So I’ll be taking the N3 JLPT tomorrow (if I don’t get too sick again) and based on the positive response to our articles about the various levels of the JLPT, it seems that many of our readers are about to take some level of the test as well. I’ve taken the test a couple of times before, including passing the 2-kyuu (２級) back before the N levels were introduced. One of the things that I found striking about the test the very first time I took it (when I wrote the ４級) is that it is entirely in Japanese, right down to the questions and instructions. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised at that but it was the first time I’d ever taken a language proficiency test.
Just as important as being able to answer the questions is being able to read them. If you don’t understand what you’re being asked for, how will you provide the right answer? So here’s a very quick review to help you understand the questions on the JLPT. And this really should be review; if it isn’t, you might be in trouble. The phrasing of questions on the test is meant to be appropriate to your level. If you’re feeling a bit unsure, have a look at sample questions for your level.
First, let’s name the sections of the test:
言語知識 (げんごちしき) – knowledge of language
These sections are intended to test your knowledge of different aspects of the language. The knowledge sections that appear on the tests are:
- 文字 (もじ) – characters. This knowledge section is meant to test your knowledge of kanji characters and their compounds.
- 文法 (ぶんぽう) – grammar. This knowledge section tests your knowledge of Japanese grammar and sentence construction.
- 語彙 (ごい) – vocabulary. This knowledge section tests your knowledge of vocabulary words and their proper usage.
- 読解 (どっかい) – reading comprehension. This knowledge section tests your ability to read and understand Japanese text.
The last section is 聴解 (ちょうかい), listening comprehension, which tests your ability to listen to and understand spoken Japanese.
Now let’s go over some vocabulary that can help with understanding the questions:
- 最もよい (もっともよい) – the best. This is used for phrasing questions of the form “select the best answer for this blank” and similar. It’s actually a combination of two words. For N4 and N5, this tends to be expressed in somewhat simpler terms: いちばんいいもの.
- 読み方 (よみかた) – way of reading, or the reading of something. This is used for phrasing questions about how kanji compounds are read.
- 意味 (いみ) – meaning. This one’s pretty easy but I thought I’d include it for completeness.
- 言葉 (ことば) – word.
- 文章 (ぶんしょう) – sentence, but can also refer to a short article or composition.
- 質問 (しつもん) – question. Which you will see in reading comprehension, because you will be asked to read an article and answer questions about it.