All You Need to Know About the Official Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT/ 日本語能力試験 / Nihongo Nôryoku Shiken) is a formal exam organized every year in July and December to certify the level of competency in the Japanese language proficiency test. The JLPT will be held worldwide to evaluate and certify proficiency in Japanese of non-native speakers.

This article provides a practical overview of the JLPT.

What is the JLPT?

The JLPT was developed in Japan, and has been offered since 1984 in countries all around the world as a means of evaluating the proficiency of non-native learners of Japanese. While the JLPT test does not test active use of the language, such as writing and speaking, the JLPT is currently the best way for any non-Japanese to have concrete proof of language ability if they wish to study or work abroad in Japan and use Japanese. In the beginning, there were approximately 7,000 examinees worldwide. By 2015, there were more than 700,000 examinees in more than 60 countries.

The test breaks down into three categories which are "Language Knowledge" "Reading" and "Listening" each worth 60 points. Unlike other official language tests, the JLPT is offered in five levels: from the N1, the highest, to the N5 reserved for beginners. The test format is very similar to the Chinese Proficiency Test (HSK) except that you can only pass the JLPT paper based and not internet based.

JLPT levels

As for details, the N5 will require to know 100 Kanji (Chinese characters) et 800 words of vocabulary where the N1 will require 2000 Kanji and 8000 words of vocabulary. It is rated on 180 points and the success threshold varies according to the level:

・N1: 100/180 C1
・N2: 90/180   B2
・N3: 95/180   B1
・N4: 90/180   A2
・N5: 80/180   A1

The test costs as below for all levels (non exhaustive) :

JPY ¥5,500 in Japan
・USD $60 in the US
・GBP £75 in the UK

The levels correspond approximatively with the the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR).

The JLPT can be compared with the TOEFL and the TOEIC, as Japanese universities and companies ask for a minimum JLPT level in order to take part in study programmes in in Japanese or to work. Generally the minimum required by universities and companies is the JLPT N2.

Advantages of the JLPT

For those who wish to work in Japan, it can be advantageous in order to prove a certain level of Japanese, particularly when it comes to reading ability, which can often be a concern of Japanese employers when hiring foreigners, even if they appear to speak well. It also helps you with immigration, to find apartments or to apply to any jobs.

You can also find hundred of books to study the JLPT and specific methods very easily. Also a huge number of apps on Google Play and the Apple Store can be freely downloaded and allow you to review and study the JLPT anytime with short grammar, vocabulary and Kanji quizzes.

Now that you have all the information for you to start, go for it!

You can find more informations about Keigo : Japanese respectful language on this article.

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Fabien Mizart

Author & Translator

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