JLPT: First Milestone

I started studying for the JLPT N1 on January 1st (my aim is to pass in December), so I have been studying for three whole months now. I think that now is the perfect time to take a small break, ask myself if I am going in the right direction and eventually change my strategy.

I will certainly do two or three similar “milestone post” during the year.

The things that I have done and the things that I have to do


I am working with the So-matome textbook; it has 56 lessons, and I have studied 22 lessons. I still haven’t reached the half of the book, but this is what I had planned. I still need a little more than two months to finish this textbook so I should be ready to start a new textbook in June. I will certainly go for the Shin Kanzen or check what is available in Korea. In any case, I don’t think that the So-matome is enough so I will definitely use another textbook in June.


Here again, I am using the So-matome textbook, and it also has 56 lessons. I have studied 32 lessons which is great. If I can finish the textbook at the end of May, I will have enough time to study with another textbook, either the Shin Kanzen or something else. I really do feel that the So-matome is suspiciously light when I compare it to Korean textbooks for N1 grammar for example. So-matome is a great textbook to get started, but I feel that I will have to use another one before December.

I will also have time to practice with drills.


I am studying with the 日本語単語スピードマスター (Quick mastery of vocabulary), it has 69 units, and I have only studied 25 lessons. I am only studying two lessons per week.

As far as vocabulary is concerned, I have planned to study with this textbook only so I don’t mind working with it until late in the year. When I have studied all the units, I will spend my time reviewing and practicing with drills.

Reading and listening

Let’s be honest, I am not doing much for listening at the moment. My lack of listening practice is such an issue that I will certainly write a post devoted to it.

As for reading, I am reading novels as usual, and I have started reading the news again. I also started practicing with a N1 textbook.

What worked well

Two things really worked very well for me: the physical flashcards for the grammar and my Anki deck for the kanji.

I will stick to the system of physical flashcards until December. To me, it is the best method ever to review the grammar regularly and actively. After three months of use, I can say that this method works, that it is enjoyable and brings me a sense of achievement.

I love my grammar flashcards!

My new Anki deck for the kanji is also something I like. I love playing with Anki to find the best layout, and I have tried to create cards that fit the JLPT questions style. I am confident that it will help me get a good score at N1 and allow me to rush through the vocabulary/kanji questions and save time for reading.

I love my Anki deck for kanji!

What didn’t work and what I have changed

What didn’t work so well is the vocabulary. I have been thorough in following my study plan, and I have studied two new units per week. The problem is not to learn new words, but to review them regularly.

While I do like this book, I don’t open it often enough!

I figured out that part of the problem came from the book itself. It is a compact book of 350 that cannot possibly open flat, and I didn’t like studying it.

I usally don’t like writing in my books, even textbooks, and they often look new even after I have studied them for several months. I always take notes on a separate notebook. With the vocabulary book, however, I realised that I had to really get to grips with it and make it mine. I broke the spine, got rid of the cover, and start scribbling in it.

Writing in the book is a big improvement, I can add information where the textbook falls short, especially when it comes to the translation in English. I also add synonyms and highlight the words that I need to review more often and so on. I should have done it sooner!

I bought these Pilot Frixion in Tokyo, as you can erase them, there are great for people like me who are afraid of writing in books.


I am glad to see that the study plan I had designed in January works well. As a result, I will stick to it and keep going in this direction. The strategies for grammar and kanji are perfect for me, and I hope that the change of strategy for vocabulary will help me to review more regularly.

I still need to work more on listening, I have to think of a way to include more Japanese audio in my schedule. I have plenty of things to listen to, it is a problem of time.

Last advice…

If you are following a yearly study plan or if you had goals for the year, why not take some time now to see how far you have gone during these first three months. If you feel that you haven’t been able to stick to your initial schedule or study plan, it is maybe time to review it and understand what didn’t work and why. Don’t be discouraged if you feel that you haven’t studied enough. Keep what worked well and change the rest, find new strategies and review your goals if necessary!