What is the JLPT and Should You Take It?

From medals to diplomas, we all like receiving something that rewards our skill and hard work; it’s even better if those awards illustrate an ability that can land you a good job or scholarship! But, for languages, this can be tricky. What can you do to demonstrate how good you are at Japanese? For most, this dilemma is solved by the JLPT: the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. But, what actually is the JLPT? Is it really worth taking? Luckily, you don’t have to practice for these questions; we’ve got all the answers right here!

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What is the JLPT?

Okay. This is the first big question. We already told you that the JLPT is a test that measures your proficiency in Japanese, but this is pretty vague! To begin, the JLPT is the most popular and well-known test for Japanese. Many employers looking to hire those with Japanese language skills ask for your JLPT level, and many language schools offer classes aimed specifically at passing the JLPT (us included)! It’s been offered (with revisions) since 1984, so it has a good reputation both academically and in the workplace.

The JLPT focuses on two points: your “knowledge of Japanese-language vocabulary and grammar… [and also your] ability to use [that] knowledge in actual communication”2. To test these topics, the JLPT has three areas in its tests: one section on your vocabulary and grammar knowledge, one section over your reading abilities, and one section on your listening skills. (Note that the JLPT doesn’t test your writing or speaking abilities, but these are still important to practice!)

How does JLPT work?

So, that’s what the JLPT is. But, how does the test work? To start, you’ll need to figure out which level of the JLPT you want to take. Instead of one big test for everyone, the JLPT is split into 5 different tests, each one corresponding to a different level of Japanese. The N1, or level 1, is for those who are basically fluent; you’re expected to understand the Japanese used in a wide variety of situations. Meanwhile, N5 (level 5) is for beginners and covers basic concepts taught in Japanese classes. Levels N2-N4 are in between these. In sum, once you pass the test for a certain level, you are certified as understanding Japanese up to that level of fluency.

JLPT levels and structure

The JLPT is divided into five levels, with N5 being the most basic and N1 being the most advanced. Each level assesses different aspects of language proficiency, including vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension, and listening skills. Here’s a breakdown of the JLPT levels and their corresponding skills:

1. N5: This level is suitable for beginners who have mastered basic Japanese grammar, vocabulary, and kanji. It focuses on basic greetings, daily conversations, and simple reading and listening comprehension.

2. N4: N4 is designed for learners who can understand and use everyday expressions and basic grammar structures. It covers a broader range of vocabulary, more complex grammar patterns, and longer reading passages.

3. N3: At this level, learners are expected to have a solid grasp of intermediate grammar, a wider range of vocabulary, and the ability to understand and summarize written and spoken materials on various topics. Usually, if you are looking for part-time jobs in Japan, they will require at least JLPT N3-level — particularly if the job is customer-facing.

4. N2: N2 is a more advanced level that requires a deeper understanding of Japanese grammar, and idiomatic expressions, and the ability to comprehend more complex reading and listening materials. This is typically the minimum requirement if you are looking to get a full-time job in Japan.

5. N1: The highest level of the JLPT, N1, is for learners who have near-native proficiency in Japanese. It tests advanced grammar, sophisticated vocabulary, and the ability to comprehend complex texts and spoken language in various contexts. In the past, most Japanese companies want you to have JLPT N1 to be at least considered for a position, but now, the requirement has gotten more loose and changed to JLPT N2.

As for the test itself, it generally takes anywhere from an hour and a half (N5) to almost three hours (N1). The harder the test, the longer it takes! For N1 and N2, there are two sections: vocabulary, grammar, and reading in one, and listening in the other. N3, N4, and N5 have three sections: vocabulary, grammar and reading, and listening. Luckily though, everything is multiple-choice!

Check out our guides for other JLPT levels as well:

Who can take the JLPT?

One great thing about the JLPT is that it is very accessible! It is open to all non-native speakers of Japanese, even if you have Japanese citizenship. You don’t have to be a student or work in a certain field to take it; if you are a Japanese learner, you are eligible! There aren’t any age restrictions for the test either. Additionally, if you have a disability, the JLPT will work with you to make sure you have access to the appropriate accommodations!

When and where is the JLPT held?

The JLPT is generally held twice a year: once in the summer and once in the winter (though this can vary depending on the location). The exact dates change every year, so you’ll need to check the JLPT website before making any plans!

As for where the JLPT is held, the JLPT is held both inside Japan and out. Inside Japan, you can take the test in any of the 47 prefectures; when you register for the test (more on that in a moment), you’ll receive a test location based on your home address. Outside of Japan, there are locations in all of the seven continents (including areas specific to Oceania, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East); you can simply select the location that works the best for you! Since locations change from year to year, you can find the most current list of test sites here

How do you register for the JLPT?

The registration process for the JLPT is slightly different depending on where you want to take the test. In Japan, you’ll need to make an account online with MyJLPT (which is free). Once you do this, you can enter in your information, find out where you’ll be taking the test, and pay the test fee (via credit card, Pay-easy, or at a convenience store). Then voila! You’ll receive a test voucher in the mail with your information on it (which you’ll need to bring to the test site), and you’ll be all set for the JLPT. For those needing accommodations, check out this page as well.

Outside of Japan, you’ll need to first select the location you want to test at (again, found at this link here). Then, you’ll click the corresponding link to go directly to the institution hosting the test (usually a university) and follow their instructions to register and pay the test fee. The application windows, guidelines, and fees vary based on the test location, so make sure you check those out thoroughly before registering! You’ll also receive a test voucher that you’ll bring with you to the testing center. For more details about testing abroad, you can find them here. (Those needing accommodations will need to contact their testing institution directly to arrange adjustments.)

How Long Are the JLPT Exams?

The length of the JLPT varies depending on the level. Generally, the higher the level, the more time you will have. However, keep in mind that the language and reading sections of both JLPT N1 and N2 are combined into one, which means you need to learn how to practice better time management.

For JLPT N4, these are the different amounts of time for each of the three different test sections.

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary)25 minutes
Language Knowledge (Grammar) and Reading55 minutes
Listening35 minutes
Total Time95 minutes

For JLPT N2, these are given different amounts of time for each of the two different test sections. JLTP N1 lasts 170 minutes.

Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) and Reading105 minutes
Listening50 minutes
Total Time155 minutes

All the tests are taken in one day, with a short toilet break in between sections.

What is The Score Required to Pass the JLPT?

For JLPT N1 to N5, the range of scores one can get is between 0 and 180 points. Depending on your level, the passing scores also change accordingly.

JLPT LevelPassing marks (Total)
N580 out of 180
N490 points out of 180
N395 points out of 180
N290 points out of 180
N1100 points out of 180

There are also score requirements for individual sections of the test.

For N5 and N4, the sectional passing mark for Listening is 19 points out of 60 points. The passing mark for Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) and Reading is 38 points out of 120 points.

For N3, N2, and N1, the sectional passing mark for Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar), Reading, and Listening is 19 points out of 60 points for every section.

How to Check Your JLPT Results

The JLPT results are available online around two months after the test day. The online test result announcement will be viewable for only a certain duration. Keep in mind that due to traffic, there may be a delay in connection during the announcement date.

For international residents in Japan, the physical result certificate will be delivered on a specific date. You can also issue a transcript, which will be immediately sent after the resulting certificate is received. Students who are in a hurry to get the transcript may apply for an express delivery request.

Check out: How to View Your JLPT Results Here

Should You Take the JLPT?

Next, it’s time for the other big question. Now that you know what the JLPT is, should you even take it? Like all tests, there are pros and cons to the JLPT, which is what we’ll cover for you below.  

Pro 1: It’s The Most Recognized Japanese Language Certificate

One of the biggest benefits of the JLPT is that it is the most recognized Japanese language test currently available. Employers needing those with Japanese skills (especially in Japan) look for applicants who’ve passed higher levels of the JLPT, and some schools require JLPT scores for scholarships. If you’re looking for a certification that can apply to a myriad of situations and is well-received, the JLPT is the best option.

Pro 2: A Lot of Study Support

Another benefit is the amount of help there is for passing the JLPT. The JLPT itself offers practice workbooks for each testing level, and many language schools offer classes specifically targeted for those looking to pass the JLPT. (You can find our own list of JLPT courses here), Of course, there is also plenty of advice for learners online as well. So, if you do choose to take the JLPT, you’ll have plenty of resources to make sure you’re on the right path.

Pro 3: Helps You Get Permanent Residence

 If you’re looking to move to Japan, taking the JLPT can also make things easier. Those who pass the N1 and N2 levels can receive points towards the Japanese government’s “Point-based Preferential Immigration Treatment System for Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals”. The more points you have, the easier it will be to immigrate! Those who want to practice medicine in Japan also have to pass the N1 level in order to move forward with the certification process. Even if you just want to study at a Japanese university, having an N1 or N2 certification can be a requirement in some cases.

Lastly, aiming to pass the JLPT can simply be good motivation for studying Japanese. It can be hard to study with no goal in sight, so having a concrete deadline and specific concepts to master can help increase your enthusiasm for learning!

Con 1: Expensive Test Fee

Unfortunately, the JLPT isn’t perfect. One of its biggest drawbacks is its cost; while the exact testing fee varies by location, you can generally expect to pay around 60 – 70 USD per attempt. This is pretty pricy by itself, but if you want to retake the test or try a different level, you’ll need to pay that cost a few times. You also can’t get a refund once your payment has been processed, no matter what your reason is for needing one.

Con 2: It’s Only Held Twice a Year

Another downside to the JLPT is that it is only offered twice a year (or less in some locations), and at very specific testing sites. This means that you have to think ahead, make detailed plans, and clear your schedule months in advance to take the JLPT. There are no options to take the test remotely, so unless you already live in the cities where the tests are given, you will also have to travel and pay the associated travel costs.

Check out: JLPT Alternatives to Still Test your Japanese

Con 3: It Doesn’t Test Your Speaking and Writing Skill

Another issue is with the test itself. It doesn’t measure writing or speaking skills, so if you are looking to get better in those areas, studying for the JLPT won’t help you improve. Some students also say that the questions at higher levels pertain to grammar and vocabulary that is only used in extremely formal or literary situations; this means that you may spend a lot of time studying very specific and rarely-used parts of Japanese. It’s also been said that some of the questions seem to have more than one right answer.

Con 4: It Doesn’t Guarantee Anything

Lastly, having a JLPT certificate doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be able to get a job in Japan or in your desired field. People have gotten a good job with only a JLPT N3 certificate, while you might see some who are struggling to get a job when they have an N1-certificate.

At this point, keep in mind that owning a JLPT certificate, while certainly useful, isn’t a golden ticket to employment. In fact, the most it can do is to make you be on par with other Japanese native candidates, but it’s very rare that you’ll receive special treatment because of it (if you are aiming for a very traditional Japanese company). Another thing is that while a JLPT certificate might look good on paper, you’ll need to prove your Japanese language ability during interviews — something that a lot of candidates fail to do as their speaking ability isn’t on the same level as their reading/writing ability.

With that said, having the JLPT can be beneficial if you are searching for the right job that values bilingual speaking ability. This can include international sales and marketing, talent acquisition, and more.

Some jobs in Japan, like IT-related positions or English teaching, don’t require a high level of Japanese ability. Check the list here.

Many employers ask for a degree or related job experience in addition to the JLPT certificate. Many employers look for N1 or N2 certifications as well (or sometimes N3), so having N4 or N5 won’t give you much real-life benefit.

Tips for preparing for the JLPT

Preparing for the JLPT can be a challenging task, but with the right strategies, you can make the process more manageable and increase your chances of success. Here are some tips to help you prepare effectively:

1. Set realistic goals

Start by setting specific, achievable goals for each study session and overall preparation. Break down the syllabus into smaller, manageable sections and allocate time for each of them.

2. Create a study schedule

Establish a study routine that suits your schedule and stick to it. Consistency is key when it comes to language learning. Allocate dedicated time for each skill area, such as vocabulary, grammar, reading, and listening.

3. Practice regularly

Regular practice is essential to reinforce your learning and improve your skills. Make use of the study materials and resources mentioned earlier to practice reading, listening, and answering sample questions.

4. Review and revise

Regularly review and revise what you’ve learned to ensure retention. Focus on weak areas and identify patterns of mistakes to strengthen your understanding.

5. Simulate test conditions

Familiarize yourself with the test format by taking practice exams and mock tests. Time yourself and create an exam-like environment to get accustomed to the pressure and time constraints.

That said, how well you prepare the JLPT the night before is just as important as your six-month-long study plan. Check out some practical JLPT tips to follow for the actual test day.


Most people don’t enjoy taking tests, but it is often a necessary part of school and getting jobs. But, knowing what tests to take and when can sometimes be just as hard as the test itself! However, now that you know what the JLPT is as well as some of its pros and cons, you can decide if it is right for you or will help you to reach your goals. Some aspirations (such as becoming fluent) don’t need a JLPT score to achieve. However, others (such as a job in Japan) might require a JLPT certificate. Regardless of what you decide, as long as you keep studying Japanese, you’ll be a winner!

Planning to take the JLPT? Start your preparations with Coto Academy!

Whether you want extra JLPT preparation or a customized, one-on-one lesson plan for other exams, Coto Academy offers flexible group and private Japanese courses. Contact us today for a free level check!

1. The Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services. “Objectives and History.” JLPT, 2012, www.jlpt.jp/e/about/purpose.html.
2. “Four Key Characteristics.” JLPT, 2012, www.jlpt.jp/e/about/points.html.
3. “Advantages of JLPT.” JLPT, 2012, www.jlpt.jp/e/about/merit.html.
4. “Taking the Test Overseas.” JLPT, 2012, www.jlpt.jp/e/application/overseas_index.html.
5. Japan Educational Exchanges and Services. “How to Apply.” JEES Japanese Language Proficiency Test, info.jees-jlpt.jp/application/.

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