What is the JLPT

by Buddy Lindsey

The JLPT, Japanese Language Proficiency Test, is a standardized test for those people that do not speak Japanese natively to give them a gauge of there level of competency in Japanese. It can be used to help companies see how much you know. It is a great way to see where you are at because of what it takes to pass. The tests have a standard format for all levels so that you have consistency in level of tests.

Thanks http://www.furuanimepanikku.com/ for this awesome image

Before reading on note this is the last year they will have 4 – 1 next year they are going to have a 5 – 1.  However, they are made up basically as 4, 3, 2.5, 2, 1; roughly is how you can look at the new format..


Here is a general idea of what to expect, and what you need to know to pass. All approximations as actual numbers seem to change in reading about it.

Level 4:

  • 100 kanji
  • 800 vocabulary
  • Beginner Listening
  • 150 hours of study
  • 60% to pass
  • 100 minutes

Level 3:

  • 300 Kanji
  • 1500 Vocabulary
  • Basic Listening
  • 300 Hours of Study
  • 60% to pass
  • 140 minutes

Level 2:

  • 1000 Kanji
  • 6000 Vocabulary
  • Intermediate Listening
  • 600 Hours of Study
  • 70% to pass
  • 145 minutes

Level 1:

  • 2000 Kanji
  • 10,000 Vocabulary
  • Advanced Listening
  • 900 Hours of Study
  • 70% to Pass
  • 180 minutes

Test Sections

There are 3 key sections to the whole test.

Characters and Vocabulary (100 Points, Level 425 min, Level 335 min, Level 235 min, Level 145 min)

  • Identify correct kanji for given situation
  • Select hirigana readings for kanji
  • Appropriate term for sentences, appropriate
  • Usage of words

Listening Comprehension (100 Points, Level 425 min, Level 335 min, Level 240 min, Level 145 min)

  • Choosing picture to represent spoken conversation
  • Same as above no visuals

Reading Comprehension and Grammar (200 Points, Level 450 min, Level 370 min, Level 270 min, Level 190 min)

  • Passages of various size to test comprehension
  • Fill in the blank/paraphrase key points
  • Select Correct Grammar structure to convey point, test conjugation and postpositional agreement


I am firm believer in the “All Japanese All the Time” method of learning Japanese, I mean the method just makes sense. However, I do disagree with several things on what Khatzumoto has to say, check out “Why Japanese Classes DON’T Suck”. I also happen to partially disagree, again, with him, but this time regarding the JLPT. Here is an excerpt from his site on this post about the JLPT it sums up his thoughts best. Why I Hate the JLPT and Why It’s a Waste of Your Time and Money.

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is just like every other standardized test in that it doesn’t measure actual ability or proficiency in the field in question; it merely measures proficiency in taking the test. Oh, don’t get me wrong — you need to know some English to understand SAT directions and some Japanese to understand JLPT instructions, but beyond that it’s all about splitting the stupidest, ugliest hairs imaginable.

This is the most common objection to the JLPT or standardized tests in general. However, my view is one of knowing Japanese. I am constantly amazed that I know some Japanese when I can read something and understand what it says. Even though to some degree I know I can read and understand some it still catches me off guard. That is why I think the JLPT is fine to take if you are willing to spend the money on taking it and traveling wherever you need to go. If I can pass it I know I have a base level knowledge of Japanese with something to back it up, plus it is another mini goal to achieve.


Hopefully this provides you with an overview of the JLPT and a little surrounding it. I mostly did post to better break down what the JLPT and some of the views on it. Let me know what you think of it or how you think it went when you took it. I am hoping to take 4 in the winter.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Made in DNA June 22, 2009 at 11:26 pm

“The JLPT, Japanese Language Proficiency Test, is a standardized test for those people that do not speak Japanese natively to give them a gauge of there level of competency in Japanese.”

I beg to differ. That is the definition of the “j.test”. The JLPT is an exam that is geared toward helping non-native students get into university in Japan. Though not widely known, the “j.test” is a much more comprehensive test that scores your practical ability with EVERYDAY JAPANESE, giving you an idea of how far along you are.

One test for middle to advanced learners and one test for beginners.

For more information: http://j-test.jp/xp/modules/tinyd10/content/index.php?id=11


2 DumbOtaku June 22, 2009 at 11:33 pm

I’ll be honest I have never heard of the j.test before I will check it out. Yes the JLPT is also for getting into university or getting a job, but a lot of people I have talked to have taken it simply to gauge where they are at.

I guess “different strokes for different folks”.


3 Soshi June 22, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Um, I think you should include the fact that the format of the JLPT is changing (this or next year, I cannot remember. Google will!) and it won’t be simply four levels, but five. It’s a pretty radical change.


4 DumbOtaku June 23, 2009 at 12:02 am

blarg, thanks for telling me I had that in my original post apparently It didn’t make it into the final editing. oopsy.


5 Made in DNA June 23, 2009 at 12:03 am

glad i was able to share. it’s a pity that some places require people to have a JPLT rating, but after a while, it really doesn’t matter. especially when you can walk into an interview and conduct it in Japanese. they get the idea.

as it is, i have a level 2 proficiency. took the test in dec 2001. after the test, i heard two gentlemen behind me speaking:

A: Have a hard time on the test?
B: Not at all. There’s nothing hard about randomly filling in the score sheet.


6 DumbOtaku June 23, 2009 at 12:09 am

Unfortunatly, that is how some people approach it. I am working on another post, slowly, on strategies for the JLPT and the first one is to actually take the test with full intentions of knowing the answers so you don’t have to guess. To me it is the best way to pass the test, and the most useful. I mean if you don’t know Japanese it dumb to even have the JLPT ranking. That is why I am approaching it from a knowledge angle over a how to pass angle.


7 Tsik December 4, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I’m going to start taking the exams next year and every after simply to gauge my japanese. I’m not doing it to get a job or get into a university (I’m almost out infact). I know many people that are taking it for the same reason. Geared or not, it’s a decent approach to testing your current knowledge.


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