Study Tips to Pass JLPT Level N3

Posted by on November 26, 2016 – Japanese Study

So you’ve worked through most of ‘Minna no Nihongo’, gloriously passed JLPT levels N5 or N4 and mastered the basic grammar needed to order your favourite sushi.

Now that you have the basics down you are looking to level up to a level that can actually mean something in the Japanese job market. This is the level described as ‘The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations to a certain degree’.

How do you go from here? Let’s take a look at the different parts of the test, what skills are needed to do well on each part, and get some useful tips on how to ace it come December or July!


First the bad news: you will have to know approximately 650 kanji in order to pass N3. The good news is that you should already know around 300 of them, as they were included in the N5 and N4. So you are already halfway there!

The kanji are getting progressively more difficult, but what works well is studying the most common radicals first, so it is easier to find meaning in each kanji.

One of the most important parts is practice, preferably a lot of it. A website that I find extremely useful is NHK’s New Web EASY. It is not always that easy for us studying for N3, and I usually do need a dictionary, but it is great reading practice. The thing that makes it a bit easier, is that most of the topics will be familiar to you as the articles are the latest news. I always find that texts about familiar topics are a lot less difficult to understand, so I’m less likely to give up quickly.


This will not be true for everyone, but for me, the single most difficult part of studying Japanese is extending my vocabulary. Especially in the beginning of my studies, all words sounded similar to me. This is getting better, but it is still hard. There is, however, one website that has greatly helped me expand my vocabulary, and that is It is free, and it is one of the best resources for vocabulary cramming out there. I use it on the train, when waiting in line, and before going to bed. The words are grouped by JLPT level, and I recommend studying N1 or N2, so you will be well prepared for N3.


When it comes to grammar, I prefer books over websites. One book I particularly like is ‘An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese’. You will find that this book is not just dry grammar, but also contains interesting information about Japanese culture that just makes it a bit more fun to actually open the book and study instead of letting it gather dust on your bookshelf. If you understand the grammar from this book, you will be well prepared to take the N3.
Another piece of advice I would like to give you is to do mock tests online. Whatever you don’t understand you can look up and include in your studies, but after studying the book mentioned above there shouldn’t be too many unknown words and structures  in the test anymore. The official website has a few practice questions.


As for the reading part of the test, this is not going to be too difficult anymore if you followed the advice above. Texts in JLPT tests follow a very similar format every time the test is conducted, and the subjects of the texts are never too surprising. Even the kanji mostly have furigana to help you. Common themes are an email from a boss/co-worker, a trip (travel), someone talking about a memory they have, a bulletin with date/time information.


Now this is something you can’t learn from books only. The age-old adagio of practice conversation wherever you go comes into play here, and the TV can also be a useful study mate in this case. Listening to the comedians making fun of each other can help you get used to the flow and sound of the language, but it is, of course, a far cry from what you will hear on the test day. What you will hear during the test is usually spoken quite slow and clear, so if you are used to people speaking at a natural speed you may be pleasantly surprised.
But still, one of the best ways to not only practice conversation but also get to work on your specific language issues is to go to language school. At Coto Language Academy, the small class size and professional teachers will help you reach your Japanese language goals, not only to pass the JLPT but also to use in your daily life and work! You can click here to receive more information about the programs available.