Don't let that 5500 Yen Go To Waste! JLPT Certificate: How Valuable Is It For Jobs and Tips To Study
Updated: Nov 5, 2019
by Claire Liu
Published on October 29th, 2019
As we approach December, we can feel a certain tension rippling among international students on campus. Rather than stressing over university assignments, many have their minds focused on something that may have a big impact on the job hunting season to come, the JLPT
JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), is an exam held biannually that evaluates the candidates’ Japanese language ability. There are a total of 5 levels with N1 being the highest and with passing these exams you get an official qualification that can be helpful in a variety of ways.
As someone who is also tackling the upcoming JLPT, everything can seem daunting and complicated. Hence, this article will simplify the key points of JLPT you need to know, list the best resources, and share the advice from fellow JLPT ‘veterans’.
Why Do You Need JLPT?
“I first decided to take the JLPT exams as a confirmation of my own Japanese level,” says Jeongchan Lee (Korea, 3rd-year student). He took and passed JLPT N3, N2 and N1, and was the perfect advisor for my amateur self.
“But on top of that, the JLPT qualification actually proved to be indispensable for me since I was preparing to apply for university in Japan. A lot of people say that the JLPT is a waste of time, but I disagree. Not only is JLPT useful for job hunting, or in my case for university, the amount of effort you need to put in in order to pass really improves your Japanese. In my case, I had to expose myself to a lot of kanji and comprehension exercises, as well as reading articles on a frequent basis. Before I realized, my Japanese skills improved dramatically.”
Jeongchan’s opinion didn’t surprise me, as I’ve also heard many similar comments from other senpais that sat the exam before.
But exactly what are the levels of JLPT useful for?
Here is a graph that gives a brief introduction to the different levels and what they are:
In summary, levels N5, N4 are the beginner levels which is good for measuring your language proficiency but no more. N3 is the middle ground that serves as a good indicator that you have enough Japanese skills to survive in Japan on a day-to-day basis. For job-hunting purposes, you will have to aim for at least N2 or N1
N2 or N1? The big debate
The jump between N2 and N1 is huge and N1 requires a deep understanding of the language that you can not cram into your brain in just a few weeks before the exam. N1 is known for being notoriously difficult, where sometimes even native Japanese speakers struggle to pass.
The reality is, even with JLPT qualifications, what most employers search for is communication skills. JLPT does not have a speaking section, hence it does not serve as a good measure for communication skills. Hence, having N2 is enough proof of proficiency for most companies.
N1 however, is extremely useful when applying for more prestigious positions, like scholarships, graduate school, and consulting firms. In these cases, N2 most likely will not suffice.
When asked about whether JLPT N1 was worth going for, Jeongchan replied without hesitation.“For me getting my JLPT N1 qualification was more for a sense of accomplishment as opposed to for job-hunting. For those who truly love the language, JLPT is ultimately a measure of our progress.”
In summary, N2 is more than enough for job-hunting, but if you want to take on the challenge and is aiming for a position that requires vigorous Japanese, then N1 will be your best bet.
JLPT Study Resources:
There are a ton of resources available online to help you pursue your studies. However, countless options can be a bit overwhelming at times. Here we have compiled a list of highly-rated textbooks and online resources.
In general, for levels N5, N4 and N3, using online resources should suffice.
JLPT Sensei: JLPT Sensei is a website with a user-friendly interface that is not cluttered with irrelevant information. You can access the grammar, vocab, and kanji for N5, N4 and N3. A concise explanation is given for each grammar point. For levels N1 and N2 however, there are only grammar explanations and can be a bit lacking for more in-depth understanding.
Tanos: The website itself isn’t as appealing as JLPT Sensei, but it is a treasure trove for free online resources. All grammar, vocab and kanji for every JLPT level can be found on this site. Most of all, they provide a lot of past exams which are perfect for practicing.
Attain Online Japanese: For something different, AOJ provides well-structured video courses for each JLPT level. Not only are the videos easy to understand, but the website also provides a lot of resources to go with each video explanations.
For levels N2 and N1, using textbooks is highly recommended, and you should give yourself plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the content.
My personal favorite textbook series that I always use is Kanzen Master. The layout is really clean and easy to read and doesn’t give me the headache I usually get when textbooks are crowded with information. The explanations are concise and there are plenty of practice questions provided. The textbook is completely written in Japanese, which may be difficult for some, but when tackling N2 and N1 this shouldn’t be a problem.
Nihongo Sou Matome:
This textbook series is the top pick for students due to its fun layout. Its success, however, lies in its daily divided lesson plans making it very easy to study for those who find it hard to sit for hours. The lesson explanations are less in-depth compared to Kanzen Master but serves its purpose.
JLPT Official Workbook:
To pass JLPT, it all comes down to one thing: practice. When you ask past JLPT candidates, it will become common knowledge that knowing how to sit the exam is a skill in itself. This is why it is essential to go through these official workbooks in order to grasp a good understanding of how the JLPT exams work while putting the knowledge you gained from the other resources to the test.
Extra resources for N1 and N2:
Below are some wonderful online resources that explain advanced grammar in great detail and provides many example sentences. These sites are all in Japanese, which makes it more challenging as well as more in-depth. What I love about these sites is that they compare similar grammar points that have popped up before and point out the differences.
And with that comes the final advice from Jeongchan to those preparing for the upcoming JLPT exam.
“Whatever language it is, in order to ‘study’ or become ‘fluent’, what is most important is your passion for the language. In my case, I was basically reading news articles, watching drama, youtube and anime every day, so the language was integrated into me without my intentional forced studying. So if I had to give any tips about how to pass JLPT, then it is to find something you are passionate about, whether it be culture or economics or whatever, and use that as the means to increase your exposure to the language.”