Ultimate Guide to Passing the JLPT N1 Exam

Welcome to the ultimate guide to passing the JLPT N1 Exam!

In this blog, we will cover everything you need to know about the JLPT N1 Exam (test contents, length, scoring methods, etc.), how to register, how to prepare, what happens on test day, and some resources and lessons we offer at Coto Academy to help you through your studies.

If you are considering or planning to take the JLPT N1 Exam, keep scrolling!

Check out our guides for other JLPT levels as well:

1. About the JLPT

What is the JLPT?

Before we get started – what exactly is the JLPT? JLPT stands for Japanese-Language Proficiency Test, also known as 日本語能力試験. As the name suggests, the exam measures and certifies the Japanese proficiency of non-native Japanese speakers and is used by universities and employees inside and outside Japan. It is normally carried out twice a year in Japan and is also available in certain other countries. JLPT Exams are often taken by Japanese learners planning a future in Japan!

What are the different levels of the JLPT?

The JLPT is divided into 5 different levels: N1, N2, N3, N4, and N5, with N1 being the most advanced level and N5 being the most basic.

  • The N4 and N5 test you on basic Japanese that you can often learn in a classroom environment
  • The N3 acts as a bridge between N4/N5 and N2/N1
  • The N2 and N1 test you on a more wider spectrum of Japanese knowledge used in various situations in everyday life

Who should take the JLPT? What are the advantages of taking the N1?

If you are looking for a job or planning to pursue education in Japan, then your JLPT scores will come in handy. JLPT certifications can also be advantageous when immigrating to Japan, as those who have passed the N2 and N1 qualify for preferential treatment.

Additionally, passing the JLPT N1 Exam can be an ultimate goal for Japanese learners wanting to test their ability to understand Japanese used in a variety of circumstances.

2. About the JLPT N1 Exam

What does the N1 Exam test on?

In general, the JLPT N1 Exam is an exam for upper-intermediate/advanced-level speakers. The JLPT N1 tests you on the ability to understand Japanese in a variety of circumstances. This includes having no difficulty in:

  • Reading writings with logical complexity and/or abstract writings on a variety of topics, such as newspaper editorials and critiques, and comprehending both their structures and contents.
  • Reading written materials with profound contents on various topics and following their narratives as well as understanding the intent of the writers comprehensively.
  • Comprehending orally presented materials such as coherent conversations, news reports, and lectures, spoken at natural speed in a broad variety of settings, and following their ideas and comprehending their contents comprehensively
  • Understanding the details of the presented materials such as the relationships among the people involved, the logical structures, and the essential points

How many sections are on the N1 Exam?

To study for the exam efficiently, it is important to be aware of the structure of the test. The JLPT N1 Exam consists of two main sections. Each of the two sections tests you on different aspects of the Japanese language.

SectionQuestion types
1. Language Knowledge(Vocabulary/Grammar) and Reading– Kanji reading
– Contextually-defined expressions
– Paraphrases
– Usage
– Sentential grammar 1 (selecting grammar form)
– Sentential grammar 2 (sentence composition)
– Comprehension (short passages)
– Comprehension (mid-size passages)
– Comprehension (long passages)
– Integrated comprehension
– Thematic comprehension (long passages)
– Information retrieval
2. Listening– Task-based comprehension
– Comprehension of key points
– Comprehension of general outline
– Verbal expressions
– Quick response
– Integrated comprehension

What is and is not covered in the JLPT N1 Exam?

For all of the above three sections, you must master approximately 10000 vocabulary words and 2000 kanji. Although this may sound like a lot, you should already know around 6000 words and 1000 kanji from N2-N5, so you are actually already halfway there! The vocabulary words and kanji covered in the N1 Exam include nouns and verbs from N2-5, as well as more complex terms necessary understand difficult written materials such as newspapers and critiques comprehensively. This is similar to N2, but N1 differs in a sense that it is going to require you to understand Japanese at an abstract level. Therefore, topics related to art and literature might require focus.

Furthermore, you must be familiar with around 400 grammar points related to particle usage, formal and casual conjugations of verbs and adjectives for past and present tenses, and sentence combinations. Before taking the test, you should be comfortable with reading and writing long passages.

Because the JLPT Exam does not test on speaking, Japanese learners who are not comfortable speaking in Japanese can theoretically still pass, as long as they have mastered the vocabulary, kanji, and grammar covered on the N1 Exam. (However, you must keep in mind that Japanese speaking and conversational abilities are still necessary for life if you are seriously considering a future in Japan!)

How long is the N1 Exam?

You are given different amounts of time for each of the two different test sections.

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) and Reading110 minutes
Listening60 minutes
Total Time170 minutes

In total, you are given 170 minutes to complete the JLPT N1 Exam.

What is the scoring for the JLPT N1 like?

Although the N1 Exam contains two sections, but the scoring is divided into three.

SectionRange of Scores
Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) 0 – 60
Reading0 – 60
Listening0 – 60
Overall Score0 – 180

In total, your overall score can range from anywhere between 0 to 180.

For the N1 Exam, a passing score is anything above an overall score of 100 points. However, in addition to meeting the overall score of 95 points, you must also meet sectional pass marks of 19 points in the Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) Section, Reading Section, and the Listening Section. This means that even if your overall score is above 100 points, if you do not meet the sectional pass marks for all three of the sections, you cannot pass. Thus, it is important to balance out your knowledge and avoid relying on one section for points.

For how long should I study to pass the N1?

how many hours does it take to pass jlpt - study hours N1

For students with kanji knowledge, it takes 2150 hours of JLPT study to pass. With this amount of time, you can almost travel from the south prefecture Yamaguchi in Honshu to the north prefecture Aomori on foot. 

For other students, it takes about 3900 hours. It would take you about the same time to travel around the world by cruise.

For more information on necessary study hours for all levels of the JLPT, check out this blog article How Many Hours Does it Take to Pass the JLPT – Illustrated Guide.

3. How to Prepare

Mastering Kanji and Vocabulary

As previously mentioned, the JLPT N1 Exam covers around 2000 kanji (see the list of kanji by JLPT Sensei here) and 10000 vocabulary terms. (Of course, you do not have to know all of them to pass, but it’s impossible to predict which ones will be on the exam.)

By the time you are studying for the N1, you probably have already formed a solid study routine for Japanese kanji and vocabulary. Because the JLPT N1 tests you on a lot of kanji and vocabulary, it is most efficient to memorize the kanji based on its usage rather than its individual meaning and pronunciation. It may also be useful to memorize parts of the kanji and the meanings of radicals. For a list of common kanji radicals. visit this website.

The best way to master the kanji and vocabulary for N1 is to READ. Reading newspaper articles and magazines would be extremely effective in attaining the kanji and vocabulary you need, as most things featured on the JLPT N1 are the same level as newspaper editorials and critiques. Not only would reading news articles help in expanding your vocabulary, but it would also improve your reading speed and comprehension skills as well as the ability to figure out meanings through context. You can easily access Japanese news articles on Yahoo, NHK, and Yomiuri Shinbun websites.

Mastering Grammar

To learn grammar points covered on the N1 Exam, you can check out our YouTube Channel, great for learning important N1 grammar points, as well as improving your Japanese listening skills. We offer useful videos on phrases and grammar points commonly featured on the JLPT and include familiar examples to help you get a grasp of how they are often used in daily life. Here’s an example of our grammar videos:

If you are a person who learns better through videos and audio, check out our JLPT N1 Playlist where we have compiled all of the existing N1 grammar videos for you. Although we do not have as many videos as we do for other lower JLPT levels, we plan on expanding the playlist in the future!

Mastering Listening

The vocabulary used in the listening section is easier than in the reading section. However, we still recommend you to get used to listening and holding multiple Japanese sentences in your head at the same time. This skill is very important, as the JLPT exam does not let you hear the question until after you’ve heard the entire audio. To practice, it is useful to watch Japanese films (without subtitles) and listen to podcasts. Although watching the TV may also help, most things on television are strictly conversational. For the N1, it is recommended to focus more on resources featuring educated discussions.

If you are looking for textbooks to help you through your studies toward a N1 certification, I recommend you to check out the following:

  • New Kanzen Master Grammar (新完全マスター文法)
  • Nihongo Sou Matome (日本語総まとめ)

Both series prepare your for all categories of study that you would need, including Kanji, Vocabulary, Listening, Reading Comprehension, and Grammar.

Although self-studying is a great way to study at your own pace, textbooks and worksheets may not perfectly prepare you for what’s to come on the JLPT Exam.

We recommend enrolling in offline or online courses at Coto to more efficiently study for the N1.

4. Offline/Online Courses Offered at Coto

In addition to utilizing the resources mentioned above, we recommend you to check out Coto Academy‘s offline and online classes that are designed to fulfill your needs and help you through your studies with plentiful resources and interactive learning. (Offline classes are offered at our schools in Iidabashi (Tokyo) and Yokohama.)

Here is a list of lessons available at the JLPT N1 level. Click on your course of interest to find out more details on the contents, price, and schedule of the course.

Offline Courses (Tokyo/Yokohama)

  • Private Lessons – matched to our students’ Japanese study experience, comprehension, and needs 1-1 with a professional teacher. Instead of in small groups, you will meet privately with a professional instructor in-person and receive a lesson plan strictly designed to fit your needs and studying habits. Perfect for those wanting flexible scheduling to tackle their weaknesses in the language proactively.
  • JLPT Prep Courses – designed to prepare you for everything you will encounter on the JLPT, in small groups of no more than 8 students. With in-house materials and interactive classroom environment, you will work towards N1 certification alongside your peers.

Online Courses

  • Private Lessons – matched to our students’ Japanese study experience, comprehension, and needs 1-1 with a professional teacher online. Instead of in small groups, you will meet privately with a professional instructor online via Zoom and receive a lesson plan strictly designed to fit your needs and studying habits. Perfect for those wanting flexible scheduling to tackle their weaknesses in the language proactively.
  • Group Lessons
    • Advanced Japanese Explanation Training – designed to help each student develop the ability to explain topics using correct Japanese grammar. This course is conversational. You will learn how to talk about a variety of topics – hobbies, experiences, dream house, job, etc. – and strengthen the ability to proactively think in Japanese.
    • Read and Discuss Current Events – focused on improving the students’ ability to naturally talk about recent news and important topics in Japanese. You will read articles that are in current discussion in Japanese news and actively discuss over topics ranging from politics to environment to economics. Because the N1 includes many newspaper articles and critiques in its reading comprehension section, this course is recommended.
  • JLPT N1 Online Prep Lecture – designed for students wanting to study individually with the lesson material while listening to the lecture on the screen. It is an affordable and convenient option for those who are looking for a high-quality seminar-style classroom taught by a professional native. In this lecture, we utilize our in-house exercises and study materials specialized for JLPT preparation. You will be assigned materials each week on Google Classroom.

To sign up for and enroll in classes, visit this page and you will be directed to schedule a free interview!

5. Join our JLPT Prep Courses

For effective studying for the JLPT N1, we highly recommend our JLPT N1 Prep Course! This Japanese language course is available both online and offline and will prepare you to take and successfully pass the JLPT N1 with a mix of in-house materials and hand-selected materials trusted by our instructors. The course will strengthen your vocabulary, kanji, grammar, reading comprehension, and listening skills required to successfully obtain a N1 certification. By taking the JLPT N1 Prep Course, pass the exam and open more opportunities for your life in Japan!

For more information on JLPT Prep Courses (such as schedule and price), click here.

6. How to Register (2021)

Next Test Date: December 5 (Sun) 12:30 – 15:45

Application Period: August 26 (Thu) – September 16 (Thu) 17:00

Application Method: You must apply from the MyJLPT “JLPT Application” screen after registering with MyJLPT on the JLPT website of Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JESS).

Test Fee: 6,500 yen (consumption tax included)

Payment Methods: Credit card, bank wire transfer (pay-easy), payment at a convenience store

Once registered, you will receive a test voucher around Friday, November 19 indicating your test location and more details about the JLPT Exam.

For more information, visit the JLPT Official Website.

7. What Happens on Test Day

It’s your big test day!

Before heading out to your test center, make sure to bring your test voucher, writing utensils (mechanical pencils are accepted), and maybe some snacks and a watch to help you with time-management.

For examinees in Japan, your test will begin at 12:30, but the test center will be already open from 11:45. We recommend you to head out early to be safe.

Once you arrive at your test venue, you will be asked to show your test voucher to the staff. Examinees are split into different rooms based on their voucher numbers. You will be instructed to enter one of these rooms.

Once you have found and entered your room, you will find the desk that has your number on it. You will receive instructions from staff and begin your exam when it’s time.

The whole exam will take several hours to complete (in the case of the N1 Exam, 170 minutes) and you will get short breaks between each section. When the exam is finished, you will need to wait until all test papers have been collected before you can leave the room.

*Processes at overseas testing sites may differ.

You’ve reached the end of the ultimate guide to passing the JLPT N1 Exam. We hope this was helpful and wish you good luck on your studies!

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