Regardless of whether you’ve never taken or never plan to take the JLPT, you’ve probably at least thought about it at some point. You decided against it, but you have a nagging thought: “I wonder if I could pass it?” This is usually fleeting, because one of the biggest annoyances of the JLPT is the months of preparation required before actually taking the test.
What if you could skip all that and go straight to a passing score? Go into the test center, and in just one day (several hours), go in for a win. Could you and would you do this?
What makes the JLPT hard?
When you have amazing Japanese, you make a seemingly logical assumption:
My Japanese is great. I should be able to pass an exam which has the sole purpose of testing whether my Japanese is great.
But the JLPT is a standardized test, which comes with a flurry of flaws. Completely unrelated to Japanese ability, the JLPT will present you with the following difficulties:
- You are timed.
- You are under pressure.
- You are nervous.
- You can feel the presence of a room of people around you.
- It’s long and tires you quickly.
- You are using Japanese in a way you normally don’t.
- Multiple choice can mislead you to the wrong answer, despite knowing the right one, due to 2 similar answers.
- Multiple choice spawns doubt and second-guessing.
- There is a flow to the test. Test sections, timings, and the amount of time you can dedicate to each question and answer.
Then comes the Japanese struggle. The two biggest problems I see people having are:
- Grammar: The higher levels of the JLPT test you on less used/less common grammar or formal grammar you probably haven’t come across much.
- Interest level: you are forced to read or listen to passages on topics that may bore you to death.
All of the above can create the following result: your Japanese is great, but you can’t pass the test unless you study for it.
How to beat the JLPT without ever studying for it
You can overcome all of the above. The strategy is simple. Go in with an incredible Japanese level. Any issue can be overcome with dominating Japanese ability.
JLPT (N5, N4, N3)
The early levels of the JLPT are not going to have less common grammar. If your Japanese ability is miles above what you need for the actual test, you are going to win. Ability buys you time. Even if you are terrible with time management, structure, and testing, if you can breeze through the questions, you’ll most likely be fine.
JLPT (N2, N1)
The higher levels of the JLPT become a little trickier, but aren’t impossible. Your goal is to accept a weak grammar section (and possibly vocabulary) score, but make up for it in the reading and listening sections.
If you have listened to and read native Japanese (novels, news, TV, and everything else) for several years in abundance, you are going to be able to do better than the typical test taker in these areas. Years of experience will raise these scores higher, which will help balance out your weaker grammar section.
Next you need to look at how many years you’ve studied Japanese for. I don’t know the averages of passing the JLPT N2 or N1, but let’s say it takes someone who specifically studies for the test an average of 3 and 5 years to pass each one respectively. If you want to pass those two levels without ever studying for the test, add on 2 years to each, and take the test at the 5 and 7 year mark.
Should you take the JLPT without studying for it?
You may pass without studying. You may not. But even if you didn’t put in any special preparation, failure feels terrible. You don’t want to give up or hate Japanese after taking the JLPT. On the other hand, if you are already satisfied with your ability, you might not take too big a hit in confidence.
Have you ever taken the JLPT without studying for it?
Were you happy with the results? Did you regret it?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.