10 JLPT Tips For The Actual Test Day

Okay. So you’ve studied the JLPT for months, reading grammar books, making flashcards and taking mock exams. You feel like you’re all set to take the test. There’s nothing that can go wrong when you have all that knowledge locked in, right? 

Wrong. While we put most of our focus on studying Japanese, we tend to overlook practical elements of taking the JLPT: what to prepare, what to bring and what to anticipate. They’re less talked about but just as important. 

Like any standardized exam, the JLPT, or Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken (日本語能力試験) is not just a test of the theoretical Japanese language, but of how well you do under pressure. They usually fall on a Sunday, giving you ample time to do any last-minute reviews and cramming on Saturday. This also gives you enough space for mental preparations. 

That said, how well you prepare the JLPT the night before is just as important as your six-month-long study plan — and we’re not talking about cramming all the lesson materials you never managed to cover. 

Avoid saying, “I should have done that” after the JLPT ends. Check out these realistic JLPT tips that can mean the difference between a full-blown panic attack in the exam center and a smooth test session.

Have a Good Rest The Night Before

Sooner or later, we need to face the bitter truth: Late nights can be more harmful than helpful when cramming for exams. This is because staying up late to try to memorize new Japanese vocabulary, kanji or grammar points has the opposite effect. You’re not letting your brain have “downtime” to let the new things sink in. 

If you’re trying to catch up on half of your study materials the night before, chances are you won’t even remember it the next day. What staying up late will only give you are stress and sleep deprivation. Any final reviews or mock tests are fine, but make sure you get at least 8-hour of sleep. 

In other words, cramming doesn’t help. It can break your concentration the next day and lower your mood — something you don’t want during the most important day of the year. 

jlpt tips for test day

Bring a Pencil and Eraser — and Shade Properly

This sounds like a “duh” JLPT tip, but you’d be surprised by how many examinees we’ve seen who brought pens instead of pencils and erasers to the JLPT exam location. You input your answers by shading the circle with a pencil. If you’re using a mechanical pencil, bring extra leads. If you’re using a wooden pencil, bring a sharpener. 

Most importantly, bring a spare pencil and eraser. They might fall on the floor or break anytime. Avoid the panic by staying prepared. 

Make sure they are at least 2B, a shade that is dark enough for the computer to read. Remember that the software used can only read your answer when you’ve colored the circle properly.  

Pencil cases aren’t allowed during test sessions. Only bring the essentials. No highlighters or colored pens. 

Disclaimer: some test sites might not allow mechanical pencils, so always check what the test voucher says. 

Make Sure it’s Clear Bottled Water

Staying hydrated, kids. Your brain won’t function well when you’re thirsty. Thankfully, you can bring water in a clear bottle. No labels though, and you need to keep in in the bag during the test.

time management in taking jlpt

Bring a (Wrist) Watch to The Exam Centre to Save Time

Every JLPT exam centers are different, and that means you don’t know what you’re expecting. The JLPT sections are all timed, but during the tests, you’re not going to hear any countdowns or warnings. The proctors will only say, “Time’s up. Put your pencils down.” 

The only indicator of how much time you have left is through the wall clock — if they provide one. Some test centers may hang their clock on your back or somewhere where it’s hard for you to see it. Some might even cover the clock. Moving your head around will raise suspicion and waste your precious, limited time. Tough choice, right?

This is why you need to bring your own watch. Remember to budget your time. Make sure it’s an analog watch (anything digital is prohibited) with no alarms.

Check out our guides for the upcoming JLPT:

Speaking of Time, Manage It Well

One of the common pitfalls for test-takers is to submit their JLPT answers sheets half-finished because they’re shocked by how quick the exam can go. The good news is that for every different test section (kanji-vocabulary, grammar, reading or listening), you’ll have a short break in between. This means, at least, you have a softer cushion for time management. 

When you finish a few answers, see if you’re running out of time and adjust your pace from there. 

taking jlpt tips

Don’t Get Stuck in One Question

Perhaps the most important JLPT tip is to never contemplate too long on one question. The JLPT is strictly timed, and you might feel like it’s okay to go slow at first.

The biggest mistake you can make is to skip skimming through the questions: how many are there? Which section will probably take the longest time? 

Chances are, you’re going to find a question (or many) that you don’t know. Don’t get stuck there. Instead, mark the question or take a rough guess and move on. 

Only when you’re done going through all the questions can you go back again. 

Filled Answers Are Always Better Than Blank

Despite our stress on time management during the JLPT, we know it’s easier said than done.

If you’re faced with unfavorable circumstances where you have a bunch of questions unanswered — with only one or two minutes to spare — we suggest doing what any desperate students would do: take wild guests.

It seems counter-intuitive, but writing something is always better than nothing. Statistically speaking, if you have 10 questions unanswered with only one minute left, you can blindly fill the answers and still have 2-3 of them correct. If you only use that one minute to only answer one question, you’ll, well, only have one answer correct — if you do get it right. 

Besides that, the JLPT scoring system will not negatively mark a wrong answer, which is a common thing in other standardized exams (you get a minus 1 for every wrong answer, for example). This means you’re not risking your best score by answering wrong.

Listen to The Proctors

This isn’t just a JLPT tip. It’s a requirement. Coming from real experience, the proctors are very strict. They’re that to confirm your identity and make sure the test environment is conducive. The JLPT rules are typical: no talking, no suspicious activities, no cheating and no cellphones. 

But they also hold authority in the exam center to issue yellow and red cards — and they’re something you’d want to avoid at all costs. If you break one of the JLPT rules, they can give you a warning (yellow card) or, worst, expel you on-site, effectively failing you from the JLPT. 

In every exam hall, there’s almost one person who got kicked out because their phone rang or, more commonly, because they keep writing when the proctors tell them to put their pencils down. 

You’re not going to get away from sneaking in a few answers. The risk is simply not worth it. If they tell you to stop, stop. 

Use Question Papers for Note-taking for Listening Sections

You’re faced with another challenge in the JLPT listening section. Besides time, the audio will only be repeated once. At the same time, you need to know what’s happening in the scenario given, which means you don’t have a lot of time to comprehend and answer the question. 

Take notes as you listen to the audio. They will give you a brief moment to answer the questions, and you can use this period to review your notes. They don’t have to be long; just short reminders to refresh your memories

 It’s important to know the directions and what is going to happen on the test so you can focus purely on answering the questions. On most of the questions, they don’t give you a whole lot of time to think about it. You have to answer and keep going. If you don’t, you might find yourself halfway through the next question before you realize you haven’t made a decision yet.

Where possible, mark answers that are clearly not correct when you’re listening to whatever passage is playing. People lose marks for accidentally filling the wrong box.

Also check out: How to Check Your Results for The JLPT July 2022

restroom break during the jlpt

Take Advantage of Restroom Breaks

This is your chance to reset your mind. Meeting your friend to talk about the past JLPT questions isn’t wrong, but prioritize your personal needs, too. Use this time to relax or do another final review. Go to the bathroom to avoid holding your pee during the next session. The whole test lasts around 3-4 hours, so prepare a meal so you don’t get hungry too. 

Depending on where you are, there might not be a nearby convenience store. You may not be able to go and buy snacks and return on time, so pack some snacks from home just in case. 

Coto Academy wishes everyone good luck for the JLPT 2022. 

Last year, Coto Japanese Academy is proud to announce that our students achieved a high overall pass rate of 72.7% for their JLPT 2021. If you are planning to take the JLPT and would like help in mastering the JLPT from professional instructors, we recommend signing up for our upcoming online and in-person 2022 JLPT Prep course (Tokyo and Yokohama).

When is the JLPT 2022?

The first JLPT 2022 test is set for July 3, 2022, while the second one will be held on December 4, 2022

How many levels are there in the JLPT?

There are five levels in the JLPT: N5, N4, N3, N2 an N1, with N1 being the highest and N5 the lowest.

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