Especially if you’re a first-time taker, you might be wondering which level to start with when you take the JLPT(Japanese Language Proficiency Test). JLPT difficulty levels range from easy to hard. Among the reading and listening tests for Japanese proficiency, N5 is the easiest, while N1 is the most challenging. Before taking an official test to measure your skills, you should take a step back and consider your abilities.
What are the Differences Between the JLPT N1-N5
The JLPT has five levels of proficiency which can be achieved, ranging from understanding the basics of Japanese to understanding and utilizing the language in most circumstances. Each level has minimum requirements in both reading and listening that must be met.
While each of the five levels is unique, they are also split into three tiers.
Levels N5 and N4 measure the level of Japanese traditionally taught in a classroom setting.
Level N3 is meant as a bridge level between the two tiers.
Levels N1 and N2 measure Japanese as used in everyday life or work.
Here are some specific examples and requirements for each level of the JLPT.
JLPT N5 The most easiest
The entry level of the JLPT is N5, measuring someone’s ability to understand some of the basics of Japanese. The time it takes to reach this level will vary from person to person, although usually only a year or two of classes will reach this level.
Reading : N5 measures reading comprehension as the ability to read and understand basic sentences written in hiragana, katakana, and kanji, three of Japanese’s written languages. For this level, sentences will not be complex and should require little vocabulary.
Listening :listening comprehension, the N5 level measures the ability to understand short sentences spoken slowly about everyday situations. Specific words and the occasional topic will be missed but the testee should be able to understand the most basic of phrases.
Someone at JLPT N5 would not be considered conversational yet, although they are on their way.
Kanji : You need to know Basic 100 Kanji
Vocabulary : You need to know 800 Vocabulary
Grammar : Basic 80 Grammar point
JLPT N4 Basic Japanese
The N4 level is very similar to N5, with only a few minor differences indicating higher understanding. While still not reaching a level which most would consider conversational, people who have tested at the N4 level will have an easier time doing daily life activities in Japan.
Reading : Reading comprehension goes up to understanding more kanji and vocabulary, focusing less on hiragana and katakana. While the JLPT does not directly use a vocabulary section, more complex words start to be used here. Writing here is simple, often below the level of newspapers and books.
Listening : Listening comprehension also increases in difficulty, requiring those taking the test to understand more than the N5 level. The expectation is that Japanese is still spoken slowly and words will still be missed, but the listener can comprehend most of the topics of a conversation.
Kanji : You need to know Basic 300 Kanji
Vocabulary : You need to know 1500 Vocabulary
Grammar : 100 more Grammar point
JLPT N3 Intermediate Level
The N3 test level exists as a bridge between the lower and higher levels of the JLPT. When the JLPT was reformatted in 2009, this was added due to the once extreme gap between those lower levels and the highly competitive upper tests.
The N3 level tests the ability to understand Japanese in everyday situations to a modest degree. While it is expected that some readings and spoken words will go over the heads of people at this level, this is commonly the level where someone could be considered conversational in Japanese.
Reading : Reading comprehension is expected to go up significantly, with one being able to understand newspaper headlines, articles about specific content, and navigating signs fluently. More difficult writings are still expected to elude those testing at this level, though some of the topics should be starting to slip through.
Listening : The level of listening comprehension required to pass the N3 level goes up quite a bit as well. Conversations should be understood at natural speed, or very close to it. When talking with multiple people, everyone’s relationship with each other through language should be understood and most content being talked about should be understood.
Kanji : You need to know Basic 650 Kanji
Vocabulary : You need to know 3700 Vocabulary
Grammar point : 130 More Grammar point in 300 total from JLPT N5-N4
JLPT N2 Upper Intermediate
At the N3 and above levels, you would almost certainly be considered conversational by anyone. At the N2 level, it is expected that you have the ability to understand Japanese in a variety of circumstances to a fairly high degree. Taking any and all everyday situations should be a fairly easy task. While many would not consider you fluent yet, you are close.
Reading : The ability to read about a multitude of topics is expected at this level, even topics of specialized intelligence. When reading extremely high-level topics such as scientific reports, it is expected that some of the language will be missed. Still, a large majority of topics read about should be understood at this level.
Listening : Speaking and listening wise, people at the N2 level should be able to track conversation, news reports, and other spoken topics with relative ease. Talking should be done and understood at a natural pace. When difficult topics are discussed, the essential points should at least be understood even if specific language is lost.
Kanji : You need to know Basic 1200 Kanji
Vocabulary : You need to know 6000 Vocabulary
Grammar point : 200 More Grammar point in 500 total from JLPT N5-N3
JLPT N1 Advance
The level of N1 essentially means that you are fluent in Japanese, both written and spoken. While this may be extremely difficult to achieve, someone at this level should have absolutely no issues conducting daily life in Japan. Testing at this level is also a great certification to have if looking for any jobs seeking Japanese language proficiency.
Reading : Reading at the N1 level implies that even topics of complexity can be understood and responded to. Writing, as well, is expected to be at this level. One could write their own articles or even books if they so choose.
Listening : Listening at this level means being able to track almost all daily conversation and other spoken forms. A key difference between the N2 and N1 level is being able to comprehend and actively respond to complex spoken ideas. In addition, details should be noted and understood more so than all other levels.
Kanji : You need to know Basic 2100 Kanji ( Joyo kanji )
Vocabulary : You need to know 10000 Vocabulary
Grammar point : 200 More Grammar point in 700 total from JLPT N5-N2
- For N5: Must know 100 kanji and 800 vocabulary words
- For N4: Must know 300 kanji and 1,500 vocabulary words
- For N3: Must know 650 kanji and 3,700 vocabulary words
- For N2: Must know 1,000 kanji and 6,000 vocabulary words
- For N1: Must know 2,000 kanji and 10,000 vocabulary words
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