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!