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KS Cover no. 73 2006 June

JULY 2006 :: 074

Testing times ...

Your guide to the Japanese Proficiency Test (answers not included)

It’s that time of year again when foreign residents and students in Japan get down with Nihongo. Yes, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (or JLPT) is here again.

The Background

The JLPT first started in 1984 as one of the first standardized Japanese certificates specifically aimed at non-native speakers. Now, the test is a chance for all foreign swots to test their ability in the four-tier system exam.

Offered by the Japan Educational Exchange and Services (JEES) in Japan, over 40 countries can now participate in the test which gained a respectable 47.3 percent pass rate in 2004. The Japan Foundation also offers students the opportunity to sit the test abroad, making the certificate recognized internationally in both educational institutes and Japanese companies overseas.

The Test

The test takes place on the first Sunday of December every year and ranges from an elementary level to an advanced tier. The lowest band, level 4, recognizes the participant’s knowledge of 100 kanji (Japanese characters), 820 words and 150 hours worth of study. Level 1 recognizes an impressive 2,000 kanji, 10,000 words in the vocabulary bank and 900 hours or more of study. With such a broad range of ability, (level 2 and level 3 offering comfortable midway points between these levels), anyone can sit the test with a little determination and study.

The test itself is divided into three categories — kanji/vocabulary, listening comprehension and reading comprehension/grammar.

Kanji and Vocabulary is a test of sentence structure. A booklet is placed in front of you with activities including identifying
the vocabulary word in both kanji and hiragana and choosing the correct word to complete the sentence.

Listening Comprehension sees a new booklet placed in front
of you with different activities. The first part gives you a choiceof pictures to choose from to best decide the answer for the question about the conversation. For example, in a conversation about weather, you must answer the question about what the weather is like and choose from pictures of sunny, snowing, raining or windy. The second part of listening gives you choices again but this time written in Hiragana only.

The last section, reading comprehension/grammar sees a paragraph of text or conversation and then you have to answer questions on the piece. Quite similar to high school end of year exams, that feeling of ‘oh my god, I should have revised more’ will come back to you with a vengeance.

Each test is variable in both time and activities but follow a similar format with the sections. Time is an important factor so try to finish ahead of bell so you can go back and check your answers.

The Application Process

Applications are accepted between late July and Early September. Application forms can be found in educational bookstores, language schools and educational institutions.

The form itself consists of an application card. Using the
application booklet, complete the card with the correct codes to inform the test centre of your nationality, country of origin, age, address, native language and your level preference. The card also gives you a choice of various test centres around Japan to choose from. As with many things in Japan, bigger cities and areas (such as Kanto and Kansai) are popular places and fill up quickly so get your forms in early if you don’t have any location flexibility.

The test centre also requires a photo which will be printed
on your test voucher and certificate. Your application documents need to be sent by registered mail (genkin kakitome) and the registration fee (currently ¥5,500) by postal order (yuubin kawase), which can both be organized at the Post Office.

Once all the paperwork is in, the test voucher will be sent to you around mid-October. It is essential that you check and confirm your name, other personal information and also the test site. On the big day, be sure to bring your test voucher, JLPT guide booklet, alien registration card, HB pencil and eraser
to the test site otherwise you may not be able to sit the test!

Text: Naheen Madarbakus

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