Blog: Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

Hi everyone! I apologize, it’s been a long time since the site got an update. Life got the better of me after the Chinese New year break. Work, play, a visit from Octavia to Singapore… and then more work. Just never got into the mood to write anything till now.

Anyhow… It’s that time of the year again…

The time where JLPT registration opens.

I’m still debating if I should sign up for the JLPT for this coming July, or if I should focus on the GRE first, and go for JLPT in Dec… (Then again, I’ll probably be really busy with applications in Dec.) Oh wells.

Personally, I took the JLPT N4 and N3, and found them really easy. So much so that I want to save some money and go straight to taking the N1. BUT. One big BUT. I probably should study for the N1. Unlike the N4 and N3, which I kinda aced without so much as to touching a single textbook or exercise question, I think I’d fail the N1, or only get a borderline pass if I don’t study. It is the N1 after all.

Ok. I apologize for jumping the gun. Let me backtrack to the beginning for a proper introduction.


JLPT stands for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It is administered under the joint organization of the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services, as a “test to measure and certify the Japanese-language proficiency of those whose native language is not Japanese”. The test is divided into 5 difficulty levels, N1 all the way to N5; N1 being the hardest, and N5 the easiest. (You can read more about the different levels, and more about JLPT on their website here.)

The test is conducted biannually, on the first Sunday of every July and December (some cities might only have one test date a year), in a number of countries and cities worldwide. (Check here for the full list.) Registration for the July test takes place around Mar-Apr, and Aug-Sept for the December test. In Singapore, where I am, the registration for the upcoming 3rd July 2016 test is from 14th Mar to 3rd Apr.

I’ve been wanting to sign up for the JLPT for quite a long time, but between the early (at least IMO) registration period and my reluctance to actually study for the test, I keep missing the sign ups (intentionally or otherwise). Probably 2 years passed for I signed up for the N4. I took N4 and N3 back to back, but if not for a boo boo made by the Japanese Cultural Society (JCS) in Singapore, I would have missed the N3 registration date.

What happened? Well, during the listening section of the N4 test, someone’s phone rang. My first thoughts were, “Oh! Someone’s gonna get disqualified from the test!”

“Oh but why isn’t he/she scrambling to shut the phone up yet?”

Then someone ran to the table upfront. Turns out it was the exam proctor’s phone. I don’t remember exactly when it rang (this was during the Dec 2013 test after all!), but it was during some unimportant time, when the disc wasn’t playing anything, and I promptly forgot about the incident. The JCS clearly didn’t though, because when I got my results slip in the mail, I also got a letter of apology from JCS regarding the incident. Better still, to make up for it, they gave me a full refund of the test registration fees, and a voucher for signing up for the upcoming July test, for any difficulty level.

Fabulous! Now I got to sit for two exams for free! And the incident didn’t affect my results one bit because I score a full marks on my listening section. I wonder if the exam proctor faced disciplinary measures though… She’s probably just a volunteer…

I believe that because of the boo boo, the registration period was extended to allow candidates to use the voucher… Because when I went to collect my N3 cert, thinking that I could collect the cert and register at the same time as I did for the previous exam, I realized that registrations had already closed. Boo. And since then I’ve not gathered up the courage to register for JLPT again. I tried to convince myself that I should start studying, so that I can go directly to the N1 level the next time registration rolls around, but of course, studying was never my strong point.

So here we are. In 2016, and once again, I’m pondering if I should sign up for the JLPT or not. sigh

On a different note… As I was checking the JLPT website to write this post… I noticed that they put up data of the past JLPT tests! Like the number of candidates, and the average marks (mean, and standard deviation), and the passing rate. The scientist in me jumped with joy as I saw the stats and I immediately set about tracking down the stats for the exams I took. (Had to start with first finding out when exactly I took the exams!)

With me passing N4 and N3 with flying colors without studying, I assumed that the passing rates were pretty high. [Fun fact: I actually did better on N3 than N4. A full 10 marks better in fact. Got 89.89% for N4, just shy of 90%. 🙁 I attribute that improvement to watching more Arashi shows, and doing some translations.] Well maybe not super high, but perhaps, 60, 70%? But no. The passing rates ranges from roughly 30-55%, with N1 passes being the lowest, and N5 naturally being the highest. This data certainly surprised me. There I was, thinking that the JLPT cert is too easy to get and therefore kind of worthless. (There’s no indication of marks on the cert, so it’s basically just a pass or fail.) I guess it’s not that easy after all huh…

Of course, having a Chinese background really helps, and I think my ability to understand the flow of conversation, and read between the lines is extremely helpful in Japanese – the Japanese people leave as much words unspoken as the ones they do speak… But I guess that’s another story for another day.

For now… I’ll head home and continue wondering if I should sign up for N1. Or maybe I should just mark a date on my calendar and just take the darn test already. (And hopefully, still be able to pass with flying colors.)

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