When starting to learn a new language, you’re going to want to set some goals. At least, if you’re like me, you would want to aim for something. In terms of language, that aim is taking an exam. For the Japanese language, that’s the JLPT.
If you’ve read our previous articles on JLPT, you’d know what the JLPT is and how to study for it. One can’t really dive into this proficiency test if they don’t know if they want to take it in the first place. Some wonder why one would go through all the trouble and pain of drills, flash cards and tests. And that’s what this article is about.
We’re going to take a look at why you should take the JLPT test – the advantages and disadvantages of the JLPT and the various levels that are worth taking. Hopefully, by the end of the article, you will have a better understanding of the benefits of the JLPT as well as if you’re going to sign up for the next test date!
What is JLPT?
First and foremost, we have to look at what the test actually is. We have a whole article on that already, but let’s have a brief summary at it here regardless.
JLPT stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test. This is the only test that is standardised to evaluate the level of Japanese language proficiency one has. There are five levels for the JLPT: 1 to 5. JLPT N5 is the lowest but easiest to pass of them all, and JLPT N1 is the highest level and as close to a native you can get.
The JLPT tests cover both written and listening comprehension. However, they do not cover speaking or writing. So that means it quizzes on your understanding of the language rather than pronounciation or handwriting.
Here at Nihongo Master, we have practices for all the various mediums. Start learning Japanese with a free trial here!
You can take the JLPT tests twice a year in over 60 countries worldwide. You have to register online in advance and it takes up to three months to get your results. This is important to know, especially if you’re using the results to apply for a job or university in Japan. Check this list for a testing center near you.
Advantages of the JLPT
So now you know what the JLPT is, you might be thinking why you need it. There are a few advantages to taking the JLPT, especially since it’s the only standardised test of Japanese language proficiency.
The first advantage of taking the JLPT test is that it is necessary for some jobs in Japan. Employers might look at Japanese language proficiency when hiring new employees. The first thing they will look at is your JLPT level. A lot of the time, you will need at least N2 level, but I know a few friends who got jobs with N3 levels. It might be the case of how fluent you are at speaking during the interview – they check speech fluency too, sometimes.
If you have an N2 level of Japanese fluency, your job opportunities widen. If you have an N1 level of Japanese fluency, it widens up even more by 30 to 50 percent.
These are levels you would need for a job in Japan that requires you to converse and communicate in Japanese. JLPT N4 and N5 levels can land you jobs with a Japanese company outside of Japan, though.
Another advantage of taking the JLPT is for school. Sometimes, the JLPT test is needed for getting into universities. Back in the day, this was compulsory. Now, it has been replaced with an easier test.
Although, there are still schools which look at JLPT proficiencies like private conversation schools. JLPT levels are benchmarks for them. Some classes would require you to pass the level before to get into the higher levels.
However, JLPT is not a requirement to get into university nowadays.
When not to take the JLPT
So now that you know the advantages of the JLPT tests, when do you know not to take it?
Basically, if your school or workplace says you don’t need a certificate that says you have a level of Japanese ability, there’s not much reason for you to take the test. The JLPT test is merely a certified piece of paper that companies and institutions need to submit your application through. That might be all.
Studying for higher levels of the JLPT like N1 and N2 can take up a lot of time. Some say that they don’t even use the knowledge they learned other than for the test. Preparation and practice are time consuming. And they only test on comprehension in terms of listening and reading.
If you’re looking to learn Japanese to communicate in speech, then the JLPT might not be a useful test for you, since it doesn’t test you on that. Even passing JLPT N1 doesn’t make you super fluent. It just means you can read the Japanese local newspaper.
Don’t get me wrong. These tests are great for teaching you the correct grammar and sentence structure. However, if not paired with speech practice, it might not be as worthwhile as you think.
JLPT levels that are worthwhile
Speaking of worthwhile, since there are five levels of the JLPT, are all of them worth taking? Let’s take a look at the different levels.
JLPT N5 is the most basic level of proficiency. While there is no practical reason to take this level, it’s a good way to gauge your basic understanding of the language. Same goes for JLPT N4. JLPT N3 introduces a bit more business language into the test. While this is a step up from the previous two levels, this level still isn’t much use.
Once you head up to JLPT N2 or N1, that’s when it matters. Jobs and schools look for these levels, and you might even have a higher starting pay or waiver if you can prove your proficiency level.
Should I take the JLPT?
It can be a tough decision to make, but at the end of the day it’s up to intention. Do you want to take the JLPT for work and school, or is it to challenge yourself? I personally took it for myself, but a lot of my friends took it for work. We’re all on different paths in life, so it balls down to every individual. Good luck!
If you’re interested in learning the Japanese language, or have already started studying it, you probably have heard about the JLPT. It’s the best way to measure one’s level of Japanese proficiency. Most languages have this type of standardized test. Japanese is no different.
While it may not be compulsory for one to take the JLPT test, it’s something most Japanese language learners should consider. Before you stress yourself out about it, you’ve come to the right place to know all you need to about this test. Everything from advantages and disadvantages to what the test contains is all just a scroll down away!
What is the JLPT?
Of course, the first question is: what is the JLPT? This stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It’s organised by the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES), which is a semi governmental organisation.
In the test, your reading and listening skills are tested, focusing on grammar and vocabulary. There are MCQ questions as well as listening comprehension. Depending on your level, the test gets harder. In total, there are 5 levels: JLPT N1 to N5. N5 is the lowest proficiency level of them all, with N1 being the highest. Japanese language learners start off by taking the JLPT N5 test.
A lot of Japanese language learners use these tests to gauge their level of proficiency and figure out their weak points. In N5 and N4, the most common and conversational grammar and vocabulary are tested, but as you get to N2, almost all the grammar points are tested.
Levels of the JLPT
As we mentioned earlier, there are 5 levels of JLPT. Let’s take a look at what you need to know for each level.
In JLPT N5, which is the easiest level, this proficiency level is a good first step. There are 600 vocabulary words covered, 100 kanji (漢字) characters and 100 grammar points. At this level, you should also be able to read hiragana (ひらがな) and katakana (カタカナ). Grammar points include particles, which is the basics of any Japanese sentence.
This level of JLPT is a great level to show your achievement and interest in the language. While you can definitely put this on your resume, it probably won’t score you any big jobs. Lots of language learners study for the test but never actually take it. They do so just to know their level and also save a few bucks.
I personally skipped to the JLPT N4 and didn’t take the JLPT N5 test. This level covers most of the grammar that you need to speak conversational Japanese. Once you cover all of JLPT N4 and N5 material, you can get around Japan without many problems.
In JLPT N4, you’re looking at 2,000 vocabulary words and 300 kanji characters. While it won’t get you reading newspapers without issue, you can understand the gist of the text enough.
JLPT N4 is a good level to stop at if you don’t plan on working in Japan or your job doesn’t require Japanese for work. This is because this level gives you good enough comprehension skills and grammar to survive most conversations.
From this level onwards, you’re going to want to be more focused. There’s a slightly big jump from N4 to N3 as you need to speed up reading and comprehending. At JLPT N3, you’re required to learn 5,000 vocabulary words and 600 kanji characters.
Phrases and grammar points in this level are more advanced than N4 and N5. This level bridges the gap between N4 and N2 – N4 looks at common grammar, whereas N2 looks at less common ones.
At this level, you can use this for a job, maybe outside of Japan, to reply to non real-time comprehension like email.
If you’re planning to work in Japan, the JLPT N2 is what you should aim for. This gives you the most grammar and vocabulary you would need to understand most of written and spoken Japanese. You’re required to learn 10,000 vocabulary words and 1,000 kanji characters.
When you pass N2, you can land yourself a lot of jobs in Japan as it proves your comprehension of the language.
Last but not least, we have the JLPT N1. This is the highest level of all and proves your utmost fluency in the language. When you have this level, you’re qualified for any job in Japan. It’s pretty close to native fluency at this point.
During the test, you’re going to have to take down notes ast and can skim and read fast, too. These are skills that are important for working. With this proficiency level, you might even qualify for special visas that have more perks than the permanent residency.
Some say it takes the same amount of time to go from N2 to N1 as it does to go from 0 to N2.
Benefits of the JLPT
There are a lot of benefits to taking the JLPT tests, regardless of level. Even though it’s fairly easy to get an English teaching job in Japan, you can’t really do much without some sort of Japanese language comprehension.
So you’re definitely increasing your chances of getting other employment opportunities. Although, a lot of jobs require at least an N3 or N2 proficiency level, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from taking N5 and N4.
With a better understanding of the Japanese language, you might even be able to get a pay raise at your job. Especially if you can negotiate for it in Japanese.
Disadvantages of the JLPT
I think the biggest downside of the JLPT tests is that it doesn’t test speaking ability. The tests focus a lot on reading and listening, but there isn’t a section for speaking.
While this can easily be practiced when you immerse yourself in the country and its people, you can get away much more with grammar when talking to people casually. A lot of Japanese language learners are still constantly improving their grammar when speaking because the JLPT test doesn’t have a section to correct speech.
What level of the JLPT do I need?
Now, this depends on what you want to use Japanese for. If it’s to gauge your understanding of the language, N4 and N5 can do that.
N3 can get you a couple of job positions. I have tons of friends who are at N3 level and have landed jobs in Japan with it.
To be fully certain you can get more job opportunities, N2 is the way to go.
N1 is only needed for more advanced positions.
Which JLPT test are you going to take?
So, which level are you going to take? Remember that you should always take your time and go at your own pace when learning Japanese. You are on your own path and no one else’s! Good luck!
If you’re reading this, that means you’re planning to take the JLPT. Or at least, you’re planning to learn Japanese. That’s great news! Learning a new language is always an amazing adventure. And Japanese is a beautiful and rich language.
Now, it’s only natural for some of you to be wondering how long it would take to reach various levels of proficiency. This question can be quite difficult to give a straight answer to. Everyone has their own pace and methods of learning. For this article, we’ll give a rough estimate of how long one would take to learn Japanese to pass the various levels of JLPT.
What is JLPT?
First of all, what is JLPT? It stands for Japanese Language Proficiency Test. This is a standardised test to determine how much you understand the Japanese language. There are a total of five levels. N5 is the lowest level, and it goes up to N1, which is the highest proficiency level.
With each level, you are required to learn a number of kanji (漢字) characters, vocabulary words and grammar points. Even from the basic level of N5, you would also be required to know all writing systems like hiragana (ひらがな) and katakana (カタカナ).
Passing JLPT N5
Let’s start off with JLPT N5. As mentioned previously, each level requires a certain number of kanji characters, vocabulary words and grammar points. For this basic level, you are required to know 100 kanji characters nad 800 vocabulary words.
If you were to attend five hours of Japanese lessons with 10 hours of self study per week, it adds up to 60 hours per month. Some say it might take you 2.5 months to reach N5 level.
However, some say you would need more than that. For those who already understand kanji characters, generally, you would need at least 350 hours of study for this level. This equals 5 to 6 months.
Those who have no knowledge of kanji characters, it might take up to 465 hours of study. This is equivalent to 7 to 8 months. Some say it might take up to 600 hours of study, which is 10 months.
Whether or not you understand the kanji characters, it’s recommended that you start off by taking this level of Japanese proficiency.
Passing JLPT N4
Moving on from N5, a step up is the JLPT N4. This is still considered one of the basic levels of Japanese proficiency. For this level, you’re required to know 300 kanji characters and 1,500 vocabulary words. Of course, by this point, you’re able to read the Japanese writing systems.
With the similar concept, if you were to attend five hours of Japanese lessons with 10 hours of self study per week, some say it might take 5 months to reach this level. That is 300 hours of study.
However, that might not be accurate. Some say it can go up to 550 hours for those with kanji knowledge. That is about 9 months. If you don’t have kanji knowledge, it can be about 785 hours. This is about 13 months.
Passing JLPT N3
The next level is JLPT N3. I personally would say that the jump from N4 and N5 to N3 might be a big one. This level requires you to know 650 kanji characters and 3,700 vocabulary words. I would say N3 is where the business Japanese language starts coming in.
Using our previous scenario of 60 hours a week, some say to learn Japanese at this level would require 7 months. That means it would take 420 hours. Others say it can take up to 900 hours for those who are familiar with kanji. That would mean 15 months.
For those without kanji knowledge, it can take up to 22 months, which is 22 hours.
Passing JLPT N2
Of course, N2 has a way bigger jump from N3 as compared to before. For this level, you’re required to know 1,000 kanji characters and 6,000 vocabulary words. When you get to this stage of proficiency, you’re pretty much fluent. Well, according to me.
So similarly, if you study 60 hours a week, some say it can take 10 months to get to this level. Now, that can be quite a reach for some. Here’s a more realistic calculation. For those with kanji knowledge, it might take you about 24 to 25 months. This is equivalent to 1475 hours of JLPT study.
For those without kanji knowledge, it might take you up to 2200 hours. This is about 36 to 37 months of study. You’ll be crunching numbers!
Passing JLPT N1
Now, for the final level. JLPT N1 requires you to know 2,000 kanji characters and 10,000 vocabulary words. If you manage to get to this level, you’re fluent! You’ll be able to read newspapers and, well, basically anything in Japanese.
If you study 60 hours a week, some say it might get you to this level within 15 months. Realistically, it might take you closer to 2,150 hours for those with kanji knowledge. This is about 35 months.
For those without kanji knowledge, it can go up to 3,900 hours. This is 65 months.
Which JLPT level of proficiency are you going to aim for?
These are all rough estimates to reach the various levels of proficiency. I know some people who have reached them within less time, while others take more time. At the end of the day, it really depends on the individual. So, which JLPT level of proficiency are you aiming for? Good luck studying!