2013 JLPT N1

It was my first time to take the JLPT N1. It was summer 2013. I hadn’t prepared much. A few weeks before the test, I bought an N1 prep textbook. I started using it a few days before the test. Though I studied vocabulary with Anki and read Japanese material regularly, I often struggled with newspaper articles or technical materials. I wanted to see the level of the test. I didn’t have any confidence to pass.

Practice Test

I took the practice test included with the prep guide. I scored poorly on the general knowledge and reading parts (under 50%)  but high on the listening part (over 90%). N1 grammar was really hard for me. Despite reading Japanese every day, watching a lot of Japanese TV, and interacting with a variety of Japanese people on daily basis—there were so many grammatical forms I had never seen before. Asking Japanese people for help with these structures was often fruitless. It seemed even Japanese people had trouble with these structures. However, I felt the listening part was too easy. It didn’t match the difficulty of the rest of the test.

Test Day

I was assigned to take N1 at Seijoh University in Aichi, a university at the top of a mountain with no place to buy food or snacks in sight. I was in a room with about 60 heads. Fifty of those heads looked and sounded Han Chinese. The rest was a mix of Middle Eastern and South East Asian women. There was one British-looking guy.

I reflected after the test. I thought I did poorly on the general knowledge and reading was pretty sure I aced the listening. I was confident here. A pass would be possible, but I was expecting a fail. I lost too many points on the general knowledge and reading parts. I wouldn’t be able to make up the lost points in the listening.


I did better than I expected on the first half and much worse on the second half. I wondered if I had written the answers in the wrong place. Most likely no. I’m so careful people think I have an OCD. It didn’t make sense to me.

I couldn’t get a passing grade, but I’m looking forward to trying again next summer.


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