Is the JLPT really worth it?

Recruitment specialists and Japanese language teachers interviewed by The Japan Times stress that passing the N1 or N2 level of the exam is of paramount importance for foreign nationals hoping to land a top job in this country.

The JLPT is a biannual testing service organized by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services. It’s takes place across the country and in more than 100 cities around the world. The tests are divided into five levels, from N1 through N5, with the N5 being the easiest.

“The JLPT is definitely a yardstick for many companies seeking to hire foreign nationals in Japan.58 percent of job offers require that applicants speak “fluent” Japanese, and 39 percent say their applicants should be able to speak “business-level” Japanese. Fluent can be construed as N1 level, while business-level could be translated as N2 level”.says Yuji Shinohara, president of, one of Japan’s largest multilingual job search engines with 420,000 registered users.

“It may not be a requisite, but having an N1 or N2 certification will go a long way for anyone seeking a job in Japan.”

 N4 and N5 are of no value when it comes to being hired by a Japanese company. While N3 doesn’t look as good on paper, any semblance of an attempt at learning the language can help, often in unexpected ways. Some career counselors overseas believe that for those on a short stay in Japan, even attaining the N5 certificate can impress employers as it demonstrates a proactive attempt to get involved with the community.

While the JLPT does not specify which levels are required for a person to enter a school or obtain a job, the N5 certification proves that the person has the ability to understand basic Japanese and read simple sentences in hiragana, katakana and basic kanji.

Passing the N1 test, meanwhile, verifies that the person can read newspaper editorials and “comprehend coherent conversations,” the JLPT states on its website.

 The JLPT is a test that checks whether you have the ability to communicate in Japanese proficiently. Hence, you should focus on learning practical Japanese.

Focusing too much on grammar or vocabulary won’t do the job, since it will leave you speaking Japanese “like a Google translator. Being able to understand the context of a conversation and predict what sort of message will follow the first part of a sentence is a good drill. It is important that you practice understanding Japanese sentences from the context, and being able to guess where a conversation is going.

It is also crucial for examinees to get used to the testing format, with only a week left for preparation. Going over past exams and trial tests will help examinees get used to the flow. We recommend spending as much time as possible reading Japanese sentences and pieces of writing.

Finally, due to the effect of Abenomics, Japanese companies are globalizing their business and expanding to overseas markets. Because of such factors, I feel that there is a growing demand among Japanese companies to hire foreign nationals with JLPT certifications.


Esther Waliaula