Oct 6, 2016

日本語検定(Nihongo-kentei): Beyond the JLPT

About a year ago, I took the JLPT N1 exam in preparation for my application to work as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) in Japan. After several weeks of stressful fretting, cramming, and binge-watching anime (which I would excuse away as part of the "studying process" and not in any way to be categorized as "procrastinating"), the big day arrived. Thankfully, I passed, got my certification and was able to move to Japan this summer to start my new job.

For many people, as it was for me, the JLPT is a huge milestone. Aside from the euphoria of passing and gaining braggin-rights, the impressive-looking piece of paper declares, loud and clear to potential future employers, "Yes, I am capable of working and living in Japanese society, at least as far as my language skills are concerned."

...But it doesn't feel like enough.

To be fair, I've always known the JLPT's Japanese level doesn't match up to the Japanese level of the average professional working adult in Japan. Still, it's frustrating when at work, I frequently find myself coming across kanji I don't know how to read, having to pause and search for words that are more nuanced, more precise, and more eloquent when I want to communicate my opinions, or hearing phrases during meetings I don't understand (especially those pesky jukugo--multiple-kanji vocabulary). So then...what's beyond the JLPT?

That's when I came across the Nihongo-kentei, a national Japanese langauge level examination, sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT).

A quick diagnostic test on their website gave me an idea of where I am at...and apparently my current skills are in line with Japanese students who are somewhere between middle and high school (゜Д゜)ガーン

Alright, well. I knew it would be something like that, but the truth still stung a bit (I was hoping at least for high school graduation level, but that was probably foolishly optimisic).

I've always prided myself on my Japanese skills, and now I have a new goal: one day, I will get 1-kyu on the Nihongo-kentei. My current level is somewhere just below 3-kyu, so I will first be striving to pass that level. The exam is offered twice a year: once in November and once in April. I don't know if I have enough time to prepare for passing the 3-kyu in time for next month, but this gives me something new to aim for as I continue to study this wonderful, complex, frustrating, and marvelous language.

Okay then.

Time to go buy more flashcards at my local 100-yen shop.



Dedicated to championing Koto City's many charms. Canadian; bibliophile; chocoholic; steadfast believer that everything can be made better with warm cup of tea.


  • DaveJpn

    on Oct 7

    This is interesting. I had no idea that there could be anything left to study after N1. Not sure quite how I feel about that. Good to know though. Any advice for getting past N1?

  • KotoCityCIR

    on Oct 11

    @DaveJpn Hello! Thanks for your comment :) Yeah, I didn't really think there was anything after the N1 either, and the JLPT alone felt like enough until I actually started working here. As for getting past N1, I studied by reading Japanese novels and the news (NHK online, for example) and watching Japanese TV shows, and keeping track of any unfamiliar vocabulary/kanji that popped up! I bought a notebook specially for this. Another great resource, if you can get your hands on it, is the official JLPT publication (official study guide, and official textbooks for each category: grammar, vocabulary, kanji, etc.). I ended up asking a friend in Japan to buy some for me, but they can also be purchased online. When are you thinking of getting certified? Good luck!

  • DaveJpn

    on Oct 13

    @KotoCityCIR Actually, I had no idea that there were official JLPT published textbooks. I'll keep a look out for those in the future. I kind of thought that reading novels might be one of the best ways to study for N1. The thought of doing this though is a bit heavy!! He! He! Thanks for the tips.


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