It’s like taking the JLPT in your Underwear

JCATSo, are you feeling a little bummed that the JLPT over? Looking for a little Japanese test taking fix? I know my days are a little more empty now that I don’t have to spend every waking minute studying for the JLPT. So, I felt the need to do a little bit more test taking.

There are actually a few other Japanese tests out there, one that is a little popular in Japan is the J.TEST. It isn’t actually offered in too many other countries (just a few Asian countries), but is actually offered more times a year (6 times), so it is a worthy alternative to the much respected JLPT. But, that still actually involves leaving your house and paying for stuff.

What if there was a test that you could take in your underwear and it was free? And you can claim to save the environment at the same time! Does it sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not, such a thing does exist and it’s name is J-CAT, or Japanese Computerized Adaptive Test.

Taking the J-CAT

To get started with J-CAT, you first have to register with the site. They will then verify your info and give you a login and password a few days after you register. I suppose this to to cut down on the riff-raff using the site. Don’t worry too much about your details, it should be fairly easy to get accepted.

After you get your details, you can login and begin taking the test. After a brief system test to check to make sure your computer is up to snuff, they give you a relatively thorough self-examination of your level. I’m guessing this is to help them with their statistics for the site. I don’t think it has anything to do with the questions they ask you.

The test itself consists of your typical testing sections: listening, vocabulary, grammar, and reading and they are presented to you in that order. You have 16 listening questions, 36 vocabulary questions, 10 grammar questions, and 10 reading questions. The test took me about an hour and a half to finish, so be sure to set aside a pretty healthy block of time to take the test.


J-CAT is different in that it is an adaptive test. These are a new form of tests like the CASEC for English that can only be taken on a computer. That is because the test will actually adjust to you as you are taking the test. For example, if you get a question wrong, it will serve you up an easier question. If you get one right, it will give you a more difficult question.

This adaptive system is suppose to allow one test to accurately judge a variety of levels. The JLPT does somewhat the opposite by offering several tests to test you at that particular level. In my experience with the CASEC, the paper tests are little more accurate at telling your true level, but the adaptive tests come pretty darn close.

Questions on the Test

The questions seemed to be a mishmash of all sorts of test questions. For the listening, I was given two questions that involved choosing the right picture, but then after that the remaining 14 questions didn’t have anything written down on the screen. I do remember being given all of the questions before the dialog started though, so it is mostly a point listening exercise. There were no comprehension listening or quick response type questions that appear on the JLPT.

For the vocabulary section, they mixed in some kanji practice as well as usage practice. This section was incredibly difficult for me because they simply didn’t give you enough time to answer the question. They would give you 30 seconds to read through the question and then the four answers, which for some of the questions was actually 4 lengthy sentences. This seemed like poor test design to me.

The grammar was much the same way, I ended up getting a few wrong because time was up and I hadn’t answered, so keep an eye on the clock and be ready to click on your best guess when it turns red. Other than that, the grammar questions didn’t seem like anything spectacular. They were simply choose the correct part that goes in the blank type questions, but good practice.

The reading section was the strangest. Here they seemed to give you too much time. I had more than enough time to read the passage a couple of times and then answer the questions. The questions consisted mostly of choosing the one statement that was true about the reading.

This section was also really obvious about when you got a question wrong because the next question would have less kanji or more spacing. If you got a question right, there would be more kanji and everything would be tightly packed together.

Other Notes

You have to take the test in full screen mode, which means you should shut down anything and everything else. When I was taking the test, Windows wanted to keep reminding me to restart because it wanted to install something. Every time Windows did this, it would skip over that question (and probably mark it wrong).

Be sure to treat this like a test and block off this time and make sure everyone in your household knows that as well. I took the test a bit nonchalantly and ended up doing the listening section while my wife was doing some cleaning. I could have probably scored at least a little higher if I didn’t have so many distractions.

All in all though, I didn’t do too bad. I scored right in the middle of the old level 2 of the JLPT, which isn’t too bad for taking the test and getting ambushed by 30 second time limits along with all the distractions.

How about You?

I’d like to hear about how you did on the J-CAT if you took it. What were your impressions? Let me know in the comments below.

P.S. Do you like cats? Hey, me too! Sign up for the newsletter!

P.S.S. Prefer dogs instead?  Then try joining my Facebook Page for all the latest updates.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Larry December 11, 2011, 8:31 am

    Hi Mac,

    I took this test 3 weeks before this Dec`s JLPTN4.
    So according it a receive something around 170 points (i dont remember exactly so its something like L.intermediate level)
    Actually after this test i felt very upset, cause it was too little time for choosing the answer. Also at listening sections this become into the nightmare…
    So i started thinking that i did not know anything at all 🙂 and if JLPT will be like this test – its will be really BAD. 🙂
    But thanks the God JLPT was quite good (i soooo hope about this )
    But in any case J-cat was very important cause its showed me my weakness.
    So its nice that we can take such test.

    • Mac December 11, 2011, 9:22 am

      Yeah, the test is an adaptive test that will should be able to test people from a very beginner level all they way up to near-native (above N1), so there are going to be some questions that are incredibly difficult. Actually if you encounter a lot of difficult questions that means you did pretty well, because the test will keep giving you harder and harder questions until you miss one, and then it’ll give you something easier. Pretty cool system overall, but I’m glad it isn’t official, still needs a little bit of tweaking for the time to answer.

  • Shailee December 18, 2011, 12:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Mac December 19, 2011, 4:51 am

      No problem! Hope you find it useful!

  • Miaki January 1, 2012, 3:49 am

    Hey Mac,
    Are there any other differences between the JLPT and the J.TEST besides the amount of times they are offered and where? Does one make it easier to get a job than the other? Why do you prefer the JLPT to the J.TEST?

    • Mac January 6, 2012, 3:06 pm

      The JLPT is more recognized because it got an earlier start (I think). It is also more widely given. The J.TEST is only given in about 4 countries if I remember correctly where as the JLPT is given in somewhere around 40 countries world wide. The biggest complaint about the JLPT was that it wasn’t very practical, and the old format wasn’t really. The new format emphasizes a lot more practicality, so it has become a lot better benchmark for judging someone’s Japanese level.
      I’ve thought about taking the J.TEST simply because it is given more frequently and so would be easier to take and study for. Also the old tests are made available, which they are no longer made available for JLPT, something I find to be really annoying. Also, just speaking to people that study Japanese, not many people know about the J.TEST, much less have taken it, and there aren’t many prep books, which leads me to believe not many employers would know about it either.

  • Carla January 30, 2013, 6:32 am

    I just took the J-CAT and got a level II result. I’m actually a little surprised since, like you, I had trouble with the short amount of time allotted for the vocab questions! I haven’t taken the JLPT for several years, now, so my J-CAT results actually gave me a little confidence that my language proficiency really has improved 🙂 Maybe I’ll try at the end of this year for JLPT N2 certification. Any good study books you recommend? 😉

  • Carla January 30, 2013, 6:57 am

    LOL nevermind, I just read some of your other posts about how awesome the New Kanzen Master series is! Thanks for all your great blog posts! I’ve been wondering for a while about which resource to actually shell out some money for 😀

    • Clayton MacKnight January 31, 2013, 2:28 pm

      Yeah, NKM is pretty good but a little sparse on explanations depending on which book you get (grammar, reading, listening…) The reading book is really detailed, the grammar book is not so…

Leave a Comment

JLPT Boot Camp - The Ultimate Study Guide to passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test