What is JLPT?

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) under joint organization of the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (previously Association of International Education, Japan) started in 1984 as a test to measure and certify the Japanese-language proficiency of those whose native language is not Japanese. In the first year the JLPT was conducted in 15 countries, and approximately 7,000 examinees took the test. Since then, the JLPT has become the largest Japanese-language test in the world, with approximately 610,000 examinees in 62 countries and areas worldwide in 2011. This success is entirely due to the support and cooperation of all involved.

 

A quarter century since its inception, the JLPT has been undergoing various changes in recent years. In 2009, the JLPT started to be offered twice a year in July and December, as opposed to only once a year in December previously. The year 2010 saw the introduction of the “new” JLPT, which focuses on communication abilities to meet more diverse student needs and is designed based on analysis of data collected over the years.

 

Today the JLPT is actively used in every corner of the world. We continue to strive for further penetration and improvement of the JLPT in order to provide a wide range of Japanese-language students in all sorts of learning environments with more and equal opportunities to take the test in coming years.

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) has been offered by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (formerly Association of International Education, Japan) since 1984 as a reliable means of evaluating and certifying the Japanese proficiency of non-native speakers. At the beginning, there were approximately 7,000 examinees worldwide. In 2011, there were as many as 610,000 examinees around the globe, making JLPT the largest-scale Japanese-language test in the world.

Over time, test applicants have become more diverse, and use of JLPT results has expanded from skill measurement to include employment screening and evaluation for promotions and pay raises as well as use as a form of qualification. Many outstanding suggestions for improvement were also submitted by a wide variety of individuals around the world.

To ensure the continuing relevancy and accuracy of the JLPT, the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services introduced a revised version of the test in 2010. This new test takes full advantage of the most advanced research in Japanese pedagogy and testing theory, and reflects the vast wealth of data accumulated since the original JLPT was launched over 25 years ago.


N4 and N5 measure the level of understanding of basic Japanese mainly learned in class. N1and N2 measure the level of understanding of Japanese used in a broad range of scenes in actual everyday life. N3 is a bridging level between N1/N2 and N4/N5.

Linguistic competence required for the JLPT is expressed in terms of language activities, such as Reading and Listening, as shown in the table below. While not noted in the table, Language Knowledge, such as Vocabulary and Grammar, is also required for successful execution of these activities.

Level
A summary of linguistic competence required for each level
N1

The ability to understand Japanese used in a variety of circumstances.

Reading
  • ・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.
Listening
  • ・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.
N2

The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations, and in a variety of circumstances to a certain degree.

Reading
  • ・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.
Listening
  • ・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.
N3

The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations to a certain degree.

Reading
  • ・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.
Listening
  • ・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.
N4

The ability to understand basic Japanese.

Reading
  • ・One is able to read and understand passages on familiar daily topics written in basic vocabulary and kanji.
Listening
  • ・One is able to listen and comprehend conversations encountered in daily life and generally follow their contents, provided that they are spoken slowly.
N5

The ability to understand some basic Japanese.

Reading
  • ・One is able to read and understand typical expressions and sentences written in hiraganakatakana, and basic kanji.
Listening
  • ・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.