If you’re reading this, that means you’re planning to take the JLPT. Or at least, you’re planning to learn Japanese. That’s great news! Learning a new language is always an amazing adventure. And Japanese is a beautiful and rich language.

Now, it’s only natural for some of you to be wondering how long it would take to reach various levels of proficiency. This question can be quite difficult to give a straight answer to. Everyone has their own pace and methods of learning. For this article, we’ll give a rough estimate of how long one would take to learn Japanese to pass the various levels of JLPT.

What is JLPT?

First of all, what is JLPT? It stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test. This is a standardised test to determine how much you understand the Japanese language. There are a total of five levels. N5 is the lowest level, and it goes up to N1, which is the highest proficiency level. 

With each level, you are required to learn a number of kanji (漢字) characters, vocabulary words and grammar points. Even from the basic level of N5, you would also be required to know all writing systems like hiragana (ひらがな) and katakana (カタカナ).

Passing JLPT N5

Let’s start off with JLPT N5. As mentioned previously, each level requires a certain number of kanji characters, vocabulary words and grammar points. For this basic level, you are required to know 100 kanji characters nad 800 vocabulary words.

If you were to attend five hours of Japanese lessons with 10 hours of self study per week, it adds up to 60 hours per month. Some say it might take you 2.5 months to reach N5 level. 

However, some say you would need more than that. For those who already understand kanji characters, generally, you would need at least 350 hours of study for this level. This equals 5 to 6 months. 

Those who have no knowledge of kanji characters, it might take up to 465 hours of study. This is equivalent to 7 to 8 months. Some say it might take up to 600 hours of study, which is 10 months. 

Whether or not you understand the kanji characters, it’s recommended that you start off by taking this level of Japanese proficiency. 

Passing JLPT N4

Moving on from N5, a step up is the JLPT N4. This is still considered one of the basic levels of Japanese proficiency. For this level, you’re required to know 300 kanji characters and 1,500 vocabulary words. Of course, by this point, you’re able to read the Japanese writing systems.

With the similar concept, if you were to attend five hours of Japanese lessons with 10 hours of self study per week, some say it might take 5 months to reach this level. That is 300 hours of study.

However, that might not be accurate. Some say it can go up to 550 hours for those with kanji knowledge. That is about 9 months. If you don’t have kanji knowledge, it can be about 785 hours. This is about 13 months. 

Passing JLPT N3

The next level is JLPT N3. I personally would say that the jump from N4 and N5 to N3 might be a big one. This level requires you to know 650 kanji characters and 3,700 vocabulary words. I would say N3 is where the business Japanese language starts coming in.

Using our previous scenario of 60 hours a week, some say to learn Japanese at this level would require 7 months. That means it would take 420 hours. Others say it can take up to 900 hours for those who are familiar with kanji. That would mean 15 months.

For those without kanji knowledge, it can take up to 22 months, which is 22 hours. 

Passing JLPT N2

Of course, N2 has a way bigger jump from N3 as compared to before. For this level, you’re required to know 1,000 kanji characters and 6,000 vocabulary words. When you get to this stage of proficiency, you’re pretty much fluent. Well, according to me.

So similarly, if you study 60 hours a week, some say it can take 10 months to get to this level. Now, that can be quite a reach for some. Here’s a more realistic calculation. For those with kanji knowledge, it might take you about 24 to 25 months. This is equivalent to 1475 hours of JLPT study.

For those without kanji knowledge, it might take you up to 2200 hours. This is about 36 to 37 months of study. You’ll be crunching numbers!

Passing JLPT N1

Now, for the final level. JLPT N1 requires you to know 2,000 kanji characters and 10,000 vocabulary words. If you manage to get to this level, you’re fluent! You’ll be able to read newspapers and, well, basically anything in Japanese.

If you study 60 hours a week, some say it might get you to this level within 15 months. Realistically, it might take you closer to 2,150 hours for those with kanji knowledge. This is about 35 months. 

For those without kanji knowledge, it can go up to 3,900 hours. This is 65 months. 

Which JLPT level of proficiency are you going to aim for?

These are all rough estimates to reach the various levels of proficiency. I know some people who have reached them within less time, while others take more time. At the end of the day, it really depends on the individual. So, which JLPT level of proficiency are you aiming for? Good luck studying!