My Experience Preparing and Passing JLPT N3 Exam

One and a half years after I took the N4 J-Test, I decided to take the JLPT N3. While it was only one level up, there was still a lot of material to learn — not to mention the issue o the big gap between N4 and N3. Long story short, I gave myself a year to learn everything I needed to know, plus another six months to get ready for the test. In this article, I’ll outline my study process and explain how I passed the JLPT N3. I’ll include my study schedule, the learning resources I used, and my performance on test day.

This blog isn’t a definitive guide to passing a JLPT. If you want a more detailed rundown, check out our guide to passing JLPT N3

Jump to:

Why I Took the JLPT N3

People usually skip JLPT N3 and instead take JLPT N2 for a simple reason: the JLPT N3 certificate isn’t useful when it comes to finding a job in Japan. Sure, it is very valuable if you want to apply for a part-time job, but it can only get you so far on the career ladder. In my case, having a goal in mind when studying Japanese is very crucial, so I used JLPT as a booster to stay motivated.

Because this is my first time taking a JLPT test in Japan, I was more apprehensive than usual. I’ve taken the J-Test N4 before, which was different from the JLPT test layout.

Check out: How I Prepared and Passed JLPT N4

How I Prepared for Taking JLPT N3

Here, I’ll mention the textbooks I used, how my study routine looked, and what worked for me. During this time, I had already finished the intermediate Japanese classes. I think it’s not ideal to study by yourself as you have a tendency to be lenient. When you can, try to find a study group or register for a Japanese language class. This can help you be more strict with your schedule and stay disciplined.

I dedicated 2.5 hours a day to studying Japanese. I spent 1 hour listening and the other 1 and a half hours reviewing grammar and vocabulary. I didn’t dedicate enough time to do mock tests. Instead, I only did mock tests for 2 days before the test.

1. Japanese Learning Resources to Study N3 Grammar

Books I Used to Pass JLPT N3
Resources for learning JLPT N3

For grammar, I used two textbooks: 日本語能力試験長躯全対策文法 N3 A and B(Nihongo noryouku shIken Cyoukuzen Taisaku Bunpou N3 A and B). All two textbooks include summaries of N3 grammar. They also have English translations and examples, which makes them a really good tool for individual study.

The downside lies in the lack of practice sessions, so I decided to make at least 5 sentences based on each grammar I just learned.

2. Vocabulary and Kanji for JLPT N3

For me, learning vocabulary and kanji was the most enjoyable part of the whole study journey. The great thing is that you can learn them both at the same time. I use the textbook called Shin Kanzen N3 Goi. For every new chapter, the book will include previously learned vocabulary, which makes learning intuitive and progressive.

Here’s a tip: scribble the book with the vocabulary and kanji. There might be great kanji apps, but I find sticking to the traditional note-taking to kanji works best for memory retention.

After I felt comfortable with a section of kanji characters, I would go to Quizlet and do a set of quizzes. This routine helped me a lot in memorizing Japanese words.

I personally think if you can finish the book, it is not necessary anymore to learn kanji separately. The kanji that came out on the test it’s not that different from what I learned from this vocabulary book.

3. Reading and Listening

If you are studying alone, reading and listening could be the hardest part to learn in the JLPT. Even though there are books dedicated to these two test sections, you cannot really digest them if you haven’t learned the essential vocabulary and grammar.

Why? Because the JLPT reading and listening section are an accumulation of everything you learned: grammar, vocabulary and kanji. The key is getting used to taking them.

Once a week, I would browse the past JLPT listening test on Youtube or other platforms. It didn’t really matter because all of them were just as reliable as the next. I would type “JLPT N3 listening test”, and hundreds of results would show up. I would click on one randomly and make sure it wasn’t the same questions that I did previously.

With this method, on the actual test day, I didn’t shock myself with the test structure. After taking the listening test, I moved forward with the reading. I used the book called Shin Kanzen N3 Dokkai, but I couldn’t make full use of this book because the features were confusing.

Other Resources I Use to Study for JLPT N3

I use this particular Japanese dictionary app called Takoboto. For me, it is a really useful tool to learn Japanese. There are times when the kanjis in the textbook were too small to identify. The app allows you to see the kanji more clearly and even shows the stroke order of a kanji.

Takaboto app is way more practical if you want to search for the meaning of a certain Japanese word. For a full sentence — and even a paragraph — I stick to the ever-reliable Google Translate.

The other resource that I used was Anki. Before I found the Quizlet for the Shin Kanzen N3 Goi book, I tried to use Anki for a while. Turns out spaced repetition system worked well for me. However, it took time to get used to it since I have to enter the vocabulary and its meaning by myself.

Here is what’s so good about Anki: since you create the flashcard by yourself, everything is tailored for you. You can structure and reorder the flashcard template however you want, add pictures if you’re a visual learner, or embed audio if you’re an audio learner. You can personalize your own study with Anki.

How I Did During the JLPT Exam Day

JLPT N3 has three sections: Language Knowledge (vocabulary and grammar) and listening. Each section is timed differently. The vocabulary section is 30 minutes, the grammar section is 70 minutes and the listening section is 40 minutes.

I did fairly well on the vocabulary portion of the test. Before beginning the next test after a part ends, there was a 10- to 15-minute break. The exam had around 100 participants and was conducted in a sizable conference room. When it was break time, everyone ran to the bathroom, which meant there was a long waiting line. Once, I had to return to my seat because I couldn’t make it through the line and had to wait for the next break.

After the next section started, I had to focus on the questions despite having the urge to use the restroom.

If you are experiencing the same case as I was, I recommend going to the bathroom before the test starts and refraining from drinking too much water.

When it comes to the listening part, I had a hard time understanding the questions and catching up with the audio. The audio is only played once during the listening section of the exam. I recommend scribbling on the question paper if you are unsure of the answer. However, make sure you’re actually transferring your answers to the answer sheet since the listening test will end the moment the audio does. One piece of advice is when the example question is being played, go back to review the question you haven’t yet responded to or use that time to transfer answers to the answer sheet.

My JLPT N3 Results

When I took the test in December, the results were released by the end of January. You can check your JLPT results on the website. You must receive an overall score of at least 95 points to pass the test. The Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) Section, Reading Section, and Listening Section all have sectional pass requirements of 19 points. Because you must achieve the pass grades for all three categories, be careful not to rely solely on one section.

My JLPT N3 Exam Results

Even though the listening section was the hardest for me, I still received the best score of all the sections. My reading score was the lowest, but I did receive a B and an A on the vocabulary and grammatical portions of the test.

Advice I Would Give to Myself (And Everyone) to Pass the JLPT N3

One of the most important parts of the JLPT, or any standardized test, is being familiar with the test format. Here are some of the things I regret I did (or didn’t do). 

Do: Regularly take extra practice tests.

You will become more familiar with the questions and the format, and as a result, you will be able to identify your weak areas and concentrate your improvement efforts there. Additionally, you can print the answer sheet and attempt to complete it in pencil if you wish to practice the exam in a real-world setting. You will have a bigger advantage when taking the actual test because of it.

Do: Take your watch to the testing area.

You can take the test more calmly if you can see the time and measure it. It is crucial to be aware of how much time is left on the test because there is a propensity to spend too much time reading and analyzing questions when you simply needed to skim them to answer the questions.

Do: Get enough sleep the previous night.

People frequently experience anxiety the day before the exam, and they sacrifice sleep to over-prepare. Sadly, I was one of those who fall victim to this notion. I stayed up till two in the morning studying and got up at seven. I was struggling to stay awake the whole time. Make sure to get some rest the night before and have faith in your abilities.

More Practical Tips When Preparing and Taking the JLPT N3

For a more detailed list, check out our list of 10 JLPT tips for the actual test day.

1. Do a lot of mock tests and time them out.

Mock tests do give you familiarity with the actual test. With doing mock tests often, I believe you will not feel that anxious while working on your test. It also helps you to improve and analyze your weakness and strength, so you can work on yourself to result better. JLPT has its own “Official JLPT Question Booklets” (日本語能力試験 公式問題集), which you can buy or try for free. 

2. Review vocabulary all the time.

Vocabulary wasn’t the easiest thing to learn. It took me a very long time to really memorize the words. Make sure to always make time to review vocabulary every time you study. 15 to 30 minutes is enough to freshen your memory.

3. Get a guide to learn.

As a person who chose to study by myself, I found it hard when I did not know how to improve myself in certain parts, like listening for example. For the listening part, I actually don’t have any idea if I am strong at it or not because there wasn’t someone to evaluate me and talk to me in Japanese. Yes, that implies that I need a teacher, someone who can teach me and help me to improve.

Of course, there are many resources available online, but it is different when you have a teacher to guide you. I believe it will be 2 times easier for you to prepare JLPT with a teacher than alone. I could tell you this because I experienced it myself. If you have the time and resources, I recommend joining JLPT prep courses or a general Japanese class like Coto Academy. It’s always nice to have a teacher give you direct feedback and get the right lesson plan that supports your goal. Besides that, Japanese teachers are experienced in helping people who want to take the JLPT, so they can probably design a better lesson plan.


Although taking a JLPT N3 test is extremely difficult, it is merely one tool available to assess your proficiency in the Japanese language. If you live in Japan, the JLPT N3 will assist you in finding part-time employment, and it also serves as proof of your advancement in the Japanese language. However, unlike N1 and N2, N3 levels cannot help you find a job in Japan; instead, they are only suitable for seeking part-time employment.

If you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo, find out more about our school by contacting us. Courses can be found here.

Test your Japanese level!

Do a self-test to see which course fits you.

Check your level