Thursday, March 11, 2010

Changes to the Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Just back from a lesson in which my teacher explained to me how the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) level 1 will be different from this July. After the disclaimers, here is what I learned


1) I am a student, not an expert, on JLPT tests.
2) Example questions will be written in English for quality (I don't want to make mistakes in Japanese on a post that is supposed to be helpful.
3) No test has yet been released, so difficulty of questions is impossible to judge.
4) This is not to be taken as gospel, consult a teacher or buy the book photographed here (Japanese only) if you want a concrete explanation of the test.
5) There may be differences in the changes to levels 2-5.
6) July will be my first attempt at level 1 on the JLPT.


The old test went like this:

Vocab (25 %)
Listening (25 %)
Reading and grammar (50 %)

The new test is:

Vocab, reading and grammar (110 mins.; Reading: 33.3 %; Vocab and grammar: 33.3 %)
Listening (60 mins.; 33.3 %)

Note the test is now in two, rather than three parts, and listening now counts for more.



This section of the test, which covers kanji and words, has not changed dramatically, but the number of types of problem is reduced. The section which asked examinees to select the appropriate kanji (しん: 芯? 真? 針? 信?) has gone.


Two types of problem have been added to this section, and they both look tricky:

1) Examinees will be asked to put a segment of a sentence in the correct order.

e.g. I went to the _____ ______ *______ ______ my wallet.
A: had B: supermarket C: but I D: forgotten
(Answer: A)

2) An article of around six or seven paragraphs will have around five grammar points missing in certain sections. Examinees must add the appropriate grammar point.

e.g (one para. of six or seven)

Thousands of Greek workers ___________ bring the country to a halt with a second strike in a month over austerity measures.

A: are expecting to B: do C: are expected to D: expects
(Answer: C)


This section has been changed quite dramatically, it counts for more toward examinees overall scores, and three new types of question.

1) Monologue followed by question (no question before the speech.)

e.g. (SCRIPT)

My name is Prince and I am funky
My name is Prince the one and only
I did not come 2 funk around
'Tll I get your daughter I won't leave this town

In the beginning God made the sea
But on the 7th day he made me
He was tryin' to rest y'all when He heard the sound
Sound like a guitar cold gettin' down
I tried to bust a high note, but I bust a string
My God was worried 'til he heard me sing

My name is Prince and I am funky
My name is Prince the one and only - hurt me

Question: Until when will Prince not leave this town?

A) The 7th day B) 'Til he busts a high note C) Shrove Tuesday D) 'Til he gets your daughter
(Answer: D)

2) After a sentence by one character, you choose a second characters response from three options.

Male: What do you think would win in a fight between a tiger and a polar bear?

Female: A) Tigers live in the jungle.
B) Of course a tiger, they are well 'ard.
C) Polar bears are massive.
(Answer: B)

3) A monologue followed by a conversation with a multiple choice question on the test paper.

Announcer: It was today revealed that the Twitter account professing to belong to Yukio Hatoyama was in fact written by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Hatoyama said he was upset by what Koizumi had done, while the former LDP leader was unavailable for comment.

Male: Koizumi is a terrible man for doing that.
Female: Well, it's better than some of the dodgy dealing that have been going on in government recently.
Male: I don't care I'll always vote for the DPJ.
Female: I prefer the PNP and SDP, but I hope the LDP get back in. That's who I'll vote for.

Question: Which party does the female support?

(On your question paper)
(Answer: C)


The reading section has three new types of problem.

1) Questions on opinion pieces.
2) Questions in which two or more articles need to be read before candidates answer questions.
3) Scanning: Examinees have to scan e.g. a list or pamphlet and then answer questions.

That's the stuff that seems to have changed. The differences seem to favor Westerners living in Japan because of the listening section getting more weight.


  1. (Hey there, Ian from the JT here via Facebook)

    Not taking any of these tests myself, but these questions look very similar to the sort of stuff we inflict on Japanese students in TOEIC and TOEFL. On thing though: why is the answer to Listening part 3 (B)? She clearly states she's voting for (C), and she holds (B) and (D) on the same level of preference.

  2. Useful info, thanks.

  3. Ian, Johan

    The thing I think needs to be written, and by somebody with more Japanese study experience than myself, is an analysis of how the new tests compare to the old ones.

    There seems to be less emphasis on reading etc. now, which will benefit foreigners from countries not versed in kanji etc., but I don't know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Ian, thank you, you spotted a typo. Will fix that now.