Why doesn't WK prepare one for the JLPT N5?

Yesterday, I took a practice JLPT N5 test using the app MyTest. I expected to at least ace the kanji reading section, since Wanikani covers all the “N5 kanji” by level 16 and I’m currently level 22. However, even that proved to be very difficult with a lot of unknown words I had to guess on.

Out of the new vocab on the test, some of them are covered by WK on later levels I haven’t gotten to yet (黒板), or at least are similar to other vocab later on in WK (中値). However, two of them (半ば and 食う) use only low level kanji, and not only aren’t on WK, but there is no vocab on WK with those readings. The kanji page for 半 on WK lists なか as a possible reading, but it doesn’t have any vocab that actually use that reading, and thus users won’t actually learn it, and likewise with 食.

I understand that WK can’t cover every possible vocab, even the common ones, and that the vocab is just there to reinforce the kanji, but it seems to me like they should at least make sure they cover all the common readings of the kanji they teach.

1 Like

While I can’t speak for Koichiたち, I imagine one reason is that not everyone is aiming for passing the JLPT. Focusing on JLPT words might crowd out other words that the team felt were a better fit.

I do think 食う seems like something I’d expect WaniKani to cover, but it should be easy enough to learn on one’s own after knowing 食べる.


It’s pointless for them to teach you readings that won’t be used in the vocab they teach here. You (most likely) won’t remember it anyway, because you’ll be too focused on the readings for the vocab they teach. And honestly, I’d rather see one or two readings for a Kanji, rather than ten possible readings, that won’t even be used here on WK.


Has anyone compiled a frequency list of vocab not taught on WK?

1 Like

Ultimately - it’s not a JLPT prep service.

Can’t say I’m familiar with MyTest or how credible it is. But looking up on Jisho, 半ば is listed as JLPT N3, as is 食う.

Who knows, Jisho may not be 100% accurate either.


I don’t know if this reassures you, but I’ve been self-studying Japanese for almost two years now, and I’m fluent enough to follow maybe 70-80% of the Shield Hero anime without subtitles (granted, it’s because it’s one of my favourites, so I know the story very well), and frankly,

I couldn’t read a single one of these correctly when reading your post, except for 食う. I hadn’t seen any of the rest other than 黒板, which I could understand because I already speak Chinese. Their meanings should be somewhat guessable in context, and I knew all the readings for the individual kanji except for なか for 半 and こく for 黒, but my point is that I hadn’t encountered them yet.

(Perhaps anime doesn't count for much, so to give you a more concrete idea of what I'm able to do in Japanese now, as well as my limits... )

I can read the first three paragraphs of this article on the huge drop in visitor numbers in Japan (訪日外国人旅行者数 4月は2900人 前年同月比99.9%減少 | NHKニュース) while guessing/knowing the correct readings for maybe all but five kanji, and guessing/knowing the meaning of all but two words. I can’t read extremely fluently though, and I still don’t know if my accent is accurate, even though I once had a half-Japanese girl I didn’t know say 「すごい!アクセントは結構です。」

Anyway, I’m not here to boast. I haven’t taken the JLPT before (although I hope to do the N1 some day), but the point is…

  1. I don’t believe those words are N5 level, 食う aside, and even then… N5 is usually absolute beginner level, and beginner textbooks all teach 食べる because 食う isn’t as respectful.
  2. If I haven’t encountered these words and my ignorance isn’t hindering my comprehension of complex Japanese media, then they’re probably not very commonly used.

From what I understand, WaniKani was built on the premise that the vocabulary taught would be useful. If it’s not on WaniKani, then while it’s not useless, it’s probably not that common. In any case, WaniKani’s main goal is teaching kanji, so I think it’s meant to give you the tools to learn more on your own. It doesn’t teach grammar or a huge amount of vocabulary because that’s not what it’s for. Also, there’s apparently no official list of kanji for each JLPT level. I’d generally trust Jisho’s classification, which I believe WK is based on, and so I think your app might be testing you a slightly above N5 level, but what I want to say is that no source can guarantee what will come out on the JLPT. Your best bet is official practice tests. Also, if you search around on WK forums, some people have said MyTest might be a little shady, so I don’t know how reliable it is. Anyway, honestly, all the best. I hope you continue to find way to enrich your Japanese.


The first sentence is just not correct, but the second sentence is more or less correct. There is just a ton of non-kanji vocab outside WK, and WK’s vocab lists are frequently criticized for being somewhat idiosyncratic. Their whole “useful” thing is just marketing. I think what they really mean there is that they built their kanji sequence based on word frequency lists instead of the formal analysis of kanij. (Hence, levels in the 20s have lots of government-related kanji, which often appear in newspapers, but I am finding lots of familiar basic vocab like 丁寧, 頃, お陰で and 揚げ出し in the 40s. (If you plan on finishing to level 60, in some sense this doesn’t matter, I was just surprised at the disconnect.)

There are other kanji systems (Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Course and Kanji in Context, to name two) that have different, to my eye more “useful” vocab. KLC has an SRS in Memrise with 7200 vocab, as well as its (really astonishingly good) graded reader ebooks. KiC has 8000ish words and is JLPT focused, with lots of the weird variant readings test-makers love.

I also think the Torii SRS has JLPT-specific vocab lists that include plenty of non-kanji vocab.


I guess every kind of service and test has different priorities.
And like many people have said before, I do not really understand the meaning of a JLPT test anymore. I can understand that it can be a goal to work towards, but then you should also expect to put in some extra effort. And while many people still take this test, it should not be mistaken for the only valid order of items. Just passing a JLPT level doesn’t make you better at speaking Japanese. (Also I might wanna double-check this “MyTest” App and see how reliable their information is there. As far as I know the real words to be tested in the JLPT are not even published anymore.)

Edit: I would also rather see the test as a rough benchmark, if you really need to have it. It does not necessarily have to be something you have to study towards, but maybe something to check your current level. Having said that, the fact that you have to apply for a certain level kind of defeats that purpose again in my opinion.

In my opinion being able to read a certain simple book or something like that can be a much better goal to work towards to. :slight_smile:


Interesting. I stand corrected. I was honestly just interpreting their statements at face value. As you can probably tell from the disconnect between my familiarity with kanji and my WK level, I haven’t touched the WK programme at all. Thanks for the clarifications. I think your guess about WK using word frequency lists is probably correct, since the words you pointed out are definitely words that most Japanese learners would learn before reaching the level at which they would discuss politics. By the way though, when I said ‘if it’s not on WaniKani’, I guess I was subconsciously focusing on kanji vocabulary. I know full well that there’s a ton of very useful words that don’t have kanji forms: they’re the ones that trip me up the most often. :stuck_out_tongue: However, I had also heard that WK taught quite a bit of non-kanji vocabulary at the lower levels, so I had certain preconceived notions… which were clearly incorrect.

I’ve heard of KKLC. I looked at some book reviews and snapshots. Seemed decent. Anyway, I’ll leave you guys to give more useful advice that what I can give, since I don’t intend to prepare for the N5 and have no experience doing so, and I also didn’t have to learn kanji. All I can say is that if someone wants to prepare for the JLPT, then IMO, he or she should buy JLPT books or consult websites dedicated to the test. It’s highly unlikely that any kanji course will fully prepare you for it, and at the very least, it’ll be necessary to figure out the test format.

1 Like

Find me a list of all vocab by frequency, and I’ll make one for you. :slightly_smiling_face:


Isn’t that circular logic? Of course they don’t include vocab that they don’t include, which is why I’m asking them to include it.

What? There are a lot of common words associated with a lot of Kanji, they can’t include all of them. The amount of vocab they include for each Kanji is enough.

There are plenty of Anki decks, sites and videos that concentrate on JLPT content.

How much vocab do you want them to include exactly? How much is enough?

I think you’ve got that one a bit backwards. The purpose of WaniKani is to teach kanji only. Vocab is included only as a means to remember the kanji readings.


I passed the JLPT N5 kanji section with flying colors when I was around WaniKani level 15/16. I don’t what test you’re taking, but the JLPT books I used to practice had difficult questions as well. I don’t think there were many tricky questions on the actual JLPT.


Yes, but the point still stands. Readings by themselves are too abstract, that’s why the vocab helps.

One day I was lurking and I found a useful excel with what you’re apparently looking for


Wanikani doesn’t promise to give you every reading, nor is it meant for preparing for JLPT by any means. There are a lot of books that can do that

In my experience with practice tests though, it really does cover a lot of that stuff that could come up on the test

1 Like

So, you’ve already heard a bunch of viewpoints, so I’ll try to keep this non repetitive.

WK teaches what are commonly viewed as N5 level kanji pretty early in the game. But that is just the kanji, not vocab thatis considered N5. For example 椅子 is somewhere in the 40s. On the other hand, you are generally not presumed to be able to read this word at N5 level. It would either appear in kana, or with furigana on the test. So I don’t think you should expect WK to teach all possibly N5 level vocab early on.

I don’t know what the tests on that app you mentioned look like, but have you looked into doing the official practice test available on the JLPT website? You can also find it on www.jlptsensei.com. I find them to be very good indication of the degree of difficulty to expect from the various levels. That way you can also compare the style of questions on MyTest are comparable to the real thing.

For some personal experience, I did N4, N3 and N2 while I was at different stages of WK (I was at lvl 51 for N2, about lvl 30 for N4, somewhere in between for N3), without having done any additional hardcore kanji study, and got through the kanji section with very little mistakes.

Good luck!


That is not a reliable, or very professionally created, test prep resource. It’s just some random person (or people) who stole a bunch of content and slapped it into an app.

I would be shocked if 食う or 半ば showed up on the real N5 as kanji reading questions. I guess they could theoretically show up somewhere else, but with a note explaining their meaning or reading.


they are plenty of resources that focus only on jlpt vocabularies. Anki/memrise/ketsume/toori and ext
In toori if you add wanikani words as an exception. ouf of 1200+ words for jlpt5-4, only 200-300 would be missing.
For jlpt 3+ you gonna need to supplement your studies with an additional vocab focused programme.