Ultimate Guide to Passing the JLPT N5 Exam

Welcome to the ultimate guide to passing the JLPT N5 Exam!

In this blog, we will cover everything you need to know about the JLPT N5 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 N5 Exam, keep reading!

Check out our guides for other JLPT levels as well:

1. About the JLPT

What 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 N5?

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 N5, which does not have much real-life use other than to check your personal improvement and prove your interest in the Japanese language.

Still, the JLPT N5 Exam can be a viable first goal for beginner Japanese learners. You can set it as a short-term target. By taking the N5 Exam, you may be able to discover your strengths and weaknesses and pursue your studies more efficiently thereafter.

Additionally, JLPT N5 has recently become more necessary when applying for certain types of student visas to Japan. In some cases, it is actually required that you have a JLPT N5 certificate before you can apply.

2. About the JLPT N5 Exam

What does the N5 Exam test on?

Generally, the JLPT N5 tests you on the understanding of some core basics of Japanese, including your ability to read and comprehend elementary expressions and sentences expressed in hiragana, katakana, and some kanji. You also need to be able to listen and comprehend typical, slow-spoken conversations abundant in everyday life and in classroom environments.

What are the different sections of the N5 Exam?

The JLPT N5 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
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)
3. Listening– Task-based comprehension
– Comprehension of key points
– Verbal expressions
– Quick response

What is and is not covered in the JLPT N5 Exam?

For all of the above three sections, you must master approximately 800 vocabulary words and 100 kanji. The 800 vocabulary words covered in the N5 Exam will correspond to the most commonly used words in the Japanese language. The 100 kanji will cover those that are naturally used in simple daily conversations, such as those related to numbers, time and days of the week, family members, and basic verbs (read, write, walk, etc.).

Furthermore, you must be familiar with typical grammar points such as basic particle usage (は、が、を etc.) and basic formal and casual conjugations of verbs and adjectives for past and present tenses. Before taking the test, you should be comfortable with reading and writing short, simple sentences.

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 N5 Exam. (However, you must understand that Japanese speaking and conversational abilities are still necessary for life if you are seriously considering a future in Japan.)

How long is the N5 Exam?

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

SectionTime
Language Knowledge (Vocabulary)20 minutes
Language Knowledge (Grammar) and Reading40 minutes
Listening30 minutes
Total Time90 minutes

In total, you are given 90 minutes to complete the JLPT N5 Exam.

What is the scoring for the JLPT N5 like?

Although the N5 Exam contains three sections, the scoring is divided into two.

SectionRange of Scores
Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) and Reading0 – 120
Listening0 – 60
Overall Score0 – 180

Your overall score can range from anywhere between 0 to 180.

For the N5 Exam, a passing score is anything above an overall score of 80 points. However, in addition to meeting the overall score of 80 points, you must also meet sectional pass marks of 38 points in the Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) and Reading Section and 19 points in the Listening Section.

For how long should I study to pass the N5?

how many hours to pass jlpt study hours N5

For students with kanji knowledge (ex. Chinese students), it takes 350 hours to pass the N5 Exam. It’s close to the hours you would spend in preparing for a driver’s license in Japan. 

For other students who don’t have prior kanji knowledge, it takes 462 hours of studying. That is about the same as if you were to take a course to obtain a pastry diploma in Le Cordon Bleu – which is around 453 hours.

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

In addition to hiragana and katakana, the JLPT N5 covers around 100 kanji and 800 vocabulary words. (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 N5 Kanji Self-Study Course (¥1,000) to learn the necessary N5 kanji.

This course covers 103 kanji and contains a quiz for each kanji, downloadable pdf workbook, and printable cheat sheet.

The more detailed features and price of this course are outlined in this article.

Additionally, you can check out our JLPT N5 Kanji Writing Workbook (¥500).

JLPT N5 Kanji Writing Workbook / Worksheets E-Book

This is a printable PDF worksheet featuring 103 N5 kanji. It allows you to physically practice writing kanji and memorize them efficiently.

We have also provided several of the worksheets free of charge at the below links! These are very useful as they cover many of the kanji that you will be tested on during the N5 exam.

To become familiar with the most commonly used vocabulary words likely to appear on the JLPT N5 Exam, check out our list of the Top 100 Basic Japanese Words.

Mastering Grammar

Although the JLPT N5 Exam scores vocabulary and grammar cumulatively, it is recommended that you study for them independently. The grammar section of the exam tests on basic particle usage (ha, ga, wo, etc.) and formal and casual conjugations of verbs and adjectives for past and present tenses.

To learn grammar points covered on the N5 Exam, you can check out the below articles on basic Japanese Grammar:

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

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

You can download the Particles Cheat Sheet by entering your email in the slot at the bottom of this page.

This article also covers some common Japanese particles and its usages.

Mastering Listening

To help you get prepare for the listening section, we have a 30 day challenge for you!

In our Free JLPT N5 30 Day Grammar Listening Challenge, you will spend 15 minutes each day for 30 days improving your listening and learning new grammar points. Each day, you will be given two phrases or grammar points and check your understanding with a flash card matching game. By the end of the course, not only will you have strengthened your listening, but you would have also learned 60 grammar points necessary to pass the N5 Exam!

Our YouTube Channel is also useful in widening grammar knowledge while practicing listening.

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 N5.

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 N5 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
    • Japanese Crash Course – a 4 week crash course for absolute beginners to the Japanese language. This course is designed to teach you the basics of Japanese, starting with Hiragana and Katakana and moving onto topics or situations that you can use immediately in your daily life. This course meets every weekday.
    • Beginner Level 1-2-3 – a 12 week intensive course for those wanting to start learning the basics of conversational Japanese. With many opportunities for spoken role-play, you will be able to solidify what you learn and instill confidence in your ability to speak Japanese. This course meets every weekday.
  • Part-time Lessons
    • Practical Japanese for Beginners – a part-time course for complete beginners. You will start by learning Japanese skills for everyday use. Since you’ll be studying vocabulary for times and places, as well as basic grammar, you’ll be able to create simple sentences by yourself.
    • Active Basic Japanese Grammar A&B – this course acts as the foundation to be able to communicate in Japanese. By the end of this course, you will be able to to use basic conjugated forms and speak naturally.
    • Effective Drill Training – aimed to help students improve their quick-response ability and build their confidence. You will use a series of specially designed drills and speaking training to improve your communication ability.
    • Essential Grammar and Conversation – a part-time class dedicated to help you practice making conversations about a variety of topics. You will improve your vocabulary and ability to converse smoothly throughout this course.
  • Private Lessons – Intensive Courses
    • Beginner Level 4-5-6 – a 12 week upper beginner course, perfect for students who want to start broadening their conversational Japanese. You will learn to express yourself with more complex phrases.
    • 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.
  • Part-time Lessons
    • Effective Drill Training – aimed to help students improve their quick-response ability and build their confidence. You will use a series of specially designed drills and speaking training to improve your communication ability.
    • Conversation Level-up – focused on developing your ability to convey your wishes, ask for permission while giving a reason, study assumptive expressions, and express your feelings or things that happened more accurately.
    • Essential Grammar and Conversation – a part-time class dedicated to help you practice making conversations about a variety of topics. You will improve your vocabulary and ability to converse smoothly throughout this course.
    • 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.
  • 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.

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
    • Practical Japanese for Beginners – an online part-time course for complete beginners. You will start by learning Japanese skills for everyday use. Since you’ll be studying vocabulary for times and places, as well as basic grammar, you’ll be able to create simple sentences by yourself.
    • Lite Intensive (Beginner 1) – this course strikes a balance between learning progress and study commitment. You can learn and progress in your ability, without having to worry about an overwhelming pace. This classes is a “minified” version of our intensive courses, meeting for 100 minutes twice per week.
    • Active Basic Grammar A&B – this online course acts as the foundation to be able to communicate in Japanese. By the end of this course, you will be able to to use basic conjugated forms and speak naturally.
    • Lite Intensive (Beginner 3) – this class meets twice a week and focuses on many aspects of the Japanese language. By the end of this course, you will be able to use a wide range of expressions, talk about your schedule, and give advice in Japanese.

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

5. 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.

6. 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 N5 Exam, an hour and a half) 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 N5 Exam. We hope this was helpful and wish you good luck on your studies!

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