Why I Took J-TEST Instead of JLPT — And How I Passed

Most of us are familiar with JLPT, which is probably the most famous Japanese language certification test recognized by both education institutions and companies in Japan — but there’s another standardized test,  J-Test, that deserves more attention. Ever heard of it?

It might not be as popular as the JLPT, but higher-level Japanese learners recommended J-Test. The reason? J-Test is taught to be a more accurate representation of a person’s communication proficiency — and a better judge of your Japanese ability in general.

Here’s why: the absence of a syllabus means that the test measures your actual knowledge. Even though not a lot of companies acknowledge the J-Test, it’s a great tool to measure your progress. 

Should you take the J-Test? Is it a better alternative to JLPT? As someone who’s taken both JLPT N3 and the J-Test, I could say I have a solid opinion when it comes to comparing both. In my case, I took the intermediate J-Test and received a certificate that’s equivalent to N4 in JLPT. A year later, I completed the JLPT N3 level. Not bad!

Is J-Test Better than JLPT?

Both J-Test and JLPT have their own strong and weak points. The JLPT is a test administered by the government, so it’s no surprise that it is more recognized than other Japanese language proficiency tests. J-Test is a good measuring tool for yourself, and while we argue its scoring system draws a more accurate picture of your Japanese language skill, it’s overlooked by many Japanese companies and academic institutions.  

Think of the JLPT as the door that leads onto a new road. Getting one opens up more opportunities to work in Japan, but it doesn’t guarantee a job. 

The major drawback to JLPT is that it only takes place twice a year, in July and December. 

On the other hand, J-Test is held six times a year: March, May, July, September, and November. This probably gives you better peace of mind, as you can always retake it after a shorter waiting period. 

The short answer is: it depends. We advise you to still apply for JLPT if you intend to use the certification for work or school.  However, if you only want to test your knowledge of Japanese, taking J-Test is fine.

J-Test Scoring System 

The J-Test and JLPT have different approaches in scoring systems. We all probably know the basic N5, N4, N3, N2 and N1 levels — N1 being the most advanced JLPT a foreigner (or even native Japanese speakers) can take. 

Instead of numbers, the J-Test uses letters: A, B, C, D, E, and G in J-Test. The most advanced level is Level A, which is equal to N1, while Level F is equal to N5. The J-Test G level is equivalent to an N6. 

The most difficult tests in J-Test are A, B, and C, while the intermediate (D and E) and novice (F and G) tests are D and E. (F and G). As a result, your degree of evaluation will be determined by your grade. 

The total score of the test is 1,000 points. 500 points for the reading and writing sections, and 500 points for the listening section, respectively. However, you will fail a test if you score below the designated overall score borderline, or if you score 0 in any of the 8 sections of the test.

Let me get into the designated score for the advanced test :

  • 930 or greater: Special A (Advanced Interpreter Level)
  • 900 – 930: A (Interpreter Level)
  • 850 – 900: Pre-A (Advanced Level)
  • 800 – 850: B (Pre-Advanced Level)
  • 700 – 800: Pre-B (High Intermediate Level)

For the intermediate test :

  • 600 or greater: C (Intermediate Level)
  • 500 or greater: D (Pre-Intermediate Level)
  • 400 or greater: Pre-D (Travel Level)

You will not get any certificate if you score below 400 points in the intermediate and advanced level tests. 

For the novice test. the total score of the test is 500 points, 300 points for reading and writing and 200 points for listening.

  • 350 or greater: E level
  • 250 or greater: F level

If you score below 250 points, you will not get the certificate.

The score comparison with JLPT:

  • JLPT N1 = J-TEST 650 – 700 points
  • JLPT N2 = J-TEST 550 – 600 points
  • JLPT N3 = J-TEST 400 – 450 points
  • JLPT N4 = J-TEST around 350 points
  • JLPT N5 = J-TEST around 250 points

J-Test Format

There are differences in the structures of JLPT and J-Test. The sections in JLPT are divided into listening, reading, vocabulary and grammar.

This is probably the most important thing to consider: the J-Test has an additional writing comprehension section.

This might discourage more people from applying for the J-Test. In fact, like most of us, writing — and writing kanji, specifically — is the most dreaded part of Japanese learning for me. But don’t let this scare you away! J-Test’s writing section isn’t as difficult as you think. You can pass the writing comprehension examination if you put in a lot of effort in your studies and practice exams.

For the intermediate test level, the test duration for reading and writing is 70 minutes. and the test duration for listening is 35 minutes. The reading and writing sections will start first, followed by a listening test without a break. Testing times differ according to level. 

The structure of the test is very similar to that of the JLPT. The listening section structure is the same as the JLPT. The test is all multiple-choice questions, except for the writing section

Writing Section Example Question
Writing Section Example Question

In the writing section, you will be asked to rearrange phrases to form a sentence. For example, in the photo example above, you’re given the hint, kinou (きのう) which means “yesterday.” 

As a result, you need to change the form of the verb to past tense. 

You are only permitted to bring a pencil, an eraser, a transparent pencil case, and your registration card on the actual exam day because you are not permitted to leave the testing area once you enter it. 

How to Register for J-Test

The J-Test price range is approximately around ¥3,600 while the JLPT price range is around ¥5,500. For a guide on how to register for the JLPT, head here

If you are planning to take the test in Japan, you can apply on the internet, through the mail, or even in a bookstore, as long as you have the documents for it.

If you are applying from their website, you need to fill in the online form. You’ll also have to:

  • pay the test fees and additional administrative fees by bank transfer (or pay in designated bookstores in Tokyo and Osaka, the bookstore called Nihongo Books)
  • send necessary documents via mail within 3 days of filling in the online form.

If you are applying via mail, you’ll need to print the application form that’s provided on the J-Test website and fill it out. 

  • fill in the application form and send the necessary documents via mail
  • pay test fees and additional administrative fees by bank transfer.

If you want to apply to a bookstore, you can apply to two bookstores located in Tokyo and Osaka as long as you bring all of the necessary documents. 

The necessary documents are

  • 2 ID photo
  • A copy of your ID, such as a residence card, passport or driver’s license. 

My J-TEST Experience

My Preparation for J-TEST

It took some time to get used to the J-Test test and scoring system. I only had two months to study for the exam after applying for it. But, at that time, I had already finished all of the N4 test preparation material. I then took practice exams every day for the remaining two months to become accustomed to the test’s format.

I followed my private Japanese teacher’s instructions and prepared for the entire two months. With the comments and advice he provided, he greatly helped me. Thanks to my teacher’s supervision over the course of two weeks, I was able to concentrate on myself and not have to worry about the materials because he gave them to me. As a result, I would like to advise those of you who are now studying for the exam to find a tutor, because doing so makes the process much simpler.

I took a lot of practice exams, so I felt rather confident on the day of the exam.

How I Did on the Actual Day

I took the intermediate exam, and my results showed that I received an E level equal to a JLPT N4. 

There were no issues or disruptions during the test. You cannot, however, bring any drinks into the room. You are also not permitted to leave the room once you have done so, under any circumstances. Therefore, it is advised that you use the restroom before entering the room.

The reading part was the most challenging. I recalled being under pressure and taking my time to comprehend the reading’s meaning. On the other side, I found the listening test to be the most straightforward. I felt secure and was able to fully concentrate on listening and answering the test questions because of all the practice I had done.

The writing section was a tough part for me. Enrolling in the intermediate-level J-Test means expecting a few kanji sprinkled in between. In fact, all of the words and questions were entirely made up of kanji. No furigana, no katakana. 

The key to tackling the nailing section is to be creative. Sentences are correct as long as they make sense. Most importantly, you need to include all the words provided on the questions and be extra careful of the time markers in the question. Make sure the verb tenses are correct. If anything in the word indicates the past — words like senshuu (先週), kinou (昨日), saki (先), you have to change the verb to past tense. 


Both J-Test and JLPT are excellent, and you can benefit from taking either one. JLPT is more respected by businesses and educational institutions. Only a few businesses and academic organizations currently accept J-TEST. But every year, there are more organizations and businesses that acknowledge J-TEST. 

I wish my experience was insightful. I believe that taking the J-Test would be a fantastic step to help you prepare for the JLPT because you can test your ability while waiting and preparing for the JLPT. One thing I learned from the experience is the significance of a teacher’s role in the learning process. Without the support and guidance, I would definitely waste more time and energy trying to find the most compatible way to study for the test. 

If you’re planning to take the JLPT Coto Academy provides both JLPT prep classes and private lessons for those who prefer a more personalized learning experience.

Sending luck to everyone who is preparing for the test!

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