You’re studying Japanese? Well done! Studying Japanese can be a lot of fun, but if you’re serious about it, you should definitely give the JLPT a go.
The first thing you need to decide is what level test you want to take because you can only take one test every 6 months!
JLPT N5: This test isn’t really taken seriously. It tests you on a small amount of the basics of Japanese. It really doesn’t show that you can do Japanese at all – so unless you really want that benchmark, and going to the test site isn’t too much of a pain for you, then I don’t really recommend taking this test.
RATING: NEW TO JAPANESE
JLPT N4: So now things are getting a little bit more difficult, and while this test doesn’t prove your fluency in Japanese, it might show that you can make some broken conversations and read hiragana. It’s a good benchmark and shows that you have real interest in Japan and learning Japanese, so it might be good to have for an ALT (assistant language teacher) interview.
RATING: FOOT IN THE DOOR
JLPT N3: I’ve never taken N3, but I have studied it when I first arrived in Japan. Now you’re starting to get pretty good. You need to be able to understand paragraphs, read a fair few kanji characters, as well as being able to understand basic conversations. Getting this certificate will look good on your resume and show you can understand basic Japanese. If you work in the IT industry, this may be enough for you to land a job in Japan!
JLPT N2: N2 was the first test I took. It consists of a wide range of Japanese that is used in a broad range of situations. It can take a long time to get good enough to pass this test. You’ll need to be able to read and understand difficult passages that you might find in a newspaper or similar. Many people attend language school in order to pass it. If you’re from a country like China that uses kanji, it will probably take you half the amount of study hours as someone from a country that doesn’t use it. If you’re looking for a job in Japan, then this will suffice for many jobs if you gained skills in university! If you’re from a country that uses kanji, you should ideally have N1 when applying for a permanent job.
JLPT N1: You want to challenge N1? Then you must be study-masochist! N1 is seriously hard. It takes many people years and years of full-time study in Japan! The majority of Japanese that appears in this test you will never even use. I managed to scrape a pass on my third attempt – that’s two years after I passed N2 with flying colours. So you have to be really serious to even dream of N1 – but don’t be fooled, even if you have N1, there is still a long way to go!
TEST SECTIONS AND MARKING SCHEME
There are four sections to the JLPT test that may or may not be divided, depending on the level you take.
Listening (choukai) – you will listen to an audio tape and write down the answers on your answer sheet. On some questions, there are visual aids. Even if you’re confident in Japanese, you should practice a few of them to get the hang of the types of questions that appear.
Grammar (bunpou) – This tests your grammar. It’s quite straight-forward, just choose the correct answer. Towards the end of the grammar section, there will be a few questions where you have to put the words in the correct order to find the answer.
Vocabulary (goi) – This tests your vocabulary range and your kanji reading skills. On occasion, there will be some fairly obscure nouns that pop up, but don’t dwell on it, one or two points isn’t the end of the world.
Reading (dokkai) – This is usually considered the hardest part to pass for people from a non-kanji country. You will be asked 1-4 questions on extracts of Japanese text that vary in length. There can be some very long texts that you are required to read, so this section definitely needs practice so you can skim through it and pick out the correct answer.
All questions of the test are multiple choice, and there are no speaking or writing sections.
The following is a table showing the pass marks for each test and in each section. In any of the tests, if you score left that 19 points in a section, you will automatically fail, even if you have enough overall points to pass.
|Level||Overall pass mark||Language Knowledge|
|N1||100 points||19 points||19 points||19 points|
|N2||90 points||19 points||19 points||19 points|
|N3||95 points||19 points||19 points||19 points|
|Total possible||180 points||60 points||60 points||60 points|
|N4||90 points||38 points||19 points|
|N5||80 points||38 points||19 points|
|Total possible||180 points||120 points||60 point|
If you’re interested in this, then you must be pretty serious about Japanese. A lot of people don’t actually know why this section is so hard. Aside from the incredibly difficult passages, tricky questions, and obscure words, there is actually another reason why most people fail.
Unlike other sections, the reading section has up to four questions on the same text. To stop people fluking an average of one point when your previous answer is incorrect, you may receive 0 marks even if the following answer is correct.
Question 1.a – INCORRECT
Question 1.b – INCORRECT
Question 1.c – CORRECT
It’s possible that you would get zero points, and unfortunately, in N1 reading, every point is extremely important! It could take you five whole minutes just to pick an answer! Because of this, if you don’t know grammer and vocabulary fast enough, you’ll run out of time.
For more information, visit the official site here.