Japan Study Abroad Network - Support & guidance for studying in Japan > The complete guide to the Japanese NAT-Test of Competency
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The NAT-Test is a Japanese Language Proficiency Test that is held annually both within and outside of Japan, and taken by international persons whose language is not Japanese in order to score their competency of the language for the purpose of employment in companies and entrance to academic programs.

This article will guide you through what you need to know about the NAT-Test!



Overview of the NAT-Test

The first NAT-Test was held in Japan in 1988, and has since been administered to students in their home countries, which now includes Canada, America, parts of Europe including England, Australia, etc., in addition to its original implementation in Asian countries such as China, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

The NAT-test is fully managed by the Japanese NAT-Test Management Committee, which makes the decision about dates and venues of the test, appoints the team to support its administration and oversees the entire process from beginning to end. The score students receive is considered the most readily used measures of competency, and much of students’ future plans hangs on its results, which are made available within 3 weeks of taking the test.

The NAT-test is typically held at least two times a year in all of the host countries with no set restriction on the number of times a student can take the test. With a straight-forward registration process, the ability for students to take the test every 2 months in order to check their level, and the quick turnaround of results make this test convenient for both students as well as professionals.


So what are the levels of the Japanese NAT-Test?

The exam consists of 5 levels. Ordered from lowest to highest, they are: N5, N4, N3, N2, N1, with N1 being the highest level of achievement.

5Q (N5 level): Most students can achieve this first level in 3 months of hard study with a curriculum equivalent to the completion of 25 lessons of the ‘Minna no Nihongo’ Textbook.

4Q (N4 level): This 2nd level can be achieved for some students within 6 months of study with a curriculum equivalent to the completion of 50 lessons of the ‘Minna no Nihongo’ Textbook.

3Q (N3 level): This 3rd level of the test can be achieved within 9 months of study, in a program equivalent to 50 ‘Minna no Nihongo’ syllabuses as well as some popular N3 level-specific syllabuses such as Sou Matome, Shin Kanzen, Mimi Kara Oboeru, etc. This level of the test is considered to be particularly challenging compared to the previous two levels as it marks a transition from beginner to intermediate, and as such a new bulk of knowledge is required, including how to discern similar words, new grammar structures, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension.

2Q (N2 level): Students at this level are considered intermediate-advanced and would likely have undergone 12 months of intensive study. The popular N4 syllabuses such as Sou Matome, Shin Kanzen, and Mimi Kara Oboeru, have known to be great guides, however in addition, students will require a whole new slew of N2 vocabulary words. Vocabulary plays an important part at this level as students will need to read a lot of content in a short amount of time in order to excel.

1Q (N1 level): This level denotes students of an advanced level of understanding of the Japanese Language. To achieve this level, students often require a minimum of 1 year of intensive study in an advanced program. In addition to the previous skills, the most difficult aspect is not just the further expansion of vocabulary, grammar, reading and listening, but the critical assessment of appropriate context, depending on situational variables. Preparation for this test requires research, study, reading books and watching news in order to develop situational knowledge and intuition so that students can apply the correct use in each case and avoid any ambiguities or confusions from vocabulary-related or grammatical variations.


Registration process and exam fees

Learn about the scheduled dates & times of the exam, as well as registration deadlines, application deadlines and fees, so that you are prepared and can plan accordingly.

Here is the latest NAT-Test Schedule 2019, for information about where and when the tests will be held, by country:

Test Test date Application deadline Levels available
Test 1 2021/02/07
2021/01/08 1Q, 2Q, 3Q, 4Q, 5Q
Test 2 2021/04/11
2021/03/12 2Q, 3Q, 4Q, 5Q
Test 3 2021/06/06
2021/05/07 1Q, 2Q, 3Q, 4Q, 5Q
Test 4 2021/08/08
2021/07/09 2Q, 3Q, 4Q, 5Q
Test 5 2021/10/10
2021/07/10 1Q, 2Q, 3Q, 4Q, 5Q
Test 6 2021/12/12 2021/11/12 2Q, 3Q, 4Q, 5Q

What documents to prepare

You will be required to provide the following documents and information:

  • A photocopy of your Government-issued ID or passport (information and images must be clearly visible)
  • 2 identical photos of you (dimensions: 3cm x 4cm) taken within the last 6-months and attached to application with paper clip (no staples).
    1 of these photos should also contain your full name, date of birth, and previous test level achievement.
  • Registration Form, completed according to the specifications found on the website or specified at the registration location.

Exam Fees

See below table for list of Exam Fees, by country:

Country Level Exam Fee
China 1Q, 2Q RMB 460
3Q 4Q 5Q RMB 390
Vietnam All VND 700,000
Nepal All NPR 4,500
Myanmar All MMK 42,000
Indonesia All IDR 500,000
Sri Lanka All LKR 5,500
Mongolia All MNT 50,000
Cambodia All USD 30
Bangladesh All BDT 3,000
Philippines All USD 55
India All INR 2,000
Thailand 1Q, 2Q
THB 1,560
3Q, 4Q, 5Q
THB 1,060
Bhutan All BTN 2,980
Uzbekistan All UZS 300,000
Kyrgyz All KGS 2,000
Japan All JPY 5,500

Exam Section Durations

Level Section Score Time
Per section Total Per section Total
N5 Language Knowledge (grammar, vocabulary) 60 pts 180 25 min 105min
Language Knowledge (grammar) Reading Comprehension 60 pts 50 min
Listening Comprehension 60 pts 30 min
N4 Language Knowledge (grammar, vocabulary) 60 pts 180 30 min 125min
Language Knowledge (grammar) Reading Comprehension 60 pts 60 min
Listening Comprehension 60 pts 35 min
N3 Language Knowledge (grammar, vocabulary) 60 pts 180 30 min 140min
Language Knowledge (grammar) Reading Comprehension 60 pts 70 min
Listening Comprehension 60 pts 40 min
N2 Language Knowledge (reading・grammar・vocabulary) Reading Comprehension 120 180 105 160
Listening Comprehension 60 50
N1 Language Knowledge (reading・grammar・vocabulary) Reading Comprehension 120 180 110 170
Listening Comprehension 60 60

Turnaround time for results

Results are typically made available within 3 weeks of the examination date.

After the results are released, everyone will also receive instructions on when to come to the registration office to obtain either their certificates & transcripts (for those who passed) or their transcripts (for candidates who did not pass).

For further information about the NAT-Test, please visit the official homepage.



Japan Study Abroad Network - Support & guidance for studying in Japan > The complete guide to the Japanese NAT-Test of Competency