JLPT diary #2: Study plan

Goal: pass the JLPT N1 in December!

It is very exciting to know that I have the whole year to prepare for the JLPT N1, but having too much time can also be tricky. I know that I will constantly be putting off the moment when I would really start studying, thinking that I have plenty of time anyway. This is why it is necessary to make a study plan, even roughly.

This is how I plan to study this year:

First half of the year– Review N2
– So-Matome
– Speed Master
– So-Matome
– Shin Kanzen

– Audiobooks
– News
– Novels
– News
Second half of the year– Shin Kanzen (exercises)– Review
– Drills
– Shin Kanzen
– Drills
– Shin Kanzen– Shin Kanzen

Skill by skill


I will spend the whole month of January reviewing the So-matome N2. To be honest, I had more or less skipped studying the kanji when I studied for N2 because I felt that I already knew them all. The problem is that I knew these kanji mostly in context, I could recognise them when they were part of a word but answering the JLPT questions was not always easy. As a result, I want to be as thorough as possible with the kanji this time.

So-matome N1 kanji: Two lessons per week

There are 56 lessons. First I thought that I would study one lesson per week before realising that it would take me more than a whole year! So I guess that I don’t have a choice: it will be two lessons per week. I will be done by July, which leaves me plenty of time to review and study the Shin Kanzen book.

Shin Kanzen N1 kanji: ??

I am assuming that the Shin Kanzen kanji book for N1 is the same as N2, mostly exercises. I will start it as soon as I am done with So-matome, but I don’t know how many lessons there are or how long it will take me.


Vocabulary: 日本語単語スピードマスター Advanced

There are 69 units. If I study 2 units per week, I will need 35 weeks to complete the book. In other words, I will be done by the end of August. To me, this sounds okay. I don’t want to study more than 2 units per week because I will continue to study my regular Anki deck throughout the year. If I hold on to my plan, I will still have 3 months to review the book and make drills before the test.

As far as vocabulary is concerned, I will stick to this one book, but I will need to review some N2 vocabulary. I am particularly weak with adverbs, onomatopoeia and idioms.


So-matome N1 Grammar: two or three lessons per week

Here again, 56 lessons. The problem is that one lesson contains 4 grammar points. I don’t think that I want to study more than 2 lessons per week. But then, I wanted to study the Shin Kanzen grammar after So-matome, and if I study only two lessons per week, I will be working on So-matome until July. This means that I will have only 4 months to study Shin Kanzen. This is a problem for two reasons: first I am pretty sure that the Shin Kanzen has more contents than the So-matome, and I would like to have more time to study it; secondly, I wanted to be done with the grammar well before the test, to have time to digest it.

I also wanted to keep the last month or two to make grammar drills.

I really should study three lessons per week then… I will try it and see if it is possible!

Reading and listening

I don’t want to add reading and listening textbooks to my weekly tasks. I will be busy enough with the ones I have. As a result, I won’t buy any textbook for reading and listening as long as I am not done with the kanji, vocabulary and grammar ones.

I also think that practice is more important than textbooks when it comes to reading and listening. This is why I will be reading novels and listening to audiobooks. Everyone who has taken N1 says that it is important to read and listen to the news so I will have to do that, too. Reading the news is okay, I will try to read or study one article from time to time. The problem is listening to the news. When I listen to NHK radio news, I understand nothing so there is a lot of work to be done!

I know that it is also important to get used to the questions of the test, especially for listening. I will either buy a textbook for reading and listening (probably Shin Kanzen) sometime in Autumn or simply rely on practice tests.

Practice tests: one every two or three months?

First, I thought of keeping them for the end, but it is best to take them at different moments of the year. I will see how many tests I can gather and distribute them throughout the year.


As things stand, I will have to study two or three units of grammar, two units of vocabulary and two units of kanji per week. I also study my regular Anki. Said like this, it sounds a lot 😨. I thought that 11 months was ample time to prepare for N1, but it is not!

I will write a more detailed post about how I study each specific area.

If I pass N1 in December, this year will probably be the last time I study thoroughly with textbooks, lessons and practice tests. After that, I will certainly spend most of my time reading in Japanese and improving my reading level by adding words to Anki. This is why I want to make the best of this study year and get a good score at N1 (I really want to get a full mark at reading)!

5 thoughts on “JLPT diary #2: Study plan

  1. I think you can already pass jlpt1 in your current state based on what you accomplished last year and the fact that the test is multiple choice.

    1. I’m sure you’ve heard of crazy stories of people who have passed jlpt 1 but can’t speak Japanese at all or have never read a book in Japanese. Because the jlpt doesn’t require people to write or speak Japanese and is multiple choice, it’s not surprising there are people who have this piece of paper but don’t possess much Japanese ability.

      1. I don’t need to pass the JLPT N1, I think that I use the test as a way to motivate myself and have a deadline. For example, I want to learn more grammar, but I don’t usually do it. Having the perspective of the JLPT helps me to study.

        I will certainly end up being one of those people who have N1 but don’t speak Japanese, haha! I know the JLPT is only testing your comprehension, I was shocked the first time I heard that there was no writing and no speaking. But if it were as expensive as the French test (which has writing and speaking), I would not take it.

        In the end, I care more about the preparation of the test than the test itself!

  2. Taking mock tests early on is a great system, I’ll definitely do it myself to get used to HSK 4 format as soon as possible. I would love to read about your Anki decks, since I’m remodelling and editing mine at the moment!

    1. Yes, it is also the best way to get used to the timing. I don’t know how the HSK is, but almost everyone runs out of time during the vocab-grammar-reading part of the JLPT.

      I will certainly write something about Anki too!

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