Those who have passed N3. Help

I am under prepared but just booked in for the N3 in Dec to push myself. I’d like your advice on what best to focus on for someone who has not taken any JLPT tests before?

What did you leave the exam thinking “ugh I really wish I had learnt more X” or “I totally didn’t expect Y to be so important” or “man, without Z, I would have never passed”

Tips other than the obvious, ‘do your Wanikani and Bunpro’. Many thanks all!


I haven’t done N3, since I did until 3-kyuu and skipped to N2 when the system changed. However, what I recall most from the exams is that reading has always been the hardest part. Not the language itself, but my reading speed was (and still is) really slow. So if N3 has reading comprehension, it might be a good idea to practice a mock test and time it. Finding a good strategy to manage the time is a key and even more so on harder levels.

Also, it is important to practice listening (if you don’t naturally have the chance to practice speaking/listening in your daily life).


onomatopeia. It is always a guess which ones will be on the test of course, but with my one and a half years learning Japanese, I was all right on grammar, but these words and words like そっくり and such just need a lot of exposure in context to really understand their usage. And definitely a few will appear on the test.

Also, don’t underestimate listening!


This makes me think 2 things:

1 - is it worth writing translations of the passages down as you go?
2 - when presented with a long passage, do you always need to read everything, or is the proper strategy to look at the answers first, then skim read the big passage for which one fits?


Also true. Your reading speed should be at a reasonable level.


Great tip! Someone linked this list - Japanese Onomatopoeia: The Guide - but it is so big I just slowly backed away out of fear. Any chance you know of a list in order of usefulness/ usage? Thanks!


No, still haven’t gotten around to learning onomatopeia in any structured way, but I did see a link to an online onomatopeia dictionary. I’ll see if I can find it in my history.

PS found it:


Waste of time in my opinion. Best case you don’t even have to stop to translate individual sentences in your head, but “understand” them in Japanese. Of course that won’t be possible for every sentence, but writing down or thinking about a fitting translation would take way too long.

My strategy was usually reading the questions first, and then reading the text, stopping at passages relevant to the questions and answer them. I had time to read the whole texts usually, but I would also say I read pretty quickly.
If you don’t feel confident about your reading speed, I would say skim the text and start with the parts relevant to the questions, and read more of the text if you need context.


I would always just read the book front to back, no strategy at all, except to not spend too much time on any one question, especially the first two sections (kanji and grammar). At most I would mark the questions I wanted to look at again if there was time left. But always fill in your best guess, just in case you don’t have time to go back.

For reading section, I would read the text quick, read the questions (or with fill in the blank, just do that right away, but sometimes you need to read ahead to get the whole context), and find the passage to read more carefully. But if you feel your speed is not fast enough, of course try a more strategic way.


I second this!! The day before the N3 I deliberately made a list of words like these and it resulted in 5 correct answers that would’ve otherwise been wrong. It also helped me with reading and listening!

I also recommend just practicing exams a lot! It really helps to get used to the format and you’ll learn grammar and vocabulary that you need to know simply from doing those practice exams!


Just improve your reading speed because this is really something that will penalize you even if your average level is not too bad.

Don’t push yourself on Wanikani. If you aim at N3, you can actually stop around level 35-40, you will spare time for grammar or reading. Going further won’t help much. Even if you are below level 35, this is okay.


Right! I took the N3 at level 27 (I did also take some kanji classes at the time, though I don’t think I learned any that appeared on the N3 there) and it was fine (super fine actually).


y-you’re superfine!


I’m also prepping for the n3 am focusing quite hard on the reading as my sentences parsing was poor but now improving. It also really helps lock in the grammar.

I’ve been working with a tutor on this who has also been getting me used to the question style. It can be easy to misinterpret the questions and get them wrong even if you can understand the reading.


I used Sou Matome, but you can use anything for learning that gives you daily structure. If you’re in intermediate Japanese classes at a university, etc., you’re probably already covered and it just comes down to review.

Get the 新にほんご500問 book for your level for review. They’re really good. Used for both N3 and N2, and will use again for the December N1 (assuming I didn’t pass July’s).

Then just try to start watching and reading something in Japanese every day.

Practice listening! You can use the Sou Matome listening book or other online materials. The structure of listening questions doesn’t really resemble real conversation, so it helps to have practiced the test structure there and know what they’re likely to ask about. If you aren’t doing much prose reading, also consider focusing on a reading-passage book (in one of the JLPT book lines, or similar resources) so you can get a feel for those. Though unlike listening, I feel like just reading in the wild will do a fairly good job of preparing you as well.

1- Absolutely do not do this. Waste of time, and as much as possible, you should be trying to think in Japanese. (Well, don’t do it intentionally. If there’s kind of an automatic English understanding check, it’s one thing, but don’t try to convert it in your head if you got the basic meaning on first pass.)

2- For all JLPT levels so far, I’ve read the passage cold, but would go quickly and accept partial understanding in places that didn’t feel like main points. That way I’d at least know what the general idea was, and where to hone back in for questions. Then I’d read the questions and check relevant parts in more detail if needed.

The most I’ve done as a system beyond that is making a small pencil mark after a sentence I feel like I’ve completely understood on first pass. Just gives me footholds for checking later.

I guess, last advice – If you’re concerned about reading speed, definitely start doing practice passages and timing yourself, so you know how quick your first pass needs to be. I didn’t do that for N3, but did before N2, and I think it was invaluable in my finishing the reading section with time for review.


Passed N3 with just Tobira and its complementary workbook. Did it in less than 2 months while I was working 8-5.


I didn’t specifically prep for it (as in, I didn’t do any practice test or use books aimed at JLPT preparation). I did pass the N3 after finishing the intermediate level class at my university, and I was reading a lot of manga on the side.

Reading a lot definitely helped with the reading section, by the way. I remember breezing through it while everyone else was complaining about the length.


My first JLPT was also the N3 a few years ago. I don’t have a lot to say about preparation, but here are the two pieces of advice I’d have for the test itself.

  1. Learn to give up

This is especially true in the vocab section. If you don’t know the meaning of a word and all the example sentences make sense, pick something according to your guts and move on. The meaning will not suddenly become clear because you spend time looking at it. Some words you know, some words you don’t. Accept defeat and move on so that you can score more points on other questions.

  1. Read questions first

I know there’s kind of a disagreement on that and you can easily find people on both sides of the argument, but I’ve always found that reading the questions first gives me an edge in the reading section. Don’t just skim and get a general idea, understand the questions and the options presented. You need time to prepare your brain to read and the different texts are almost never related. Reading and understanding the questions first really prepares you for reading. You get an idea of what the text is going to be about, and it should be pretty clear what kind of information you’re looking for. Don’t skim the main text either. Skimming leads to rereading everything a million times cause you get panicky. Read everything only once, but right.

That’s obviously just my opinion on how I take the tests though. Good luck!


I passed the N3 but failed the N2. The reason was my reading speed was too slow. As the weekend Japanese learner test administrator wrote basic kanji on the board for how much time was left I was sweating because the readings where getting longer and longer and with only one or two questions after each with multiple questions left. Read as much as you can.


This is so good to hear. I think level 27 is achievable for me before the test so this gives me hope! Thanks

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