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My experience as a Japanese Language School student taking the JLPT test in Japan

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Being a Language Student in Japan is full of new and challenging experiences. Each day feels like a new little adventure in which you’ll be testing all the knowledge you’ve been getting from your classes.

Things that were very normal in our own countries, like going to buy some snacks at the nearest konbini (convenience store), ordering your favorite food at any restaurant, or trying to take the right train back home after classes can be quite challenging.

While it is true that getting through these daily life challenges is a testament to your progress in the language, there comes a time for most of us when we need to test our Japanese knowledge and obtain an official certificate by taking the JLP

What is the JLPT?

You might be wondering what the JLPT is. In short, the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), is a test that measures the proficiency level of non-native speakers of Japanese. It has 5 levels and is usually used by Language Schools, Colleges, Universities, and companies in order to determine someone’s Japanese language ability.

After having studied Japanese for quite a while now, I decided that it was about time for me to take the JLPT in order to gauge my skills and determine the areas where I need more reinforcement in the future, and work harder on them.

The first step I had to take was checking the dates on which the test was going to be held. Normally, the JLPT can be taken twice a year: once at the beginning of July, and another at the beginning of December. You can easily confirm the test dates by just checking the JLPT official website.

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Signing up for the test!

The JLPT page was really easy to navigate through and is available in many languages, so I had no issues finding the information I needed.

After deciding when I would be taking the test and checking the application periods, I had to register for “MyJLPT”. Registration is very easy and self-explanatory. You are guided step by step and given examples to show you how to properly input your information.

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It is important to double-check to ensure your names and address are correct and complete, as your name will be shown as written on your results certificate, and they’ll use your address to send the JLPT Test Voucher (which is used to validate that you have applied to take it) and Certificate. For example, in my case, I forgot to add my apartment number and received the test voucher a little later than planned. I got a bit anxious when I saw all my friends back at school getting their test vouchers way before me…so, please be careful!

Signing up by myself or through my school?

It’s very probable that your language school will offer to register you for the JLPT through them. In this way, instead of paying the test’s fees online (or at your nearest conbini), you’ll have to hand the fee directly to your school in cash. I found this to be very helpful for people who feel more comfortable in handling everything through their school or who don’t feel very confident in making online payments.

However, if you are an impatient person like me and want to be able to know your test’s results as soon as possible, which usually takes around 2 months, I’d recommend registering for the JLPT by yourself. This way, you’ll be given your own username and password, which you can use to log in to your “MyJLPT” account and check your results as soon as they are released. This is different than if you sign up through your school, since you won’t have a personal “MyJLPT” account and will have to wait until your school releases everyone’s results to get it.

Day of the test

The test day has arrived! I won’t lie to you, I was really nervous, mostly because I was afraid of arriving late or not being able to find the test location. I’m not exactly the most space-oriented person in the world, so I rely a lot on Google Maps most of the time. If this is the case with you as well, it might be good to visit the place where you’ll be taking the test some days beforehand in order to get familiar with the route and surrounding area, confirm the train you’ll have to take based on the shortest and fastest route, and get a good idea of how long it takes to get there from your place, etc. Believe it or not, this will help you feel much more relaxed and confident on the test day.

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Japanese people are very punctual, so plan everything ahead in order to arrive early. I recommend being there at least 20 minutes before the start of the test. As for me, I took the test on the 4th of July. The test was scheduled to start at exactly 12:30 pm, and the test rooms’ doors were open from 11:45 am. My test location was very close to Tokyo Station, so I just had to walk for around 3 minutes from the station in order to get there. Entering the building went smoothly as well. There were lots of personnel from the JLPT institution who helped and guided each examinee to their respective test room. Don’t forget to bring your JLPT test voucher and a form of personal identification*! (*This can be your passport or Zairyu (Residence) Card.) This is very important, as they’ll be checking those when you enter the test room and later on when they double-check your identity before the test starts.

Everyone in the room was very silent. We sat down and were asked to place only a pencil, eraser (with no cover), our test voucher, and Personal ID on the table. As the Test Voucher indicated, the test started at exactly 12:30 pm. The length of the test will depend on which level you are taking, but it could be from 90 minutes to 170 minutes. Pretty long, right? But don’t worry, you’ll get a 30- to 40-minute break during which you’ll be able to drink something, have a small snack, and maybe even socialize a bit with the other people taking the test. I was so concentrated on my test that the test finished before I could even notice.

When and how will I know my results?

The moment the test was over, a scary question popped up in my head: will I pass the test? Sadly, I wouldn’t be able to know until approximately 2 months later. The moment you sign up for the test, you’ll also be able to check the date on which results are announced. In my case, it was on the 23rd of August…which seemed like a very long time away.

I kind of forgot about the test for the next few weeks and suddenly I realized that the day had already come. That morning, I woke up very early and, after logging in into my “MyJLPT” account, I was able to finally see that I had passed the test! 2 weeks later, the “Certificate of Proficiency” finally arrived at my home, making everything official.

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Final thoughts

Taking the JLPT test can sound a bit intimidating at first. You’ll witness many of your classmates wanting to achieve the highest level as soon as possible in order to get into College or University. But don’t panic! You’ll do just fine. As Japanese Language Students, we have enough knowledge and capacity to pass the JLPT test we are aiming for. The curriculum that we follow at our schools is specially designed for each level of the JLPT test, so if you have been paying attention in class and have been regularly reviewing past lessons, you should have no problem being able to pass the test. If you’d like to reinforce your knowledge even more, there are plenty of books with additional material for the JLPT test, but I will talk about that next time!

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