JLPT N1 Reflections (Dec. 2012)

Pencil; Not exactly the 2012 JLPT; JLPT N1 reflections include some about pencils
Photo by Laddir

Yesterday was the big Japanese Language Proficiency Test day. These are my JLPT N1 reflections for the December 2012 JLPT.

I took N1, the highest level, which meant sitting in a room from 12:30 – 4:30. Well, there was an approximately 30 minute break in the middle — I wish I had brought lunch.

Last year, December 2011, I took the second highest level of the test, N2. I had no confidence and thought I would fail, but I ended up passing. Conversely, this time, I feel much more confident about how I did on the N1.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that this means I didn’t pass this time on the 2012 JLPT. But I do plan to start studying much more systematically from next week so I’ll have a head start on preparing for the test next year.

There are three sections on the JLPT N1 test: language knowledge, reading, and listening. Even if one gets enough points for an overall pass, if one fails a section of the test, one fails the entire test. With this in mind, now to my thoughts on the test itself. I’ll primarily be comparing the N1 to the N2 and giving my thoughts on how I think I did on the 2012 JLPT.

2012 JLPT N1 Reflections

Language Knowledge

The language knowledge section of the N1 test has kanji readings, using vocabulary correctly, putting scrambled sentences in order, and fill-in-the-blank grammar.

Naturally, the N1 kanji were much higher level and less common than those on the N2 test. I literally guessed on all of the vocabulary questions, so vocab should be my lowest score.

The grammar on the N1 test isn’t necessarily more difficult than N2. There is simply more to remember. I study a lot of grammar and do a lot of reading in Japanese, so I know I did well on the grammar section. Hopefully this section will buoy my score enough on the language knowledge part of the test to push for an overall pass.


I think at an N2 reading level, the N1 reading could be perhaps passed if you know where to look for the answers by utilizing the questions.

The main difference seemed to be that on the N1 test, it might be necessary to read a paragraph to grasp the answer. On the N2 test, the answers are contained within just one or two sentences in the text.

If one doesn’t have good reading comprehension skills in one’s native language, this section of the test will be a huge challenge. The main way to improve the score on this section would be to read short, persuasive-style essays, e-mails or other communicative texts, and perhaps advice or humanities-related newspaper articles.

For me, the reading section of the test was the easiest overall. I wasn’t able to get to the last few questions, but if I improve my reading speed and probably more importantly, if I don’t waste time on things such as accidentally filling in bubbles I don’t mean to, then I probably could get close to perfect on this section.

There was a break after the language knowledge section, before the listening section.


The listening on the N2 level contains everyday conversation and announcement clips at what seems to be near-native speed.

N1 listening is more of the same, except with N1-level grammar thrown in. There are also a few more “tricks,” such as leading the listener to believe that one choice isn’t the answer, when in fact, at the end, it is revealed that that choice is in fact the answer.

The listening was a lot more difficult than I expected. I couldn’t process some of the grammar used quickly enough. So I think I have to do more listening practice in general, such as radio programs and news. Also, I really regret not using the restroom during the break before this section…

JLPT N1 Reflections Conclusion

Those are my thoughts on the December 2012 JLPT.

Like I said, I’m not sure what the result will be.

And I won’t know until late January or February in 2013 about the 2012 JLPT results.

But now I can use what I know about the N1 test and my current Japanese ability. So I’m going to try to create a more systematic study plan to prepare for the summer 2013 JLPT.

Also see:
10 Tips for the JLPT Test Day (Don’t Be Like Me!)

4 thoughts on “JLPT N1 Reflections (Dec. 2012)

  1. ????? says:

    Could you suggest online reading materials where I could enhance my reading skills? just like what you have advised (short persuasive-style essays, e-mails, communicative texts, and humanities-related newspaper articles, etc.)
    Kindly give me some useful links.


    1. L. says:

      Sorry about the kana not displaying! I’ll get on looking up the problem.

      One site I find interesting is Madame Riri’s blog. The posts aren’t as complicated as the N1 reading material, but it’s interesting stuff – mostly about how the world views Japan. Madame Riri is aimed at native readers, so it isn’t officially study material, but I find it helpful.

      This week, I plan on assembling and posting links to interesting and helpful reading material on the ‘net that may help with the JLPT reading section.


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