take the Japanese test (N1 to N5)

There are several aptitude tests in Japanese, like the TOEIC and other TOEFL for English. The most famous and recognized is surely the JLPT. Bwell known to all students and those who learn japanese, not many people are however watered with information about it. Even on the internet 📶, apart from a few pages and specialized forums, few sites address the test. I therefore propose an article dedicated to this exam, its operation, the preparation and the registration, as well as a small report of my personal passage.

What is the JLPT or Nihongo Nôryoku Shiken Exam?

The acronym JLPT means ” Japanese Language Proficiency Test or, from its original title, 日本語能力試験” Nihongo Noryoku Shiken which stands for “Japanese Language Skills Examination”. He has no French name. It is an international test that takes place simultaneously in several dozen countries, once a year: on the first Sunday of December (in Japan and China, there is an additional session in July). It can be compared to the TOEFL for English, where the BJT test (another single-level and more business-oriented Japanese test, to be taken in Japan, France or Asia) would rather resemble the TOEIC. A validated JLPT entitles you to an international diploma that can be requested to enroll in a Japanese university, for example. Established in 1984, it is organized in Japan by JEES (Japan Educational Exchange and Services) and by Fondation du Japon / The Japan Foundation elsewhere in the world.

Although I studied Japanese in college, I had never taken the JLPT. So, I registered there this year to test my level (without revising, I specify) in anticipation of my next trip to Japan in March. I wanted to see what I could give after more than 5 years without real lessons / learning Japanese and after all very irregular practice. Japanese is not, in fact, at the center of my life and, apart from travelling, listening to a few Japanese films and dramas, unfortunately I haven’t really had any contact with this language for some time. . The experience was therefore as fun as it was interesting. It was thus an opportunity to retake an exam on the table and to find some “Goldorak”, aspiring otakus who gravitate like honey flies around everything related to Japanese, fortunately more and more rare as and as you level up. Yes, the European otaku is quickly discouraged once he realizes that learning Japanese requires more work than watching episode 147 of Naruto Shippuden for the twelfth time.

5 different tests classified according to level

To return to the subject, the JLPT is a standardized MCQ in the form Minna no Nihongo, declined in 5 levels that the candidate chooses at the time of registration. We therefore “pretend” to be at the level and, if we are more studious than me, we prepare for it to pass it. Here is the official detail of the 5 grades:

  • the N5 (ex-level 4) is intended for beginners, it corresponds to a knowledge of basic grammar rules, simple conversation and reading simple sentences. The level 4 test requires the knowledge of approximately 80 kanji, 600 vocabulary words and 150 hours of learning;
  • the N4 (ex-level 3) is intended for medians, it corresponds to a sufficient level for everyday conversation and the reading of fairly simple sentences. The level 3 test requires the knowledge of approximately 230 kanji, 1,250 vocabulary words and 300 hours of learning;
  • the N3 (unreleased) completes the gap in difficulty that previously existed between the former levels 3 and 2. It is credited with approximately 600 kanji, 3,000 vocabulary words and 450 hours of learning;
  • the N2 (ex-level 2) is intended for intermediates, it corresponds to a fairly advanced level of grammar, conversation, reading and writing of common subjects. The level 2 test requires the knowledge of approximately 1,000 kanji, 6,000 vocabulary words and 600 hours of learning;
  • finally, the N1 (ex-level 1) is intended for advanced students, it corresponds to a perfect mastery of grammar which makes it possible to follow courses given in Japanese, or even to read the newspaper. The level 1 test requires the knowledge of approximately 2,000 kanji (all the jôyô kanji, finally), 10,000 vocabulary words and 900 hours of learning.

For information the “N” stands for “Nihongo” and “New”, according to the official explanation of JEES (Japan Educational and Exchanges Services).

The tests in detail for levels N3 to N5

The course of the N3, N4 and N5 tests is as follows:

  • First, a test of vocabulary : respective durations of 30, 30 and 25 minutes.
  • Then a test of grammar and kanji reading : respective durations of 70, 60 and 50 minutes.
  • Finally, a test of oral comprehension broadcast on magnetic or digital bank: respective durations of 40, 35 and 30 minutes. FYI, only the N5 will have pictographic responses.

The tests in detail for levels N1 and N2

The course of the N1 and N2 tests is as follows:

  • First, a test of vocabulary and reading (kanji and grammar) : respective durations of 60 and 50 minutes.
  • Finally, a test of oral comprehension : respective durations of 110 and 105 minutes.

Total duration of the JLPT per level

Accordingly, here is the total exam time for each level:

  • N1: 170 minutes
  • N2: 155 minutes
  • N3: 140 minutes
  • N4: 125 minutes
  • N5: 105 minutes

The new JLPT point system for all levels (N1 to N5)

The point system is the one that has undergone the most changes with the renewal of the JLPT in 2010. Now, all levels have a total score calculated on 180 points. In levels N3 to N5, each event will be worth 60 points. In levels N1 and N2, the written test will be worth 120 points and the oral 60 points. Attention: there is now a minimum score to reach per event, and no longer in total. It is therefore possible to be eliminated because of a test, even if you have passed the other / the other two perfectly.

Review and prepare for the JLPT diploma

The result of the JLPT is communicated by mail in March (or in February for Japan), accompanied if necessary by the diploma. As an indication, it is considered that it is from N2 that the JLPT really begins to have an international value, for example to obtain an internship, apply for a university or a job in Japan.

For a long time, people have been drumming into my ears with the idea that this JLPT was an easy test to pass by revising well, and that a lot of Japanese, despite the fact that the country is one of the most literate in the world, do not would not get the ex-level 1 because of their gradual loss of knowledge of writing kanji (thanks keitai and other word processors). Basically, that the JLPT is an exam for scholastics and not necessarily for fluent and fluent bilinguals. Overall, that’s pretty true. We are doing very well in everyday life in Japan with “only” 1,000 kanji in the noggin. So for the N1s, the debate on the real interest of the test remains open.

That said, it allows us a more or less skilful transition to the books helping you prepare and revise the JLPT. We recommend our revision eBooks, very synthetic of everything you need to know to pass each level:

  • Prepare JLPT N5 : 80 kanji, 600 vocabulary words, grammatical forms for beginners
  • Prepare the JLPT N4 : 230 kanji, 1,250 vocabulary words, grammatical forms for false beginners
  • Prepare the JLPT N3 : 600 kanji, 3,100 vocabulary words, grammatical forms for intermediates

Take the JLPT in France (Paris / Lyon / Strasbourg)

In France, registration for the JLPT costs 70€ (levels N4 and N5) or 80€ (levels N3, N2 and N1), rates which took from 20 to 30€ in 2015. The files are to be completed and submitted in September/October. Consult the INALCO Paris website (formerly Langues’O) which describes the test and offers a lot of practical information: JLPT INALCO. You can take the test in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg or Bordeaux:

  • Paris – House of Examinations7 Rue Ernest Renan, 94110 Arcueil (just opposite the RER B Laplace station, does not work with a simple metro ticket):
  • INSA Lyon : Avenue des Arts, 69100 Villeurbanne. Tel: 04 72 43 82 29
  • University of Strasbourg : 4 Rue Blaise Pascal, 67400 Strasbourg. Tel: 03 68 85 00 00
  • Bordeaux Montaigne University : Esplanade des Antilles 33607 Pessac Cedex. Tel: 05 57 12 62 66

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