JLPT utilizes several different audio tricks that can quickly overwhelm the listener. Rather than solely listening to podcasts or anime or videos, be sure to add listening practice that specifically uses the JLPT choukai structures. Be aware that there are sometimes no printed questions nor answers, that multiple choice questions will be entirely spoken aloud, and that there are long conversations to listen to as well as very short statements with minimal context.

N4

N4 is considered a high beginner JLPT level where you have to be familiar with at least 300 kanji and 1,500 vocabulary words. These include some uncommon words such as terms for extended family members, as well as verbs that might be found in print ads. Grammar covered in this level includes basic conjunctions and verb conjugations.

Reading Objectives - At N4, you can read and understand passages on familiar daily topics written in basic vocabulary and kanji.

Listening Objectives - At N4, you can listen and comprehend conversations encountered in daily life and generally follow their contents, provided that they are spoken slowly.

Examples of N4 Vocabulary:
安心 ・ 踏む ・ ごちそう ・ 恥ずかしい ・ 匂い ・ 落とす (click for full list)

Examples of N4 Grammar:
でございます ・ ことにする ・ 間に ・ 〜たらどう ・ 〜ても (click for full list)

Estimated Study Hours Required*: ~700
If you study 1 hour per day, this level will take: 99 weeks
If you study 2 hours per day, this level will take: 50 weeks
If you study 3 hours per day, this level will take: 33 weeks
*assuming that you are starting from 0


Discussion Guidelines

This thread may be used for goal-tracking, celebrating, lamenting, and asking for advice. There is an expectation of respect towards others, particularly in instances where your ability may be above that of someone asking a question. Be mindful of condescension - we are ALL learners.

Please share resources! However, make sure that any links you share abide by the forum guidelines against advertising less-than-legal file sharing websites.


Helpful Resources

Book Sets - Series containing each subject separately

Practice Books - Individual books covering multiple/all subjects

Subject Books - Books on one subject that are not part of a series


Which category will you focus on improving the most?
  • Listening Comprehension
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Kanji
0 voters
3 Likes

I passed the N5 exam several years ago. Last December I missed the passing grade for the N4 by 3 points. I will not be anywhere near N3 level by this coming December, so I will probably retake the N4 exam. I’m working on the JLPT purely for personal enrichment.

While I had taken some classes and had some private tutoring many years ago, in recent years most of the ‘studying’ that I have done has been self-study (along with watching anime in Japanese with English subtitles, watching NHK news in Japanese mostly without subtitles, and watching TV dramas mostly without subtitles).

About the only test-specific studying that I did ahead of last year’s test was an N4 anki deck (along with the official practice test). I also thumbed through a book devoted to the N4 kanji, but did not really master the ones covered in that book. I did not start working with WK until maybe a month after taking that test, so my level of kanji understanding at the time was nowhere near what it is today or what it will be by next December.

Based on recommendations that I have seen here and elsewhere, I have just purchased five volumes of Shin Kanzen Master N4, with the intent of focusing primarily on the Grammar volume. For whatever reason, some sellers bundle together only four of the volumes, but the bundle that I bought has five volumes.

Other than quickly flipping through the pages of each volume, I have not yet started actually reading or working with any of them. I’m thinking that this N4 Thread may help incentivize me to jump in and come up with a studying routine that I can actually stick to and make progress with.

1 Like

Really? I think the two examples you mention are very different in relevance. :thinking:

This level doesn’t really get too into nuance, anyway, it’s mostly kind of straightforward texts. Besides the infamous listening section.

I think the author is definitely referring to the nuances in use between multiple "cold"s (寒い and 冷たい) and "open"s (開ける and 開く) that test-takers will definitely need to know the difference between on the N4 exam. The multiple words might, at a surface level, mean the same thing but there are indeed nuances to their use.

3 Likes

FWIW, I definitely know the 寒い / 冷たい distinction, but am much less confident about 開ける / 開く… I think the former is much easier for learners to pick up: it’s a more black-and-white meaning difference (which English happens to not make), rather than a question of which verbs and nouns collocate.

More generally, I never sunk too much time into studying this sort of more nuanced distinction between words, on the grounds that the effort-reward tradeoff is not great – unless the specific word comes up in the vocab test section, it’s wasted effort, and if it does come up it’s a low-point-value question and you can probably 50:50 guess it.

2 Likes

The weird thing about this statement

how hiraku (開く; EN: to open) refers to opening digital files with an application as opposed to opening a window

is that it’s not true…
Yes 開く is used for ファイル. But 窓 also uses 開く (ひらく), 大辞林 lists it in the example sentences for both the transitive and the intransitive use of ひらく:
窓が開(ひら)いて子供が顔を出す
窓を開(ひら)く

Of course there’s differences between ひらく and あける, but the explanation above is not correct.

5 Likes

This is true. The JLPT explanation is from someone who supposedly knows the tests well, but it seems like their carelessness in explaining has made every level description an inaccurate nightmare. This evening I’ll do my own compiling and change the write-ups rather than depend on copy/pasting a supposed expert lol

5 Likes

I considered adding “estimated study hours” but I genuinely have no idea how to interpret those numbers for real-life application, and so I don’t know if anyone really finds them helpful. When you guys hear “300 estimated study hours required,” for example, do you do anything with that information?

Well, 100 3-hour classes sounds reasonable.

I did 6 courses of 3 hours a week, for 4 months or so. I think it was 16 classes per course. So 96. Plus like 3 months of N4 specific stuff.

Checks out. But I also did a lot of self-studying, mostly WK, and grammar reviewing.

It also depends on if you’re studying efficiently.

2 Likes

So true! Okay, I’ll add estimated study hours then. It could be a fun way to calculate commitment needed :sweat_smile:

It might be more helpful for someone seeking to pass the test as efficiently as possible, but that is very much not me, haha. I approach the JLPT as sort of like a benchmark for how far I’ve gotten and would rather take it when I’m comfortably past the level and can pass the test without stress, rather than using it as a goal to aim for with a deadline.

I had definitely put in more than the “estimated study hours required” when I took and comfortably passed a full-length practice N4 test at the beginning of this year, but that was because I’d weighted different aspects of the language in my own studies differently than the JLPT weights them, so I had spent way more hours studying kanji than were required by the test. But it’ll eventually all even out if I go on to take other levels of the test where more kanji knowledge is required.

Looking at the time estimate for the N1, for example, it does seem to be on par with my estimate for how long it’ll take me to get there based on my progress so far, if I keep going at the rate that I’m going. So I’d say they can be helpful for setting expectations as far as total time commitment goes so that you know what you’re getting into when you set a certain JLPT level as a goal.

2 Likes

Mmm, I think the JLPT study hours numbers derive from surveying test takers, which is likely to result in a lot of people saying how many classroom hours of teaching they had, and not necessarily counting all the outside self study.

Personally I think the most interesting and helpful part of the study hours numbers is the comparison between levels – the extra hours to go from N3 to N2 is a lot more than from N4 to N3, and the N2 to N1 gap is bigger again. So it gives an idea of how the levels start to spread out as you go up – if you know how long it took you to study from N5 to N4 you can make a guess about how much more time you need to study for N3 after that, and so on.

2 Likes

A day late with this notice, but N4 exam registration is now open in the US! :sweat_smile: https://www.aatj.org/jlpt-us/

:fairy: compilation fairy visitation

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I’m taking the N4 in December! First time taking a JLPT. If I keep to my schedule I should have Genki 2 finished by mid-September, then I’ve got a couple months for really honing in on listening and reading (and making sure I’m definitely comfortable with all the kanji that might show up). Also wanting to get some mock exams in in that time to make sure I’m comfortable with the test format. Very averagely-comfortable with the upcoming exam lol, I don’t feel like I’ve gotta cram mega hard to get to the N4 level before the exam but also not feeling particularly relaxed either :sweat_smile:

4 Likes

Did anyone here take the N4? How did it go?

1 Like

I took the N4! I think it went okay tbh, the vocab was 100% my strongest part but the listening wasn’t as bad as I thought it might have been. I knew the grammar section would be my worst and there was a LOT of guessing in there but the reading I think went okay. Now the wait begins to January for the dreaded results day.

2 Likes

I took the N4 this year as my first JLPT, and I think the most important thing I learned was that I should bring a watch next time. Worrying about the time was a major stress factor in the reading part of the test, and being able to tell that I had plenty of time left would have helped keep me calm.
I kinda expected there to be a clock in the room, but evidently not.

The proctors didn’t speak a word of Japanese themselves, but they were pretty lax and understanding. During the breaks between tests, they’d help people properly fill out the forms and allowed us to redo sections that were filled out incorrectly. They’d even brought spare pencils in case anyone hadn’t brought their own (which turned out to be necessary for a few exam takers).

Not sure how well the actual test went. The listening section was rough, and it’s become very clear to me that I need to focus more on that. The other sections definitely weren’t easy, but I’m confident I didn’t totally mess them up.

3 Likes

Since listening was mentioned by both of you: Do you guys have recommendations on what listening sources you could recommend specifically for N4?

Crossing my fingers for you guys. Will you immediately continue studying?

Not sure where you took the test but in London watches (both smart and analog) were not allowed.

I also took the exam but I had a problem to my eye so I am not sure about how I did. I think the first two sections went okay, I found them quite easy. The listening seemed easy too but at that point I was in too much pain and couldn’t concentrate at all, so I doubt I did very well there, but hopefully enough to pass!