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Japanese Language Proficiency Test Overview


The JLPT is the perfect way to have a paper supporting your Japanese language abilities; or at least, people say so. Because of this people have devised many methods surrounding this test. Because both the test, and the methods surrounding it are so popular and different from other methods, I decided to talk about it some.

If you’re new to Japanese, you might be asking, “Okay, what is the JLPT, and why is it deemed important?”. To answer the first part, here is the excerpt from the official JLPT site:


As the number of people studying Japanese is rapidly increasing worldwide, so are the opportunities to put their skills to use in a variety of careers. This has led to the demand among the students of Japanese for the establishment of a venue by which their language proficiency can be certified.
The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test was devised to respond to this growing demand in 1984.


The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test is conducted both in Japan and outside Japan to evaluate and certify the language proficiency of primarily non-native speakers of Japanese.
The test is administered by Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, inside Japan, and by the Japan Foundation, outside Japan.

As with any standardized testing, it’s no joke in time consumption. It’s also no joke because you can only take it 1 time in a full year(for the most part, some countries you can take it twice), you must choose a level, and you must register and make it to the testing site.

For those who know what the JLPT is you might want to listen up because now the JLPT is all new and not so drastically different, but different enough. :) The JLPT use to be separated into 4 levels (4 lowest to 1 the highest), however now it is 5 levels.

Why take the JLPT? Many claim that this is the best way to prove to your employers that you’re proficient in the language; at least, for companies not ran by Japanese (If you go to a Japanese company and interview completely in Japanese, well, you have proven yourself, you don’t need a paper). Others just want to use the test as a way to measure themselves and create goals, and the JLPT allows that.

Why to not take the JLPT? On the flip side of this argument, many claim that taking this test doesn’t show proficiency at all, but rather your ability to cram information, test, and forget (like many formats in school where you don’t truly learn). Some claim that if you are great at testing, you can test really well, without abilities, and that if you’re a bad standardized tester, even with a great command of the language, you can easily mess up.

Most of all, the biggest argument is that the JLPT doesn’t test what truly counts: Effective Communication. So you can read and write and listen, but can you hold a random conversation with someone about something random? Can you banter back and forth with ease? This is the most prominent use of any language, yet the test doesn’t cover this kind of activity (because its hard to standardize a free-floating conversation).

Without getting into this argument further, I’ll just say this. The JLPT isn’t an end all, be all to prove one’s ability to use Japanese. I truly recommend any who is interested to check out the JLPT’s official site. They have a detailed guidebook explaining the new test, as well as PDF booklets to give you an idea of what’s on the tests. The US’s official site for the JLPT also has some information on it you might find useful. (check them out in the links page up top, at least when i get that links page posted lol)

JLPT Methods:

By Level:

One of the most popular methods for using the JLPT is simply to study the previous test information starting with the lowest level. You make yourself learn the kanji, vocabulary, and grammar associated with your level. The way to go about it varies from person to person, but they use the same base information to learn. They feel this allows them to learn enough to cover the test, then to take the test.


  • warm fuzzies due to track-able progress
  • cover essential grammar/kanji
  • prepares you for the JLPT


  • Lots of outdated material
  • new stuff is used in every test every year and not all previous info used
  • does not prepare you for listening/speaking
  • gaps in usage ability

There are not many people at all who claim that they have command of the Japanese language from studying the JLPT only. I would say this method is a sure-fire way to run your boat ashore Fail Island. Rather if you’re interested in taking the test, study Japanese.

Mikoto Neko

The Ring leader of multiple projects who is studying japanese and raising a family! Who needs time for sleep?

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