slowly. At N3, one should be able to get a grasp of summary headlines on newspapers and understand everyday conversations at a natural speed. N2 and N1 is where things get to a pretty high level.

N2 test takers should be able to read newspapers and magazines as well as be able to comprehend TV news at a natural speed. If you’re ready to take N1, chances are you’re far past needing any of my information! This encompasses reading complex articles that cover a variety of topics, and being able to listen in and go into detail about lectures or conversations.

The test is scored such that passing requires an overall pass in addition to passing each section individually. There is leeway, and the overall pass mark does depend on the level. The N5, for example, is 80/180 (44.44%) while in the N1, it’s 100/180 (55.55%). Now that you know the layout, let’s get to the studying part!

Studying for the The Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Though everyone has different ways of studying, an important and certain part of this test will be kanji. There’s no easy way about this. It’s memorization. There are, however, smart ways! When I worked in schools and saw elementary and junior high schools practicing their own levels of kanji, I saw notebooks upon notebooks filled with characters written over and over again. I tried this too, and to my frustration, progress came painfully.

The Heisig method, developed by James Heisig, teaches readers to create their own mnemonic devices and stories to associate the meaning with the written kanji. A kanji’s “primitives,” the parts that make up the whole of the kanji, are given a story that connects to the actual meaning of the character. Because the stories are specific to each reader, it’s this personal method that helped me recall the characters I was working to memorize.

What it can do for you

Aside from the thrill of going into a room and taking a standardized test (who needs bungee jumping when you’ve got a big book of questions, right?!), The Japanese Language Proficiency Test does offer a lot of advantages. Though taking The Japanese Language Proficiency Test 5, 4, or 3 are good for personal goals and developing your Japanese in general, they won’t be too helpful with finding a job in Japan.

At The Japanese Language Proficiency Test 2 and 1, those who pass can find jobs doing bilingual work, translating, or being a part of a regular Japanese company. With this certificate, you wouldn’t necessarily have to work in Japan. At this level, one could find work in their home country doing translation, corporate, or politics.