Preparing for Japanese exams – Listening and Speaking


I’d barely shaken off Christmas before March rolled around. Now I was a rabbit in the headlights as those oh-so-distant Level 1 Certification exams were staring me in the face!  I was completely up against it because I had a marketing exam the week before too. That worked out well! After a strong cup of tea and a quiet word with myself and I was ready to hit the books.

One of the great things about class based learning means that I have a group of friends to worry alongside me. I wanted to share a few of the ways we prepared for the different bits of our exam.

I started writing this as one post but it just got far too long, so I’ve split it into speaking and listening, then reading and writing.


It is difficult to prepare for listening. The way I went about it was to try and find appropriate level material and just listen to it, then go back and look at any words or sentences I didn’t catch/understand.

I started out with listening to the tracks on the CD that came with the Japanese For Busy People book, which admittedly I have neglected up to this point. My difficulty with this was that they speak so fast, and honestly, the content is pretty dry.

One of the guys in my class also recommended this YouTube channel which is great because it’s about the right level, so it isn’t intimidating. Another website I found after I had taken my exam is My Kikitori which gives you the option to listen at normal speed or at beginner speed (..slower).


We were given a list of questions that we might be asked in our speaking exam before the test. They were along the lines of “when is your birthday?” and “what are you doing tomorrow?” and designed to test the vocab we’d covered in class so far.

We all made the error of taking the list and trying to write out ‘perfect’ answers. I am not saying this isn’t a valid way to tackle the task, but what seemed to be way more productive was just actually talking.

When my study group put our books to one side and just starting asking each other the questions we found we could actually answer most of them. By not thinking about what the perfect A* response would be and just forcing ourselves to answer, we realised that we knew way more than we were giving ourselves credit for. We could also correct each others pronunciation and vocab as we were going (note to self, car is くるま not かるま).

As an added bonus, listening to a variety of people answering the questions in different ways, with different accents, was also helpful for the listening portion of the test!

In my next blog I am going to cover how I prepared for the reading and writing parts of the test. I would love to hear about any resources or exam tips that you have found useful.



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Good luck on your exam!


    1. Sake O'Clock says:

      Thank you! I have taken my exams now and I am just waiting for the results (with my fingers crossed!)

      Liked by 1 person

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