What is the JLPT?

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test, or JLPT, is a standardized criterion-referenced test for non-native speakers to evaluate and certify their Japanese language proficiency. It covers the areas of language knowledge, reading ability, and listening ability.

The test scores are often used as evidence of Japanese language proficiency for applications to academic institutions and employers.


There are five levels of difficulty for the JLPT. According to the official JLPT website, here is a list of them with brief accompanying descriptions:

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.

These descriptions are understandably very general, so you are encouraged to find out more on the website here. If you are looking to be able to get along independently in Japan, a minimum of an N3 pass is recommended.

Why It Matters

The JLPT is one of the most widely recognized exams when it comes to evaluating an individual’s proficiency in Japanese. It is therefore often a requirement by many Japanese companies to pass it. Many part-time jobs in Japan, such as waiting at restaurants which demand constant interactions with Japanese customers, ask for a pass in N2 to join. Many other companies that essentially require that you interact with clients, colleagues or process business documents will naturally require a pass in N1.


The JLPT essentially aims to evaluate an individual’s reading ability, listening ability, and general understanding of the Japanese language. The test, therefore, consists of segments of reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and vocabulary and grammar questions.

The reading comprehension consists of passages of Japanese text and accompanying questions that test an individual’s ability to understand different types of Japanese text (posters, stories, research, etc).

The listening comprehension consists of audio passages that can take the form of conversations, monologue speeches, etc with accompanying questions that address different parts of the passage in question.

The vocabulary questions test an individual’s understanding of Japanese words in general. They can test for the pronunciation of the word (hiragana), the kanji, and the meaning (e.g. fill in the blank).

The grammar questions test an individual’s understanding of grammatical phrases and their appropriate use in specific sentences.

It is important to know that all questions are in the form of multiple choice.

Important Points

Depending on your current level of Japanese, the JLPT can be a serious commitment. This is especially so at the higher levels like N2 and N1. It is therefore recommended that you commit to frequent studying for the test should you choose to take on the challenge.

There are many online resources available that provide practice papers and quizzes that attempt to reflect the level of difficulty of the tests.

These include:

  1. JLPT Resources
  2. The JLPT Study Page
  3. JLPT Boot Camp

There may also be classes offered by Japanese schools in your area that are specifically designed to help you pass the JLPT. They are generally recommended because not only are they usually taught by professionals familiar with it, these classes also tend to impart specific exam skills such as time management and other tips that can be valuable.

Learn More About the JLPT

Want to learn more about personal experiences and tips from past JLPT test takers? Check out these articles below offered by Schoolynk Media on the JLPT!

Read about the JLPT journey of Megumi, a university student from Hawaii: How I Passed JLPT N1 | SchooLynk Media

What does Cheryl have to say about preparing for the JLPT? Learn about the registration flow and study materials to prep for the JLPT: JLPT — Japanese Language Proficiency Test | SchooLynk Media

Read specifically about the most basic JLPT N5 level: Ready for N5? Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) | SchooLynk Media

Preparing for the JLPT N4? Then read this article to learn about the contents of this level: What’s the N4? Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) | SchooLynk Media

Pass the JLPT 3 by preparing with this article: Why the N3 is Important and Useful ー Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) | SchooLynk Media

Looking for Japanese language books to study for the JLPT? Check out this article with a list of the best Japanese language books for beginners: The Best Japanese Language Books for Beginners! Rankings and Review | SchooLynk Media

Get an inside scoop on how you can study Japanese online for free: Free Japanese Language Books Available Online | SchooLynk Media

Good luck!