Studying for the new JLPT- step by step

What could be the right way to prepare for the new JLPT? Just keep this in mind, “there is no shortcut to success”. The JLPT N levels have been improved on the grounds of syllabus and time. Unlike the old test, the new JLPT syllabi are broader and the question patterns are set to test the overall Japanese language aptitude of the student, except the speaking part. I have always felt that the new JLPT is a “RACE AGAINST TIME”. Given that kanji, vocabulary, grammar and comprehension are all set in one single paper, it is hard to complete the test by the stipulated time, especially for N1 and N2 levels.

If you are intending to appear for the JLPT, you surely have to put in a lot of commitment into regular studies and home-works. Here are a few tips that has helped me prepare for the new JLPT.

1. Memorize Kanji

If you are a non-native Japanese or not living in Japan, learning kanji or memorizing them might become tough when you reach the higher intermediate levels (N3/N2/N1).

If you are studying for N5 and N4, learning kanji should not be a big challenge.

There are many good and interesting books available for N5 and N4 kanji. Try Kanji De Manga .

I would advice you to follow one book at a time. Do not follow two books simultaneously, as the pattern in which kanji are listed in the two books might be different and it will only result in taking up more time to finish the syllabus. Moreover, if you can master one book, you will feel more confident to study from another book.

The best book that I have come across is the Soumatome kanji book series for all level, by ASK. These books have listed out a set of kanji you need to learn every day, so that you can finish the book in 8 weeks. The short tests after every chapter are very useful.

In a nutshell: Follow a book-> set a time and fix the number of kanji you should be learning everyday-> learn all the kanji listed in that book  -> test yourself frequently (at least once a week) -> make a habit of writing the kanji while you memorize it -> go on to another book if you have time for extra preparation before the exam.

2.Too many words to learn

Since there is no fixed syllabus for the JLPT vocabulary, it is wiser to buy some vocabulary books and study from them. While you are learning kanji, you will come across new words. Make an effort to learn them. Similarly when you are practicing comprehension, mark the words you don’t understand and learn them. Keep a note of the new words you learn and try to make sentences with them.

Try the Soumatome and Kanzen master Goi books for vocabulary.

In a nutshell: Make a list of the new words you learn everyday -> try to use them in sentences -> study from a  book and solve the practice tests provided in that book -> learn Katakana words and onomatopoeic words as well.

3. Grammarathon

There is no better way to learn grammar than to solve the sample tests and question papers. At least for me, I just cannot memorize a grammar pattern  and remember it. I solved as many question papers as I could, which helped me to understand and remember grammar. You should remember a sentence rather than remembering only the grammar/syntax in it. In this way, you can also understand how a (grammar) word changes when the tense is changed.

For example, 一分たりとも時間を無駄にしたくない。(I don’t even want to waste 1 minute.)

たりとも (taritomo) means not even and it is used after a noun 一分(ippun)which means one minute.

In a nutshell: Practice!


Comprehension/dokkai is the biggest challenge for me in the new JLPT. Firstly, there won’t be enough time to read a passage more than once or twice, and in addition to that, there are too many passages starting from short, medium, long and also fill in the blank passages.

I would suggest you to solve some comprehension passages from a book and try to find out your strengths and weaknesses. Find out a way as to how you can make up for your shortcomings.

You should develop a reading habit, to be able to read passages quickly. Read the question and the given options well and try to locate the answer in the passage. If you don’t understand a word, then try to guess its meaning by reading the whole sentence.

In a nutshell:Overcome your weakness.

5.Listen carefully

Do I need to suggest anything for the listening/choukai paper? Well, if you are learning Japanese because you are a Japanese anime otaku or J-drama fan then you are on the right track and you don’t need any extra preparation. Just get to know the the question patterns from a JLPT listening book.

For others, try to watch dramas or movies in Japanese to improve your listening skills. There are also listening materials available online, like  NHK lessons .

In a nutshell: Get to know the question patterns before hand -> carefully listen to the question -> choose the answer accordingly.

 There are many other ways to prepare for the JLPT. The aforementioned methods have been tried and found effective by me. Hope this helps you to gear up for the exam.

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