Those who have passed N1... do you have any idea how many hours of study it took you?

I’ve seen other such charts or guidelines around the internet, but this one from Coto Academy says it generally takes about 3900 hours for those without prior kanji knowledge to pass the JLPT N1.

I’m taking the N2 this year and I have studied a total of 1600 focused hours over the course of almost 10 years to this point. I am generally shooting for the guideline listed here of about 2200 hours by December, which should be doable. But then I’d like to take N1 next year and I don’t feel like I can make the jump from 2200 study hours to 3900 study hours in a single year.

  1. Do you have a rough estimate of your study hours prior to passing N1?
  2. If you took both N2 and N1, were you able to pass N1 within one year of N2? How many N1 attempts did it take to pass?
  3. Do you think these hours studied guidelines are helpful or trash?

Currently studying for N2 level here, but as a former language teacher here’s my opinion on hours studied as a way to gauge your progress:

Numbered hours of study doesn’t equal to mastery! Students can study for 5 hours every day and still not be able to score highly on the TOEIC for any reason. The quality of your study plans and your ability to master them before moving on to the next is more important than quantifying the hours that you’ve studied.

I’ve had friends who were able to pass the N2 from the N3 with very minimal formal study and instead naturally learned through immersion. Playing video games, reading books, watching television, etc. and learning new words in an organic way can be more effective than sitting down and attempting to memorize a list of new words while counting the hours down.

Obviously you will need to have some formal study guide (grammar textbooks and vocabulary lists, and the like) but I think it’s more effective to do a healthy combination of both. Don’t stress yourself out by doing the math of trying to reach an arbitrary study hour goal each day, and set more specific goals instead! (I will learn x grammar points, and practice them! I will learn x vocabulary words, and use them in a sentence!)


I really never bothered to count or really care all that much about counting. Especially since the JLPT doesn’t happen at super convenient times. So like, for instance, a number of years passed between I took N3 and N2 because of that. Would I have passed N2 had I been able to take it earlier? I’d like to think so, but really, who knows. However I’m also pretty certain I could’ve passed N1 at the time I took N2 (I debated on which I’d take but decided N2 was more of a sure thing)

Personally speaking, I didn’t find N1 content appreciably harder than N2, there’s just more of it. But a lot of things in N1 are fairly straightforward, specific, grammar points. So in that respect, studying a specific grammar point doesn’t take the same amount of time as it did previously.


I passed N2 in December 2019, a year after passing N4. I would have liked to take the N1 in July 2020, but would probably have failed, even if I had studied real hard. But I didn’t, because I lost the motivation to study hardcore when it became clear the test wasn’t going to happen. I actually signed up for December, but the test was cancelled before my application was properly processed. Partly due to the uncertainty of the test going through, I again didn’t put in the effort needed to work myself up to N1 level. I’m pretty sure I’m still not there yet.

As for how many study hours I’ve put in: about 1000 hours taking Japanese class. About 600 hours of WK, but this includes a reset from 51 to 1. Aside from that I have done some textbook study on my own, I’ve done calligraphy class in Japanese, I’ve hung out with Japanese friends, I’ve watched Japanese movies and series with Japanese subtitles, or without subtitles, I’ve listened to podcasts. So all in all, I would say, I’m probably close to 2000 hours.


I passed N1 in December 2020. It took me 20 months - probably did over 3000 hours - not sure specifically. As another metric by the time I took N1 I’d made around 9900 flash cards in Anki.


I have no idea. I only know it was about 5 years. I’m not even sure how I could estimate the number of hours at this point. I also passed N2 with a very high score the time before I passed N1, so it’s possible I was ready for N1 at that point (I had tried N1 a couple times before that and failed first).


How do you know the hour total? What do you count specifically?

I am planning to take N1 in the end of the year but I don’t have any study time goal. I often watch youtube and anime in Japanese. That’s not the same as doing spending an hour on wk reviews but it’s also has an effect.

I think it’s better to focus on your weaknesses and study/practice until they disappear. And it’s qlso helpful to take the practice test once in a while to detect those weeknesses.

For example, I know that my weakest point is reading (I am very slow) and my strongest point is listening. Therefore I don’t practice listening specifically.

And here I am supposed to say that I dedicate at least an hour a day to read various Japanese materials to support my argument… (but I actually don’t because I am lazy and would rather watch videos :sweat_smile:) Gee, I don’t think I’m gonna pass N1 at this rate…

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I know this isn’t a direct response to the OP, but I thought it could still be beneficial advice for anyone reading, if you don’t mind the advice, that is:

It’s great that you know your weakest point and strongest point. I think that it’s important for any language learner to be able to accurately assess and
maintain awareness of their language strengths and weaknesses.

In order to improve on the weakest point of reading :open_book: :sweat:, I suggest using your strongest point, listening, to help you. :ear: :slightly_smiling_face:
For example, if you can, practice reading and comprehending text while listening to it being read aloud (CD, mp3, etc). To reinforce what you learn, you could try adding yourself reading aloud, first with the CD/recording until the speed, pronunciation, rhythm etc. start to become easy, and then transitioning to reading aloud on your own without a CD/recording.

In order to do this effectively, it would take several listen-throughs and read-throughs of the same text to gain proficiency before moving on to the next. Also something else to keep in mind: the more advanced the text, the faster the recorded audio speed.

By using your strength to improve your weakness, you’ll avoid diminishing/losing that strength, which I think is just as important for language learning. It’s like playing sports or weight training; if you’re able to bench press 100 pounds easily but decide to stop doing so for weeks or months to focus on leg muscle workouts instead, by the time you go back to bench pressing, 100 pounds will be extremely difficult if those muscle groups haven’t been maintained. :muscle:


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