How to Pass the JLPT N2 on Your First Try

*Updated November 15th, 2020

Is it possible to pass the JLPT N2 on your first try?  You bet it is.Taking the JLPT N2

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) has struck fear in the hearts of many, but it doesn’t have to. I passed it on my first try and actually enjoyed studying for it.

If you have the time and willingness to put in just a little bit of study time, you can pass it on your first try too.

The 5 steps in this guide are what I used to pass the JLPT and improve my level of Japanese.

If you want to work as a foreigner in Japan, most companies look for someone with at least a business Japanese level, and/or someone who has passed the JLPT N2 or N1.  At the very least, passing the JLPT is a nice feather in your cap.  Since it costs money to take the test each time, let’s look at 5 ways to pass the JLPT N2 on your first try.


5 Ways to Pass the JLPT N2 (or Any Level) on Your First Try


Step 1:  Are you Studying the Right Materials?Studying the Right Materials for the Test

There are tons of JLPT N2 study guides, books, and even apps out there.  Which is the best?

I have asked around, done research, and tried many materials out.  If you’re looking for the best JLPT books, the “Sou Matome series” and the “Kanzen Master books” are my top book recommendations.

If you can afford it, get both.  If you can only afford to go with one, get the Kanzen Master books.  The Sou Matome books are nicely organized into daily lessons, so it is really easy to study.  However, the material in the Kanzen Master books is more thorough and detailed.

If you want to learn real-world Japanese as well as grammar, words, and vocabulary for the JLPT, my highest recommendation is the Japanesepod101 course.   Especially if you are taking the JLPT N2, N3, N4, or N5.  The material on Japanesepod101 covers the grammar you need to know, as well as shows you how to use it in conversation.  You can read my full review of it here.


Step 2:  Studying in the Right Order

Most study guides and books break up all of the material into 5 parts: vocabulary, grammar, kanji, reading, and listening.Easy Way or Hard Way

I feel that the longest and most difficult part of the test is the reading section.  So you should spend a good amount of time studying reading.  However, before you do, it will make your life much easier if you study the kanji, grammar, and vocabulary books first.

Using the sou matome books mentioned above, you could do one lesson each day for each book (grammar, vocab, and kanji) and be finished in 2 months.  After doing that, spend most of your time practicing the reading.

By learning all of the vocabulary, kanji, and grammar first, you’ll be able to read and understand a lot more of the problems in the reading section study guides.  So you can concentrate on increasing your reading speed and comprehension.  The good news is that if you studied all of the vocabulary, kanji, and grammar, you’re well on your way to passing the JLPT.  If you can understand and answer more than half of the questions in the reading section, you’ve got a great chance at passing.

For the listening section, you could get by without studying at all if you hear Japanese on a frequent basis.  I didn’t practice for the listening section at all.  However, if you only hear and use Japanese in class, you should study for this section.  Both the Sou Matome and Kanzen Master series have a listening book that comes with a CD.

Either way though, I feel that the listening part is the easiest part to study, and should be studied last.  If you are confident in your listening ability, study this only if you have time after studying everything else.


Step 3:  Taking the Test in the Right Order – IMPORTANT!Have a Strategy for Test Taking

This is huge.  The way you take the test can make you or break you.

The JLPT N2 test has two parts.  Part 1 consists of the grammar, vocab, kanji, and reading sections.  This takes a LOT of brain power to get through.  You’ll probably feel mentally drained but very relieved that it’s over.

Part 2 is the listening section.

The entire test is made up of multiple choice questions, so even if you don’t know the answer, you’ll have a chance that you can get it right.


What Section Should I Do First?

For part 1, most people answer the questions in order, which means they do the grammar, vocab, and kanji part first, and then do the reading section.  I think that this is the wrong way to do it.

Unless you are a fluent in Japanese and can breeze through the reading section without any problems, it will take up most of your time and give you the most problems.  It also takes a LOT of concentration, which makes you fatigued.

I feel that you should do the reading part FIRST.

That way, you will tackle the most difficult part of the test while your brain is still fresh and alert.  After you finish the reading section, the grammar, vocab, and kanji section feels super easy.  I’m not saying that the questions are easy, but compared to the reading section, it is much simpler.  The questions are much shorter and are very direct so you can answer them quickly.

Part 2 is listening.  Since all you have to do is listen, you can kind of relax.  There were a few questions that tripped me up, but for the most part, I knew most of the answers.  Some, if not all of the questions only have 3 choices, so you have a 33% chance of getting it right by just guessing.

What makes the listen section difficult is fatigue.  You might be so tired from finishing part 1 that it can be difficult to concentrate.  That’s why taking a practice test in step 4 is so useful.  You can get a feel of what it will be like answering so many questions in what seems like a very short time.


Managing Your TimeRacing Against Time to Success

You only have 105 minutes to finish part 1, which has around 75 questions (approximately 32 vocab/kanji questions, 22 grammar questions, and 21 reading questions).

So that means you only have a little over 1 minute to complete each question.

Since the vocab/kanji part is either “you know it or you don’t,” you’ll probably finish each question within 10 seconds or so.  If you don’t know the answer, skip it.  Finish the entire test first before you going back to any questions that you’re unsure of.

However, the reading section is a completely different monster.  There are around 21 questions, which doesn’t seem like a lot.  But believe me, these 21 questions will take up most of your time.

This is because for each page (or more) of reading you do, there will only be 1-5 questions for it.  I would say that the average is two or three questions per page of reading.

This means that you’ll have to read 7-10 pages of Japanese in order for you to answer  those 21 questions.  What’s worse is that most of the questions are not straightforward.  You will have think about the answers, and understand subtle differences in the text.

Some of the stories were only a paragraph long, but it still takes time to get through it.  Most people will spend way more than 1 minute to answer each question in the reading section.  So this means you will have to speed through the grammar and vocabulary section to finish the test in time.  No pressure though 🙂

Summary:  Part 1:  Complete the reading part first, and then do the grammar and vocabulary section.  For the grammar and vocabulary section, skip any question that you are not sure and go back to it only after you finished everything else.


Step 4:  Take a Practice TestPractice Makes Perfect

In addition to studying the right materials, it would help you to take a practice test.

The JLPT offers real N2 tests that were used in the past.  There are also many N2 level practice tests that you can buy.

Some of these practice tests can be quite difficult.  In fact, I found these practice tests to be harder than the actual N2 test.

So even if you don’t pass these practice tests, that does not necessarily mean you’ll fail the JLPT. I did pretty poorly on the practice tests, but aced the actual JLPT N2 test.

Is this absolutely necessary to pass the test?

No, definitely not.

If you study and learn the material, you probably don’t need to take a practice test.  But you know the old saying, “practice makes perfect?”  Well, it’s true.  You’ll get a feel of what it will be like to take a timed test and feel a little pressure.  So when you take the real JLPT test, you’ll feel more confident and prepared.


Step 5:  Slow and Steady Wins the RaceSlow and Steady Wins the Race

This is by far the most important strategy for passing the JLPT N2.  Give yourself LOTS of time.

This is common sense, but very few people do this.  If you give yourself 6 months to study, that is more than enough time to pass the test with flying colors.  What also matters is HOW you study.

You NEED to make a schedule for studying and STICK TO IT. Whether it’s an hour a day or 30 minutes 5 times a week, make sure you create a routine for studying.

Whatever you decide, stick with it and make studying a HABIT.  Studying on a consistent basis is the SECRET to becoming fluent in Japanese.

Also, be sure to keep your study sessions short.  If you want to study for a hour or more at a time, be sure to take small breaks every 15 to 20 minutes.  This will help you to retain information better and keep you motivated so you don’t get burnt out.

An Important Tip…


Do Not Study JUST to Pass the JLPT N2!

Unlike the JLPT N1, the JLPT N2 material has many useful words, grammar, and kanji for the real world. If you study for the sole purpose of passing the test, you probably won’t remember much.

However, if you put in the time and effort to really LEARN the material, not only will you have a much better chance of passing the test, but you’ll also increase your Japanese level by leaps and bounds.

I use or hear words and grammar from the JLPT N2 on a daily basis.  I see many of the kanji being used all over Japan.  So study with the attitude of learning the material so that you can use them in the real world.


JLPT N2 Study Resources

Here are a couple of sites to help you with your studies:

JLPT Sample Questions Page:  Take the sample quiz questions on this page to see the types of questions you’ll find on the actual test.

JLPT Gakushuu Site:  This offers quizzes for all levels of the JLPT.  They have kanji, grammar, and vocabulary quizzes for each level of the JLPT.


Video Grammar Lessons

Check out this videos covering the JLPT N2 material.  Using these videos to supplement studying with a good JLPT book can help you understand the material better.


Listening Practice

Here’s a video that is a good example of what to expect for the listening section.  Take the test for yourself to see how well you can do.


In ConclusionIt seems impossible until done

The whole secret to passing the JLPT N2 (or any level) is preparation.

Study the material well, because it contains Japanese that you’ll actually use if you ever go to Japan.  Here is a quick list of the steps you need to do to pass the N2 on your first try.

  • Give yourself lots of time to prepare (6 months or more)
  • Study for short periods of time and take breaks
  • Study the right materials
  • Study the material in the right order
  • Take a practice test
  • Take the test in the right order

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.  Thanks and good luck!

Photo of author

Dallen Nakamura

Dallen was born and raised in Hawaii and never had a passport until he was 24. His first trip outside of the US was to Japan. He loved it so much that when he got back home, he immediately quit his job and moved to Japan without a plan. While he loves the people and culture of Japan, his true love is food. He is convinced that Japan has the best food in the world and is slowly eating his way around the world to prove it.

101 thoughts on “How to Pass the JLPT N2 on Your First Try”

  1. Hello , greetings from India.
    My name is Khwaish & I’m a Japanese language student (obv that’s why i’m here though). It’s been 2 years i’ve started learning Japanese & i’ve given jlpt N3 in July 2023 & i just got my result of it day before yesterday or more ig that i paased the exam. So , now i want to focus on N2 which i already filled the next December Jlpt exam for N2 which i really think is way too near as its September soon now & by seeing my bg of Japanese that i paased N3 but i’m not really good at kanji & reading section which i know is the most important in order to paas N2. But , i really want to paas N2 in coming December & i really want to get myself a N2 study schedule which i’m really not getting how to do so as i procastinate a lot too!!! (I hate that though)
    Please , can you help me with that & is it possible with my situation to paas N2 within the period of just 3 months!???

    P.S – Also , you’re doing a great job by helping many here & also the blog was really helpful.

    • Hi Khwaish,

      First of all, congratulations on passing the N3!

      As for passing the N2 this December (about 3 months of studying), it is possible. However, it is very difficult to do so in such a short period of time. Even if you mastered all of the material up to the N3 level, it will be a pretty big jump to pass the N2. And you are correct…you’ll need to know a lot more kanji and have good reading comprehension skills to be able to pass the N2.

      What are your goals for learning Japanese? If you NEED to pass the JLPT N2 by next year (for a job, school, etc.), then it is possible to study hours per day and learn enough to pass the test in 3 months. However, if your goal is to become good at Japanese, and you don’t have a hard deadline to pass the N2, I think it will benefit you much more to take your time and truly master the material.

      I think the material (grammar, vocabulary, and kanji) you learn up to the N2 is very useful. You’ll learn things that you’ll actually use if you live or visit Japan or if you have conversations with native Japanese speakers. If you try to rush to pass the N2, you’ll probably forget most of what you studied right after you take the test.

      Of course, everyone learns at a different pace. If you’re a fast learner, you might be able to learn the material quickly. However, even if you memorized the grammar, vocab, and kanji, you’ll need reading practice. It takes a while to be able to read and understand the reading material for the N2.

      That being said, if you do plan on taking the N2 this December, make sure you have a consistent studying plan. Of course, the more hours you can devote to studying, the better off you’ll be (being careful not to burn yourself out). To truly learn the material, be sure to review, review, and review. Using flashcards or programs like Anki is great for reviewing things until you have mastered them.

      Check out our “What Level of the JLPT Should I Take” article if you want more details about this.

      Thanks for your comment! We plan on publishing a lot more lessons so please stay tuned! Good luck on your Japanese journey Khwaish!

  2. Hi Jack, first of all thank you for posting this. I am currently starting over my japanese language study after stopped for more than 2 years (which i regret of). I want to pursue a career in there because i don’t feel belong in my home country in Indonesia and been wanting to start a life there since my childhood, so let’s say I able to pass the N2 this December, will it makes me more a convincing recruitment for the Japanese employer ?

    Thank you again!

    • Hi! This is actually quite a difficult question to answer because there are a lot of variables that come into play. Just because you passed the N2 doesn’t mean you’ll have a lot of jobs available to you. More often than not, you’ll need to have other skills as well. Unless you are planning to work in an entry position that doesn’t require a lot of experience or skills (working in a factory, housekeeping, assistant manual labor type of jobs, etc.). If you live close to a big city, chances are that there are a lot of these types of jobs, and many companies do hire a lot of foreigners. And more often that not, even these types of positions ask for at least an N3 level of Japanese, or you’re at a level where you you can understand simple conversations. There are two major problems with these types of jobs though. First, it is pretty rare they these types of jobs can offer you a visa, even if you work full time. Some companies use a middle-man to hire their employees (haken-gaisha), and sometimes they might be able to offer you a visa. In my experience, this is very rare. The second problem is that there have been companies who exploit foreign workers. This could be due to the fact that a lot of the foreign workers can’t understand a lot of Japanese, and they take advantage of this. So you need to be wary of untrustworthy companies.

      How is your English? If you have had 12 years of education in the English language, that combined with a high level of Japanese (N2 or N1) can open up the doors to a lot of other positions. The most common is probably teaching. However, it is pretty hard if English is not one of your native languages, as many companies ask for teachers who are native speakers of English. I’m assuming one of your native languages is Indonesian. If you go to areas where there are lots of people from Indonesia, you might be able to get a job at a haken-gaisha as a translator/interpreter for workers who speak Indonesian. There might be jobs to teach Indonesia, but it’s probably not too high in demand. If you did happen to land a good teaching job or full time position at a haken-gaisha, odds are in your favor that they can help you get a visa.

      Some hotels might be interested in hiring you too. If your English and Japanese is good enough to communicate with international guests, that’s a good asset to put on your resume.

      So long story short, passing the N2 will definitely be a plus. Just remember that it’s not the only thing you need. More importantly, keep in mind that you actual level of Japanese is more important that passing the test for most jobs. If you pass the N1, but you have a hard time speaking, reading, or writing in real-life situations, it will be very hard to work in a Japanese company.

      Hope this helps! Good luck!

  3. Thanks Jack! Great info. I’m planning to take the N2 in July so I have exactly 6 months to study. I’ve lived in Japan for 2.5 years and use Japanese everyday, although I’m currently an English teacher. I passed the N3 in December 2018. I’ve purchased Kanzen Master and got Soutomatome free. Do you have access to a weekly/daily plan i could follow? As you say being disciplined and sticking to a plan is key but i don’t know where to start in terms of making a schedule.

    • Hi Greg! Congratulations on passing the N3! Awesome that you got the Sou Matome books for free! I never created a specific study plan detailing what I would study daily/weekly. I did follow the Sou Matome books though. The lessons are broken down into 8 sections, which, if you were to study one lesson per day, you would complete the book in 2 months. So that’s exactly what I did. I studied one page per day. But just remember to study actively and review. THESE ARE NECESSARY! By active study, I mean I not only read over the material and remembered it, but I wrote down notes in a notebook, made flashcards, and tried to use what I learned by creating my own sentences/conversations. I would imagine a situation where I could use what I learned, which made it relate-able and useful to me. And I reviewed what I learned daily as well. I kept reviewing what I learned until it was ingrained into my long-term memory. If you have Anki, creating flashcards there would be great.

      I was a little more lax with the Kanzen Master books. After I finished the Sou Matome books, I worked on the Kanzen Master books. I read though the material, and studied what I didn’t learn from the Sou Matome books…which was quite a lot! Even though they are both books teaching you the material for the N2, the information contained in both were quite different. I still stand by my statement though…if you only have the time/money to use one set of books, I go through the Kanzen Master books. They felt much more thorough. But it was much harder to get through than the Sou Matome books.

      The main thing is you actually study as much as possible. Multiple times per day if possible. This sounds like a lot, but I think living in Japan can be conducive to studying. When I was teaching English, I would study during my free periods or even lunch break. I would also keep a list of words that I didn’t remember on my Japanese dictionary app on my phone, so I could study anytime I had to wait for something (riding the train, waiting in line, etc.).

      If you don’t know where to start, I would just go with the Sou Matome books to get you on a routine. Then, when you get into the groove of studying, start studying the Kanzen Master books too. I also used one more book, which I thought was really good. It’s like a nice blend of the material in Kanzen Master but a little more “study friendly” like the Sou Matome books. As far as I have seen, this book is only readily available in Japan. It’s called 日本語能力試験 N2完全攻略・テキスト&実践問題集 Since you’re in Japan, check it out if you can. I’ve seen it several major bookstores.

      Hope this helps! Good luck on your the N2 Greg!

  4. I have a question about the N’s and I have asked else where and no one could give me a definite answer, only guess at it. If lets say you have to learn 800 vocabulary for N5 and 1,500 for N4. Is N4 1,500 all new vocabulary or that is 800 from the old N5 and then only 700 new? I assume you only have to learn the 700 more, but I am only guessing. 1,500 seems a bit much on top of the old 800 meaning you just learned 2,300 words and you are still only at N4 and have plenty far to go to becoming good at Japanese.

    • Hi Jay. Sorry, but I can’t give you a definite answer too. There are some charts out there that give an estimated number of vocabulary words you need to know to pass each level of the JLPT. Most of these charts I seen say you need to know around 10,000 vocabulary words to pass the N1. If you looked at these charts, I assume that each level builds on the vocabulary of the older levels. So if it says you need to know 800 vocabulary words for the N5 and 1,500 for the N4, I assume that it means 700 words in addition to the 800 words from the N5 level. But this is just my opinion. However, if you are going to pay good money to take the test, I say the more you know the better. So if you learn 1,500 more words vs just 700, that will serve you better for both passing the JLPT and increasing your Japanese level.

      Are you learning Japanese because you want to speak it? If you are want to learn Japanese for communication purposes, I wouldn’t even bother to take the JLPT and just concentrate on speaking and reading. Then, when you have a pretty good base of Japanese (N3 to N2) you may want to focus on studying for the test. The reason I say this is because the material you learn for the JLPT tests aren’t as good as other things out there. A big reason for this is because it’s generally boring to study. Would you rather read short articles about random subjects or read a book about something you enjoy? That being said, I actually enjoyed studied for the JLPT N2 because a lot of the material was very useful in my daily conversations with people (I lived in Japan at that time). But if your main goal is speaking Japanese, focusing on communication will help your goals more than studying for the JLPT. Hope this helps!

  5. Hello! Thank you for this news. I’m going take exam for N2 this December. (2019.12.01) but I only have almost 3 months to practice. My disadvantage is I’m bad reading kanji. But I can do listening very well. Maybe that’s why I can’t understand reading parts. Plus, I’m so slow. I read one reading and answer questions for 6-7 minutes. Isn’t it too long? How to be fast at reading ? In my opinion, i have to improve my kanji knowledge. Can you give me tips on reading ? And learning kanji.

    • Hi Weki!

      I have some bad news. If you can’t read kanji very well, you’ll have a very hard time with the N2. I thought the reading section of the N2 was the most difficult…it was both mentally draining and took the most time. There was quite a lot of passages you needed to read in that section. In order to finish in time, you need to be able to read through the passages and questions rather quickly. There are also a few kanji questions in the first section of the test. Do you know about how many kanji you can read now? Can you read simple Japanese books? I would definitely start studying more kanji, but more importantly, I would practice reading. Read everything that you can in Japanese, and study it. Find blogs online about topics that interest you. Read these over look up any kanji or words you don’t understand. This can be fun to do while increasing your reading speed and comprehension.

      Hope this helps! Good luck on the JLPT Weki!

  6. Hi Jack,

    Thank you so much for your comprehensive sharing on the preparation for N2. I have recently passed N3 with an intermediate score, and I’m thinking of trying N2 this December. After the N3 exam, I have been consistently reviewing the N3 to N5 level, and going to start with N2 material soon (on the way to draft a proper timeline that will fit my daily schedule). Also, I have some advantage in learning Kanji as I’m a Chinese (need to memorize the 読み方 well though). My ultimate goal is to focus and take N1 by next year, as I’m currently studying in Japan and having a N1 will be great for my future career.

    So my question is, given that I have about 3 months left from December and with my conditions as listed above, do you think it is possible for me to take the December N2 exam? I’m not sure if it is rush or not, but I do think that I can give it a shot.

    Thank you so much for your feedback! 🙂

    • Hi Faye!

      If you’re Chinese, the force is strong with you! haha. That definitely will help you with the kanji sections of the test. As for being able to pass the JLPT N2 in 3 months, the short answer is yes. If you passed the N3 and have a good kanji base (especially reading), a good studying schedule can help you pass the N2 level in 3 months. But this is just a general statement. The JLPT N2 is quite a big jump in level from the N3. Taking a practice example can give you more accurate feedback on your Japanese level.


      The most important thing you want to consider is the reason why you are taking the JLPT. It’s great you want to pass the N1 by next year, but why do you want to pass it? Is it to test your level, or do you need to pass it for a qualification to work at a job in Japan? My best advice is to concentrate on what you want out of learning Japanese. If you want to improve and become good at Japanese, especially speaking and listening, the JLPT isn’t the best for that. Your Japanese speaking and listening and overall ability would improve much faster if you were to concentrate your efforts on communication instead of taking a test. I think a lot of people (myself included) want to take the JLPT just as a challenge. We wrote an article on which level of the JLPT you should take. We also talk about the reasons why you should take the JLPT. Check it out when you have a chance.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck with your studies Faye! 🙂

  7. Great article, thank you! I’m hoping to take JLPT N2 in 1 year. I passed it years ago, but have a long way to go to be able to pass it these days.

    • Hi! Wow congratulations! If you passed the JLPT N2 years ago, you can most certainly do it again. If you learned it once, learning it again will probably be much easier this time. 🙂 Good luck Rachel!

  8. Hey Jack ! Thanks for writing such an amazing article. It really helped me a lot. Actually I have a query. I just gave jlpt n4 last Sunday (July 7, 2019) and now I want to apply for n2 in this December. So, would it be possible for me to pass n2 in this December, if I follow an excellent studying process ?

    • Hi Ashima! I’m glad the article helped! And otskare sama deshita…the JLPT is quite a tiring test. So congrats on taking the N4 recently! So the question is can you pass the N2 by studying for 6 months? That is difficult question to answer. But the short answer is yes, it definitely is possible. How well did you feel about the N4? Keep in the mind that the jump from the JLPT N3 to the N2 is quite big. So going from the N4 level to the N2 level is a very big jump. I would estimate that to pass the test rather smoothly, you’ll probably have to learn 1,000 to 1,500 more kanji. Sure, you could pass by know less than this amount, but I would say it would be difficult.

      Your reading and comprehension should be on point too. You should be able to read simple business websites (hours of operation, rules, product descriptions, etc.) with relative ease and understand business level type of documents. You should also be able to read and understand passages that may have small details and nuances you need to know in order to answer the questions on the test. For me, the reading section of the JLPT N2 was the most difficult. It was the longest section time wise, and it look most of my concentration to get through it. So be sure to practice reading a lot…that way you’ll reinforce all of the kanji you learn too.

      To pass the N2 within 6 months from a N4 level is possible, but you’ll need a very good and strict studying schedule that you’ll need to stick too. More importantly though, why do you want to pass the JLPT N2 by next December? If you want to become good at Japanese, it would serve you better in the long run to take your time and really master the material you learn instead of just studying to pass a test. If you haven’t already read it, check out our article that talks about which level of the JLPT you should take. (

      I wish you all the best in your studies! If you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck!

  9. Hi!,

    Thanks for all the information on how to pass N2. I will take the test this december, but I feel very unprepared, and I feel like I don’t have time to master everything. What part of the test would you recommend I study, so that I feel comfortable while taking the test. I passed N3 this January, and am in the intermediate level at school, so I can make a few short conversations, but I have trouble searching for the right words when I am actually speaking to somebody.


    • Hi! I’ve got some bad news for you. If you really feel like you haven’t prepared enough and can’t study enough before the next JLPT, you probably won’t do well. Now it is totally possible for you to pass it and even get high scores, but if you feel that you don’t know the material, the chances of this happening are low.

      That being said, if I had to recommend studying just one area, it would be the reading. If you can master all of the reading for the N2, that usually means you probably go well on the kanji section. You might be able to do okay on the grammar section as well. However, it will be a gamble. If possible, taking the test next year in July would be better. That would give you lots of time to study and learn the material.

      About speaking…the JLPT won’t really help you with speaking. While the material from the N2 is useful for conversations and real-world situations in Japan, it still isn’t a replacement for actual speaking practice. If you want to get good at speaking, I would say study the JLPT material as a back to your speaking practice.

      Good luck with your studies!

      • Thank you for your reply! Turns out my dad forgot to apply, so I can take the test on July! I am studying for the JLPT, and look forward to writing it. Does the JLPT help people at the age of 14 (almost)? The only benefit that I found was that Arubaito was more accessible because of the language level, and jobs in Japan were easier to get in. Also,, I think after passing the test, you have a maximum of 3 years to use the certificate, or you have to write it again. Is there any purpose for me to take it, other than knowing that I am not as bad as I think I am.

        Thanks for your response and Happy New Year!

        – Varun

        • No problem! As far as the JLPT helping 14 year olds in Japan. I’m not too sure. I’m pretty sure that you won’t be allowed to work at most jobs, as there is a minimum age required by law to work. I’m not too sure what the age is though. But if you’re planning to get a stable job with a Japanese company, you’ll need more than the JLPT. In the overwhelming majority of cases, you’ll need to graduate from a Japanese University to get a job the traditional way, or at least have a 4-year degree from a university. As a foreigner in Japan, you’ll mostly likely need a specialized skill (like a Master’s or PhD in science, etc.) to get a job with a Japanese company. Or if you don’t have a specialized skill, the most common job available is teaching English. But you’ll also need a 4-year university degree for this too, as this is the minimum that most companies ask for (and to get your visa sponsored). Of course, if your Japanese is really good, you could get a job as a translator as well.

          But if you’re young and don’t have a university degree, I think that the only jobs available will be part-time, “arubaito” jobs. These are jobs like working in a production line in factories, packing merchandise, convenience store clerks, etc. For these jobs, you more than likely need to speak and read Japanese, but you don’t necessarily need the JLPT as proof.

          Passing the JLPT N2 or N1 is the most useful if you have a 4-year university degree or higher, and are looking for “higher level” teaching, business, or translation jobs in Japan.

          I’m not too sure about the 3 year limit on the JLPT. I think that is probably dependent on the company you apply to. I think that once you pass the JLPT, the actual certification lasts a lifetime. Hope this helps!

  10. Thanks for writing this article. I really appreciate it. I’m taking N2 this December and I hope to score at least 135/180 (with 40/60 in listening). I completed Sou Matome N2 Reading and Shin Kanzen Master N2 Grammar. I am close to completing Shin Kanzen Master N2 Reading. I’m devising my new strategy for the N2 (I’m afraid of running out of time for the 105 minutes paper). I passed N3 and N4 ;ast year. I nearly ran out of time for N3 grammar and reading, because I was doing the paper very slowly and paying extra attention to every detail and passage. N4 was okay in terms of time management. I realised N2 and N3 are totally different in terms of difficulty and time management skills. It is easy to run out of time if you take your time to finish the paper (it happened to me in N3 and N2 a few times while doing mock exams). I took a year to prepare for N2 because I don’t want to rush. I prefer to absorb the material fully and deepen my grammar/vocabulary knowledge. I hear a lot of N3 grammar while watching anime and encounter a lot of N2/N3 grammar while reading novels, so I think it is better to absorb the material completely rather than just flipping through the books (especially grammar). I switch to natural studying from time to time (textbooks are good and useful but they are a bit boring) and adopt a practical approach to study for the JLPT. Hoping for the best in December.

    Do you think I should buy more textbooks or stick to what I have? I plan to buy Shin Kanzen Master N2 Vocabulary because the content is quite practical and useful. I don’t plan to use it fully for N2 revision. I plan to use it to gain real life vocabulary knowledge and use them in conversation. What are your thoughts on this? Should I just stick to novels and online articles like NHK, blogs and Wikipedia? Thanks for reading and replying!

    • Hi!

      First of all, I have to say awesome job. You’re doing it the right way. By not rushing and taking the time to master the material, you are setting yourself up for success in both learning Japanese and passing the JLPT. The way you are mixing up your studying is great too.

      Here’s some slightly bad news. The N2 is quite a bit harder than the N3. However, with the way you’re studying and finishing the Kanzen Master books, you’re well on your way to passing. But yes, time management is essential. The reading part does take a lot of time…which you don’t have much of.

      Here’s a few tips that might help you improve your reading time:
      1. Make sure you are only moving your eyes while reading. A lot of people (including me) move their whole head as they read. This may not seem like much, but reading with just your eyes moving is more efficient.

      2. Use you hand as a reading guide for your eyes to follow. A lot of times, people read a sentence, then re-read it over and over because they didn’t catch the meaning the first time. Or sometimes they lose their concentration while reading, and then go back and re-read everything. This is a HUGE waste of time. Using your hand as a guide (your hand scrolls across each sentence and your eyes follow) will help to improve your concentration and keep your eyes focused on where they need to be.

      3. It’s okay to read a little slower to increase your comprehension. However, try to avoid going back to re-read sections. It’s better to spend 1 or 2 minutes more to slowly read though each paragraph than reading the passages over quickly, but having to reread it 2 or 3 times since you didn’t understand it at all. Just keep in mind that you should only take a few minutes per page of reading and answering questions (usually 2 – 5 questions per topic). Like all things, perfect practice makes perfect, so keep up your reading.

      As far as books go, I feel that more is better than less. So if you can afford it and have the time to study, getting more books to study is better. Just remember to concentrate on areas you feel the weakest in. But yes, the material you learn for the JLPT N2 is quite useful for using in everyday life in Japan.

      In addition to getting more books, you should be reading as much as you can. Manga and blogs are great, but try to read more formal and professional Japanese articles as well. Newspaper or magazine articles are great, as well as actual store/business webpages. If you love anime, check out some business in Akihabara, and read their website in Japanese.

      The reason this is good is because the last question of the reading section usually involves a real-world question like this. Maybe they’ll give you a chart with different companies and their hours of operation, membership fees, and other benefits. They’ll give you some criteria about what they want, and you’ll have to choose the best company for them.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. Have fun learning!

  11. Jack, どうもありがとう! I’m very much motivated again after reading your sharing and all the comments and your replies with so much dedication. As a matter of fact, I have just decided to learn Japanese by heart and master the basics for the real world conversation so now Im back reviewing my N4&N5 materials then thinking of reviewing my N3 thru conversation with a teacher for maybe 24 hrs this August. I really really want to speak using all the grammar and vocabulary that I have learned before moving on the the next level N2. Im glad you totally emphasized the mastery and real world usage more than passing JLPT. Now, I dont feel bad that I have missed registering for N4/3 this past July test. I am hoping that when I apply for a job, the employer would care more on communication than the certificate. Im not really sure why Japanese companies would ask for N3-N1 level. Surely N1 level is expected to speak fluently up to a business level, am I right? But what about N3? I have met someone who passed N3 and even N2 but can barely speak during a random conversation. Which level would make me comfortable to communicate with a Japanese boss and other staff in a corporate environment? I dream to enter a Japanese company in my country and some ads requires minimum of N3 but I dont feel confident applying until I can use my N3 in a smooth conversation. Please share some more insights about becoming a bilingual financial analyst having only N3 level. Is it even possible to translate some documents with this level? It says that one of the job responsiblities is translating but how can it be possible if they accept N3 level, and certificate is not even required. Again, thank you for your hard work and taking the time to read my post!

    • Hi Jean! Thank you for the comment!

      I’ll give you a short answer and a longer, more correct answer.

      The short answer: If you want to be a bilingual financial analyst, you need to be a N1 level or higher.

      The longer, better answer: If the company you want to work for requires you to pass at least the N3, then that’s what you have to do. But if they require you to show a certificate, then maybe they just want their employees to be at a N3 level.

      Now here’s the thing. The answer to your question doesn’t relate to the JLPT at all. The JLPT is just a test…nothing more. You hit the nail on the head when you said you know people who passed the N2, but they can’t even hold a conversation. This is more common than you think. The big reason for this is because they don’t master the material…they just memorized it to take the test. This results in not remembering anything, and more than that, it means they DON’T LEARN anything.

      If you want to work at a job that uses Japanese (speaking, reading, and writing) then you need to MASTER Japanese. Studying for the JLPT is the last thing you need to do. Sure, the material in the N3 and N2 test (grammar, kanji, and vocabulary) are very useful to know for real-world Japanese. However, your focus should be on learning and mastering this material instead of learning them just to pass the test.

      You sound like you’re on the right path. Mastering the grammar and vocabulary by using it for speaking or writing is great. Hiring a teacher especially for private lessons, is probably the best way to master Japanese. Study grammar and vocabulary, but be sure to use them by repeating them out loud, creating and writing down your own sentences using what you learn, and then try to use them when you practice speaking with your teacher.

      When you get to a higher level and can speak well (can easily hold longer conversations), then you should get more into reading and writing Japanese. You’ll definitely need a high level of reading (writing couldn’t hurt either) if you want to translate documents.

      Only when you master the material (grammar, vocabulary, kanji, etc.) go back and study for the JLPT. At that point, passing the test would be easy. But like I said, focus on learning and mastery….not on the JLPT.

      Hope this helps!

  12. Hello Jack! Thank you for this awesome contents about jlpt n2! I passed in 2016, obtained the n3, but after this i didn’t tryied moreover. I have thinking seriously about take the n2 JLPT in december 2018 or 2019, but i see that hard work is necessary.
    Can you recommend please sites more compatibles with the level of read of JLPT N2?
    At the time I got the N3 I was studying NHK easy news, but I imagine that for N2 the reading level will be more difficult than the NHK easy news level. Do you think that the reading level of NHK news (the conventional site) would be adequate or would it be even higher? I would be very happy if you could recommend sites with the level of reading required to pass the N2.

    Thanks in advance,

    Hugo Sato.

    • Hi Hugo,

      NHK Easy News is a great site. I still think it’s a good site to use, but just be sure to study the kanji so you can read it without the help of the furigana. You should even try to read real Japanese news sites…if you can read a Japanese newspaper, you probably will have no problems with the reading for the JLPT N2 or even the N1. But I find that the stories (in Japanese) online are easier to read that an actual Japanese newspaper.

      In addition to this, you should just read as much as possible…read anything and everything. Find something you’re interested in online….maybe your favorite Japanese actress has a blog. Or maybe you can study the lyrics of your favorite songs. Any reading will help you learn some kanji (if you actually study what you read) and improve your speed and comprehension. I found that reading real Japanese sites to find “real-world” information helped a lot. These are things like reading how to join a gym..all of their fees, policies, and rules. There’s usually a question like this in the reading section…usually the last question deals with a real-world Japanese problem.

      Also, if you can, I would buy a JLPT reading book to help you learn how to answer more difficult reading questions. Hope this helps! Good luck on the test!

      • Hello Jack!
        Thanks for the recommendations! I’ll probably do jlpt in 2019! I intend to begin my studies this year and in this way, I believe that I will have considerable time to properly plan my studies for the jpt 2019. As we are talking about level 2 of jlpt, more than before it is necessary to reconcile studies of general knowledge of nihongo with studies specific to jlpt. That’s how I obtained the N3!

        Thanks again for the tips and recommendations. And if you can give me more tips on jlpt, I’ll be very happy.

        Sincerely appreciated,


    • Hi Jack san,
      I have been appearing for N2 since 2014 and each time I have been unsuccessful.
      yesterday I checked my results for my 8th attempt and to my chagrin, I found I had failed again.
      I got 27 in 言語知識, 26 in 聴解, & the worst was 11 in 読解.
      Please could you suggest the areas where I could work on and 対策方法 I could adopt to pass at my next attempt. And what methods of learning could I adopt?

      • Hi Akhil,

        Sorry to hear about the test. Since you only need 19 points to pass each section of the JLPT N2, it seems like you just need to work on your reading. I always say that the reading is the most difficult part, because it involves kanji, grammar, vocabulary, and a higher level of understanding Japanese. Do you have any practice books for reading? If you don’t, I highly recommend you get a book or two to practice. You can check out some of the books I used here.

        If you don’t want to buy any books, just start reading everything you can find online. Even fun blogs or entertainment pages are fine…at first. You just want to increase you reading speed and comprehension. I would also include more formal reading like newspaper or magazine articles, and even reading websites of companies to find information. This includes things like restaurants or gyms in Japan. The reason for this is there is usually a question relating to a “real-world” problem like signing up for a gym membership or magazine subscription. This is usually the last problem of the reading section.

        These questions usually involve a chart or diagram along with information/criteria for you to follow. Based on the information you are given, you’ll need to choose the best option. Reading real-world pages like this in Japanese is good practice for these types of questions. But the main thing is start reading a lot with a dictionary at hand. Read and look up any kanji or words you don’t know. Review all of the words/kanji until you master them. Then re-read the article over and over until you master that as well (can read it smoothly and effortlessly with 100% comprehension). Then move on to another article. This is a great way to improve your Japanese overall, and not just for the JLPT.

        Hope this helps! Good luck!

  13. Hello Jack^^
    Ah…I recently passed the N4 test, learning from my friend who is now taking N1 in this December. My Japanese courses aren’t okay.. it coincided with my classes…and my Part-timd job. My friend can’t teach me also..thus I have to do self-study. Starting from April, then til November, the eight-month duration, is there any possibility that I could pass the N2 in this December or am I better off trying N2 in next year June? Looking forward to hear back from you! Thank for the article!!^^

    • Hi Mitsu!

      Congratulations on passing the N4! About which test you should take…I get this question a lot. My answer is usually the same. I highly recommend that you don’t try and rush your studies just to take a test. Instead, take your time, and MASTER the material instead of just learning it well enough to pass a test. There’s a big difference between knowing the right answer on a test and knowing how to use it in real-world situations. The only 2 reasons I can think for trying to pass the JLPT as fast as your can are:
      1. You have to pass the test by a certain time (for scholarships, jobs, etc.).
      2. You have no desire to speak or use Japanese in the future, and you just like studying Japanese for fun and/or like taking tests.

      If number 1 or 2 doesn’t apply to you, I suggest studying at a slower pace, and spending more time on the material you study. Study, practice, and apply all of the material you are studying. Review the material, and then repeat, repeat, and repeat. Do this until this knowledge becomes part of you…master what you study and it will be so much more worth it (and probably more time efficient) in the future. Check out the other comments below…I talk about this subject in more detail.

      Hope this helps!

  14. So I’m in the second half of my third year of studying Japanese, we’ve used mostly the Genki vol. 1 and 2 books, with a little Japanese for Busy People III over the past two months. No study abroad experience, and I’ll be spending less than two full weeks in Japan between now and the test.

    I haven’t taken any level of the JLPT, but knowing that employers are looking for around N2 qualifications or higher, I asked my sensei for any advice for preparation, and he lent me a practice booklet to look at. I took a look through the questions, and I’m feeling well beyond my depth.

    With three months or so ’til registration opens up, and nine months until the test itself, would you say I should try and study for N2 level and take it, or am I better off trying to take the less difficult tests now and try for N2 at a later time?

    • Hi J.D. Awesome that you’re studying Japanese! I get this question a lot. You can check some of the other comments below. I still plan on writing an article about this topic when I get the chance! But basically, I feel that you should only take a higher level test (a level that you feel is higher than your current level) if you HAVE TO. What this means is that if you are not required to pass the N2 by a certain time, then I recommend you take your time and take a lower level first. I know some people don’t like spending money, and just want to either pass the N2 or N1 for job purposes. Even in this case, I think you should just wait until you really feel confident that you can pass a certain level before you actually take the test.

      That being said, at your current level of study, I would guess that you are around a N4 or possibly N3 level (the N3 test already has a lot of kanji and reading, so start to read a lot for practice). Even at a N4 level, if you study correctly and consistently for the next 9 months, you probably could pass the N2. However, I still think it would be better to study and really MASTER all of the material up to the N3 level first. There is a huge difference between learning material just to take a test, and to truly learn it so it becomes a part of you. The latter is what you want if you ever plan to come to Japan for work or study.

      Passing the test is great, but would you rather pass the test and not be comfortable using the Japanese at that level, or would you rather pass a lower level, but you are 100% confident using what you know? For all aspects of Japanese, it is much better to take your time and master the material before moving on .

      I also recommend you buy a practice test for the JLPT. If you can do well taking a practice test, then you are probably ready for the real thing. I do feel that some test books are actually more difficult that the actual test. So even if you do a little worse that you expected, don’t get your hopes down. You might find that you do much better on the real test.

      So unless you plan on finding a job in Japan that requires at least an N2 level within the next year, I would concentrate on mastering the material you are currently studying before moving on to higher level material. Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck on your Japanese journey!

  15. Hi! Thank you for this article 🙂
    I have been living in Japan for 3 years, with competent speaking abilities and passed N4 1.5 yrs ago.
    Now for work and visa reasons I need to aim for the N2 in December, which means I basically have 9 months to prepare.
    (I’ll be working part time, but in Japan, during this time)

    Do you think it is realistic to try to achieve N2 in 9 months? I have a LOT of kanji to learn. Having said that, I am a disciplined learner and can devote 4 hrs a day to studying on weekdays, and 6 hours on the weekends.

    Thanks- any advice sincerely appreciated 🙂

    • Hi Mikki! Congratulations on passing the N4! The jump in level from the JLPT N4 to the N2 is HUGE. Even the jump from the N3 to the N2 is pretty big. That being said, if you did study 4 hours per day for 9 months, you have a very good chance of learning enough material to pass the JLPT N2…especially if you live in Japan.

      If you use Japanese on a daily basis at work, and can have long conversations (10 plus minutes) about a variety of topics, then your listening skills are probably okay. So just like in the guide, I would study listening last, or maybe even not at all if you feel confident in your skills. If you do study for 4 hours per day, I would break that down into smaller study sessions rather than 1 long session. If possible I would study for an hour in the morning, and hour in the afternoon, an hour in the early evening, and then review what I studied before I went to bed. You’ll probably have an easier time remember the material having smaller study sessions than 1 long one.

      As far the material, I would study vocabulary and grammar first….if you use a book, complete these books first. I used the Sou Matome books for these. If you do one lesson in each book per day, you will finish it in 8 weeks. Just remember to MASTER the material. Don’t just study it to remember it for the test. The way you do this is by constantly reviewing. Either use a flashcard program like Anki or make your own flashcards. Constantly review what you learned until the material becomes a part of you.

      I would then move on to learning kanji and reading, since they go hand-in-hand. A small tip: Read whatever you can get your hands on. I would always get flyers, informational documents, and memos at work, all in Japanese. I would take these and use them to practice reading and kanji. I would look up any kanji or word I didn’t know, and write it down. Eventually I would be able to read the entire document with no problems. I used to even read posters and flyers that were hung around on walls at my work. The point is to read as much as you can, and study what you read. Reading blogs in Japanese about things you enjoy is another great way to practice reading. There’s usually a question that involves a flyer or time schedule (like business hours of store) on the test, so it helps to read real-life websites of stores/companies too.

      I’ll repeat this again…constantly review the material so that you master it. The material from the N2 is very useful if you live in Japan, and if you master the material, the test will be easier. And 1 more tip. If you can afford it and have the time, I would get more than one book. I used both Sou Matome, Kanzen Master, and another book to study for the N2. While there is overlap in the material (especially grammar), there was a lot of information (vocabulary and reading material) that was different in all of the books I used, which was great for learning more material, but still in the scope of the JLPT N2 level. And be sure to get a practice test book. Take timed practice tests to get a feel of what it will be like to take the actual test.

      Hope this helps! Good luck with your studies Mikki!

  16. Hi Jack, your article is very helpful. I passed N3 last December and thinking to take N2 because I am planning to work in Japan and most of the companies in Japan accept foreigner with N2 level. I hope I can pass N2 this July.

  17. Hey Jack, your article is really helpful. I already bought the N5 and N4 books of the So-Matome Series (I chose that series because I’m a full-time student and don’t have much time for the Kanzen Master books). I am planning to finish the books in 4-5 months (Jan-May 2018). After that, I’ll continue on to the books for N3 and study those for 3 months (June-August 2018). Do you think I should hire a tutor to complement that?
    Also, I’ve got approx. 11 months in total to prepare for the JLPT N3 this coming December 2018. I already know all of hiragana and katakana, about 50 kanji, some grammar, and quite a few vocabulary. But I’ll still have to start at N5. Do you think I can do more? 11 months is more than enough to prep for N3. Do you think I should stretch a little bit more for N2, or stick with N3? I haven’t taken any JLPT test yet. And I’m taking the JLPT not for work, but for a scholarship. Thanks a lot for the help.

    • Hi Odori,

      If you can afford it, I 100% recommend you hire a tutor to help you. A private tutor (a good one that can teach well) is the best way to improve your Japanese. There are many online tutors that even specialize in teaching JLPT material. Are you just starting to learn Japanese? If you only started to learn Japanese (a couple of months of so) then 11 months is a good amount of time to study for the JLPT N3. Sure, you could study and try to pass the N2 next December, but that will take a LOT of dedication. If you’re just beginning, I would say you need to study around 3 hours per day and have a private tutor at least once a week if you want to pass the N2 by next December.

      Here’s the important question: Do you really need to pass the N2? Or is passing the N3 good enough for your scholarship? If there is no benefits (other than the accomplishment of passing) between passing the N2 instead of N3, I highly recommend you DON’T take the N2. It seems like you need to pass the test for your scholarship. Do you need to pass at least the N3? If this is correct, forget about the N2. The chances not passing the N2 is much greater than if you just focused on the N3. However, the most important part is learning. Even if you passed the N2 by studying over the next 11 months, it will be much more useful for you if you study all the material up to the N3 test and MASTER it. The jump from N3 to N2 is big. If you try to learn all of the material up to N2 in 11 months, you probably won’t have lots of time to spend on each section (grammar, kanji, reading, vocab) which means it will be very hard to master the material and be able to use and recall it long after the test is finished. If you spend more time on the N3 material and truly master it (being able to have conversations, read N3 level material, writing, etc), your Japanese will be much better for it. Most people want to rush and just pass the test, but if you will be using Japanese in the future, it is much better to master the basics. I know quite a few people who just studied to take the JLPT. They passed the test, but couldn’t speak or use Japanese in real life situations well. So if there are no benefits of passing the N2 over N3, focus on mastering the material only up to the N3 level… There’s a lot of material to learn so even this will take a lot of time.

      Hope this helps! Good luck with your studies!

    • Hi Kasia!

      Do you mean about passing one section of the JLPT? To pass the JLPT, you need to pass all sections of the test AND have enough total points. Each section has a minimum number of points you need to get to pass. However, even if you pass every section, you still need to have a minimum TOTAL amount of of points to pass the test. Check out the JLPT page for help here:

      Hope that helps! Good luck!

  18. Thank you for sharing this article. This is really helpful for those who want to take a JLPT n2. I would also like to know your strategies for the reading section. Actually, I m having a trouble reading a very long story and ended up to not understanding the questions given. Btw, I’m good at Vocabulary Grammar and Listening but really sucks at reading. what can you recommend to win the reading section? Thank you in advance

    • Hi Shinji. I know exactly how you feel. When I started to read more Japanese, I would read a page of text, and then have no idea what I just read. The best way to get better at reading is…READING. It sounds boring and like it’s common sense, but you must practice reading…not only will your reading speed, kanji, and understanding increase, but your spoken Japanese can improve as well. The most important tip is this…practice reading things you are interested in. Most people buy Japanese textbooks, or even Japanese novels to learn reading, but it’s really boring. Most people lose interest right away. So choose something you love doing. What is your hobby? Do you have a favorite Japanese actor or singer? Whatever it is you love doing, search for it online….most of the time you can find a blog or informative website about it. When you practice reading something you are interested in, you’ll not only want to study more, but you’ll remember things quicker and easier.

      Only when you start to improve you reading to the point where you can understand most material that you read, only then should you buy Japanese books or JLPT study books for reading. I do highly recommend you buy a JLPT reading book and a practice test, but you should start off with reading things you enjoy. Hope that helps, good luck!

  19. I’m planning to take the N3 test next July. I’ve never took any test before, but I think I’m around N4 level now (I did the official workbook and did pretty well). How much time do you think I need to spend each day? Thank you

    • Hi Miiko,

      Everyone is different, but if you did well on the N4 workbooks, you’re off to a good start. In my opinion, there is a pretty big jump from the N4 to the N3 though. You’ll need to start learning quite a bit of kanji and know how to read and understand passages. If you’re a “normal” learner, that is, you can learn a couple of grammar patterns and a few vocabulary words in an hour, then studying to pass the N3 next July is very doable. If you studied for 1 hour everyday, you probably would learn most of the material you would need to know to pass the N3. But keep in mind that it’s not all about remembering information. You’ll need to know how everything works together (grammar, vocabulary, kanji, etc) and be able to APPLY them. I would get some N3 books. Study them and master the material. Read as much as you can. Trying reading Japanese blogs and watching Japanese movies, tv shows, or interviews for practice. Then a couple of months before the test, try taking a timed practice test. See how well you can get through it, especially the reading part. If you can pass a practice test with little to no problems, you’ll probably do really well on the actual test.

      If you can afford it, I would hire an online teacher/tutor to help you learn, and most importantly, to help you practice speaking and reading. Good luck with the test!

        • Hi Miiko. I think the Kanzen Master books are all you need to pass the JLPT. If you master all of the information in those books, you’ll probably do well on the test. I would get the grammar and vocabulary books as well. If you can afford it, the “Sou Matome” books for N3 are good too. What is great about them is that they are very easy to study. Its broken down in sections, and if you study one section per day, I believe you will finish one book in 8 weeks. It’s a lot easier to study than the Kanzen Master books, but the Kanzen Master books have more information. If you can afford it, I would get both the Kanzen Master and Sou Matome books. If not, stick with what you got…the Kanzen Master books. I wrote an article on the “Best Books for the JLPT N2.” However, the books I recommend for the N2 are exactly the same for the N3. Check it out for more details on those books. Good luck with your studying Miiko!

  20. Hey. This was a very helpful article. But I had a case of my own. I want to apply for NIKKEI Japan but that’s 2 years from now and it requires me to pass JLPT N2, however I don’t wanna learn Japanese for the sake of only passing the exam. Since I stay at a place where Japanese classes are not offered, can you suggest me the exact steps I should take to learn Japanese so that to use it in my daily life as well as pass the test. Steps including books I need to buy and courses I need to avail myself to. I’m a complete beginner though I watched a lot of anime and know very few words. As well as I would going to Japan next year for a 2 months internship course. I want by that time I should be able to understand and speak Japanese and by the end of next year I shall be prepared enough to pass JLPT N2. I will be obliged if you could help me in so

    • Hi. Glad you found the article useful. First of all, I’m glad you want to actually LEARN Japanese instead of just studying it to pass the test. If you’re going to put in that much effort to study a language, your goal should be to master it.

      If you want to know the steps you can take to learn Japanese for any level, you’re in luck! We just published a massive guide on how to learn Japanese. You can check it out here: The Best Way to Learn Japanese Guide

      Everything you need to know is in that guide, but I’ll give you a summary here. First, you should learn Japanese pronunciation and how to read & write hiragana. Then get just 1 book to teach you basic Japanese words and grammar. I really like the Japanese from Zero beginning books. If you want more details about these books, check out our Best Books for Absolute Beginners page. If you can afford it, I highly recommend getting a subscription to Japanesepod101. The audio lessons really helped me to learn Japanese faster than books. Most of the lessons were really fun to study too.

      The best way to improve your Japanese quickly is by practicing speaking with a private teacher/tutor. This really speeds up your learning. However, it costs a lot of money. Italki is a good place to find an online tutor. The lessons can range from a few dollars per hour to $25 or more per hour. However, the more lessons you take, the faster you will improve your Japanese. It truly is the fastest way to learn Japanese. We go over the reasons why this is in our guide.

      For the JLPT N2, you will need to know lots of kanji (around 1,000 or more) and have a pretty decent reading level. To learn kanji, I recommend the “Remembering the Kanji” method. I wrote a post about why I feel this way here: The Best Way to Learn Kanji

      Going from a complete beginner of Japanese to passing the JLPT N2 is 2 years will definitely be a challenge. Students who study with traditional methods (books, classroom lessons, etc) usually study around 4-6 years or more before they pass the N2.

      However, I know for a fact that it is possible to pass the N2 in 2 years. The main thing you need to do is to set up a study schedule and stick to it. Consistency is the key to improving your Japanese. Daily study would be the best, if possible. Just be sure to keep to your study schedule.

      Hope this helps!

  21. Hi Jack.

    Great guide for JLPT N2. Actually, I came here to ask if it is possible to pass N2 even if I would skip N4 and N3?. I passed N5 with only one month worth of preparation. My listening skills is the strongest (since I watched so much anime and J movies for the past 5 years to the point that almost everything I hear gets auto translated in my head), next is Reading (since I have strong abstract reasoning and I can read fast enough within a very short amount of time.) then Vocab/Grammar (since I don’t think I’ve memorized enough of these). The N2 exam will be in 5 and half months from now. I can give 4 hours on weekdays and whole days on weekends. Also, I have N4 and N3 resources. My plan is study N4 and N3 materials first then hit N2 material after. My only problem with this plan is how I would schedule these properly.

    I’d like to ask your honest opinion about this. Thank you very much.

    • Hi Yuki!

      You know, I get asked this question a lot. Maybe I should write an article about it. To make a long story short, I don’t recommend skipping levels and trying to pass the JLPT N2 in just a few months. The reason for this is because this is not a good way to learn Japanese. Rushing through the material isn’t good for learning and remembering Japanese. However, there are a couple of exceptions. One exception is if you NEED to pass the N2 because of work or school (a job/school requirement that requires you pass the N2). In this case, you have no other choice and need to pass the N2 within a limited period of time. The other exception is if you are just learning Japanese purely for fun, and have no plans of using it in the future. You just want to pass the JLPT to have a feather in your cap, but don’t really need it for anything. If any of these situations applies to you, then I would say go for it and take the N2 this December.

      However, if you want to LEARN and MASTER Japanese, study the N4 and N3 material first. Since you already have good listening and reading skills, I would shoot for the JLPT N3 test this December. The difficultly level between the N3 and N2 is pretty big. So instead of rushing through the N4, N3, and N2 material, completely master the N4 and N3 levels first. Take the N3, and if you pass, only then go on to the N2 material. This is because the material in the N4 and N3 tests are still the foundation of Japanese. You need to have a solid foundation to build upon if you want to improve your Japanese. So if you have any plans to live in Japanese or interact with Japanese people in the future, your goal should be learning Japanese, not passing a test.

      That being said, the material in the JLPT N2 was very useful as well. Even though you have good reading skills, there is a lot of kanji you’ll need to get through to pass the N2. Honestly, if you did study 4 hours on the weekends and the whole day on Saturday and Sunday, you probably could learn everything and pass the N2 this December. But if you’re like most people, you’ll forget most of what you studied shortly after you take the test. You’ll have to go back and spend more time relearning what you just studied. So to sum things up, if you have a desire to learn and use Japanese in the future, master the N4 and N3 material and take the JLPT N3 this winter. If you don’t have time or are just studying Japanese for fun, go for the N2.

      Hope this helps!

  22. This is an inspiring article. I’m planning on taking the N1 test in December and I want to read short stories and essays like those found in the reading section of the test. I searched amazonjapan for a compilation of short stories and/or essay and couldn’t find anything that was good. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear it. I’m hesitant to read another novel in Japanese because the stories often only cover one type of vocabulary. I would like to read essays and/or short stories that cover various subjects. Ideally, I would love to get something for my Kindle. Thanks a lot in advance.

    • Hi Redrum,
      I took the N1 a year or two ago and the tips in this article apply to the N1 too. Just like the JLPT N2, the reading section for the N1 took some brain power to get through. However, I thought that the vocabulary, grammar, and kanji part was definitely a level above the N2.

      As for reading, you’re right. Reading just one novel can be limiting in the type of material you learn. However, if you can read a lot of books and really digest time, you’re Japanese level will take a big leap. If you want to read short stories about different topics that has some high level Japanese, the best place to do that is a Japanese newspaper. You can even read new articles online for free. Another good option would to be read magazine articles. But I think searching online for blogs or Japanese websites is the best. It’s free, and you can read things you’re interested about. And there is a blog or website pretty much about any topic, so you’ll never run out of material.

      If you’re looking for short stories in Japanese, Haruki Murakami has some pretty good stories that is published in Japanese. If you are into politics, that is great to read too. I remember the N1 had some articles about politics, editorial type of articles, and short stories asking things like “what was the author trying to say” type of questions. Also, in the article about the best books for low-advanced students of Japanese, the “Exploring Japanese Literature” book is good. If you already went though that book, find other books that were written by the same authors as the stories in that book.

      Hope this helps!

  23. Good day Jack!
    I’ve been here in japan for more than 8 years now & speaking japanese on a daily basis at work & at home.. I haven’t tried taking any jlpt tests in any level nor went to a language school but recently gained interest in taking the N2.. I’ve learned all my japanese through conversations.. I can read & write katakana, hiragana & very little kanji (mostly nouns as i use it at work).
    I recently tried the sample questions for N3 & N2 on jlpt site and got i think 11/15 & 15/19 (without studying, as i want to know where my stock knowledge stands).
    l’m thinking of taking the July N2 test.. Do you think i have a chance? Any other tips & advice you can give for me to have a higher chance of passing?
    Thank you for your time and for this article.

    • Hi splekits!

      Wow awesome! If you’ve been in Japan for more than 8 years AND speak Japanese on a daily basis at work and at home, you probably can pass the listening section on the JLPT N2. You might be able to pass the grammar section too, but that really depends on the type of Japanese you use at work. I found that the JLPT N2 had a lot of “real-world” material that you find in Japan. However, there was a lot of higher level business level/educational type of questions too. So I would still advise studying that if you have time.

      Since you learned Japanese mostly through conversations (which is great!), you probably already know a lot of the vocabulary, grammar, and style of Japanese that you’ll find on the N2. However, you really need to know kanji to pass the N2 level. The reading section is mostly in kanji. In fact, there are lots of difficult kanji in the reading section that you might not even find in some books. But not to worry…I think they do this on purpose. I believe they weight the difficult questions a lot less than the “easier” ones. So if you want to pass the N2 in July, you definitely need to learn kanji for every section, but especially for the reading and vocabulary sections.

      If you only know a few kanji (less than 100) passing the N2 test in July might be difficult. If you’re a typical learner of kanji, it will take around 6 months to learn most of the kanji for the N2 level (assuming you already know the basics). This includes learning how to read the kanji, what it means, and practicing reading. Since you already have lots of experience with conversational Japanese, you’ll probably be able to memorize the kanji a little quicker than most people. However, just learning kanji isn’t good enough. You MUST practice reading as well. You have a little over 3 months before the next JLPT test. If you can study for 2 or more hours a day using some JLPT study books, you might have a chance to pass it.

      Here’s some tips to keep in mind:
      If you study more than an hour a day, make sure to take breaks every 20 minutes or so. You’ll remember better than won’t feel burnt out
      Try to study the kanji and vocabulary study books at the same time. DON”T RUSH through it. If you study for 2 hours a day or so, that should be enough time to really learn and remember the kanji and vocabulary in 9 weeks or so. If you have time, study reading drills as well.
      The last month, concentrate on reading. Read, read, read….drill, drill, drill.
      I highly recommend anki for spaced repetition practice/review

  24. Hi!! Thank you for the very useful article,I’m going to take the n2 next july, I’d like to ask you if you think its right for me I really need to pass it. I have never taken a jlpt test before, I study in japan in a japanese school 20 hours a week and take extra classes 3 hours a week. I just finished n3 kanji and almost most of its grammer. I’ll start studying n2 next week 6 hours a day + school lesssons. Do you think its enough? Just within 3 months? Sorry if I’m not clear, english isnt my mother tongue. I really need your advise thank you in advance!!

    • Hi Kazumi!

      If you never took a JLPT test before, I highly recommend you buy and take a practice exam. I would buy an JLPT N3 practice test and see if you can pass it. If you can pass it (even if you just barely pass), then I would say you have a good chance of passing the JLPT N2. The next test is on July 2nd, so you have about 4 months to prepare. If you study for 6 hours a day in addition to your school lessons, you can definitely learn all of the N2 material in 4 months. However, this is assuming that you have already mastered the material from the N3 level and below. Also, it depends on your study methods and how quickly you learn. But for the average person, if they mastered all of the material up to the N3 level, studying for 6 hours a day for 4 months is enough to learn the N2 material. I recommending mastering small sections at a time. Don’t just study to remember the material. Try to use it and completely master it before you move on. Most people study just to remember the material for the test. This isn’t the best way to study. Master small sections first, and before you know it, your Japanese level will skyrocket. Hope this helps! Good luck with the test!

      • Hi!!
        I just came back to let you know that I passed the n2!!
        Thank you so much for your tips! I couldnt imagine I could pass in this short period of time! Just 8 months since starting to study japanese and 4 months of studying for the n2, and I’m not from a “kanji using country”. I hope anyone that might be histating to take a rickless step like me to never underestimate their own abilities! Again thank you for the great advices!
        Next is n1! Wish me good luck!

        • Awesome! Congratulations Kazumi! You must have put in a lot of hard work to pass the N2 in such a short time. I’m glad you found this article helpful. The advice applies to the N1 test too. Good luck with the N1!!!

    • Hi! I would say any type of reading will help you. So you might read anything that interests you. Of course, manga will not have material that you will find on the JLPT N2, but it will help you increase your reading speed and comprehension. If you can get your hands on Japanese books, like Japanese novels, those are great. But the Internet has tons of good material to study. If you really want to increase your reading skills for the JLPT, try reading news articles or blogs in Japanese. Try and see how much you can understand after just reading it once. If you search, there are some bilingual blogs in both Japanese and English. Also, reading business webpages…especially webpages that have information about gym memberships, subscription services, or rules. There is usually one question in the reading section that relates to this type of information. Good luck with your studies!

  25. Konnichiwa Jack. Thank you so much for your advices. this article is so useful and inspired. Hope it works for me to pass N2 and gain my Japanese skill. Thnak you so much.

  26. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired!
    Very helpful information particularly the remaining part 🙂 I deal with such info
    much. I used to be looking for this certain info for a very long time.
    Thanks and good luck.

  27. Yamashuta san,
    Thankbyou for the very useful information. I have bought the books you pointed above and I have question. As you said first we have to follow the right irder so I started with grammar vicabulary and kanji. You wrote that 1 hour per day is OK to be able to pass the test so the question is: 1 hour for each book or all together. I mean I have to divide 3 book into three part within 1 hour?. Because I also have a toddler I dont have so much time during the day. Thank you.

    • Hi Tahira,
      It really depends on your study habits and your current level/experience with Japanese. If you are at a N3 level, and are exposed to Japanese (Japanese speaking friends, live in Japan, etc.) then 1 hour of study a day for a few months should be enough to pass the N2. However, this also depends on your studying/learning style. If you are the type of learner who takes more time to analyze and remember things, then you may need to study more. Of course, if you are just a beginner to Japanese, you will need to study a lot more…in fact, I would take a lower JLPT level first. Basically, the rule is to study as far out as possible. 6 months is great. 1 year is better. That being said, if you have a good grasp of Japanese, you might be able to pass with even only a few weeks of study. The best way to find out is to take a practice test. Not mini practice tests you can find online, but an actual test with a time limit. The Nihongo Noryoku Shiken Koshiki Mondaishu is a good practice test to take.

      As for the books, if you mean the Sou Matome books, I studied the vocabulary first, then the grammar, and then did the kanji and reading together. The book is organized by daily lessons, so I did one or two lessons per day. For example, I would study one lesson in the vocabulary book, but sometimes I knew some of the words, so I would be finished in 30 min. I would then jump ahead and study another lesson. My study time also included making flashcards and reviewing. I did this until I finished the book, and then I jumped to the grammar book.

      Hope this helps. Good luck with the test!

  28. Hello Jack,
    Thank you very much for this well-written article! I have a question if you don’t mind. I’m a Japanese major in college and have been studying Japanese for about 6-ish years now. I spent 4 months living in Nagasaki (study abroad) and am now thinking about taking the N2 exam. While in Japan I took something called the J-CAT ( At the time, I had not taken any Japanese language courses in Japan yet and didn’t have a chance to study beforehand. (We were told not to.) I scored a 163 ( As I was taking the test, I had to guess on the reading section because there were a lot of kanji I couldn’t read. Now back in the US, my professor wants me to take the N2, but I’m a bit concerned it will be too much of a jump from the N3 exam. Based on the N2 listening questions I have heard, that part doesn’t seem so bad. I’m worried about the other sections… Do you recommend I take the N2 or N3? Ideally I would love to pass the N2 exam, but if it isn’t feasible, I don’t want to waste my time. My end goal is to become a translator, so I have to at least be N2 or higher…
    Thank you for reading.

    • Hi Tyler,

      Thank you for your comment!

      What level of classes are you taking in college? If you have been studying for Japanese for 6 years and have taken the upper level courses at your school, passing the N2 seems totally doable. However, that is very subjective. I would say the best way to see if you’re ready for the JLPT N2 is to take a practice test. Did you try doing the sample questions on the JLPT website? If not, you can find that page here:

      The reading section was definitely the longest/hardest part of the JLPT N2 for me. The grammar and vocabulary were very easy to study, because it was material I felt that was very useful in the real world…which it is. I used all of the books I listed on the Best Books for the JLPT N2 page. However, for the kanji/reading sections, I only skimmed through the material in those books. What I feel helped me the most was…..reading. And reading often. I would read anything that was written in Japanese…flyers, advertisements, magazine articles, webpages, etc. I would suggest you do the same if you have time. Make sure you read about something you have an interest in. There are tons of websites in Japanese that are great for getting your reading comprehension and speed up.

      That being said, I do recommend studying the books for kanji and reading if you don’t do well on your practice test.

      If you have lots of time and cash to spare, you could take the N3 to gain confidence and have a stepping stone to passing the N2. However, if I were in your situation, I would try to take the N2…..IF and ONLY IF I knew the material from the N3 level well. The JLPT N3 contains a lot of useful grammar and vocabulary that you will definitely use in the future as a translator. If you already know the material well, then I say try and go for the N2. I rather aim high and fail than take a test that I know I can pass. I feel its more of a waste of time taking a test I know I can pass…especially with the N3. If you pass the N3, it’s a nice feather in your cap and will make you feel good, but it does nothing for you professionally. In Japan, the majority of jobs require you to have at least the JLPT N2, and if you want to be a translator, you’ll need to pass the N1.

      Worst case scenario is you don’t pass the N2…but by taking it, you will have gained a lot of experience and can prepare better for it next time. I failed the N1, but I don’t regret taking it because I learned a lot just by taking the test and seeing what kind of questions they asked. Sure, the questions change with every exam, but it was a good experience for me.

      If you have any other questions about the exam, let me know and I’ll try to answer your questions the best I can. Best wishes Tyler!


      • Hi, thank you for replying. I’m currently taking Japanese 302. We are using the Tobira textbook. I can get 95-98%’s on most tests, but my professor is a bit on the easy side of I’m being completely honest. Do you have somewhere private I can contact you? An email perhaps? I could send you some of the material she has us do to give you a better idea of what’s going on with me.
        Hope to hear from you soon, thanks again.

        • Hi Tyler. Sure, you can contact me through our contact form. Scroll down to the bottom of the page. In the footer, you’ll see a “Contact Us” link. That will take you to our contact page where you can send me an email. Thanks!

  29. Halo Jack,
    How useful article! You make me so confident to take the test in December. I failed JLPT N2 twice when i’m still single. Now I’m full-time Mommy and full-time do housewife works, i didn’t have much time to focus on learning. Even, i’ve read this article while i do breastfeeding too (lol).
    So, i want to ask an advice from you. I intend to learning on 3 am, six hours on a week. Will it work? What part i must learning first? However, I’m agree with you that Reading section is so difficult.

    • Hi Afie! Thank you for your comment! Sorry my reply is so late. I got really busy these past few weeks. Since you are a full-time mom, you are probably busy everyday! So to be honest, it will be much harder to study for the JLPT as a full-time mom. I know that watching over your baby and trying to do housework in between is pretty much a 24 hour a day job. If you do manage to find some time during the day (hopefully your baby likes to take naps), then you can study then. You don’t need to study for hours at a time. Even 10 minutes here and there can be effective. In fact, if you study for even 5 minutes and learn a couple of vocabulary words or even one new grammar point, that is great. Then, while you are feeding your baby or doing housework, you can repeat what you learned to really ingrain it in your memory. If you do this a few times a day, that might even be better than sitting down for horus at a time to study.

      If you can dedicate 6 hours a week to studying, that is great. But I can’t say for sure if that is enough time or not. How did you do on the previous JLPT tests? If you were close both times, then this might be enough time. But if you need to improve in all areas, then you may need more time, since the next JLPT is only a little over 3 months away.

      Do you have any books or other study materials for the N2? I used the Sou Matome and Kanzen Master series as well as a few others to study. I would study the grammar and vocabulary first….since you these are easy to study for a few minutes at a time. And as I mentioned above, you can then review what you studied while doing other work. You could even write down what you learn and put them on the wall around your home so you can study while doing chores as well.
      If you’re having a hard time with the kanji, then I would suggest studying the kanji books too. However, if you don’t have time, then I would study the reading after the vocabulary and grammar. If you are confident that you know the grammar and vocabulary, then dedicate your time studying the reading. If you make good progress and have the time, I would suggest you take a practice test as well.

      It’s a lot of work, but you can do it! Please let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck Afie!

  30. Hi Jack,

    Thank you for your useful insights and tips about the JLPT. I am currently preparing for JLPT N2 and intend to take it only in next year’s December’s intake. However, my concern is about the jump in difficulty from N3 to N2. Do you think it is a big jump? I am a little bothered as I find that N3 is already pretty tough to study and pass. And also, you mentioned that it is good to keep the study session short on a daily basis. Do you think 7 hours a week for a period of 1 year or so is sufficient? Because I feel like I have tonnes of things to get into my brain. Hahaha.

    Thanks! Cheers!

    • Hi Joanne! Thanks for the comment!

      Yea the jump in difficultly from the N3 to the N2 is pretty big. For the N2, you’ll need to be able to read and answer a lot more difficult questions on the reading section. In my opinion, the reading section from N3 to the N2 is the biggest leap in difficulty. While you’ll need to know a lot more kanji and vocabulary, that is pretty easy to study since it is very direct…you either know it or you don’t. But the reading part takes practice. First, you’ll need to know how to read it, which means you need to know kanji. Then you’ll need to know the grammar and vocabulary to be able to understand it. But this is not enough. You’ll need to practice in order to increase your reading speed and comprehension since you’ll only have a limited amount of time to do it in.

      Don’t stress over it though. I actually enjoyed studying for the N2 because I heard a lot of the material actually being used by native Japanese speakers in Japan. In addition to studying the N2 study guide materials, I read a lot of other Japanese blogs, flyers, and books. If you can read material that you’ll actually enjoy, then “studying” becomes easy.

      I think 7 hours a week for 1 year is a good amount. I think if you are at a N3 level now, you definitely can pass the N2 with that much study time. However, keep in mind that it’s the QUALITY of study time you put in that is more important than the duration. 30 minutes of focused studying is better than 1 hour of playing around. But if you do studying for more than 30 minutes at a time, take a break every 15-20 minutes…it will help you to digest the material better.

      If you have any more questions please feel free to ask! Best wishes!

  31. Hello, Jack
    I appeared for N3 exam (2016,July 3) …..
    I had read your post before the exam….and i had decided that I would do the reading section first just as you had explained in ‘Managing Your Time’. I was so surprised by how fast i had managed to finish my paper. Generally i solve every paper just 10 minutes before the finish time. But this time I was done 30 mins earlier. I also got more time to recheck the answers!!
    Thank you!!
    Next I am thinking of giving N3 in December 2016!! I’ll definitely follow your tips 🙂

  32. I took the official N2 practice test today.

    I scored 90% on the Kanji, and 10% on the Reading, and about 70ish on the listening.

    I am not sure who they think this test is for.

    The kanji is like asking a major league ball player to play tee ball.
    The reading is like asking the tee ball kid to play in the majors.

    The grammar questions (and grammar content in the reading) seems to have been written by referencing “Pass JLPT” textbooks and then deliberately choosing points that are not included or that orbit around points that are stressed in them in order to confuse test-takers.

    For the record I have over 6000 hours studying Japanese and 5 years living in Japan.

    The difference between N5 to N4 is small. The “new” N3 that was inserted, is about 3 or 4 times more difficult than N4. But N2 is exponentially more difficult than N3.

    Only a cultural native speaker of Japanese (especially “educators” with advanced degrees) could have ever be deluded enough to think that the previous N4-N1 system reasonably covered the stages of learning Japanese. The reason I know this is because the current system still requires at test between N3 and N2, given that exponential gap, especially when they insist on making the reading more fussy and listening faster and faster with each passing year. This is because they wish to maintain a certain “fail rate” for each grade — it is built into the way new tests are written and how the test is graded: you get more points for getting questions correct that the majority failed, and fewer points for those questions everyone else got correct.

    N2 Dokkai, like the listening, features multiple layers that have to be peeled back and conclusions from reasoning based on what is not said or not mentioned, in order to discover the answers. This is an aspect that is not present in N3, but it is not “just another thing to learn”, it requires a huge about of mental processing power based on automating a lot of one’s reading and listening. That step of automation in order to free up the resources of your conscious mind to be able to draw those needed conclusions about a situation, takes time. A lot of time and a lot of study.

    The test creators selecting the same level of kanji that is in the kanji section to use in the dokkai section is a totally irrational choice, as it suggests that the kanji section is superfluous: if you can read the dokkai well-enough to pass at that level, then obviously you can pass the kanji (and grammar) too. The test only really needs to be dokkai and listening, as however well you do on kanji and grammar it will not matter if you can’t get a grip on them.

    The stats are revealed each year about the pass/fail rate, but the stats they do not release are the spectrum of grades, the percentiles. Many people just barely pass. being able to see the percentile (especially sorted by number of times the test has been taken by the same person) would reveal the true reality of the test for all to see.

    • Thanks for the comment and insights!

      First, congratulations on getting a 90% on the kanji part, that is awesome! But yes, the reading part is hard. But if you can read most of the kanji in the reading section, you are off to a really good start. Did you understand most of the vocabulary and grammar in the reading section as well?

      The JLPT N2 is a significant jump in level from the N3. And yes, the reading part is very challenging.

      If I had to say one thing about the reading section, it’s pay attention to details. The small, sometimes easy to overlook details can determine if you get a question correct or not. Usually at the end of the reading section, there is a “real-life” question. This usually consists of a timetable, or advertisement for a fictional company. The questions ask you for information that you derive from reading those timetable/advertisements. It is probably the most straight-forward question in the reading section, but still very easy to get incorrect. The question seems easy to answer, but there are usually small details in these questions that you need to catch in order to find the right answer. There are usually “additional information” passages marked by an “*” that contain the small details you need to answer the question.

      Learning how to find the meaning of what isn’t explicitly mentioned in the passage also relies on understanding small hits from the text. Yea….it sucks 😛 I have trouble answering those kinds of questions in English!

      Of course, studying JLPT Dokkai books can help you with this, but I think that reading as much as you can for fun really helps too. I would read flyers that people were handing out to me in Japan. When I would eat in a restaurant in Japan, I would read the menu while waiting for my food. In the trains, I would see if I could read all of the advertisements. Whatever kanji I couldn’t read, I would immediately look it up on my phone. This helped me A LOT…and I actually had fun “studying” that way. I would also read blogs of Japanese singers or actors that I liked.

      The reading part feels very overwhelming, even when you can read and understand most of it. The grading system for the JLPT is a little weird, and to be honest, I still don’t understand it.

      But don’t be discouraged about your score for the reading section on your practice test. It is still possible you can pass. I believe for the JLPT N2, you only need to get 19 points out of 60 to pass each section. That’s 32%! And you also need to get a total score of 90 out of 180.

      The last practice test I took before taking the actual N2 test actually discouraged me a lot. I did the worst on that practice test by far. I think I felt discouraged because I felt like I knew the vocabulary, grammar, and kanji really well. But that definitely didn’t stop me from taking the real test. I ended up scoring way higher than I thought I would. One of my friends actually ran out of time and had to randomly guess a lot of answers in the reading section. But he passed too.

      So if you feel that your grasp of N2 kanji, vocab, and grammar is good, and you can understand most of the kanji and grammar in the reading section, then you’ll have a good chance at passing.

      Best wishes Taro!

  33. The problem I have with doing the reading section first is that it has the potential to take a huge amount of time if you aren’t careful. If you’re not confident in your reading ability you’re just going to get stuck and waste time early. If you arrive at the grammar/vocab section too late you might be under too much pressure and maybe miss a few questions you otherwise might have gotten easily. Whereas leaving the reading section for last you can have the mindset of just getting through as many as possible, and well, the questions you missed may have been too hard to answer anyway. That said, I did fail the N2 last December.

    • Thanks for the comment and your insight Brett!

      You’re definitely right. Some people can waste a lot of time during the reading if they aren’t careful. That’s why I highly recommend taking a practice test so you can get a feel of how you’ll do under the pressure of time.

      In my experience, I performed a lot better when I did reading section first. Before the actual test, I took a few practice tests to see how I would do. The first couple of times, I did it in order…the grammar/vocab/kanji part first, and then did the reading section. After I finished the grammar/vocab section, I felt both physically and psychologically exhausted…but even more so when I knew I had to the reading section next. I was a little mentally drained, so it made reading the passages harder.

      When I took more practice tests and did the reading section first, my mind was fresher and I had more energy to get through all of the passages. After I finished the reading section, I was definitely exhausted mentally, but knowing that I only had to read and answer short and direct questions made it feel as if it was all downhill from here. I compare the JLPT to a marathon; the reading section is a tough, uphill road. The grammar/vocab section is a long, but relatively flat course. After finishing the reading section (running uphill), the grammar section felt like an easier section to get through, which psychologically gave me energy to blast through it.

      It is easy to waste lots of time on either the grammar or reading section. But if you do spend too much on either section, I feel that you should use more time for the reading section. If you used a lot of time on the reading (which is usually the case), it’s possible to get through a lot of grammar questions even with only a few minutes left for the test, since most questions are short and direct (eg. how do you read this kanji, what is the missing word, etc.) On the other hand, if you spend a lot of time in the grammar section, there is no way you could answer most of the questions in the reading section with only a few minutes left. You would have to blindly guess the answer for each question. So if you were to concentrate your time in one area, for me and many of my friends, that time was better spent in the reading section. That being said, when you do the grammar section, I find it better to skip any question you can’t answer in less than a minute. I’ll mark an answer down, but I’ll take note of it and come back to it when I finish the rest of the test.

      No worries about not passing this time! Most people pass after a few tries. But taking it once is definitely a good experience that will help you pass the next time. If you do take it, I recommend taking it sooner than later. I took the JLPT N1 without studying to see what it would be like. I failed, but when I took it again, it definitely helped me out. So keep at it!

      Good luck my friend!

  34. Hey Jack,

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It will help me a lot.
    once again thanks a ton.
    Shivangi 🙂

  35. Hello Jack

    Thank you so much for the Good summary of the preparation plan and you have given me confidence, Let me give a shot this December 🙂
    Arigatou Gozaimasu…:)

    • Hi there,
      I’m glad you found the post useful! That makes me happy! If you have any questions about the test let me know and I’ll try to help you out the best that I can. Best wishes my friend!

  36. Hi Jack,

    Thanks for the awesome post and detailed guidelines. Those will definitely help in coming JLPT N2 exam.

    Originally I am from India, but currently living in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Can you suggest some online sites or book stores in Sapporo where I can buy the books you have mentioned in your post?

    Also, are there any useful and rare books which I should buy until I am here in japan and won’t be easily available in India?

    • Hi there,

      Glad you enjoyed the post! Since you’re living in Japan, you’re in luck! All the books I talk about in the “Best JLPT N2 Books” can be ordered online at Amazon Japan. The best part is it’s way cheaper than the US Amazon store, and the shipping is super cheap and fast!

      Kinokunia is a huge bookstore chain in Japan that also does online orders. However, if you’re gonna order the books online, Amazon Japan is the best and usually the cheapest. But I recommend that you see if there’s a big chain store like Kinokunia, Loft, or other bookstore near you. Most of them have a section filled with books to pass the JLPT. The Sou Matome books are pretty popular, so most big books stores I’ve seen had them in stock. But check them out and see which books you like the best before you buy them.

      I’m not sure what kind of Japanese books you have access to in India, but in the US, its hard to find books that are written in Japanese. All the manga and Japanese books are translated to English. So while you’re in Japan, I suggest you buy books that are written in Japanese.

      Novels, manga, or even non-fiction books are really good for increasing your Japanese to the next level. I usually bought the Japanese version of simple English books that I like. That way, I could have both the Japanese and English version, and use them together to study.

      Books can be expensive, so I recommend you checking out the used bookstore chain, “Book Off.” They have tons of books that are really cheap, since they are used books. Some stores even have a 100 yen book section. I’m not sure where you live in Sapporo, but there at least 5 Book Offs in that region. At least one of them is near Sapporo station.

      For some countries, Japan has a special “book rate” to send a box of books for a decent price. You might want to double check with your local post office to see if they have this book rate for India. If they do, keep in mind that while its cheaper than normal shipping, it takes a long time.

      Good luck with the JLPT!

  37. I’m pretty sure it’ll sound really weird, but I don’t care. Hahaha I’m just so happy right now. I think I love you, Jack! Please, don’t get me wrong! It’s just that this post is everything I was needing!! I was so afraid to take N2 this December I couldn’t study anything at all!! And I’m still afraid, but I’m also confident and motivated enough to start studying! So, thank you! Thank you very much! After reading your post I feel like I can do it! Even if it’s hard. 😀

    • Hi Anna! I love you too! haha
      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy to hear that you found this post useful. It’s people like you who make me want to keep on working on this website!

      Yea, the JLPT N2 is difficult, but if you set up a studying schedule and stick to it (if possible, daily study is best), you can definitely pass it in December! Not sure how your kanji and reading skills are, but the reading section was the hardest part for me. The first section covering vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structures wasn’t too bad. There were a few problems I didn’t know the answer to, and some that had me questioning if I got it correct or not. But I ended up almost getting a perfect in that section. I guess you can never tell what score you’ll get since I think they weight more questions heavily that others.

      I used the Sou Matome books, Kanzen Master books, two practice tests, the Nihongo Power Drill books, and another one that I didn’t list on this website because it’s very hard to get outside of Japan. That seems like I used a lot of books, but many of the material overlapped, so once I studied one book, I could go through the others quickly. I studied the Sou Matome books first, and used the Kanzen Master and other JLPT book as a reference, so I could gain a deeper understanding of the material.

      If you have any questions or anything, please let me know. I’ll try to help you out the best that I can! Best wishes! 🙂

  38. Hi Jack,
    Thanks for the post. It is very helpful.
    I cannot understand the questions even though I know the words and the grammar (reading section). Is there any way to get around it ?

    • Hi Nishant.

      Unfortunately, you need to understand the questions to pass the JLPT. Even if you understand the passage or article completely, you also need to understand the questions to find the correct answer. This is because sometimes the questions can be a bit tricky, and test to see if you understand the subtle details and meaning of certain sentences or parts of the passage you just read. But if you can understand the words and grammar in the reading section, you’re doing awesome! I think I only understood 60-80% of the reading when I took the exam.

      Do you have any examples of questions you are having a hard time with?

  39. Hi Jack,

    I appreciate the way you have put your experience. Its really worth reading. Definitely I will fallow your foot steps.
    But I am planning to take up the tests this December.

      • Hello Jack , that was really inspiring. This coming december I’m gonna take jlpt n2. Right I’m studying the 2 major areas which are reading and kanji. I study everyday for about 2 hours (30minutes on kanji via anki/memrise , 90 minutes on watching japanese drama , documentaries , nihonggo lesson) and when I do some practice test I usually get 60~70% chance to get the grammar and vocab area right and 50% chance to get the listening part correct. Say jack , what did you do to ensure that you can answer the reading part correctly ? I know that JLPT uses a lot of kanji and vocab and it is impossible to learn all of these.

        • Hi Johji. Thanks for the comment! Yea, the reading part was definitely the hardest, longest, and most exhausting part of the test. I find it difficult to just study kanji…because most books or apps just teach you individual characters. If you do this, you’ll know more kanji, but you won’t fully understand the kanji that you learn. You might know the meaning and reading of the kanji, but you might not be able to use it or understand the nuance of how it’s used. So what I recommend is that you practice reading and learning the kanji that way. Go through the N2 reading material and every time you see a kanji you don’t know, look it up and then make a flashcard for it. You’ll not only remember kanji easier this way, but you’ll gain a better understand of the meaning as well.

          That’s awesome that you study so much! In addition to practicing N2 material for the reading section, I think you should also read “everyday Japanese” material. If you live in Japan, there are tons of flyers, advertisements, magazines, etc that you could read. If don’t live in Japan, find some Japanese blogs to read. I pretty much learn most of my kanji/reading from doing this. I never really sat down to learn the readings of kanji. I just read what interested me and studied kanji that way.

          As far as answering the reading part correctly, the best thing you can do is to take the practice N2 tests and see how well you do there. If you do okay on those tests, you’ll probably do okay on the real thing as well. Good luck in December! If you have any other questions let me know!

      • Hi Jack,

        I did not do well in december. i am preparing once again for this July exams.
        Will write to you if I am having any concerns.



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