Dec 1, 2016

Getting prepared for the JLPT N4

As you may know: being good at Japanese language is important for living in Japan. To find out about your Japanese skills there is a test called Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (日本語能力試験) or shortly JLPT.

The JLPT takes place twice a year - once at the begining of July and once at the begining of December - in Japan and a lot of other countries. The test has five different levels, starting from N5 as lowest and N1 has highest level. Mostly, if you want to go to Japanese university or want to work at a Japanese company, you need to have passed at least N2 level. What this means, you can see in this table (info from Wikipedia) 

So this is what you need on Kanji and vocabulary for each level:

N12.000 kanji + 10.000 vocabulary
N21.000 kanji + 6.000 vocabulary
N3650 kanji + 3.000 vocabulary
N4320 kanji + 1.500 vocabulary
N5120 kanji + 800 vocabulary

I applied for N4 level and the test will take place on Sunday. I'm kind of nervous and worried if I can make it. Sure, compared to the 2.000 kanji and 10.000 vocabulary you need to reach N1 level, the 320 kanji and 1.000 vocabulary don't look much. But they are!! Especially if you are learning Japanese by yourself without a teacher or a language school.

Luckily there are some books you can use for studying. So mainly, I made this post to show which books I used for preparation *laugh* 

Getting prepared for the JLPT N4 photo

First there is a book series called Nihongo Challenge (にほんごチャレンジ) which I enjoyed to use. Unfortunately I can't finish all the books before the test. I have the three books for N4 Grammar and Reading practice (文法と読む練習), N4 Vocabulary (ことば) and N4-5 Kanji (かんじ). All books costs between 1,200 ~ 1,400 yen (+tax) and include explanations, practise tasks and solutions.

Getting prepared for the JLPT N4 photo

Another book I got interested into when I saw it in the books store is 日本語能力試験対策N4漢字・語彙・文法 20日間で合格力を身につける! It includes many tasks in the sections kanji, vocabulary and grammar which have the same structure as the JLPT test. At the end of the book you also can find some test examples where you can find out if you are ready for the test. Even so the book costs 1,500 yen (+tax) I can totally recommend it. I enjoyed practising with this book.

I also used the Offical JLPT Practice Workbook N4. With only 700 yen (+tax) it's cheap, but there is only one full test inside you can practise with. It's good to get to know the structure of the whole test and how the test sheets will look like. Here also you can try out the listening part, because a CD is included. I wasn't so bad with this test - hope it will be good at the real one, too.

Getting prepared for the JLPT N4 photo

My last book, is a book I bought in Germany. It's explaning Japanese grammar in German language and it's pretty usefull if I don't understand the explanation in the other English books. Maybe you also have such book in your homecountry? In addition, I also practised a lot vocab with apps like Memrise, Kotoba and Obenkyo on my smartphone.

Is anyone else taking the test this time? How did you get prepared for it?



German woman who made several trips to Japan, did one year Working Holiday and started living in Japan again since Oct' 2016 with Japanese husband. Loves music, cats, traveling and food.

Also take a look to my German blog and my Youtube Channel (new video every Friday) → https://www.youtube.com/c/YokoLostInJapan


  • SalarymanJim

    on Dec 1

    There are so many books to choose from, aren't there? One of the things I found when I was studying Japanese, was that so many of the texts only offered explanation in Japanese. I think this was a kind of 'total' learning experience. I really wanted explanation in English though, so that really narrowed down the books I could choose from. The red/pink book in your second image is a great one, in my opinion (if it's the one I think it is). It's small and easy to carry around, and I found it to be a great way to make sure I'd covered all the grammar points needed for the test. Anyway, good luck for Sunday! If I might offer you some advice, it's that there really isn't much time to answer questions, so I think you have to trust your first instinct. Read the question, answer it, don't go back (unless you have time at the very end). Also, if the format is the same as when I took these tests, you have to fill out all the answers on the answer sheet. You have to do this as it's computer read. Even if you don't know an answer, just guess and fill it in on the sheet. Go for it!

  • @SalarymanJim Thank you for your advices! I try to do my best. 頑張ります!! I know this problem about the books. When I went to language course in Germany we often used "only Japanese" books which was kind of difficult. At least we had a teacher who explained it to us while class. But for self-studying it's really hart... And yes, I also like this red/orange book most! Probably get this again if I try N3 one day.

  • DaveJpn

    on Dec 2

    Hope you get on well with this. I always quite enjoy taking these tests. I never put much pressure on myself, and I like that when you get to the train station near the test site you can see so many people walking to the test and doing last-minute study. It does feel good when it's over though, although I don't like how long you have to wait until the results are delivered (although I think you can get them earlier online these days).

  • @DaveJpn Thanks. Haha, yeah. However, most of all I was happy to see all the foreign people in front of the station so I just needed to follow them to find the test site :D I think the test was ok for me. Let's see how it will turn out. Results will come in early February they said... Too long time.

  • DaveJpn

    on Dec 6

    @YokoLostinJapan Hope it all goes well! What's next? Skipping N3 and straight onto N2!!!!

  • @DaveJpn Haha, it will take another long time to get prepared for next JLPT level. Next step: first finding a job somewhere, because no job - no money. And no money is not good if you want to enjoy living in Japan (^_~) And then I will see how much time is left for studying Japanese.