The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (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.
In the beginning, there were approximately 7,000 examinees worldwide. By 2011, there were more than 600,000 examinees in more than 60 countries.
In the United States, more than 4,800 people took the JLPT in 2015. In 2016, the test will be administered at 16 test sites located around the country.
Characteristics and Benefits of the JLPT
The JLPT places importance not only on knowledge of Japanese-language vocabulary and grammar but also on the ability to use the knowledge in actual communication. In order to perform various “everyday tasks” that requires language, not only language knowledge but also the ability to actually use it are necessary. Therefore, the JLPT measures comprehensive Japanese-language communicative competence through three elements: “Language Knowledge,” “Reading,” and “Listening.” The JLPT is offered in five levels (N1, N2, N3, N4, and N5, in order from most difficult to least difficult). N4 and N5 measure understanding of basic Japanese that is mainly learned in the classroom. N1 and N2 measure understanding of Japanese used in a broad range of actual everyday scenes. N3 bridges the gap between N4/N5 and N1/N2.
Acceptance in Japan
• N1 can be used to satisfy the Japanese language ability criterion under the “Point-based Preferential Immigration Treatment System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals” announced by the Japanese government in 2012. It is also possible to use the Business Japanese Proficiency Test or a foreign university degree with a major in Japanese for this purpose.
• N1 is a prerequisite for foreign medical professionals who wish to take examinations to be licensed in Japan, and for certain foreign nationals who wish to attend nursing school in Japan.
• Those who have passed either N1 or N2 (regardless of citizenship) are exempt from the Japanese language section of the middle school equivalency examination, which is required in order to enter a Japanese high school if the applicant did not graduate from a Japanese middle school.
• N1 is sometimes accepted in lieu of the Examination for Japanese University Admission for foreign students who wish to study at Japanese universities.
The revised test pattern was implemented in 2010. The test consists of five levels: N1, N2, N3, N4, and N5, with N1 being the highest level and N5 the lowest. No Test Content Specification is published as it is discouraged to study from kanji and vocabulary lists.
Advanced Level: The ability to understand Japanese used in a variety of circumstances.
One is able to read writings with logical complexity and/or abstract writings on a variety of topics, such as newspaper editorials and critiques, and comprehend both their structures and contents. One is also able to read written materials with profound contents on various topics and follow their narratives as well as understand the intent of the writers comprehensively.
One is able to comprehend orally presented materials such as coherent conversations, news reports, and lectures, spoken at natural speed in a broad variety of settings, and is able to follow their ideas and comprehend their contents comprehensively. One is also able to understand the details of the presented materials such as the relationships among the people involved, the logical structures, and the essential points.
Upper-intermediate Level: The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations, and in a variety of circumstances to a certain degree.
One is able to read materials written clearly on a variety of topics, such as articles and commentaries in newspapers and magazines as well as simple critiques, and comprehend their contents. One is also able to read written materials on general topics and follow their narratives as well as understand the intent of the writers.
One is able to comprehend orally presented materials such as coherent conversations and news reports, spoken at nearly natural speed in everyday situations as well as in a variety of settings, and is able to follow their ideas and comprehend their contents. One is also able to understand the relationships among the people involved and the essential points of the presented materials.
Intermediate Level: The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations to a certain degree.
One is able to read and understand written materials with specific contents concerning everyday topics. One is also able to grasp summary information such as newspaper headlines. In addition, one is also able to read slightly difficult writings encountered in everyday situations and understand the main points of the content if some alternative phrases are available to aid one’s understanding.
One is able to listen and comprehend coherent conversations in everyday situations, spoken at near-natural speed, and is generally able to follow their contents as well as grasp the relationships among the people involved.
Elementary Level: The ability to understand basic Japanese.
One is able to read and understand passages on familiar daily topics written in basic vocabulary and kanji.
One is able to listen and comprehend conversations encountered in daily life and generally follow their contents, provided that they are spoken slowly.
Basic Level: The ability to understand some basic Japanese.
One is able to read and understand typical expressions and sentences written in hiragana, katakana, and basic kanji.
One is able to listen and comprehend conversations about topics regularly encountered in daily life and classroom situations, and is able to pick up necessary information from short conversations spoken slowly.