Many Japanese learners desire to go beyond N2 and aim for the top level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).  In fact, in the latest examination data of the JLPT official website, 121,614 out of the 544,180 people who applied for JLPT last July 2018 were N1 test takers. What is N1 for and why do people take it? How can we prepare for the test? For those who are wondering about these questions, this article is here to cover all of them for you.

What is N1?

N1 is the hardest level of the JLPT. A level of N1 means that one’s Japanese reading and listening skills are almost fluent. For instance, one is capable of reading and comprehending complex articles logically such as reading and understanding the newspaper. One can also grasp native Japanese speech from news reports, class lectures or daily conversations.

Japanese Reading around the level of N1

  • Test Sections

1. Vocabulary and Grammar – This section contains reading “kanji” (漢字), defining words and filling in blanks with accurate grammar and word usage. The section also covers 2,000 “kanji” characters and 10,000 vocabulary words.

2. Reading – This section contains thematic and integrated comprehension of short and long passages. Examples are newspapers, lecture readings, and paper advertisements.

3. Listening – This section contains comprehending the key points and the general outline of a conversation or a lecture. It also involves understanding verbal expressions and practicing how to respond to regular communications.

  • Time and Test Flow

1. Vocabulary and Grammar/ Reading (110 minutes)

2. Short Break

3. Listening (60 minutes)

calendar on how to play your schedule better

  • Scoring

The test is over 180 points. It has three sections that are each a total of 60 points. Obtaining at least 19 points for each section and also a total of 100 points overall is needed to pass the test.

  • Application

JLPT is conducted twice a year. The first one is in July and the application period is around early March to late April. The second one is in December and the application is around early August until late September.

  • Results

Score report arrival differs for domestic and overseas examinees. For domestic examinees, score reports for July will be sent in early September and score reports for December will be around early February. For overseas examinees, score reports for July will arrive in early October, and score reports for December will be in early March.

For examinees who registered online, scores can be viewed through an online announcement. Date and time vary for each country. For more details, visit https://www.jlpt.jp/e/application/overseas_list.html

Why take the N1?

  • Higher job opportunities

1. N1 holders are given 15 points on the Point-based Preferential Immigration Treatment System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals, which requires individuals to have 70 points or more to receive preferential treatment at immigration.

2. N1 is a prerequisite for foreign medical professionals who want to take license examination in Japan.

3. N1 is required for the nurse/ caregiver candidates under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

  • Educational Benefits

1. Japanese test requirements in senior high schools for students who did not graduate from a Japanese middle school is waived for N1 and N2 holders.

2. N1 is sometimes considered as an alternative to the Examination for Japanese University (EJU) for non-Japanese students who are applying to study in Japan.

3. N1 is a prerequisite for certain foreign nationals who wish to study nursing in Japan.

  • Testing your own abilities

Since N1 is designed to test your ability in Japanese, you can measure how advanced you are in terms of reading, listening to, and comprehending Japanese.

Advanced Japanese Writing

How to Prepare for N1

  • Time Management

The first section of the test is tricky since you have to do the vocabulary, grammar, and the reading part in less than two hours. Thus, plan how long you are going to spend on each section, divide the time up, and stick to it during the exam.

  • Awareness and Preparation

Being aware and prepared for what kind of test problems each section has as well as how to tackle them can help you feel confident and cope with exam anxieties since you already have a strategy on how to approach each problem.

  • Choosing the right study materials

A lot of the test questionnaires have the same pattern as the past exam problems, so reviewing the readings that JLPT provides is a great choice.

Materials used for N1

Below are some of the useful study materials for N1, all books include an audio CD.

  • Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Official Practice Workbooks (735-yen, tax included)
  • New Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Guidebook: An Executive Summary and Sample Questions, N1-N3 edition (945-yen, tax included)
  • “New Complete Master Series Books” (新完全マスターシリーズ) (1,296-yen, tax included)
  • Basic Kanji Plus (free application on Apple store)
  • Sticky Study (1,200-yen on Apple store)