What to Expect When You Take the JLPT N2

The struggle to comprehend nonsense conversations is real.

By 2 min read

Ah, the JLPT N2. It’s the holy grail of Japanese language proficiency; a sacred qualification that proves to society that you are proficient enough to handle business with business customers in a business environment.

Through the vigorous testing of your ability to read kanji, listen to unrealistic conversations, and memorize grammar points you’ll never use, the N2 will demonstrate your capacity to rub shoulders with the overworked elite of corporate Japan.

The upcoming test is scheduled for Sunday, December 1. Hopefully, you know this by now, but in order to become a besuited wielder of N2 language, you’ll need to prepare for four sections of the test. In no particular order of pain inflicted, they are:


You’re probably already familiar with the basics of Japanese grammar. But for the N2? Make sure you know the subtle nuances between “if,” “if,” and “if,” when to use these “ifs,” and how to express your feelings based on the order of “ifs” in an incomprehensible sentence.


With the highest weight grade, if you fail this part, well… you know the drill. I’d say if you can read more than the Anpanman magazine in your local barbershop you should be good to go. Except for the fact that the passages tend to intentionally lead you way off course and ask you questions that are totally unrelated to the original topic.


Living in Japan it’s almost guaranteed that you’re at least hearing some Japanese on a daily basis. Surely everyday Japanese will translate over to N2, right? The test that seeks to measure real-world ability? Actually, you’ll need to prepare for a conversation about nothing you’ve ever heard before, delivered by people in what’s quite possibly a dead dialect. It might be worth heading to a derelict Snack bar tonight to practice with some drunk pensioners.


To be considered proficient in Japanese you need to know around 2000 kanji. Of course, there are more beyond these, some of which aren’t even used anymore. Don’t worry, though, on the N2 you’ll probably need to study them, and then promptly forget everything as soon as the test is over.

In all seriousness, the JLPT N2 is a challenging exam but having the qualification will seriously boost your employability both within and outside of English education here in Japan. Plus, with all your new N2 knowledge you’ll be able to interact with others in your current Japanese environment at a deeper level—even if there is no speaking section. Oh, wait.

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