Can you Pass the JLPT Without Studying for it? — 21 Comments

  1. It depends a bit on how good you are at “test taking”, but honestly I think you could roll into the N1 at ~Level 60 and pass without any dedicated study.

    And I can confirm Adam’s strategy above – you’ll likely have a lower Vocab/Grammar score and be carried heavily by Listening/Reading, which is exactly what happened for me.

    One thing I did find helpful was spending a small amount of time each day in the month leading up to the test just reviewing JLPT-specific grammar. Not only did it come in handy on test day, but I actually started noticing that grammar a lot more “in the wild” when I’d previously overlooked it. I ended up getting much more day to day value than I expected from that fairly minimal time investment.

    • That’s a great point about test-taking ability. Because if you are good at other tests it will give you a big advantage on whether you need to prepare or not.

      Also, that’s interesting about studying JLPT grammar helping out elsewhere.

  2. Passed the N3 last year (barely) without studying specifically for it.

    Am now studying for the N2 this year, specifically for it.

  3. I think the breakdown of 5/4/3 (can be passed without studying if you have good Japanese skill compared to that level) versus 2/1 (would be more difficult to pass without studying) is accurate.

    In my case, I skipped 5 and passed 4 and 3 without studying, just with decent all-around (reading/writing/listening/speaking) Japanese ability compared to the level required for the test.

    For 2 and 1, I did study the grammar specifically, so I can’t speak from experience on how hard it would be to pass those levels without studying.

    One thing that is helpful for N1, though not practical for everyone, is working (and using Japanese) in a Japanese company. There is a ton of business vocabulary that gets used on a daily basis in Japanese companies on the higher levels of the JLPT, so if you have work experience in that environment, questions over that kind of vocabulary will be ridiculously easy because it’s something you use daily.

    Having taken the test previously also helps, because knowledge of the test structure allows you to plan strategically. For example, if you happen to know the sentence scramble questions take you more time per question to solve than the other questions on the test, you can skip them and go on to questions where your time will be better spent, then come back to them later if you have time.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience.

      I think the JLPT should offer jobs at Japanese companies to help students prepare :)

  4. I’ve taken N5 coming out of a beginner classroom setting (not JLPT specific, but normal beginner textbook conventional stuff) plus some immersion myself with a pretty good pass. My classes were dropped directly afterwards and I took N3 with a lot of non-specific study (some Anki-ing, lots of audio immersion, some reading, a bit of textbook study though that was more N4-ish material rather than N3) and a bit of last minute N3 grammar cramming the week before the test ( bascially audio immersion was alright, but my active study time was a bit lacking in all areas, even the JALUP way) with an “okayish” pass (a safe pass but not a super great score).

    As you said, reading and listening were a non-issue, but the less context there was, the more I struggled.

    I thought at first I had failed because of vocab and kanji, but in the end it was enough. While I can somehow get by if a word is repeated a couple of times in a text even with my tiny vocabulary, just having this one sentence as context was pretty tough. I think that might have been a little better if I had focused on reading (and maybe anki-ing/kanji?) some more, but most of my learning was just listening lots and then relistening even more (and the kanji struggle was REAL) so there’s that as well. I thought grammar at N3 level was actually alright, even though I sometimes felt a bit unsure. I think I actually didn’t see much of the stuff I learned during the last-minute cramming, but answered most questions by “this sounds kinda right” aka gut feeling, but that actually worked out alright.

    Reading and listening also had some funny moments. I had a few passages where I thought I totally got it and then I read or listened to the question and answers for the passage, was missing one crucial word there (because they might have used a synonym intentionally) and thought “well shit”, because I was back at the “little to no context” problem. So I think my small vocabulary was actually the biggest hurdle, which might already be fixed for a more dedicated learner, even if he doesn’t study JLPT specific stuff. (At least for N3, can’t judge for higher levels)

    I kinda want to take N2 with a similar approach, though hopefully while being a bit less lazy and maybe getting in some specific kanji study as well. I started reading more and I think that should definitely help overall, though I’m not really planning to read much “JLPT benefitial” material and am more reading whatever I want to. I think I’ll probably still do some JLPT cramming shortly before the test, but I don’t plan to spend huge amounts of time on JLPT specific study.

    I can’t say much about time frames, because I’ve been a bit of an “on and off” learner for ages so my time frame is slightly skewed by that… and I probably should also say that I’ve always been a pretty good testtaker which definitely helps :)

    TLDR; kinda worked for N3 for me, have to see for the higher levels

  5. I took and passed the N2 in December 2016 without any special preparation. I had attended mostly fruitless Japanese classes for years up to 2014. From 2013 to 2014 I spent one year as an exchange student in Japan. During that time I met an autodidact with great Japanese who recommended Remembering the Kanki and Anki to me. After painfully slogging through RTK, my Japanese learning finally took up some steam. Leading up to the test I had added about 2000 J-J sentences to Anki, mostly based on Drama/Anime that I happened to be watching (keep in mind that I was able to skip a lot of basic vocab). Most of my grammar knowledge came from beginner text books and Tae Kim’s guide.

    As Adam said, the listening and reading sections were comparatively easy. As expected, the vocab and grammar sections didn’t go as well. Overall, I had a total score of about 70%, which is passable, albeit not necessarily great. I was happy with the result, but decided to follow a more focused approach in preparation for the N1.
    First, I went back and learned most of the N2 vocab I had missed out on before. Currently, I am working my way through the N1 vocab, adding about 10 words per day. At my current pace, I should be able to tackle the N1 this winter. While preparing for the test keeps me motivated, I often miss the more dynamic learning approach I had leading up to the N2.

  6. My first JLPT was the N4 and I studied a little for it but I focused on the Japanese class I was taking and I failed by 2 points I think. I passed the N3 the next year and probably studied more for it but still not as much as would be recommended for someone who needed a pass. I was studying Japanese my way as opposed to the JLPT albeit cramming JLPT grammar from time to time. And the next year I took the N2 and failed it by five points doing the same preparation as for the N3. Then I moved to Japan and lived in an English speaking share house and self studied Japanese and failed it by one point I think after six months and then passed it by 15 points or so six months later. I studied a lot more for the test than I did for any other JLPT hat time doing 3-4 full practice tests and making tons of grammar flash cards and what not. It’s no surprise that the more you focus on the test the better you will do but definitely you can just live in Japan and read books and do Anki or whatever and improve your Japanese without spending much time in JLPT material but most people will have to spend more hours doing that han someone who focuses on test material. I totally get that. If the JLPT is at all important to you then I think it’s worth your time to spend as much time as you can stand reviewing prep material. Even just a bit from time to time will help get you some crucial points in a weak section that can help you pass.

    This article kind of reminds me of how I studied German back in the day. At first I went to regular classes and studied it in textbooks that probably lined up well with stanrdized tests. But that was too boring and I ended up just reading tons of novels in German instead. And I visualized how my German progress as a big arc instead of a straight line where I went around all the intermediate levels and just slowly found my way to advanced without ever being in the middle. If that makes any sense lol.

  7. I’m taking level 5 this sunday without any studying for the test. I’ve finished the advanced desk so hoping to pass, although sort of expected to fail. Will post how it goes afterwards!

      • Here’s my impression the evening after taking the test. This is without doing any specific studying for level 5. The vocab section seemed fairly easy. The grammar section was quite a bit harder. Doing a lot of immersion is very helpful for the listening section as it felt like I was listening to slowed down japanese at 50% speed compared to the audio on dramas. I’m sure I missed some on the listening section, though. Only need about 50% to pass so not sure if I did. I need to wait until February for the results.

          • Passed level 5. My score was 64/120 for vocab and grammar and 31/60 for listening. There’s also a section that says reference information in vocabulary, grammar, and reading and I got an A in each section (website says they are scored as either A, B, C, and A is the highest level at > 67% correct) So thanks to Adam for his great decks!

            • Awesome! Congrats on passing and thanks for updating everyone on your “JLPT without JLPT study” experience.”

  8. Continue pushing forward with the JALup decks and working with an online tutor to focus on improving my speaking.

  9. I just found this post and it reminded me of my run up to N5.

    The previous (and only) two years I had managed a few months of Japanese study before interest waned. To maintain momentum my friend and I signed up to N5 to give us a goal.

    I signed up as soon as applications opened this year, and took it in July.
    I deliberately did no specific practice, as wanted to test my level, as opposed to try and pass the test. I had no pressure on myself, and no requirement to pass it.

    It just so happens that I stumbled (back) onto Jalup a few weeks prior to the test, fell in love with the system and I am sure that it got me over the line.

    My experience can be summarised as follows:
    1st part (Vocab) – time was tight, but felt pretty good
    2nd part (Grammar) – this isn’t too bad (turn page, see paragraph of JP text and four questions), panic. In the last minute quickly put AN answer into each box.
    3rd part (Listening) – “oh it’s a CD… oh the whole thing (including instructions) is in Japanese….”, panic. At this point I switched to damage control, ignored all Japanese except the obvious audio for the questions (they had audio cues) and then use deduction based on the questions, choices, etc.

    As Listening was last, and it had already been a long day, my brain was all Japanese’d out by the time we started the listening test, I am pleased I kept a cool head.

    I met my mate outside (who had taken it also) and asked him “how dumb he felt”, “pretty dumb” he replied :) :) :)

    It was a wake up call, but it spurred me on and I’m glad I did it.

    We both passed BTW
    (I got 23/60 on listening, pass is 19, so they know it’s tough!)

    • Thanks for sharing your “no-study” JLPT experience. If you decide to take another higher level in the future, definitely come back and let us know what the next round of experience is like :)

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