Ultimate Guide to Passing the JLPT N3 Exam

Welcome to the ultimate guide to passing the JLPT N3 Exam!

In this blog, we will cover everything you need to know about the JLPT N3 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 N3 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 N3?

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.

However, JLPT is only really useful for employment or immigration when you have passed the N2 or N1. This guide focuses on JLPT N3, which does not have much real-life use other than to check and prove your personal improvement in Japanese.

Still, the JLPT N3 Exam can be a fitting goal for Japanese learners wanting to test their ability to fairly understand Japanese used in everyday situations. A N3 certification acts as a nice intermediate-level bridge between the easier levels and the harder levels of the JLPT. It will prepare you for the more difficult stuff covered in N2 and N1!

2. About the JLPT N3 Exam

What does the N3 Exam test on?

In general, the JLPT N3 Exam is an exam for intermediate-level speakers. The JLPT N3 tests you on the ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations to a certain degree. This includes having no difficulty in:

  • Reading and understanding materials concerning specific everyday topics
  • Grasping summary information such as newspaper headlines
  • Reading and fairly understanding slightly difficult writings encountered in everyday situations
  • Listening and comprehending everyday conversations spoken at near-natural speed, following their contents, and grasping the relationships among the people involved

How many sections are are on the N3 Exam?

To study for the exam efficiently, it is important to be aware of the structure of the test. The JLPT N3 Exam consists of three main sections. Each of the three sections tests you on different aspects of the Japanese language.

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

What is and is not covered in the JLPT N3 Exam?

For all of the above three sections, you must master approximately 3700 vocabulary words and 650 kanji. Although this may sound like a lot, you should already know around 1500 words and 300 kanji from N5 and N4, so you are actually already halfway there! The vocabulary words and kanji covered in the N3 Exam include basic nouns and verbs from N4 and N5, as well as more complex terms necessary to understand slightly difficult written materials such as newspaper headlines.

Furthermore, you must be familiar with typical grammar points such as 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 middle-length sentences and 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 N3 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 N3 Exam?

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

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary)30 minutes
Language Knowledge (Grammar) and Reading70 minutes
Listening40 minutes
Total Time140 minutes

In total, you are given 140 minutes to complete the JLPT N3 Exam.

What is the scoring for the JLPT N3 like?

Since the N3 Exam contains three sections, the scoring is divided into three as well.

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 N3 Exam, a passing score is anything above an overall score of 95 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 95 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 N3?

how many hours does it take to pass jlpt - study hours N3

For students already with kanji knowledge, it takes 900 hours. This is about the same as a attaining a Spanish Food Le Cordon Bleu diploma.

For other students, it takes around 1325 hours of studying. With this amount of time, you can become an architect!

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 N3 Exam covers around 650 kanji. (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.)

We highly recommend you to check out our JLPT N3 Kanji Self-Study Course (¥1,000) to learn the necessary N3 kanji.

JLPT N3 kanji self study course

This self-study course covers N3 kanji and contains a quiz for each kanji, downloadable pdf workbook, and printable cheat sheet to help you through kanji memorization.

Click on the image to check it out!

Additionally, you can check out our JLPT N3 Kanji Writing Workbook (¥1,000).

JLPT N3 Kanji Writing Workbook / Worksheets E-book

This is a downloadable and printable E-book aimed to help you practice writing N3-level kanji and memorize them efficiently.

We have also provided samples of the worksheets free of charge at the below links! These are very useful as they give you an idea of some kanji that you will be tested on during the N3 exam. Click on the topic to download.

As you move on from N5 and N4 to N3-level kanji, it becomes important to learn about kanji radicals and know the meanings of individual parts of kanji. This will help you memorize each kanji more productively and recognize definitions of words better. When studying N3 kanji, we recommend you to study parts of each kanji as well.

Mastering Grammar

Although the JLPT N3 Exam scores vocabulary and grammar cumulatively, it is recommended that you study for them independently. To learn grammar points covered on the N3 Exam, you can check out the below articles on basic Japanese grammar for free:

We have also prepared for you a free, downloadable Japanese Particles Cheat Sheet & Guide.

It covers 17 common particles, its usages, meanings, and example sentences.

In addition, our YouTube Channel is also great for learning important N3 grammar points, as well as improving your Japanese listening skills. We offer useful videos on phrases and grammar points commonly featured on the JLPT N3 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 N3 Playlist where we have compiled all of the N3 grammar videos for you.

If you prefer to work with textbooks and worksheets, we recommend you another self-study course! Our JLPT N3 Grammar Self-Study Course (¥1,000) is a grammar course that you complete all on your own.

This course includes 153 lessons and 153 quizzes on grammar points that will be featured on the JLPT N3 Exam. Upon purchase, you will also receive a link to download our JLPT N3 Grammar PDF Workbook.

The JLPT N3 Grammar Workbook can also be purchased independently for ¥1,300.

JLPT N3 Grammar Guide

This workbook includes 127 grammar points you need to pass the JLPT N3. Each grammar point has short explanations in English and in Japanese. The workbook includes practice exercises that you can do on your own!

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 N3.

4. Offline/Online Courses Offered at Coto

In addition to resources mentioned above, Coto Academy offers offline and online classes to help you through your studies. (Offline classes are offered at our schools in Tokyo and Yokohama.)

Here is a list of lessons available at the JLPT N3 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)

  • Intensive Courses
    • Intermediate Level 1-2 – an 8 week transition course to the intermediate level. You will review previously-learned expressions so that you can hold more “natural” conversations in Japanese. The course meets every weekday for 3 hours.
    • Intermediate Level 3-4-5 – a 12 week intensive course at the intermediate level. You will further develop your proficiency in the Japanese language and practice your knowledge with real world scenarios. The course meets every weekday, each lesson lasting 3 hours.
    • Advanced Level 1-2 – an 8 week intensive course in a class of no more than 8 students, designed to train you in understanding abstract contents in Japanese. You will also broaden your conversation to topics of interest and specialized fields and become able to express and defend your point of view. Classes take place every weekday, each lasting 3 hours.
  • Part-time Lessons
    • Bridge to Intermediate – serves as a “Bridge” to the intermediate level. The course focuses on the core basic sentence patterns, improving vocabulary for a variety of daily situations, and building more complex sentences.
    • Natural and Fluent Japanese Communication 1 – the goal of this course is to acquire a broad spectrum of vocabulary and freely use it in numerous sentence patterns during conversations, so you’ll be able to speak about general things in Japanese only.
    • Business Japanese – you will learn the etiquette and vernacular of doing business in Japan. The course will teach you basic formal expressions (basic keigo), setting-specific expressions on business situation in Japan.
    • Keigo Training – designed to hone in your Keigo Japanese to improve your Japanese language in a professional setting.
  • 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 N3 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
    • Bridge to Intermediate – serves as a “Bridge” to the intermediate level. The course focuses on the core basic sentence patterns, improving vocabulary for a variety of daily situations, and building more complex sentences.
    • Natural and Fluent Japanese 1 – a grammar-focused course encouraging students to acquire a broad spectrum of vocabulary and freely use it in numerous sentence patterns during conversations.
    • Business Lite Intensive – designed to teach Japanese that is common in the workplace to prepare you for a job in Japan. A group of more than 8 students.
    • Business Japanese – dedicated to cover basic formal expressions (basic keigo) and setting-specific expressions in Japanese business scenes.
    • Japanese Explanation Training – designed for anyone who can communicate using only Japanese, but feel they have problems with detailed explanations. The course will improve your ability to speak about familiar topics in-depth.
    • 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.
  • JLPT N3 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 N3, we highly recommend our JLPT N3 Prep Course! This Japanese language course is available both online and offline and will prepare you to take and successfully pass the JLPT N3 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 N3 certification. By taking the JLPT N3 Prep Course, pass the exam and open more opportunities for your life in Japan!

For more information on JLPT Prep Courses, 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 N3 Exam, 140 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 N3 Exam. We hope this was helpful and wish you good luck on your studies!

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