Should you take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test(JLPT)?

YES! That is my answer for everyone who is learning Japanese regardless of their current level.

JLPT 2020

Have any of my fellow Americans seen the news yet? JLPT 2020 has been officially cancelled! Knew it was coming, but I am still bummed out about it as it sets back a major plan of mine. This news inspired me to share my story and how my feelings towards JLPT certification changed over time.

My Story

I never needed the JLPT for anything so I never really took it seriously. From the start, I was not a serious learn-by-textbooks kind of language student. I think this is why it took so long for the JLPT to gain my attention. I used the language to interact with the world around me and make lots of friends. I used it as a means of communication.

I decided to move back to America for a while with my partner and experience life here for a while. At first I was living in mini-Japan. All of my friends spoke Japanese and I used more Japanese at work then English. I didn’t really like the job and decided to go back to school. While I was in school, I did not have as much time to spend on Japanese and my level fell. I was very dedicated to academic achievement and was able to graduate at the top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. I am very pleased with the study skills I have developed while in school and have been applying them to my Japanese since graduation.

Life plans changed. My partner and I decided that we want to work towards moving back to Japan in the near future. I want to keep my new career when I move to Japan as I enjoy the different types of skills and knowledge that I have been developing. In order to take the professional exam in Japan, I need N1 certification.

I had all of the time in the world to take the exam, and I most likely would have passed N2 years ago if I took it. But I didn’t. Now that I need it, the timing is not great and I will be unable to take the JLPT this year due to the pandemic. I really wish that I took it when I had the chance. Now that I won’t be able to take the exam this year, my professional goals will be pushed back and year or 2 and it feels like a big deal to me at the moment.

Its an easy exam

Most of those that I know who speak Japanese are not interested in taking the JLPT. Many see it as pointless, as it is possible to pass the exam but not be able to communicate. While it is true that there is no content creation on this test, that is part of what makes the JLPT a relatively easy language exam. Its a test of whether or not you can understand a passage. Its tests if you are able to naturally match sentences with the correct vocabulary, idea, or grammar point. Every question is multiple choice.

Low cost

If you have some understanding of Japanese, there should be a JLPT level that you will be able to pass with just a little bit of time using free practice questions online. The low-tech style of this exam means that it has a low cost as well. I am used to professional exams that cost 100’s of dollars to take. The price of the JLPT surprised me every time I think about it. The price of the exam combined with all of the free study materials online makes it a very cost efficient certificate!

Reading Skills

JLPT is a literacy based exam and I think the skills needed will fit with the skills those who read this blog wish to develop. JLPT studies will help you read more effectively. And for those who dislike textbooks, the opposite is true as well. Reading lots of novels will help you pass the JLPT. For readers, I think it is extra worth it to do a few practice questions and see if there is a JLPT level that would be easy for you to pass.

You never know the future

Imagine that you have continued on your Japanese studies and are now at N1/N2 level. You have a pretty well balanced level of Japanese and have no issues thriving in Japan. You are able to manage everything on your own. You are contacted by a recruiter for your dream job! The salary is great and it is in the direction you want to take your career. But its a very traditional company. They want you to have a JLPT certificate before they even start to consider you. Even though you have more then the required language ability, you lack the certification to prove it on paper. And its August so you aren’t even close to being able to take the JLPT even thought you can pass it with minimal effort. They find someone else to fill the position.

As a Japanese language user, you are gaining valuable skills and experience. The longer you use Japanese the more it will become apart of your life. While you may not have a reason to have official proof of your language ability now, there may be opportunities in life presented to you where a JLPT certificate would come in handy. The test is only given once or twice a year, so you may not be able to take it when you need to. This year in 2020, its possible that no country in the world will be holding the JLPT. If you have a skill, having the paperwork to back you up can only benefit your future and help you to take full advantage all of the time and effort that you put into learning the language.

Shared Experience

Many people who learn Japanese as a second language have looked into studying for the JLPT or have gone to language school. Preparing to take any level of the JLPT, even if it is just practice questions for the level you are naturally at, will give you an idea of what each level of the JLPT means. This can help you form a mutual understanding with those who share the same interests as you. Maybe people will communicate their Japanese level by JLPT.


Everyone should take the JLPT or some kind of certification to have proof of language ability even if you don’t feel like you need it in the near future.

Author: Kuri

I love reading Japanese novels and have seen that many people want to read them but don't know where to start. I have decided to share my experiences to help people reach their literacy goals.

4 thoughts on “Should you take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test(JLPT)?”

  1. Has the 2020 JLPT been cancelled for December as well?

    I do agree that the way JLPT is structured, it doesn’t really measure your overall language abilities but mostly comprehension. My teachers always encouraged us to take the test at every level starting from N5, since it’s good practice and having a goal like passing the test gives you a sense of motivation. And, of course, certifications are always asked for where I live, so..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the news came out just this week about it being cancelled.

      And yes! do think about taking N5 or N4 next year. If there is a level that you think you can pass without too much trouble, I think it is worth it to have something to show for all the time you put in.

      Thank you for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a pretty good summary and I agree with almost everything you’ve said – the one point I would slightly disagree on is the ‘Low Cost’ perspective. Yes the actual cost of the exam is low, especially in comparison to many professional certifications, but because the demand for the test is so low the amount of testing locations is significantly less than most professional exams. Many of the Japanese learners that I know locally or in neighboring states won’t take the JLPT because the nearest testing site is an 8-15 hour drive away. Realistically the cheapest option for us is to fly in to a city with a testing site, get a hotel for the night, take the test the next day, and then fly out after the exam. With flights, a hotel, public transportation/taxi, JLPT fees all accounted for the total cost ends up being around $300-$400 per exam.

    I think it’s still a price worth paying if you’re at all considering employment in Japan in the future, but maybe it’s not worth it at the N5 and N4 levels, at least to me. I think if you live near a testing site though, taking advantage of it and testing at each level as you progress is a great way to keep track of your progress and keep you motivated!

    Once again, great article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment! You gave me a new perspective as I have always happened in live in an area where a JLPT testing center is located. I had to pay over $300 dollars for the exam to get licensed in my profession and I know that is a high cost for many people.


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