JLPT N5 preparation!

Recently the JLPT applications for the December exams opened, this reminded me that it’s been a while since I’ve actually written anything about my progress in learning Japanese, so here we go!

Just over a month ago I finally finished the Genki 1 textbook and Genki 1 workbook!  Now I’ll talk a little more about how I used the books in another post (Now here), but first I’ll address the big question I was left wondering to myself after completing them.  That question was……

“How much did I actually learn?”

This question continued to eat away at me for the next couple of weeks, so one morning I decided to head into the Japan Centre* and pickup the JLPT N5 official practice test book.

*(They have just relocated to a nice big shiny new flagship store on Panton Street, the old location will remain as a ceramics and sushi store).


The JLPT N5 official practice book

Taking a JLPT N5 was always the goal at some point, but I hadn’t really done any research into it other than the amount of kanji and vocab required for it.  So without any preparation or revision I decided to dive in and see what happened.  As the actual exam has a time limit, I set timers on my phone for each section to see how I’d get on under the same conditions as the actual exam.

Section 1 – Language Knowledge (vocabulary)

In the first section the questions consist of choosing the correct kanji for sentences, identifying the readings, selecting the correct words to fill in sentences, and choosing some correct sentences.  The kanji part is something I had feared, but to my surprise I seemed to remember a lot more than I had expected!  The kanji you need to identify is used in example sentences, I think this made it a lot easier for me to recognise the correct reading of them.  In this section you have 25 minutes to answer 33 questions, time wise I finished quite comfortably.


Section 2 – Language Knowledge (grammar and reading)

The second section consists of reading through sentences and short passages of text to identify key bits of information to answer the questions.  I’m lead to believe that when it comes to marking, the questions relating to the longer passages of text in this section are worth more pass marks than some of the other questions in it, but haven’t confirmed that.  In terms of the passages of text, I found I was comfortable reading and understanding them; however I did take my time on some, just to make sure I didn’t make any silly mistakes.

I actually overran the time limit by about two minutes for this section, however this was because halfway through I went off to make a tea and forgot to pause the timer while I did!  So if you subtract the time I spent making a tea, then I’d have been under the time limit.  (I imagine in the actual exam they probably don’t let you pop out to make a tea during the middle of it anyway!)

This section gives you 50 minutes to answer 32 questions.


Section 3 – Listening comprehension

The final section of the test is the listening comprehension.  Now the practice book does come with a CD for this part, but if like me you no longer have any devices capable of playing the shiny round things, then don’t worry as some kind soul has upload the questions onto YouTube.

With the playback hurdle overcome, I continued with the final section.  Once again I found myself quite surprised at how much easier it seemed in comparison to what I had imagined.  The pace of the speech was relatively slow, the audio was clear, and the questions relatively short and quite easy.  In addition the 30 minute time limit here isn’t a concern or distraction as you just listen to the questions and answer straight away.  Each question is only played once.



In the end I scored 75% on the vocab section, 68% in the grammar and reading section, and 79% on the listening comprehension.  Which I was quite happy with, considering I hadn’t done any revision or preparation for it, and was really just doing it for a laugh to see how I’d get on.  As I checked my answers using the provided answer key I realised that I’d made some quite silly mistakes on some of the questions I got wrong, so I should be able to improve by just paying a little more attention.

So what do those percentages mean? Well in theory, based on those percentages it means that I should mean actually be able to pass the actual exam, and with some actual revision I should comfortably pass.

However it’s hard to say for sure, as in the actual exam you need at least 80 pass marks out of 180 in total (44.44%).  There are also minimum pass marks required for each section, sections 1+2 require a minimum of 38 pass marks out of 120 (31.67%), and 19 pass marks out of 60 (31.67%) for the listening comprehension.  But of course if you hit the minimum on each that wouldn’t be enough to pass, as you would only have 57 out of the required 80.

Unfortunately neither the answer key, nor online sources, provide the formula for how pass marks are calculated, or how much each question is worth. So even with the official practice book, you can’t work out your exact pass mark, the best you can do is gauge things on your percentages, as I’ve done.

I have to admit finding out that the over pass mark percentage for the JLPT N5 was only 44.44% came as quite a surprise to me, I have honestly expected it would be in the 70% range.  However the pass marks you achieve will be printed on your certificate, so scoring as high as possible will still have an advantage when it comes to showing off your certificate to people.  Of course it’s not too important on a JLPT N5, as that level won’t be impressing any employers in Japan anyway, but when it comes to N1 + N2 levels, then scoring high above the minimum pass mark will be more important.

Anyway there you have it, self studying using the Genki 1 books looks like it has gotten me to a comfortable JLPT N5 level.

I have heard of some people saying that they’ve passed N4 level after studying Genki 1, however if those claims are true then I suspect other study materials/resources were used alongside it, or a large element of luck was involved, or they just scrapped through.

Genki 1 contains about 800 vocab, and about 140 kanji, and for N4 level the vocab required is about 1500 and about 300 kanji.  So Genki 1 alone is not enough to cover for all of the possible content that might appear in the N4.

Just for fun I do plan on doing a N4 practice test at some stage, just to see how much more challenging it is.



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