Why Take the JLPT? Part 1 of 2

Question mark made of puzzle piecesYou might be wondering to yourself. Why would someone want to take the JLPT to begin with? Why would you go through all the pain and agony of drilling, flash cards, and test questions? We all know it is the test of the Japanese language. But, why take it in the first place? What can you do with that shiny piece of paper that tells you that you passed?

Understanding the reason why you should take the test helps make your goals for studying that much clearer. Do you every hate it when your boss tells you to do something, but doesn’t actually give you the reason for it? For example, tells you to file a TPS report, but never actually explains why TPS reports are so fricking important. Or somebody takes away your Swingline stapler for no reason. It’s enough to drive a guy nuts, right?

So it is important, no scratch that, crucial that you understand why you are taking this test in the first place. If you are going to be dedicating a good chunk o’ time to this endeavor, (I’m currently putting in about 1.5 to 2 hours a day) you owe it to yourself to know what it is all about. That way you will be less likely to get frustrated, or completely demotivated to continue.

JLPT is (usually) Necessary for a Job using Japanese

The JLPT is really the only standardized test of Japanese proficiency. Employers will look at this to check your level. Be aware that they will also more than likely check your fluency level too with a quick chat in the interview or a full blown test of their own in Japanese.

You will need at least an N2 to get an interview at a Japanese speaking company (i.e. non-English teaching job) in Japan. The job opportunities will increase by about 30 to 50 times with an N1 though. Outside of Japan, there are a few jobs that I’ve seen pop up that are looking for N3 qualified people though. I’m guessing these are for mainly import/export companies that deal with Japan via email.

Please note that having an N4 or N5 will help you land a job with a Japanese company outside of Japan. These levels aren’t considered very fluent or really functional, but it will stand out and show that you are interested in the Japanese language and culture. In other words, it won’t be required for a job probably, but it will look good on a resume.

Why do you say ‘usually’ required for a job?

I personally have a few friends that have gotten jobs working with Japanese without any JLPT qualifications. These types of jobs are only found through networking and rubbing shoulders with company executives and the like. You still have to speak and use Japanese! It’s just that the JLPT is not ‘required’.

But, but, but! Don’t expect to just plop down in Japan with a tourist visa and some mad networking skills and get handed a job. It has happened before, it will happen again, but you have to have great skills and be incredibly lucky. Try to get a visa doing something else (teaching English comes to mind) and then after acclimatizing to the country, go out and make your mark.

JLPT is Necessary for some Schools

The JLPT used to be the test you had to pass to get into universities in Japan. This has since been replaced by another slightly easier test. If you are interested in going to school in Japan, you should check with the specific school you want to go to and review their entrance procedures.

There are other private conversation schools out there that will use the JLPT test levels as benchmarks. For example, they will have classes named Intermediate (N3). Sometimes these classes will require a student to first pass the corresponding JLPT level, but these can also sometimes be waived by a written test at the school.

So, wait, are you saying the JLPT is not required for schools?

Pretty much. You don’t HAVE to take the test for university or private conversation schools. However, it serves as a great benchmark and guide to the different classes out there. If you are looking to eventually going to some kind of Japanese language school, the JLPT will help you decide what level you are.

This is because there is an incredible amount of disparity between what the different levels are. For example, ‘advanced’ Japanese outside of Japan might be up to say N2, or even N3 for some textbooks/classes. But, in Japan, advanced is actually N1 (or dare I say above?) in most textbooks/classes. So, taking the JLPT will help you get a good idea of your level and what to expect out of these classes.


This is just the start of a two part series on why you should take the JLPT. Next week, I’ll be going into detail about some other reasons that are a little more personal for the language learner. In the meantime, I’ve got some action steps for you.

Action Steps

  1. Are you taking the test to get a job or go to school in Japan?
  2. What is your dream job in Japan?

Let me know your answers in the comments below!  It only takes a few minutes.

Image by Horia Varlan, available under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Bob January 2, 2011, 2:00 pm

    I don’t have any current plans to work in Japan. I am more interested in using it for goal setting.

    I found your site through JLPTStudy. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Mac January 4, 2011, 9:35 am

      Thanks Bob for commenting! Next week, I’ll be talking a little bit about more intrinsic or personal goals for studying the test. I think it’s an excellent idea to use it for that as well.

  • rakesh gautam July 13, 2011, 10:11 am

    . To secure a job in production industry where I can utilize my knowledge for the
    organization’s growth

    • Mac July 14, 2011, 12:29 am

      Good luck Rakesh! I hope you find your dream job.

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