It’s almost November and that means one thing for 25% of you: it’s the last stretch of study before you take the JLPT. This is your chance to catch up on anything you missed, refresh what you already know, and get yourself mentally prepared for the yearly test that you’ve been waiting for. Will you be ready? How do you know whether you’ve studied enough?
You would expect the JLPT site to give some kind of accurate estimate of the amount of time required to pass each level of the test. But it’s nowhere to be found. While searching for it, I strangely remember that years ago I had seen a chart of hours required to pass. Before concluding I simply imagined this, I discovered I wasn’t the only one who remembered these now-elusive numbers.
The older exams, up until the mid-2000s told you the following:
N1: 900 hours
N2: 600 hours
N3: 300 hours
N4: 150 hours
What was my impression of the old guidelines?
When I first started studying Japanese, here’s what these numbers made me think:
If I study 5 hours a day, I can pass the N4 in a month, and the N1 in 6 months. It wasn’t clear whether these numbers were referring only to classroom hours, but even assuming this was so, N1 within a year was still possible. And since N1 meant fluency, I could become fluent in Japanese within 1 year if I worked hard.
Removing these guidelines was a good idea. But in their place came general statements about “what it takes to pass.” Like:
N4: The ability to understand basic Japanese.
N5: The ability to understand some basic Japanese.
You can’t blame the administrators of the JLPT though, as at least this doesn’t give false expectations and hope like in the past. A more accurate guideline would be:
“If you can pass the practice exams and complete textbooks designed to pass the JLPT, you can probably pass the JPLT.”
How long it takes matters
One of the reasons I don’t like the test is it can be extremely discouraging if you fail. Your Japanese level wasn’t good enough for the standards it has set. When you turn your passion into a point-evaluation, bad things can happen. Of course the test has many positives, such as being used as a milestone, a grand goal, a study-focus, and a feeling of achievement.
But to obtain those positives, knowing how long it should take you to pass makes a difference. Finding this information isn’t easy.
Ask people online and you hear a wide range of numbers from depressing, to realistic, to what the hell?
The most discouraging number that occasionally gets thrown around is that if you work real hard, you can pass the N1 (the highest level) within a year. Now assuming this is true (even if extremely rare), how do you think this feels for the person that took 5 years of hard work to pass it.
What does it take to pass the test today?
I like simple numbers that tell what the average picture is. So my estimate splits it into two versions:
Heavier learners: 6 months for every level
N5: 0.5 years
N4: 1 year
N3: 1.5 years
N2: 2 years
N1: 2.5 years
Lighter learners: 1 year for every level
N5: 1 year
N4: 2 years
N3: 3 years
N2: 4 years
N1: 5 years
Accurate? Who knows. But as I mentioned with my “average 4 years to fluency,” just having an estimate can keep you on track.
What about you?
A while back, I asked you all to compare what Jalup Decks prepared you for what levels of the JLPT. Now I ask you: How long did it take you to pass the JLPT?
In the comments please leave your results.
Example if you have taken the N4, N2, and N1.
Level: total years of studying
N4: 1.5 years
N2: 3 years
N1: 4 years
Your answers are greatly appreciated!
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