IB Japanese ab initio

First exams 2020

Ab initio Workbooks

The following workbooks take you through the syllabus of the ab initio Japanese programme. Unit 1 includes a version of the workbook which allows you to click through to the relevant video tutorials, and more challenging material. Units 3 & 4 will be updated with media links soon:

Unit 1 download

Unit 1 Multimedia Links
Unit 2 download

Unit 2 Multimedia
Unit 3 downloadUnit 4 download

Ab initio Video Tutorials

You can access the video tutorials which support the IB ab initio Workbooks, by viewing them directly from the playlists on my Youtube channel.

Ab initio Writing worksheets for laminating

Print and laminate (or slip into a sturdy plastic envelope) the matching sheets – back to back – and use a non-permanent marker to practise all the kanji you need for the ab initio Japanese course. You can start by tracing the characters on one side, and as you gain confidence you can fill in the empty squares on the other side. It’s OK to peek at the reverse side if you forget a kanji:

Ab initio Individual Oral Exam Booklet

Download the ab initio Individual Oral Exam Booklet here to help prepare for your oral exam.

Ab initio Kanji Book

Download the Kanji Book here with all the kanji you need for the ab initio course, including key kanji vocabulary items and detailed explanations.

Ab initio Grammar List

Download the list of grammatical patterns which students must be familiar with for the IB Japanese ab initio course. Students can check the patterns off as they learn them, and put their own example sentences in the spaces provided.

Online tutoring

If you would like to contact me regarding online tutoring, please complete the online enquiry form here.

IB Language B Standard Level

First Exams 2020

Language B Kanji Book

Download the Kanji Book here with all the kanji you need for the language B (SL) course, including key kanji vocabulary items and detailed explanations.

Language B Individual Oral Exam

Download the Language B Individual Oral Exam Booklet here to help prepare for your oral exam.

Tips on how to complete the Comprehension Paper 2 for ab initio and Language B exams:

Ab initio & Language B Text Types

Download a summary here Here is a summary of the things you need to include with the various IB text types.

65 thoughts on “IB”

  1. Hi,

    I am looking for IB Japanese ab initio text books or ebooks. Are you able to help?

    • Dear Betty,
      I have made four ab initio level workbooks which can be downloaded freely from this page, which cover most of the basic vocab and grammar that you need for IB ab initio Japanese. When used in conjunction with lots of past papers (to pick up additional high-level vocabulary) students should be well prepared for their ab initio exams.

  2. Dear Rajkumar-sensei,

    Do you have any resources for IB japanese B HL? Specifically, a kanji list?

    • Dear Dani,
      I’m afraid that I don’t have any resources for the IB Japanese HL.

  3. Dear Rajkumar Sensei
    I wonder if you have any advice for best preparing students for the IB Ab Initio Japanese Writing Exam? Especially if there are particular things to inclde with certain text types to help get a high Criterion C mark.
    Many thanks

    • Dear Adam,
      If you scroll down the IB page there is a link to a document which has all the information on what to include with the different text types. It looks like this:
      Ab initio & Language B Text Types
      Here is a summary of the things you need to include with the various IB text types. Click on ‘Here is a summary’.

  4. Dear Rajkumar-san
    Fantastic resources on your website, thank you so much for sharing. Quick question. In the IB Japanese writing exams, do students have to write on genkoyoushi or horizontally? I can’t find any information on this and when I donwload a past paper it doesn’t have the answer booklet.
    Many thanks

    • Dear AJ,
      In the past, there has always been a choice between writing horizontally and vertically, and this is agreed between the students and their teacher. However, it is wise to check this both with the exam officer and the IB. The exam officer should contact the IBO before the exam to confirm.

      Reply from AJ:
      Dear Anne
      Thank you for taking the time to write back. We put in a query to IBO and for once received a very quick response which I thought I would share in case anyone else asks you. It’s as you said, fine either way.

      DP/CP Examinations. We have received the Japanese/Chinese writing paper. Are students able to write across or down? Or is it preferable that students write downwards?
      • It is acceptable for students to write either vertically or horizontally, and there will be no expectation for either format.
      • Marks will not be affected by either form of writing.
      • You should also enclose a note indicating which paper and which candidate it relates to so the scanning centre can match them up.

  5. Dear Anne,
    Greetings and thank you for the very informative page!
    It seems that I can’t find if IB Japanese Language B SL, is allowed to be taken as a self-taught, out of the school course. I would appreciate if you had any information,
    Thank you very much,
    Best Regards

    • Dear Chris,
      With any query regarding the rules of the IB diploma programme, it is always best to contact the IBO (https://www.ibo.org/contact-the-ib/). The most recent guidance I have seen, from February 2024, says:
      “Language B and language ab initio do not have an SSST (school-supported self-taught) option. A student who is so proficient in the target language that they could handle the requirements of an SSST course is likely not appropriately placed in a language acquisition course. An SSST option for language acquisition subjects would not sufficiently support a student who is still learning the target language. It is also not possible for language B and language ab initio courses to be instructed by a tutor or instructed remotely. With the exception of the available DP online courses shown on ibo.org, all language B and language ab initio courses must be instructed at the school by a teacher who has been trained in the current curriculum.”

  6. Dear Anne
    Thank you so much for providing these resources. They are wonderful. It seems I might be about to start teaching ab initio Japanese at my school (as a new course, and a fairly new teachers) so I have a lot to get my head around!
    I just wanted to clarify (sorry for repetition if it has been covered) – do the 4 units which you have created cover all 5 IB themes?
    And when would you aim to have completed all 4 units by? How far before the oral exam and then the written exams?
    Thank you (from Melbourne, Australia)

    • Dear Julia,
      The IB ab initio Japanese Workbooks cover the grammar and most of the ab initio kanji for the IB ab initio Japanese course, but the limited example texts in the workbooks are not sufficient to fully introduce all the vocab needed to cover all 5 IB themes. As well as these workbooks, students should be exposed to additional texts. In particular, students should aim to complete as many Japanese ab initio past papers as possible as this will ensure that they are exposed to key vocabulary from all 5 themes.
      I try to complete the four workbooks by the end of the first three months of the second year of the course, and then use the rest of the final year to practise speaking, listening and writing skills using a variety of different texts, but focussing strongly on the ab initio past papers to develop examination skills.
      I find the sheer amount of content in the ab initio Japanese course to be very challenging for most students, so I expect students to have learned the hiragana and katakana alphabets in the summer holidays prior to the start of the IB programme, and also to use the following summer holiday to work independently using the video tutorials (on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@japanese4schools/featured) to support their learning. And finally, I have learned, through experience, that it is possible to do very well in the Japanese ab initio exams, without mastering everything fully in the syllabus!

  7. Thank you for all the amazing resources you provide, it’s absolutely helpful!

    Now, I was wondering if you knew where I could find listening resources; such as, audio recordings, example questions etc. It’s very hard to begin creating resources with only the specimen audio…

  8. Hi, Thank you so much for sharing workbooks. Those are very helpful.
    I couldn’t find the following topics of “ Human ingenuity “ and “ Sharing the planet” in those workbooks. May I ask you where I could find it?

    Human ingenuity – • technology • Media • Entertainment
    Sharing the planet- • Physical geography • Global issues • Social issues

    Waiting for your reply.

    Thank you.


    • Dear Noriko,
      The workbooks are not organised according to the prescribed themes in the IB syllabus, but there are topics relating to all the themes throughout the workbooks. For example, for the ‘Human Ingenuity’ the following workbooks have topics with some relevance:
      Unit 1 – Making Telephone Calls
      Unit 2 – Transport
      Unit 4 – Traffic Features & Directions
      For ‘Sharing the Planet’ the following topics in Unit 4 are relevant:
      Places in town; Places in Japan; Talking about the Weather

      For the important topics such as the environment and other more complicated issues, I use the past examination papers to make sure that students are exposed to the full range of topics in the IB ab initio syllabus.The Workbooks cover the basic language necessary to succeed in the IB ab initio examination, but they need to be used in conjunction with past papers and other resources for students to be fully prepared for the exams.
      I hope this helps.

      • Dear Rajakuma sensei,

        Thank you so much for your reply and useful informations.
        Yes, I will definitely use with the past papers. I’ve watched your YouTube video today. It was really helpful.

  9. Dear Ann,

    Thank you so much for sharing all the resources!

    I just have a questions about IO and how you interpret the criteria. I found some descriptions on the criteria sheets are not very specific, and I am worried if I am marking my students’ oral correctly…

    For example, what would you say the difference between ‘vocabulary is appropriate to the task’ and ‘vocabulary is appropriate to the task, and varied’? and ‘basic grammatical structures’ and ‘more complex structures’?

    • Dear Sakura,
      Firstly, I guess that you are talking about the ab initio Individual Oral Assessment (the IA – Internal Assessment). The descriptions can be difficult at first, but it is always advised that you start by looking at each marking band, starting from the lowest band, and rule out each one until you get to the band that seems to fit. Then if you think it is at the lower end of the band, give the lower mark, and if it is at the higher end, give a higher mark. There are a number of criteria to look at, so you need to look at the overall picture using your judgement and the descriptions of the criteria.
      I interpret ‘vocabulary is appropriate to the task’, to mean that the student has only the language necessary to give a relevant answer to the question; but that ‘vocabulary is appropriate to the task, and varied’ would have to include additional descriptive vocabulary such as adjectives, adverbs, or additional information beyond a simple relevant answer.
      When it comes to grammar, ‘basic grammatical structures’ would tend to mean simple sentences with no advanced grammatical patterns, whereas more complex sentences would include sentences with two parts, sentences with reasons, sentences including clauses ending in ‘…koto ga dekimasu’ or ‘….koto ga suki desu’. Also, verbs in the plain form with ‘tsumori desu’, or ‘yotei desu’ would be further examples of more complex structures. I have attached above a document with a list of ab initio grammatical patterns that students need to gain the top marks in both the oral and written exams.
      I hope this helps! がんばって!Anne

  10. Hi Anne,

    Thank you so much for your resources as always! I was wondering where I can download the Ib Ab Initio Oral booklet? I can see you’ve mentioned it here a couple of times but I can’t see a link?

    Thank you so much!

    • Dear Nicola,
      Thanks for reminding me to upload the oral exam book. Hopefully you can see it now!

      • Hello,

        How similar is the ab-initio oral guide to the requirements of the SL oral?

        Thank you

        • Hi Yuki,
          The ab initio and SL individual oral assessments are quite similar, but there are some key differences.
          Duration: ab initio 7 – 10 mins; SL 12 – 15 mins. The SL presentation is much longer and the general discussion is also expected to be longer and with more detail.
          Opinions and interpretation: SL students are expected to express their opinions and show some level of interpretation and analysis, whereas this is not expected in the ab initio course to any advanced level.
          Language: in the SL course students are expected to be able to use some idiomatic expressions and basic grammatical patterns are expected to be used correctly. Errors are allowed in complex grammatical patterns only.

          It is important to note that both exams require students to demonstrate some understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture

          I hope this helps! がんばって!Anne

  11. Hi, thank you so much for all these resources. My school doesn’t offer Japanese as a language b but has allowed me and one other girl to do self study (SL). I am sort of fluent in Japanese so I’m not too worried but the school hasn’t offered too many resources or information so far so I was wondering if you know anything regarding self studying Japanese?

    • Dear Kiki,
      The first thing you need to do is to ask your school to get the syllabus and look carefully at the assessments, themes etc. It will also include the list of kanji you will need for the exam and very clear guidance on the additional assessments. In addition, you need to ask for as many past papers as you are able to get, and start to use them to practise the question types and the format of the papers and oral examination. I am afraid that I am unable to post any official IB documents here due to copyright restrictions. If you need any additional help I would suggest that you get some support from a tutor.

  12. Hi there. Thanks so much for all this useful information. Is the Japanese Language and Literature A HL paper at a level that is or exceeds the JLPT 1? Is there a list or number of kanji required? I am a teacher in TX and we are assessing whether to introduce this curriculum to our new college.

    • Dear James,
      I’m afraid I am not familiar with the Language A course.
      Best wishes,

    • That test is the Japanese equivalent of an advanced English literature exam (e.g. Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Dickenson, etc) for native Japanese speakers. You’re easily looking at N1 level and beyond by that point. It’s not a foreign language test, and almost no high schools in the US are going to offer that class/exam given how niche it is.

  13. I just found this site. Oh my gosh it is so useful! A problem I have is that my school district has set up a firewall which keeps us from accessing websites from overseas. Would you mind if I put a copy of your packets on my website so that my students can access them? Even if it’s not okay, thank you for doing these packets. It is so nice.

    • Dear Patrick,
      I would be happy for you to put the materials on your website so that your students can use them.
      Best wishes,

  14. Hello. Thank you very much for your information.
    For a new IB oral (internal assessment), a SL stimulus does not require a caption but needs a label with one of the themes. Do you know anything about a new oral for May 2020 Ab initio? Does Ab initio oral have any change? Thank you very much for your help!

    • I have just uploaded the new IB ab initio oral exam booklet for 2020. Everything you need should be there. がんばって!

      • Hello from New Zealand….
        I am one of a very few Japanese teachers teaching the IB Language B curriculum here in New Zealand. Because we are such a small group, it has been very difficult for me to find resources for the new syllabus. I noticed that you have an extensive amount of material for the ab initio course…. would you have anything in your toolkit for the new SL listening and reading?
        Much appreciated.

  15. Hi,
    Do you know the total marks for each Paper 1 and 2 for IB Japanese SL ab initio?
    Thank you

    • Hi David,
      Paper 1 has a total of 30 marks; and Paper 2 has two parts – Listening Comprehension (25 marks) and Reading Comprehension (40 marks).

  16. Thank you so much for sharing all your hard work.
    I have a question for the oral exam for IB standard.
    The above IB standard oral exam preparation booklet is the same as the ab initio booklet. Are they similar exam? Is that why they are the same booklet?

    • Hi Akemi,
      I’ll be upgrading the books shortly – with sections on ab initio and Language B.
      Best wishes,

  17. Hello,
    I am a Japanese teacher myself and will starting teaching Japanese AB initio class for the first time soon. I have been struggling to find information about the test and textbook and finally I came to this site. Sorry if it is very basic question but Can I consider that this would cover all the vocab and grammer, oral test ? THANK YOU VERY MUCH in advance!

    • Th ab initio workbooks cover the basic vocab and all the grammar, but you will need to do lots of past papers to make sure that you have covered everything.
      Best wishes,

  18. Hi Sensei,

    If you are taking IB Japanese Standard B this year (2019) starting then will the exam I take in 2021 be the new exam?
    Many thanks

  19. Thank you for sharing your IB materials – the SL Kanji booklet is great

  20. Hi, what jlpt level would the CIE IGCSE Japanese 0519 be equivalent to? I would have assumed n4 based on the grammar.

    • Dear John,
      I am not familiar with the iGCSE, but if it is a similar level to the GCSE (which I believe it is), then it would seem to be somewhere between n5 and n4, closer to n4.

  21. hi, i’m just wondering, will an updated kanji booklet will be made for the new Japanese a level syllabus?

    • Dear Jerry,
      I am really sorry, but I am afraid that I no longer teach A-Level, so I won’t be doing an updated version of the book. With the new GCSE and IB syllabus I am struggling to update the materials overall. If anyone is interested in taking on the job – I am sure that would be most appreciated by the A-Level teaching community!

  22. Hi Sensei
    Sorry to ask again but do you have to write a short arasuji (あらすじ) before writing about the tasks given to you?
    Thank You!

  23. Hi sensei,
    I’m planning on doing the a2 and I was wondering for the sakubun part if you can answer both part a and b from the same question (eg: 3a and 3b) or is that not allowed

    Thankyou for your help

    • Dear Alisa,
      I am very sorry, but I no longer teacher A-Level (we do the IB programme) so I can’t answer your question. Best of luck!

  24. Hi, Thank you for the useful information. I have been struggling to find a past exam paper online (for Japanese IB ab initio ) – any advice?

    • Your Japanese teacher should have access to past papers, which schools can order from the IBO.

  25. Hi,
    What JLPT level would you say Japanese Language B is equivalent to? Would it be different for Higher and Standard level?

    • That is a very difficult question and probably beyond my expertise. There is a significant difference in level between Japanese Language B standard Level and higher level, I would guess that SL is about JLPT 3/4, and HL is JLPT Level 2/3. I would be very grateful for anyone else’s opinion.

  26. Sensei,
    I am taking the AS exam this year with edexcel board, is there an oral or listening exam for the AS level?

    Thank you,

  27. Dear Sensei,
    I’ve just finished N5 and would like to start IB Japanese AB initio next year. May I know what level of difficulty, in terms of JLPT levels, the IB Japanese AB initio is?
    Best regards,

    • Dear Burno,
      The IB ab initio Japanese course is roughly equivalent to JLPT Level 4.

  28. Is there a recommended study guide/book for the IB SL Japanese exam for language B?

    • Dear Priya,
      I’m afraid that there is no specific IB Lang B textbook – but any of the main secondary textbooks will get you started and you can supplement the textbooks with on-line material. Look at the Japan Foundation’s website for lists of resources. Bear in mind that the IB does not have a vocabulary list, so the best way to access the sort of vocab likely to appear in the exams is to use the texts in the past papers as resources. These are all authentic texts and usually very interesting, and provide a good starting point.

  29. Thank you very much for sharing many useful materials.

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