What Levels Of JLPT Do The Jalup Decks Prepare You For?

JLPT, that famous Japanese test that you think would have more of a presence on a site that talks about every aspect of learning Japanese. Most people here know that I have never really held much of an interest in discussing the test (beyond this early post years ago). However, it’s a popular test, a lot of you probably want to and will take the test, so I feel an important question needs to be answered for all of you out there.

What Levels Of JLPT Do The Jalup Decks Prepare You For

What levels of JLPT do the Jalup Decks prepare you for?

First let me give you my best estimate. This estimate assumes you are doing normal immersion alongside your deck progression.

(Update: edited based on feedback from comments)

Pass and acquire a good score:
Jalup Beginner: N5
Jalup Intermediate: N5-N4
Jalup Advanced: N4-N3
Jalup Expert (1-4): N3-N2
Jalup Expert (5-8): N2-N1

As pointed out in the comments section, there is a difference between doing well and just barely passing, so I am separating the two with a slight downward adjustment.

Just barely pass:
Jalup Beginner: N5-N4
Jalup Intermediate: N4-N3
Jalup Advanced: N3-N2
Jalup Expert (1-4): N2-N1
Jalup Expert (5-8): N1

*It is recommended before taking any level test to get a separate test prep book, as “getting used to” what the test is like will significantly increase your chances of passing.

However, as stated above, since I lack interest in these tests, I’ve never taken any of them, and am not fully familiar with them.

So rather than leave you with my vague answer, I want to hear from you. For those who have been through the Jalup decks, and taken the JLPT test, where would you place all 4 series in alignment with the JLPT levels? You’re answers will be extremely helpful to many learners as I often get asked this question, and you guys are way more fit to answer it than me.


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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


What Levels Of JLPT Do The Jalup Decks Prepare You For? — 23 Comments

  1. You might consider breaking Expert into two tiers, since it’s so massive now.

    Expert 1-4: N3-N2
    Expert 5-8: N2-N1

    Having finished Expert 8, practice questions for the N2 seem fairly easy, and the N1 challenging but approachable. I was actually hoping to try the N1 next month, but my schedule didn’t quite work out. If anybody gets the chance to take it then and share their experiences, that’d be a good way to confirm I think =)

  2. I didn’t start using the Jalup decks until very recently so I’m not a good gauge there, but I can say that *passing* the JLPT and doing *well* on the JLPT are two very different things.

    The N3 destroyed me last year, to the point that I was running out of time and guessing randomly on a good 25% of the questions. That said, I was only a few points from a passing score. What does that say about the JLPT?

    I’d say that Adam’s guesses above are pretty accurate for doing *well* on the JLPT. However, I’ll bet those estimates could all be shifted down a level — e.g. finishing Jalup Intermediate and taking the N3 test — if all you were concerned with was passing.

    I’ve taken the N5, N4, and N3, and I’ll be taking the N3 again this year. (And passing it easily this time around at around level 30 or so.) I don’t have any real reason to take the test other than “it’s there”. (Also one of the testing sites is just down the road from me, so it’s pretty low friction.)

    Maybe worth noting: I never did any special JLPT-specific studying. I passed N5 after going through Genki I and passed N4 after going through Genki II. Then I stopped studying Japanese for 5 years, picked it up again, and (surprise surprise) failed N3…

    Anyway, if I align my experience with the “what level are you?” post, it might look something like this for the first few JLPT levels:

    N5: level 10
    N4: level 20
    N3: level 30

    Which lines up rather nicely, doesn’t it? :D

    • Thanks ジャック for the detailed feedback. I added in your split based on doing well and just barely passing.

    • > I’ll be taking the N3 again this year. (And passing it easily this time around at around level 30 or so.)

      Okay, so maybe I was a TAD overconfident. I just got out of the test and still found it somewhat tricky. Listening, as always, was my weakest point.

      As someone who has just finished Jalup intermediate and is around level 30, here’s how I found each section of the N3, for anyone who’s curious or trying to peg their own target test level:

      Vocab section: Easy! Only tricky parts for me were some long-short vowel questions, e.g. is 協力 pronounced きょりょく or きょうりょく? I can never keep those straight. Overall, I feel like I aced this part though.

      Grammar/reading section: As far as reading comprehension goes, pretty easy. However, my reading is apparently too slow because I didn’t even get to the last couple of passages and had to guess randomly on the last handful of questions. Need to practice speed-reading, I guess. Oh, I also found the “rearrange the sentence” section pretty difficult for some reason. I blame the convoluted question format…

      Listening section: Pretty difficult for me. This is probably my own fault for being lazy with passive immersion. I think I passed it, but definitely guessed on a bunch of questions.

      So in the end, I’d say the target levels in Adam’s post above are accurate, at least through N3! Hope this is helpful for some folks.

    • Turns out I did pass after all! Though certainly not easily, and not by too wide a margin. Still though, one more data point: level 30-ish, passed N3 :D

  3. I was able to pass the N3 last year with Jalup intermediate, but I also used cards made from a study book specifically made for passing the N3 which I recommend to anyone taking any test level. Recently I was looking through and taking a few practice exams for the N1 and the vocab, kanji, and reading comprehension questions were pretty easy but the grammar was readable and I knew what they meant just not sure which was right. But this was after 4-5 thousand cards of The One Deck as well.

  4. I passed N4 before discovering Jalup and then N2 at Level 30. It’s taken me from Level 30- Level 50 to be comfortable with N1, and my journey went something like this:

    Lv 30-35: Dear Japanese, it’s either me or the JLPT.
    Lv 35-45: Kicked JLPT out and had an overall good relationship with Japanese.
    Lv 45-50: Sniffed an N1 textbook one day and found it shockingly straight forward.

    …I’m now planning on taking the exam in July next year.

    Sometimes putting the exam down and just studying Japanese goes a long way. I personally think the only exam study you really need is doing some practise tests for time management purposes. The Kanzen Master N1 grammar structure distinctions were written by Harry Potter’s Professor Trelawney as far as I’m concerned, and in the exam you just don’t have time to get out your dowsing kits, you need the Inner Eye so you can pick out the right answer in one glance.

    In my experience, the only way to develop such an Eye is by focusing less on exam books/number of Anki sentences/your Jalup level and more on everything else this site discusses.

    Edit: N5-N3 are totally achievable without an Eye, what I’m saying is really for the N2/N1.

    • I have question, when you passed JLPT N2, were your level at only 30? Because I’m now at 40 and considering to take N3 or N2, do you think I should go straight to N2? Won’t it be difficult to recognize all the Kanji? Or were you lucky?

  5. I feel I should elaborate on my last comment which doesn’t come over in the way I meant it.

    I don’t have the pedagogical/psychological knowledge to explain it, but there seems to be a change in how the brain deals with Japanese between N5-3, N2 and N1 and the exams change to reflect it (there’s obviously some educational psychology behind the JLPT).

    I suppose in Jalup terms N5-3 correspond to honeymoon/pre-blues, N2 is right in the middle of mid-level blues and N1 is around the pay off stage.

    I hope I’ve explained myself >.<

  6. I would like to mention from my current experience, jalup stage 1 and 2 really cover you for jlpt n5 grammar but are lacking with jlpt n5 vocab. A good approach I believe is to do beginner stage and n5 and n4 shared anki decks (get the highest rated ones). Do intermediate with jlpt n3 vocab (there is an amazing n3 j-j deck here https://ankiweb.net/shared/info/553346658 ) Although I assume it is best to finish at least half or 3/4 of intermediate before approaching that beast. Then you can go to http://www.tanos.co.uk/ and just get the vocab lists for n2 and n1 (the guy’s deck is j-e *pukes* ) and make your own decks from there and use advanced and expert decks. Take my advice with a grain of salt since I am in no position to be giving out such information (except for N5, I can assure you jalup beginner is more than enough for n5 grammar but a little lacks on vocab) I welcome any corrections by higher level peeps

    • Thanks for the feedback. Yes, Jalup Beginner does focus more on grammar than vocab (on purpose). For any levels of the JLPT it’s always a good idea to also get a textbook (or deck) for that specific level, as it also gives strategy and sample questions.

  7. Does anyone know if it’s necessary to study JLPT2 grammar content from kanzen master for the JLPT1, or is the JLPT Kanzen master series comprehensive for the JLPT1 exam?
    ps. got some good anki deck resources for these textbooks if anyone is interested.

    • decided to not bother with kanzen master vocabulary section. I can’t imagine it would be any different from the vocabulary I’m already seeing in my daily life… So I’ll just do the kanzen master grammar book and accompanying anki deck I found as well as practice exams closer to the date. Will write back in december :P

      • You’d be surprised. A lot of JLPT n1 words are not part of everyday manga/drama. Just try it out, extra review doesn’t hurt

        • I actually agree with you but I was looking through the required vocab lists. They come with example sentences at least, but there are 3000 words I’m going to have to procure definitions and create cards for. It’s such a daunting task, I can see why Adam has never been interested in this exam. The grammar isn’t as bad since there’s only around 600 cards pre made, but for some reason the cards I have contain English for jlpt2 despite the kanzen master books being apparently all Japanese jlpt 2 and up. Going to have to make some difficult choices soon though. I’m doing really well at my vocabulary acquisition atm and it will be a big step back to have to use some boring pre made vocabulary sentence list and make cards from it, all for the sake of this exam. Not to mention doing the same for grammar, and having to curate the corresponding j-j definitions for the cards that contain english only….

    • > Does anyone know if it’s necessary to study JLPT2 grammar content from kanzen master for the JLPT1, or is the JLPT Kanzen master series comprehensive for the JLPT1 exam?

      Did you ever wind up finding the answer to this? I was curious as well. I still am on the fence myself about whether to do any JLPT-specific studying or to just continue down my current path. (Though I’m angling for N2, not N1.)

      I don’t really have a reason to take the test other than curiosity, so it ultimately doesn’t matter too much for me either way, luckily. (Part of my motivation is just that I’m afraid I’ll lose steam once I polish off the last of the Jalup decks…)

      • I didn’t find the answer. But I assume yes, though I doubt they’d test you on it. What I mean is the n2 grammar will most likely be used in multiple choice sections, and it is often necessary to understand both grammar points in a sentence to figure out the correct answe (I’m assuming). I could be wrong, but I think that would be the advantage of learning it.

        I’ve been going through both decks and making jalup styled sentence cards out of them. Made me realise the actual size is only a bit over a quarter of what I thought. This because the textbook they are derived from has 4 examples per 1 grammar point, I’m only using the first example for efficiency’s sake. The reason i say a little over a quarter is because some grammar points have a full and short hand form, and I am using 2 example sentences for these, despite their same meaning.

        On the vocabulary front, I have a 3000 card, comprehensive deck (with English definitons unfortunately) that ill eventually get around to curating (after I’ve gone through both grammar sections) for any unknowns. I hope I can cut that number down by a lot, not a big fan of vocab lists, even with example sentences. Not to be confused with premades, which are properly branched and sourced from interesting media.
        Even if I end up hating this deck and dumping it in favour of my own stuff, I’ll still attempt the jlpt1.

        After I’ve finished the grammar sections I’ll get round to doing practice exams and procuring unknown words/ grammar pieces from those too. If my vocab is really suffering it’ll probably push me through the shitty vocab deck I’ll be forced to use *shudder*. 一か八か、やってみろ!

    • One of my goals is to take N2 this December. I will have to make an assessment at registration time to see if I feel like I can be ready in time.

      I have been doing some research into what is required. I do not know if this will specifically answer the questions here, but maybe it will help a little. They stopped doing specific lists for N2 and N1, because I think they do not want people just drilling for the test by these levels, but they are really trying to measure one’s “real” Japanese ability, at least as far as reading and listening comprehension. I have read that Kanzen Master does a good job of giving exercises at the approximate difficulty level of the JLPT, and from these exercises, it seems to be really tricky. The multiple choice questions seem to be quite well done in terms of giving choices with very fine distinctions which tempt you down a false rosy path if you are not careful. They seem much different than the “multiple guess” questions I remember from my undergraduate days.

      At each level, everything below the level tested seems to be fair game as well. So, if you are taking N1, everything below that may also be on the test.

      From what I can tell, N2 is supposed to roughly correspond to 6th grade level…or the end of 小学, and N1 is supposed to roughly correspond to 9th grade level, or the end of 中学, and seems to be the adult foreign learner’s equivalent to the high school entrance exams. With respect to kanji, at N2, one is supposed to know the 1000 or so elementary school or 教育 kanji, and at N1, one is supposed to know all of the 2000 or so 常用 kanji, and perhaps more…the information I found about that was a little contradictory. Some sources said it was only the 常用; some said it also included name kanji and the more rare high school kanji.

      Now, at the early levels, the JLPT levels do not correspond to earlier native grade levels. N5 and N4 are supposed to correspond to college level foreign learner Japanese and N3 is supposed to be a bridge between college course Japanese and real life Japanese.

      For a lot of reasons, in my own Japanese journey, I have been trying to “grow myself up” in Japanese, and I have been using native children’s material as much as I can. I have also been using JLPT materials…so I have been seeing a bit of how things are differently structured.

      Basically, from what I can see, JLPT level material teaches grown up material early on, I guess assuming that you will be talking about your college life and reading the newspaper. So one learns words to discuss politics and international relations before one learns the word for elephant. So, you are going to find words you do not find in manga or anime early on….not just at N1, but at N4 and N3 as well. Actually, it is not until N2 that one DOES find vocabulary and grammar from anime and manga.

      As an example, the grammar point なんか did not come until N2. Yes, I do mean the なんか of お姉ちゃんなんかが大嫌い! Heee…I guess they are not expecting that one watches a lot of shoujo anime early in one’s studies.

      So, from what I can tell, going the JLPT road means one can read the newspaper before one can read a young adult novel, which seems a little backwards to me, but may make sense if one’s primary aim with Japanese is to get a job.

      But it seems that by the level of N2, the immersion road and the college coarse road meet. For myself, that means that if I do not feel ready for N2 by registration time, I will not take it at all this year, because it would be the same amount of work to be ready for N3, in terms of building up my otonappoi vocabulary.

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