The N4 Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) measures basic levels of language proficiency. It is the second easiest exam after N5, and it tests reading, and listening abilities of Japanese learned primarily at the beginner and intermediate level.
The N4 tests literary knowledge of approximately 300 kanji along with hiragana and katakana. Compared to the N5, the N4 has less kanji with furigana, which shows the phonetics of the kanji above it in hiragana. Test takers should familiarize themselves with the phonetic reading and meaning of more kanji than was required for the N5.
Although the N4 is the second easiest JLPT, it requires about a vocabulary of about 1500 words, which is almost double the requirement for the N5. In this sense, the N4 is much more demanding. According to the JLPT website, it will test comprehension of Japanese passages about usual daily activities. The questions will generally be straightforward, similarly to the N5. The N4 will, however, require a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of Japanese vocabulary and grammar. Understanding small differences between terminology that have similar meanings or uses is very important to pass this section.
The listening section of the N4 tests one’s ability to comprehend and follow conversations about familiar topics and situations. The audio is spoken at a slow pace, like the N5. The audio used in the N4 will use expressions and vocabulary that are slightly more advanced and complex than the N5, so having more listening experience and ability is a must. Some useful recommendations to prepare for the listening section are provided below.
Students aiming to take the N4 would be likely to have textbooks or other materials that will aid them in their studies. Using the audio CDs attached to textbooks is highly recommended to practice and gauge what the listening section of the N4 will be like. Studying the vocabulary and reading sections of beginner-level textbooks and making flash cards is recommended, too. To succeed in the reading section, a strong focus should be put on kanji literacy and reading comprehension. Since the N4 requires a deeper level of understanding of Japanese than the N5, using children’s movies, TV shows, and books to study can also be helpful. The JLPT website and many others provide quizzes and helpful study materials that can aid in preparation for both sections as well. These websites are often created by people who have taken and passed all 5 JLPTs. Therefore, they are reliable sources of information and tools that one would need to study for and pass the N4 successfully.
The N4 is a useful benchmark for students to gauge their abilities in basic Japanese. Since it is the second-easiest JLPT, advanced knowledge of the language is not required to pass. However, understanding of the nuanced differences between uses and meanings of kanji and grammar elements is essential to passing both the reading and listening parts of the exam. Studying for the N4 is made much easier by utilizing textbooks and internet sources so students can increase their chances of passing.