JLPT or Japanese Language Proficiency Test is hard and no walk in the park – here is what you can expect

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The JLPT or Japanese Language Proficiency Test is held globally in July and December. Some cities will host the test in both July and December or one or other. When booking there are caps on the number of examinees that can take the exam so when the booking systems are online in your home country I recommend getting in early, like on the dot 9 am early. For me in Australia, I tried booking around 3 pm and my hometown of Melbourne was pretty much all booked out for JLPT N5, N4 and N3. There was no way I was ready for either N2 or N1.

Due to the admissions rules, I had to wait for the second chance opportunity to book in another city outside of Melbourne – which I managed to do but there wasn’t many spaces left. I booked for the JLPT N4 exam. And this was my very first attempt at this exam and I knew it was going to be hard. The fail rate is high.

On the day of the JLPT, examinees arrived at 1 pm at the test center all assembled in a courtyard. At the designated time, a representative came out and explained what was happening and which rooms we were to attend. Each room only had enough for 25 people. On entering, we were asked to show our printed ticket and have it on the table along with our identification (i.e. my driver’s license) face up.

We were seated with some distance between each examinee. I noticed that a lot of people the room were people from interstate.

Before our exam, we put all our belongings at the back and informed that if our phones went off during the exam that we would be disqualified for that section of the exam. So the best thing to do is power off your device completely to be safe.

We were allowed to bring a bottle of water, but the only other things allowed on the table were HB pencils, eraser and an analogue watch. Smart watches were not allowed. If you didn’t have a pencil, our examiners had some spares but not many.

We were handed the question book and some loose leaf answer sheets. Make sure you are putting your answers on the correct answer sheet. We were required to fill in the pages and the front of the booklet. Make sure to complete each answer sheet with your details such as registration number, name and date of birth (not exam date). You also have to name and add your registration details to the question booklet. The first section of the exam was Vocabulary from 1:30 to 1:55 for 25 minutes. We couldn’t open the question book until instructed. Bear in mind that there is no reading time.

Although there was an example question in the question book, we didn’t go over the example at all. Throughout the exam, all you should be is concentrating on answering as much as you can because the test doesn’t give you much time to answer each section. You better have a watch handy to ensure you don’t run out of time. You get no extra time when time is up and if the examiners are kind, you get a 5 minute warning.

We had a 20 minute break between each section. The second section of the exam went from 2:20 to 3:15 and was grammar and reading for 55 minutes.

The final section was the listening for 35 minutes long. Unlike the other exam sections, we did hear the examples. Throughout the listening component, we could scribble in the question books, but we weren’t given much time to answer. By the last answer, you will not have long to consider and answer the question. Essentially once the CD stops playing, the exam was over and you won’t be able to fill in the answer sheet so you should make sure you are filling in each section as you progress.

In terms of listening quality, we had a CD player that was audible throughout the room. The examiners did ask before the exam’s commencement if the sound quality was good or bad.

Exam results came out 2 months after the exam took place. The exam was on 5 December 2021 and the results came out on 24 January 2022. I was bitterly disappointed with my exam result, but I will be aiming for JLPT N3 in December 2022. It is probably for the best as it forces me to work even harder for the next exam.

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