JLPT – Japanese Language Proficiency Test


JLPT is the key to further education and employment in Japan. What will I learn from it? Let’s begin Japanese learning in Japan.


  • What is JLPT?
  • Taking JLPT exams
  • What’s in the exam?
  • Ways to study JLPT

What is JLPT?

JLPT is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test for international students. The test measures learner’s competence in vocabulary and grammar skills used in everyday tasks.

There are five levels in the JLPT. Each stage consists of all four elements. Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.

At the end of each level, students receive a certificate. Certificates are recognised as academic credit for Japanese language schools. They also become the eligibility for entry to higher education in Japan.

When you apply for a job in Japan, employers see your JLPT grade and assess your employment ability.  Therefore, in all aspects, JLPT makes a big difference in your success in Japan.


Taking JLPT exams

Tests are held twice a year in July and December in Japan and around the world. Test in each stage measures the Japanese proficiency on

  • The knowledge of vocabulary and grammar
  • The ability to use them in actual conversation

Answers are in a multiple-choice format.

In JLPT N5 to N3, there will be about 30 minutes of vocabulary tests.  Then an average of 60 minutes of grammar tests to follow. Lastly, roughly 35 minutes of the listening test.

As you progress to JLPT N2 and N1 level, the more challenging it becomes. Tests consist of 110 minutes of vocabulary and grammar. Finally, followed by a listening test for about 60 minutes.

What’s in the exam?

JLPT N5 – For Complete Beginner

At this level, you will learn some basic Japanese. Contents of study material are based on vocabulary and phrases used in everyday life.

The syllabus includes typical expressions and sentences written in both Hiragana and Katakana. Textbooks introduce about 100 simple Kanji which have Hiragana to them. The main task is to read and understand the meaning of the words. 

The test aims to measure the learners’ proficiency in Japanese words and phrases used in daily situations. For this reason, beginners Japanese Conversation courses often combine JLPT N5 studies.

Speaking speed is not the focus of the N5 level.

Below is a sample test of JLPT. At the end of the course, you will be able to answer the following.

  • How do you read the underlined word? 新しい くるまですね。
  • How do you write the underlined word in Katakana? あの ほてるは ゆうめいです。
  • What letter does it come in the bracket? これ( ) えんぴつです。
  • Make the following sentence using が、で、とった、うみ。

これは きょねん わたし( )( )( )( )しゃしんです。

JLPT N4 – Beginner Level

N4 level covers further basic Japanese. It involves more frequently used vocabulary and phrases. There are about 300 Kanji and 1500 vocabulary to learn. Kanji level is equivalent to the knowledge of pupils around 8/9 of age in Japanese primary school.

Here, the aim is to learn to read short conversational paragraphs and understand them. If you can exchange a daily conversation and form question sentences, you will be able to answer the following.

  • How do you read the underlined word? わたしの せんもんは 医学 です。
  • How do you write the underlined word in Kanji? 毎日 ラジオで おんがくを きいています。
  • What word does it come in the bracket? ( ) しないで、どうぞ たくさん たべてください。
  • Make the following sentence using 書いて、今、ところ、いる

Mr Okawa asks 「山下さん、おれいの 手紙は もう出しましたか?」

Mr Yamashita replies 「いいえ、( )( )( )( )です」

JLPT N3 – Intermediate Level

From this stage, students can either carry on with JLPT, join a Business conversation or a Foundation course for Vocational College.

In addition to vocabulary and grammar, N3 extends to writing short paragraphs. It enables you to express thoughts and opinions both in speaking and writing. In some cases, there are sentences that you may find difficult to understand. Even in these situations, you will be able to grasp the contents by given alternative expressions or explanations.

By the end of N3, you will be able to speak at near-natural speed. Therefore, holding a conversation with native speakers becomes easier. At this level, job opportunities start to open up.

On completion of JLPT N3, you will be able to answer below.

  • How do you read the underlined word? 3日前から雨が続いている。
  • How do you write the underlined word in Kanji? アルバイトのめんせつは来週の土曜日だ。
  • Which word has a similar meaning to the underlined word? 次々に新しいゲームが作られる。 だんだん、これから、いつでも、どんどん 
  • Make the following sentence using ばかりの、レストランが、オープンした、ある

先週( )( )( )( )から、行ってみませんか?

JLPT N2 – Advance level

Japanese learning gets more advanced from this stage. Completing N2 qualifies for entry to Vocational College. Studying in higher education in Japan means that international students will study with Japanese students. Therefore, acquiring at least the N2 level is necessary.

JLPT N2 test aims to measure students proficiency in understanding the contents of written Japanese. In class, teachers will start integrating materials such as articles in newspapers and magazines. From these, students can engage in discussions and express their opinions.

In conversation, students learn to interact in almost every situation, spoken at a natural speed.

There are about 1,000 Kanji and 6,000 vocabularies to learn. This is a big step from the N3 with respect to the amount of learning. N2 learners may become stuck at some point, not feeling the progress as they did up to N3. A learning plateau can occur when learning a new language. However, this feeling is just temporary and commonly experienced among N2 learners.  

With extra hard work and perhaps a change of study style, you can overcome the barrier. The teachers are there to help you move forward.

Q1. Which word has a similar meaning to the underlined word? あの人のお母さんはいつもほがらかです。 おとなしい、まじめ、りっぱ、あかるい

Q2. What is the characteristic of 「仕事ができる人」 in the paragraph?


まず、自分は何が得意で、何が不得意なのかを分かっている。もちろんオールマイティにあらゆる仕事をこなすエリートもいるだろうが、たいていの人は、「仕事の得手、不得手」を持っている。そのうえで、「得意な仕事」を積極的にこなし、「不得意な仕事」からは上手に逃げている人が、実は「仕事ができる人」と評価されるのだ。 Extract from the article by Hideki Wada

  • 自分に向いている仕事は一生懸命にやり、向いていない仕事からはうまく逃げること。
  • 自分の能力特性を高めるための努力をいつも忘れず、何にでも積極的に取り組むこと。
  • オールマイティに仕事をしている人のやり方を見習い、不得意なことを克服すること。
  • 始めに仕事が自分の能力に合っているかを分析し、あらゆる仕事を上手にこなすこと。

JLPT N1 – Advanced Complete level

This is the last stage of the JLPT. Those studying for Japanese University can start EJU study. In completion, students become eligible to apply to a Japanese University.

Not only is speaking, but you will also be able to execute well in all aspects of the Japanese language. Students will learn to read complex materials. Report, speech or statement writing is also a part of the N1 studies.

Be ready to go out there and utilise your language skills. There are greater opportunities in Japan or overseas. 

Q1. What is the main point of the contents?

音楽や美術、彫刻などの芸術は、聴く人、観る人の評価によって育てられる。悪い演奏をしたら、良くない作品を出品したら、その芸術家は次の表舞台に出る機会を失う。ところが、医師や看護婦が行う医療の実践を評価できる患者は作られてこなかった。一般の人に知識を与えず、医療について評価できる患者がいない。だから医のアートが発展しないのである。これは患者にとってはもとより、医療者にとっても不幸なことではないか。 Extract from an article by Shigeaki Hinohara

  • きちんとした医療の実践ができない医療者は表舞台から去るべきだ。
  • 医療者を不幸にしないために、一般の人も医療の知識を持つべきだ。
  • 医療も芸術と同様に、医療の良し悪しを評価できる患者が必要である。
  • 悪い演奏や良くない芸術作品は、病院における医療事故と同じである。

Ways to study JLPT

A good thing about the JLPT is that you can study by step.

N5 is fairly basic. Online courses with the Japanese language school would give you plenty of practice. Just like classroom lessons, interact with teachers and students.

From N4 onwards, 10 ~ 12-week courses in Japan can prepare you for each level. You will be in the Japanese speaking environment 24/7 which will speed up your learning.

1 JLPT at a time during your short visit to Japan.

Of course, you may study from N5 to N1 in one go. 6 months to 2-year of all the way JLPT courses provide solid Japanese learning.