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)!