Japanese-Language Proficiency Test

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Japanese-Language
Proficiency Test
JLPT N1.jpg
Certificate of Proficiency awarded for passing the Level N1 JLPT conducted in 2010.

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (日本語能力試験 Nihongo Nōryoku Shiken?), or JLPT, is a standardized criterion-referenced test to evaluate and certify Japanese language proficiency for non-native speakers, covering language knowledge, reading ability, and listening ability.[1] The test is held twice a year in Japan and selected countries (on the first Sunday of July and December), and once a year in other regions (on the first Sunday of December).[2]

The JLPT was expanded to five levels in 2010, characterized as follows:[3]

  • N1: The ability to understand Japanese used in a variety of circumstances
  • N2: The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations, and in a variety of circumstances to a certain degree
  • N3: The ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations to a certain degree
  • N4: The ability to understand basic Japanese
  • N5: The ability to understand some basic Japanese

Until 2009, the test had four levels, with the old Level 3 and Level 4 corresponding to the current Level N4 and Level N5 respectively. In the change to the new level system, a new Level N3 was inserted between the old Levels 2 and 3. The examination for Level N1 was expanded to cover higher-level content, but the passing standard for Level N1 remained approximately the same as the old Level 1.[4] JLPT certificates do not expire or become invalid over time.[5]

History and statistics[edit]

The JLPT was first held in 1984 in response to growing demand for standardized Japanese language certification.[6] Initially 7,000 people took the test.[7] Until 2003, the JLPT was one of the requirements for foreigners entering Japanese universities. Since 2003, the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) is used by most universities for this purpose;[8] unlike the JLPT, which is solely a multiple-choice exam, the EJU contains sections which require the examinee to write in Japanese.

In 2004, the JLPT was offered in 40 countries, including Japan. Of the 302,198 examinees in that year, 47% (around 140,000) were certified for their respective level.[9] The number of candidates continued to rise to 559,056 in 2008, while the percentage of candidates certified has fallen below 36%. In 2009, when a revised system was introduced in which two exams are held each year in East Asia, a total of 768,114 people took the exam.[10] In 2010, 610,000 people took the test.[11]

Acceptance in Japan[edit]

  • N1 can be used to satisfy the Japanese language ability criterion under the "Point-based Preferential Immigration Treatment System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals" announced by the Japanese government in 2012. It is also possible to use the Business Japanese Proficiency Test or a foreign university degree with a major in Japanese for this purpose.[12]
  • N1 is a prerequisite for foreign medical professionals who wish to take examinations to be licensed in Japan, and for certain foreign nationals who wish to attend nursing school in Japan.[13]
  • Foreign nationals who have passed either N1 or N2 are exempt from the Japanese language section of the middle school equivalency examination, which is required in order to enter a Japanese high school if the applicant did not graduate from a Japanese middle school.[14]
  • N1 is sometimes accepted in lieu of the Examination for Japanese University Admission for foreign students who wish to study at Japanese universities.

Administration[edit]

In Japan, the JLPT is administered by the Ministry of Education[16] through the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES). Overseas, the Japan Foundation co-proctors test administration with local cultural exchange and/or educational institutions, or with committees specially established for this purpose.[17][18]

Revised test[edit]

A revised test pattern was implemented in 2010 (it was originally scheduled to be implemented from December 2009). The revised test consists of five levels: N1, N2, N3, N4, and N5, with N1 being the highest level and N5 the lowest. No Test Content Specification will be published as it is discouraged to study from kanji and vocabulary lists.[19]

Changes[edit]

Two changes in levels of tests were made: firstly, a new level was inserted between the old level 3 and level 2, and secondly, the content of the top level exam (old level 1) was changed to test slightly more advanced skills, though the passing level was not changed,[20] possibly through equating of test scores.

The addition of the new N3 was done to address the problem of the difficulty gap between level 3 and 2: in the past there had been requests for revisions to address the fact that examinees who had passed the Level 3 test often had trouble with passing the Level 2 test because of the large gap in level of skill needed to pass those two levels. There was also a desire to measure abilities more advanced than those targeted by the current Level 1 test, hence the top level exam was modified.[21]

The correspondence is as follows:

  • N1: slightly more advanced than the original level 1, but the same passing level
  • N2: the same as the original level 2
  • N3: in between the original level 2 and level 3
  • N4: the same as the original level 3
  • N5: the same as the original level 4

The revised test continues to test the same content categories as the original, but the first and third sections of the test have been combined into a single section.[22] Sections on oral and writing skills were not introduced.[7] Further, a requirement to pass individual sections was added, rather than only achieving an overall score.

New Level A summary of linguistic competence required for each level
N1 Advanced Level: 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 Upper-intermediate Level: 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 Intermediate Level: 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 Elementary Level: 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 Basic Level: The ability to understand some basic Japanese.

Reading

One is able to read and understand typical expressions and sentences written in hiragana, katakana, 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.

Scoring[edit]

Passing is based on scaled scores – raw scores are not directly used to determine passing, nor are they reported, except in rough form in the "Reference Information" section. Raw scores are converted to a standard scale, so that equivalent performance on tests from different years and different levels of difficulty yields the same scaled score. The scaled scores are reported, broken down by section, and these are the scores used to determine passing.

In addition, a "Reference Information" section is provided on the report card; this is purely informational – for the examinee’s future studies – and is not used in determining if an examinee has passed. The grade given is based on the raw score, and is either A, B, or C, accordingly as the raw score was 67% or above, between 34% and 66%, or below 34%. This reference information is given for vocabulary, grammar, and reading on the N4 and N5, and for vocabulary and grammar (but not reading) on the N1, N2, and N3. In both cases, this breaks down the score on the "Language Knowledge" section into separate skills, but in neither case is performance on the listening section analyzed.

Pass marks[edit]

Passing the test requires both achieving an overall pass mark for the total points, and passing each section individually; these are based on the scaled scores. The sectional scores are to ensure that skills are not unbalanced – so one cannot pass by doing well on the written section but poorly on the listening section, for instance. The overall pass mark depends on the level and varies between 100/180 (55.55%) for the N1 and 80/180 (44.44%) for the N5. The pass marks for individual sections are all 19/60 = 31.67% – equivalently, 38/120 = 19/60 for the large section on the N4 and N5. Note that the sectional pass levels are below the overall pass level, at 31.67% instead of 44.44%–55.55%: one need not achieve the overall pass level on each section. These standards were adopted starting in July 2010, and do not vary from year to year, with the scaling instead varying.

Pass marks for individual sections [22]
Level Overall pass mark Language Knowledge
(Vocabulary/Grammar)
Reading Listening
N1 100 points 19 points 19 points 19 points
N2 90 points 19 points 19 points 19 points
N3 95 points 19 points 19 points 19 points
Total possible 180 points 60 points 60 points 60 points
N4 90 points 38 points 19 points
N5 80 points 38 points 19 points
Total possible 180 points 120 points 60 points

Test sections[edit]

Level Test section [23]
(test time)
Total duration
N1 Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar)・Reading
(110 min)
Listening
(60 min)
170 min
N2 Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar)・Reading
(105 min)
Listening
(50 min)
155 min
N3 Language Knowledge (Vocabulary)
(30 min)
Language Knowledge (Grammar)・Reading
(70 min)
Listening
(40 min)
140 min
N4 Language Knowledge (Vocabulary)
(30 min)
Language Knowledge (Grammar)・Reading
(60 min)
Listening
(35 min)
125 min
N5 Language Knowledge (Vocabulary)
(25 min)
Language Knowledge (Grammar)・Reading
(50 min)
Listening
(30 min)
105 min
  • Note: "Vocabulary" includes kanji and vocabulary (previous 文字・語彙)

Results[edit]

Results for the December test are announced the following February for examinees in Japan, and March for overseas candidates. Test results are sent to the examinees through the testing organization or centre to which they applied.[24] From 2012, with online registration, results are available online before they are mailed out (late August for the July test). All examinees receive a report indicating their scores by section. Those who pass also receive a Certificate of Proficiency.

Year Level JLPT in Japan JLPT overseas
Applicants Examinees Certified (%) Applicants Examinees Certified (%)
2007[25] 1 kyū 47,761 42,923 14,338 (33.4%) 135,616 110,937 28,550 (25.7%)
2 kyū 34,782 31,805 11,884 (37.4%) 186,226 152,198 40,975 (26.9%)
3 kyū 16,808 15,710 8,664 (55.1%) 143,252 113,526 53,806 (47.4%)
4 kyū 3,908 3,383 2,332 (68.9%) 64,127 53,476 27,767 (51.9%)
2008[26] 1 kyū 52,992 46,953 18,454 (39.3%) 138,131 116,271 38,988 (33.5%)
2 kyū 41,924 38,040 16,289 (42.8%) 187,482 157,142 58,124 (37.0%)
3 kyū 22,016 20,351 13,304 (65.4%) 147,435 120,569 69,605 (57.7%)
4 kyū 4,524 3,903 2,765 (70.8%) 65,877 55,828 31,227 (55.9%)
2009-1[27] 1 kyū 29,274 26,578 11,738 (44.2%) 103,349 87,104 28,230 (32.4%)
2 kyū 26,437 24,793 9,279 (37.4%) 130,753 110,266 27,543 (25.0%)
2009-2[28] 1 kyū 46,648 41,998 12,293 (29.3%) 137,708 114,725 26,427 (23.0%)
2 kyū 36,528 33,807 12,462 (36.9%) 176,628 147,328 41,488 (28.2%)
3 kyū 17,703 16,675 9,360 (56.1%) 131,733 108,867 51,903 (47.7%)
4 kyū 3,212 2,932 2,155 (73.5%) 61,995 53,041 29,529 (55.7%)
2010-1[29] N1 26,225 23,694 9,651 (40.7%) 73,863 62,938 19,402 (30.8%)
N2 24,738 23,126 13,768 (59.5%) 87,889 74,874 32,530 (43.4%)
N3 6,947 6,280 3,051 (48.6%) 42,227 32,100 12,574 (39.2%)
2010-2[30] N1 40,041 36,810 12,774 (34.7%) 100,689 87,763 25,781 (29.4%)
N2 27,947 26,020 11,679 (44.9%) 106,402 91,996 30,460 (33.1%)
N3 8,363 7,665 3,501 (44.9%) 56,236 45,906 18,883 (41.1%)
N4 7,764 7,317 3,716 (50.8%) 48,613 41,484 19,235 (46.4%)
N5 2,065 1,870 1,458 (78.0%) 43,676 38,128 22,846 (59.9%)
2011-1[31] N1 24,716 22,782 6,546 (28.7%) 89,744 76,991 20,519 (26.7%)
N2 19,203 17,957 9,057 (50.4%) 92,015 79,716 30,216 (37.9%)
N3 5,642 5,211 2,511 (48.2%) 36,841 29,507 13,230 (44.8%)
N4 3,643 3,358 1,431 (42.6%) 19,010 15,453 5,802 (37.5%)
N5 716 649 464 (71.5%) 12,346 10,510 6,108 (58.1%)
2011-2[32] N1 36,426 33,460 11,849 (35.4%) 100,873 88,514 27,452 (31.0%)
N2 22,875 21,269 8,695 (40.8%) 94,538 82,944 28,679 (34.6%)
N3 8,149 7,580 3,073 (40.5%) 49,917 41,665 16,576 (39.8%)
N4 7,008 6,596 3,083 (46.7%) 38,888 33,402 14,722 (44.1%)
N5 1,603 1,481 1,045 (70.6%) 33,245 29,159 16,986 (58.3%)
2012-1[33] N1 26,051 24,142 11,074 (45.9%) 78,905 69,082 23,789 (34.4%)
N2 20,041 18,843 9,683 (51.4%) 78,553 69,418 29,191 (42.1%)
N3 7,317 6,878 3,232(47.0%) 38,650 31,941 14,391 (45.1%)
N4 5,437 5,116 2,388 (46.7%) 22,431 18,590 8,489 (45.7%)
N5 1,004 925 679 (73.4%) 16,361 13,911 8,129 (58.4%)
2012-2[34] N1 32,917 30,296 7,998 (26.4%) 86,004 75,250 17,411 (23.1%)
N2 21,139 19,612 7,919 (40.4%) 79,513 69,790 25,617 (36.7%)
N3 10,085 9,422 2,668(28.3%) 47,301 39,763 12,722 (32.0%)
N4 6,961 6,562 2,371 (36.1%) 36,799 31,620 11,783 (37.3%)
N5 1,416 1,307 945 (72.3%) 34,178 29,700 16,225 (54.6%)

Application period[edit]

The application period is usually around early March until late April for July's examination and around early August until late September for December's exam.

Previous format (1984–2009)[edit]

All instructions on the test are written in Japanese, although their difficulty is adjusted to remain appropriate to each test level.[35] The subject matter covered at each level of the examination is based upon the Test Content Specification (出題基準 Shutsudai kijun?), first published in 1994 and revised in 2004. This specification serves as a reference for examiners to compile test questions, rather than as a study guide for candidates. It consists of kanji lists, expression lists, vocabulary lists, and grammar lists for all five JLPT levels. However, about 20% of the kanji, vocabulary, and grammar in any one exam may be drawn from outside the prescribed lists at the discretion of exam compilers.[36]

Test content summary [37]
Level Kanji Vocabulary Listening Time of Study (est.) Pass Mark
4 ~100 (103) ~800 (728) Basic 150 hrs (A Basic course level) 60%
3 ~300 (284) ~1,500 (1409) Intermediate 300 hrs (An Intermediate course level)
2 ~1000 (1023) ~6,000 (5035) Intermediate 600 hrs (An Intermediate course level)
1 ~2000 (1926) ~10,000 (8009) Advanced 900 hrs (An advanced course level) 70%

Numbers in brackets indicate the exact number in the Test Content Specification.[36]

The independent source the Japanese Language Education Center publishes the following study hour comparison data:

JLPT Study Hour Comparison Data 1992-2010 [38]
Level Students with kanji knowledge 

(e.g. speakers of Chinese or Korean)

Other students

(no prior kanji knowledge)

4 200~300 hours 250~400 hours
3 375~475 hours 500~750 hours
2 1100~1500 hours 1400~2000 hours
1 1800~2300 hours 3100~4500 hours

Test sections[edit]

In its previous format, the JLPT was divided into three sections: "Characters and Vocabulary" (100 points), "Listening Comprehension" (100 points), and "Reading Comprehension and Grammar" (200 points).

The first section (文字・語彙, moji, goi) tests knowledge of vocabulary and various aspects of the Japanese writing system. This includes identifying the correct kanji characters for given situations, selecting the correct hiragana readings for given kanji, choosing the appropriate terms for given sentences, and choosing the appropriate usage of given words.

The second section (聴解, chōkai) comprises two sub-sections that test listening comprehension. The first involves choosing the picture which best represents the situation presented by a prerecorded conversation. The second is of a similar format but presents no visual clues.

Section three (読解・文法, dokkai, bunpō) uses authentic or semi-authentic reading passages of various lengths to test reading comprehension. Questions include prompts to fill in blank parts of the text and requests to paraphrase key points. Grammar questions request that examinees select the correct grammar structure to convey a given point or test conjugations and postpositional particle agreement.

Exam duration
Level Kanji and
vocabulary
Listening
comprehension
Reading
comprehension
and grammar
Total duration
4 25 min 25 min 50 min 100 min
3 35 min 35 min 70 min 140 min
2 35 min 40 min 70 min 145 min
1 45 min 45 min 90 min 180 min

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Objectives and History". Japan Foundation. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "List of Overseas Test Sites, JLPT page". Japan Foundation. Retrieved January 14, 2012. 
  3. ^ "N1-N5: Summary of Linguistic Competence Required for Each Level". Japan Foundation. Retrieved November 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ http://www.jlpt.jp/e/about/comparison.html
  5. ^ http://www.jlpt.jp/e/faq/index.html
  6. ^ "Introduction". The Japan Foundation. Retrieved 2009-05-01. 
  7. ^ a b 第2回 日本語能力試験改訂 中間報告 (PDF) (in Japanese). Japan Foundation. 2008-05-25. Retrieved May 13, 2008. 
  8. ^ "What is EJU?". Japan Student Services Organisation. Retrieved May 30, 2006. 
  9. ^ The 2005 Language Proficiency Test Level 1 and 2 Questions and Correct Answers, JEES & The Japan Foundation, Japan, 2006, pages 88 and 99. ISBN 4-89358-609-2
  10. ^ "2009-2nd examination results, part 3" (PDF). JEES. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
  11. ^ Hiragana Times, "Japanese-Language Proficiency Test", Volume #294, April 2011, p. 4.
  12. ^ http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/topics/pdf/120502/02_e.pdf
  13. ^ http://www.jlpt.jp/e/about/merit.html
  14. ^ http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/shotou/sotugyo/1322849.htm
  15. ^ "List of Local Host Institutions of JLPT". Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved January 31, 2009. 
  16. ^ Chen, Ping and Nanette Gottlieb. Language Planning and Language Policy: East Asian Perspectives, Routledge, 2001, page 43.
  17. ^ "Japanese Language Proficiency Test guidelines, 2006 (PDF), page 1". JEES and The Japan Foundation. Retrieved February 18, 2009. [dead link]
  18. ^ The 2005 Language Proficiency Test Level 1 and 2 Questions and Correct Answers, page 122.
  19. ^ "New Japanese-Language Proficiency Test FAQ". The Japan Foundation, JEES. Retrieved November 19, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Revision of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test: Second Progress Report, 2008 (PDF), pages 4-5". Committee for Revision of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test, JEES and The Japan Foundation. Retrieved February 21, 2009. [dead link]
  21. ^ http://www.jlpt.jp/e/info/index.html
  22. ^ a b "Points for Revision". The Japan Foundation. Archived from the original on August 22, 2008. Retrieved February 21, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Composition of Test Sections and Items". The Japan Foundation. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Japanese Language Proficiency Test guidelines, 2006 (PDF), page 3". JEES and The Japan Foundation. Retrieved February 18, 2009. [dead link]
  25. ^ 2007年結果の概要,実施国・地域別応募者数・受験者数 JEES. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  26. ^ 2008年結果の概要,実施国・地域別応募者数・受験者数 JEES. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  27. ^ 2009年度1回日本語能力試験実施状況 JEES. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  28. ^ 2009年度2回日本語能力試験実施状況 JEES. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  29. ^ Data of the test in 2010 (July) JEES. Retrieved 27 November 2010.
  30. ^ Data of the test in 2010 (December) JEES. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  31. ^ Data of the test in 2011 (July) JEES. Retrieved 13 September 2011.
  32. ^ Data of the test in 2011 (December) JEES. Retrieved 14 March 2012.
  33. ^ Data of the test in 2012 (July) JEES. Retrieved 29 August 2012
  34. ^ Data of the test in 2012 (December) JEES. Retrieved 29 August 2012
  35. ^ Noda, Hiroshi and Mari Noda. Acts of Reading: Exploring Connections in Pedagogy of Japanese, University of Hawaii Press, 2003, page 219.
  36. ^ a b Japanese Language Proficiency Test: Test Content Specifications (Revised Edition), The Japan Foundation and Association of International Education, Japan, 2004. ISBN 4-89358-281-X.
  37. ^ "Guidelines for the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test in 2009 (December)". Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services. Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  38. ^ "JLPT Study Hour Comparison Data 1992-2010". The Japan Language Education Center. Archived from the original on January 25, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2011. 

External links[edit]