The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) is to the Japanese language what the TOEIC is to English, a test to evaluate the ability for non native speakers to communicate in Japanese. As with the TOEIC, the test is all about comprehension, as all the questions are multiple choice questions. This is partially representative of the actual level but on the other hand, no subjectivity is involved in the grading system.
The test is targeted at people whose native language is not Japanese and is mainly used as a recruitment criteria in major companies as well as in Japanese universities.
Although the principle is similar, the JLPT has a few major differences with the TOEIC. First, there is not one test but four, each applicant being indeed able to choose between four difficulty levels. Here are the rough requirements (quoted from the official website) :
- level 4 : about 100 kanjis (ideograms) and 800 words - basic elements of grammar, ability to engage in simple conversation and read and write simple sentences
- level 3 : about 300 kanjis and 1500 words - limited grammar level, ability to take part in everyday conversation and read and write simple sentences
- level 2 : about 1000 kanjis and 6000 words - relatively high grammar level, ability to converse, read, and write about matters of a general nature
- level 1 : about 2000 kanjis and 10000 words - high grammar level, integrated command of the language sufficient for life in Japanese society
Furthermore, a minimum score is needed to pass: 60% for levels 2, 3 and 4, 70% for level 1. Getting to the level 3 goes relatively fast but that things get tough from then on...indeed and as you can see, the difference with level 2 is huge! And when it is reached, there is still a long way to go until level 1...
No matter the level, the format of the test is similar: there are several parts testing kanji reading, grammar and vocabulary, listening comprehension...but the hardest one is the reading comprehension: a series of texts with associated questions. This is definitely the most difficult, yet the most important section since it has the highest valuation.
Practically, levels 3 and 4 are worth nothing, it gets interesting from level 2. For most people, choosing the level when applying is not difficult, but this particular case can be tricky: let's say you want to enter a Japanese university. You have little chance to pass level 1 (still possible though), while level 2 is a breeze. Level 2 is enough to apply for some of the universities you're interested in, but the most interesting ones require the level 1...so which test are you going to take?
If you come up with this answer: "first I take (and pass) level 2, then I take as many level 1 sessions as I can to hopefully pass"...then you're wrong...in fact it's not possible due to another difference with the TOEIC: there is only one JLPT session a year! Not to mention that the results are available like 3 months later!...Don't even consider applying to several levels the same year, since all tests are held at the same time! Now that's really unconvenient!...Even for those who would be crazy enough to, let's say, take the level 2 in France then go to England to take the level 1, this is also a bad idea because the test is held worldwide on the same day.
Anyway, I'm not concerned with all those existential questions because I already have a job and I have no intention to go to university. Also my company didn't ask for anything such as a JLPT result during the interview, just because small companies don't care about a piece of paper with a score written on it. Nothing's better than an interview to judge someone's ability to communicate, right?
If I'm writing about the JLPT today, it's for two reasons: first, the 2007 test is tomorrow and second, I'm taking it! I'm trying level 1 even though it's still going to be a little too hard this year. I only scored 56% on the mock test I took a couple months ago after leaving Yamasa (my ex-language school) and I haven't properly studied since because I had other priorities.
But as far as I'm concerned, the test is only for personal purposes and level 2 is not a problem anymore, so I'm taking up the level 1 challenge. My real goal is to pass next year, which shouldn't be hard after one year of complete integration in the Japanese society. With a Japanese girlfriend, tons of Japanese friends and a job at a Japanese company, there's something wrong if I don't reach this goal...
On top of that, I'm going to study again by myself and I've started to read novels in Japanese. On the minus side, there are still lots of words I don't understand, which forces me to use my electronic dictionary (ie my Nintendo DS, if you remember well) way too often. But the good thing is that even without a dictionary, I still get the big picture, and that is really encouraging!
PS : the original name of the JLPT is 日本語能力試験. Yes, I know nobody cares!...
Category: Japanese language