JLPT N1: Practice test!

I took my second practice test for N1 this weekend!

This time, I bought a Korean collection of 5 practice tests. The book is called JLPT 일본어 능력시험 실전모의고사 and is published by 동양북스.

The second volume is for the answers, the scripts, Korean translations and explanations. Even though they devoted an entire book for the answers, I find that the explanations they give are often superficial.

Choosing practice tests

「so-matome practice tests N1」の画像検索結果

I was very tempted to buy the collection of practice tests published by So-matome. I know that there are two volumes, each containing two tests.

I saw on Amazon a comment in English saying that this book was too easy. From what I read from other test takers and Japanese learners, the actual test tends to be harder than the practice questions found on the official JLPT website. It looks like the test has become harder over the years (especially the listening section) so a book published in 2010 might be too easy.

As a consequence, I decided to ignore the So-matome practice book and bought this Korean book instead. It was published in 2018 and contains new tests designed by the authors (not former real JLPT tests) so I hoped that they would be difficult enough.

My results

Taking a practice test is great, but it is better to also analyse why some of our answers are wrong. This is what I will do in this post.


There are 4 types of questions in the vocabulary section.

The first exercise asks you to give the reading of a kanji word. I did well in this section, I just got one answer wrong. I think that my Anki deck for kanji is bearing fruit because the words I answered well were words that I have learned through it.

Score: 4/5

The second question asks you to choose a word to fit in a sentence. For some questions, I had to choose randomly. The reason why I find this exercise hard is that all the words are given in hiragana. Sometimes, I don’t recognise a word that I would have known if it had been written in kanji. In this exercise, you are also likely to find onomatopoeia and adverbs, both my weakest part when it comes to vocabulary.

Score: 4/7 but among the good answers, 2 were chosen randomly. So my score could have been 2/7 with bad luck.

The third exercise is to find a synonym. Here again, I have a hard time with onomatopoeia. I also made one stupid mistake.

Score: 5/6 with 2 good answers picked randomly, so it could have been 3/6.

The fourth and last question is the hardest to me. You are given four sentences using the same word and you have to tell which sentence is correct. I will be honest with you, I got only one question right and I chose it randomly. In fact, I chose all the answers randomly because I could answer none. I didn’t know these words well. If I had met these words in a novel, they would not have bothered me because I more or less know what they mean. But I don’t know how to use them.

Score: 1/6 but it could have been 0/6

What I learned from this test:

I am very glad that I took this test because I know in which direction I must go to study vocabulary. I will continue to learn the kanji with my Anki deck because it seems to work. I need to learn more onomatopoeia and adverbs and I should start now. I am also happy to see that my decision to add sentences and phrases in Anki (rather that words only) was a good one. The reason why I messed up the fourth question is because I have learned words on their own until now. From now on, I will add more sentences in Anki and be sure to know in which context a word is used.


There are three different questions in the grammar section.

The first question is to choose the right grammar. I didn’t do well in this section but it is not entirely my fault. First of all, I am very glad to say that I answered correctly every questions featuring a grammar I had learned in So-matome. Among the questions I could not answer, most of them featured grammar points that were not in So-matome (I have checked). I think that only one was in a lesson towards the end of the book that I still haven’t studied. So even if I had finished the So-matome textbook for grammar, I could not have answered more than half of the questions. This confirms one thing: the So-matome textbook for grammar is far from covering all the advanced grammar you need to pass the JLPT N1.

Score: 4/10

The second question asks you to put in order four parts of a sentence. I got two answers wrong, but to me it was more a problem of vocabulary than grammar.

Score: 3/5

The last question is to find the right grammar in a long text. The two questions that I answered wrong are: one with adverbs (I am really bad at remembering adverbs) and one that features N2 grammar points, which I had forgotten.

My score: 3/5

What I have learned from taking this practice test:

The So-matome textbook is not enough! In fact, I knew it before, but now I know it even more. I will have to use other textbooks, but this is what I had planned to do anyway.

And of course, I need to review the N2 grammar!


The reading part of this textbook was very strange. I know that the questions can be tricky, that even if you understand the text, you might have a hard time answering the questions. However, in this practice test, the authors seem to have got a little carried away. I find several answers very questionable. It is sometimes more a matter of subjectivity and sometimes I just cannot understand why an answer is wrong or right, or to be more precise, I understand but I disagree. I think that for some answers, you could easily argue that this answer is right and this one wrong when the authors said the opposite.

The texts in themselves were not very difficult, I was able to read them quickly and understand them without problem. However, I didn’t score as high as expected because of these tricky questions.

Score: 17/25

What I learned from the test:

I found none of the texts difficult to understand, but I need to practice answering the JLPT questions. While I do criticise some of the test’s answers, I know that the JLPT questions for reading are tricky. This kind of test forces me to think more before answering.


Listening is the real reason why I bought this book. As I mentioned previously, the listening part of the JLPT seems to have become harder and harder with time so if you practice with an old test, you will find the listening section too easy.

I was hoping that the listening section will be difficult in the book I bought, but it was not, and I am very disappointed. Listening is my weakest point, I really need to practice with questions that have the same level of difficulty than the actual test.

First, my score: 31/37 😮

This is not possible!! This test is telling me that my listening is better than my reading?? 🤨

To me, this listening test sounded easier than the actual N2 test I took in 2017. The main reason is that it had almost only casual conversations, and they were easy. What I call “casual conversations” are the discussions involving friends, students, family or even colleagues talking about daily life problems. Usually, I find these conversations easy, and I can answer the questions. On the contrary, speeches in formal context, discussions involving technical terms or work-related discussions are very hard for me.

When I took the JLPT N2, there was almost no casual conversation. I was desperately waiting for friends to talk about the report they have to give to their professor, or colleagues who would talk about the best way to relieve from stress. But no, it was only technical or work related contexts.

This Korean test contains essentially casual conversations, which is why I scored a relatively good score. During the listening part, I even thought I had bought the book for N2 by mistake and quickly checked the cover!

The first two types of questions were especially easy.

The third type of questions is certainly the hardest (you hear the questions only after hearing the text), and it is where I lost most of my points.

The fourth question was obviously and ridiculously too easy. It is the question where you hear someone say something (a short remark), and you have to find a correct answer between 3 possibilities. In this test, you could almost guess the right answer by the tone of the speaker. The three answers were so different from one another, that the right one was obvious.

The remaining questions were also easy.

What I learned from the test

I need to find other listening material to practice listening.


Taking this practice test has motivated me to go on studying vocabulary and grammar. I still have time before December, and I am more and more confident that I can get a good score if I continue to study seriously. More than anything, I am very happy with my new Anki format (sentences rather than words), and I cannot wait to see the results (I guess that I will be ready for December!).

I am still worried for the listening part… why is every practice test too easy? I always consider that a practice test should actually be harder than the real test… if you know a practice test with a decent listening difficulty, please let me know in the comments!

I’m learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese to read detective novels in these languages. I post about my reading progress and language study here. Best way to get in touch is on Mastodon 🙂

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