New JLPT Exams – Four Key Points

Focuses on communicative competence

The JLPT places importance not only on a learner’s (1) knowledge of the Japanese language including vocabulary and grammar but also on their (2) competence at using the knowledge in practical communication. kaiwaThe test measures the knowledge described in (1) above through a section called “Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar)” and the competence described in (2) above through two sections called “Reading” and “Listening.” By using these sections in combination, the new test comprehensively measures Japanese communicative competence.
Answers are machine-scored, as with the old test. The new test does not include sections to directly measure speaking and writing proficiencies.

A choice of five test levels

The JLPT is offered in five levels (N1, N2, N3, N4, N5). Test items differ by level in order to closely measure one’s Japanese proficiency.
The old test through 2009 was offered in four levels (Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4). The new test offers N3, a new level between Level 2 and Level 3 in the old test. The increase in the number of test levels enables examinees to choose a more suitable level for them.

Accurately measures Japanese competency with scaled scores

The new test adopts a new scoring method to more accurately reflect examinees’ Japanese-language competence in scores. Scores are calculated as “scaled” scores instead of raw scores.
Scores in the old test were raw scores calculated by the number of correctly answered questions. It is inevitable that the level of difficulty of the test changes slightly from session to session no matter how carefully questions are designed. Depending on test difficulty, this sometimes results in different scores for the same competency when raw scores are used.
With scaled scores of the new test, how individual examinees answer particular questions (which questions are answered correctly and incorrectly) is reviewed and scores are calculated based on scales for each level. The same scale is always used for the same-level test. Therefore, regardless of difficulty of tests at different times, examinees with the same proficiency have the same score.
As outlined here, scaled scores can more accurately and fairly indicate Japanese-language competence at the time of tests.

What you can do in Japanese is easily visualized

We will conduct a survey on Japanese-language activities (reading, speaking, listening and writing) that successful examinees of individual levels THINK they can do. The survey results will be published as the “Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Can-do List” (tentative) in the Japanese fiscal year 2010 (by March 2011). The list will help successful examinees and others around them to have a better idea of “what can be done in academics, life and work situations with skills of a particular level.”
The table below is an example of the list of activities currently being developed.

Sample, Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Can-do List (tentative)


I can understand the general content when I hear announcements at school, at work or in public places.


I can speak in detail of my hopes and experience at interviews such as for a job or part-time work.


I can understand the content of newspaper or magazine articles about topics I am interested in.


I can write letters or emails to express my emotions such as appreciation or apology.