How do you know you are ‘ready’ to take a certain level of the test? I get this question a lot in emails, and it is a tough question to answer quickly because, as you might have guessed, it all depends.
I know registration for the July test is soon for a lot of regions, and you might be teetering between two levels. So some of you might have to make this decision soon and are probably wondering which level to sign up for.
Of course taking the test is always going to be a bit of a gamble. Either the reading will go over topics you are not familiar with or the listening covers directions and you aren’t very spatial organized. Whatever the case may be, you might not pass even if you are that level. And to be honest if you don’t fail at least once, you aren’t really pushing yourself.
So before you fill out that sign up form and send it in, ask yourself the following questions so that you can be confident you have the right level for you.
Did you take a JLPT practice test?
Taking a practice test under real test conditions (limited breaks, timed, no checking answers till the end, in a quiet room) will give you a great feel for the test. It is important to treat these as real because the test will be timed and one of the biggest problems test-takers run into is not having enough time to finish the test especially the reading section.
These first practice tests are significantly shorter than the real thing. They only include two questions from each section and are generally about half the size of the real test. I’ve added some notes about how to time these tests out in the separate posts for each one.
The official ‘workbooks ‘ for the test have also been made freely available. I added some notes and made the audio a little easier to practice with in each of the posts below. N5 through N3 are available on my blog, but N2 and N1 are currently available only on the main JLPT site.
There ‘workbooks’ are really more like Franken-tests that are made up of questions from prvious tests. Most of the workbooks have the exact same number of questions as the real test though, buy some of them have more. I made notes on any differences I could find in the PDFs.
How Long have you Studied?
Another way to judge what level you should be taking is how many hours you have stuied. Keep in mind that these hours are if you are taking a regular class that is loosely based on the JLPT or studying from a standard book like Minna no Nihongo or Genki. If you study in a more unstructured way the hours might be off.
If you study a little more unconventionally or you don’t really keep track of study hours, these study hours might not be of much use. For example, if you read a lot of manga or listen to a lot of Jpop songs to practice Japanese you will have to go after a different metric. I wrote up a brief list of questions that can help you decide if you are the right level or not.
Are you job-hunting or are you doing it just for motivation?
There are two main reasons for taking the JLPT. The first one, it looks good on a resume. A lot of people will argue and say that your average HR guy doesn’t even know what the JLPT is and this might be true. But, it is pretty irrelevant, because the test name (in Japanese) pretty much explains exactly what it is and its purpose.
And in general, recruiters in Japan respect tests and qualifications. So putting that you passed N2 or N1 (maybe N3) on your resume will up your chances of an interview. You will have to backup your test result with an ability to speak and use it though.
So if you are going for qualifications you might want to gamble and go for a higher test to get a better job. Especially if your speaking skills are stronger than your reading and listening skills.
The second biggest reason people take the JLPT is because it creates a system of levels that you can use to measure your progress and also to know what books to buy or courses to take. If you are taking the JLPT for this reason I would say you should just move up the levels step by step. For example, if you passed N4, take N3. If you passed N3, take N2, and so forth.
What level are you taking?
Are you taking the July test? What level are you taking? Let me know in the comments.
Photo by Pebbledash Grey