JLPT? No Need to Worry! | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

JLPT? No Need to Worry!

By Steffie Josephine Aug 21, 2018

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) French Italian Russian Spanish Indonesian Portuguese (Brazil)

Studying and living in Japan needs a good ability of Japanese language. Without basic knowledge of the Japanese language, living in Japan can be challenging. In Japan, there is a standard test which determines the ability of one’s Japanese language, the JLPT, or the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. In Japanese, it is called the Nihongo no Nouryoku Shiken (日本語の能力試験). Just like TOEFL or IELTS designed for non-English speakers, JLPT is a test for non-Japanese speakers and is held twice a year, every July and December. In JLPT, there are five levels known as N1, N2, N3, N4, N5. N5 being the lowest level and N1 the most challenging. In some cases, a certain level is needed for a job or to enter a university.

N5 – basic level, easy topics

N4 – still basic but covers wider topics such as those encountered in daily life

N3 – conversational, a bridge between N4 and N2, part-time jobs often require this level

N2 – business level, features news topics, full-time jobs often require this level

N1 – fluent level

There are 4 sections on the test:

  • 文字語意 (mojigoi): examines the understanding of vocabulary and kanji
  • 聴解 (choukai): examines the listening and understanding ability of recorded Japanese
  • 読解 (dokkai): examines the reading and comprehension ability in Japanese
  • 文法 (bunpou): examines the understanding of grammar

How to study for JLPT?

I will highlight some methods for preparing for the JLPT:

Studying at institutions or school

You can enroll in a Japanese class, either at a language school or by adding a Japanese language class in university. You can follow the lesson in a structured class, participate in Japanese conversation with classmates, share ideas with the teachers and other students, and use structured textbooks recommended by the schools. If you want to master the JLPT, that is not enough, you have to do homework and review practices by yourself diligently at home.

Study by yourself

The most important thing needed in this method is self-motivation! You have to take the time to learn by yourself. Other than learning from textbooks, you can watch Japanese movies or use other platforms such as watching anime, reading manga, or by downloading applications on your phone to do some exercises in your spare time. You can also watch JLPT learning youtube channels, there are many youtube channels that provide JLPT learning. I usually watch a channel that’s called Nihongo no Mori channel, there are playlists that have specific JLPT levels which are unbiased and easy to understand.

From these platforms, we can gain new knowledge we can’t get from books or classes.

Book Recommendations

Here are some books I usually use for JLPT preparation:


This book is often used as a resource material in class because it is well structured and has different topics in every lesson. In this book, there are also reading and conversational examples related to the topic, grammar sentences examples, different kinds of exercises, and an attached CD for the listening section. The vocabulary list can be accessed for free through an Internet web link. For every grammar point, there is an explanation in English and Japanese, although the explanations are not exceptionally detailed. This book is aimed at studying grammar and practicing exercises.

Sou Matome

What makes Sou Matome different is, this book has s specified study section designated for each day. The aim is 6 weeks of study in total for one book. Day 1 to Day 6 for learning new points and Day 7 for review and exercises. This is an easy structure to follow but lacks an in-depth explanation of each grammar point. In the grammar book, the explanations are shorter compared to Try! and Shin Kanzen Master. Sou Matome is recommended for kanji and vocabulary practice because the theme structure is easy to follow. The reading books are great for practicing.

Shin Kanzen Master

This book has detailed explanations for each grammar point, strong example sentences, and exercises highly recommended to master JLPT test! The reading book also has a great explanation of each reading. The listening book from this series not only provides exercises but also strengthens actual listening skills.

JLPT Official Book

This book is recommended because it is designed in the format of the real test, you can refer to this book to get familiar with the type of question and exercises.

Every type of book has its own advantages and disadvantages, it depends on each person, and on what kind of study suits that person.

Things To Prepare For the Test Day

Besides the materials that should be covered and studied for the test itself, there are some important things that should be prepared in advance. First, you should apply for the test, pay, and get the test information. Next is some 2B pencils, an eraser, test card, and finally your enthusiasm! Don’t forget your watch because there is no clock in the test room!

You can also refer to the official website for further information: http://www.jlpt.jp/e/