What is N5?
This exam tests your knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, about 100 kanji, hiragana and katakana pertinent to basic daily communication skills.
However, you also have to know the informal/plain forms as some questions contain these. Knowledge of the super-polite forms, business Japanese and colloquial styles are not required for this level.
The context in which most questions are based are everyday settings in which participants are usually friends/people whom you associate/communicate with on an equal basis in various places such as at home, schools, library, restaurants, etc.
All the questions are multiple choice so you choose the answer you think is correct out of four. There is no interview test or written tests. You can pass as long as your average score from Papers 1,2 and 3 adds up to about 55. For example, if you got the following points:
It is likely that you will end up with little or no time to go over what you have answered because of the sheer number of questions. Each year, the exam board brings in some outside-syllabus grammar/words/phrases to keep the exam challenging.
A lot of students based outside Japan fail or pass just over the borderline point. Even the best student in the class is unlikely to go higher than 85.
Vocabulary & writing – 25 minutes
Question 1 includes about 10 sub-questions to test if you can read kanji in a series of about six short sentences.
In Question 2 there are four sentences to test if you can recognize kanji and if you can convert hiragana into katakana. There are about 10 sub-questions.
In Question 3 you have to find a suitable word to make a sentence sensible. The missing words are counters, adverbs, nouns, etc.
Question 4 tests if you can understand short statements. A target sentence is given at the beginning, which is followed by four optional sentences. You choose the one where the meaning is closest to the one given.
In total, Paper 1 contains about 43 questions and you are allowed 25 minutes, so you must be able to read fairly fluently to cover all of them.
Usually this is the easiest Paper of the three.
The majority of students who study out of Japan tend to score highest in this part. In other words, unless you perform very well here, you are likely to face a tough time in Papers 2 and 3.
Listening – 25 minutes
Part One and Part Two have 24 questions in all.
In Part One, you choose one of the four pictures that fits the answer of the questions – usually a dialogue between a man and a woman. There is a short pause between each question, and a longer pause between Part 1 and Part 2.
In Part 2 you listen to the question, and choose one of the four choices given after the question. Each question is played on tape just once.
In Part 3, you are required to choose the best response out of three in various situations. For example, you are asked what you would say after the meal.
In Part 4, you choose the most sensible response out of three when you are asked some questions. For example, what would you say if you are asked ‘What day of the week is it today?” The majority of dialogues take place in a house, a museum, a post office, a school, a taxi, etc. In some questions you hear only one person describing a topic such as the weather or how s/he would like to drink tea.
A lot of students find this part the most difficult because they have not been exposed to hearing Japanese in daily life.
It is also hard to concentrate on the tape questions that come one after another for 25 minutes. You have no time to think twice as to which option to choose. An instant response is required to be able to keep up with the tape.
Grammar and reading comprehension – 50 minutes
Question 1 carries about particle-related and verb-related questions.. The Japan Foundation Exam syllabus has a list of about 30 particles, 20 or so of which are very important.
Question 2 tests if you can construct grammatically correct sentences by rearranging several linguistic unites. You need to have a good grammatical foundations to do this.
Question 3 examines if you can construct sensible sentences by choosing one word out of four.
Some of these words are wh-words such as DONO (which), or particles such as MADE (until), or intransitive/transitive verbs like NARU (to become)/SURU (to do).
Question 4, 5, 6 examine if you can read and understand short passages so that you can make a sense out of simply-written notes/letters by Japanese people. In total there are about 32 questions which you must answer in 50 minutes. Usually you have no time to go over what you have answered.
Strategies to pass
- You should be able to read hiragana/katakana and about 100 kanji fluently. Otherwise you are likely to run out of time before you can finish all the questions. Ideally you should score higher than 60 in a sample Paper 1 by the end of August
- Grammar is important to be able to read/understand the questions accurately. So make sure that you know all the essential grammar and that you can construct sentences of using the grammar. If your score is around 50 in a sample Paper 2 by August, you must study extremely hard with a good teacher because you really need to focus on your weakness.
- Listening is hard for many students who study out of Japan because they have little listening practice. You should listen to tapes that suit this level as often as possible and make this practice an integral part of your exam preparation. Remember that listening skills can not be developed over night.
- You should have all the basic vocabulary under your control by the end of August, so that you are fully ready to study at least the past five-year exam papers focusing on listening and grammar/reading comprehension from September. Practise answering on a mark sheet as the mark sheet for listening is tricky.
- Once a week up to the exam day in early December, you should test yourself against past exam papers within the time allocated to each Paper and let some teachers analyze any weaknesses.
- Make grammar/vocabulary/particle cards to focus on your weaknesses or invent any method that you are happy with to do this. Make sure that you do not repeat the same mistake as some grammar comes in the exam repeatedly.
- Make sure that you continuously improve, so that toward the exam date your score always reaches higher than 60.
- Don’t be complacent. A lot of students get just under 60%. Some people underperform on the exam day because they are exhausted by the end of the listening paper and fail.
- Be ready to devote yourself to the exam preparation all the weekends from September till the exam.
- Enhance your awareness of Japan by doing anything Japanese – make friends with Nihon-jin, watch Japanese films or eat anything Japanese on and off!!! But do not drink sake too much!
- Lastly, having said all that, the exam syllabus is clearly defined. So as long as good preparation is made, you should pass.
- Good luck!<br<
Refer New JLPT exams.