JLPT Test Series: Part 1 - What is the JLPT Test and Why People Take It

CareerJune 24, 2024 09:00

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of our three-part series on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). In this series, we will explore what the JLPT test is, provide detailed information about the test in Singapore, and discuss how to maximise the benefits of JLPT certification. Stay tuned for more insights in the upcoming posts.

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), known as "Nihongo Nōryoku Shiken" (日本語能力試験) in Japanese, is a widely recognized examination that assesses the proficiency of non-native speakers in the Japanese language. Whether you’re interested in studying in Japan, working in a Japanese-speaking environment, or simply improving your language skills, the JLPT can be a valuable benchmark of your Japanese proficiency.

History of the JLPT

The JLPT was first introduced in 1984 by the Japan Foundation and the Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES). Its primary objective was to evaluate and certify the Japanese language proficiency of non-native speakers, promoting cultural exchange and facilitating educational and professional opportunities in Japan. Since its inception, the JLPT has undergone several revisions and improvements, reflecting changes in the Japanese language and language education.

Structure of the JLPT

The JLPT assesses candidates in four language skills: reading, listening, writing, and speaking (though the speaking test is optional and not included in all levels). The test is divided into five levels, with N5 being the most basic and N1 representing the highest level of proficiency. Here's an overview of each level:

  • N5 (Beginner): Tests basic Japanese language skills, including simple vocabulary, hiragana, katakana, and basic grammar. Suitable for beginners who have just started learning Japanese.
  • N4 (Elementary): Requires a slightly higher proficiency in vocabulary and grammar. Test takers should be able to understand basic daily conversation and written materials.
  • N3 (Intermediate): Assesses intermediate-level language skills, including more complex grammar, vocabulary, and the ability to engage in casual conversations and read moderately difficult texts.
  • N2 (Upper-Intermediate): Requires a solid understanding of Japanese grammar, vocabulary, and the ability to understand complex texts and conversations. Often a requirement for certain jobs in Japan.
  • N1 (Advanced): The highest level, targeting advanced learners. Evaluates proficiency in advanced grammar, vocabulary, and the ability to understand specialised texts and engage in discussions on various topics.

Why People Take the JLPT Test

1. Career Advancement: Achieving a high JLPT level can open doors to better job opportunities. Many employers in Japan and other countries with Japanese-speaking environments consider JLPT certification a valuable asset. In Singapore, proficiency in Japanese can lead to higher-paying jobs in sectors like finance, trade, tourism, and technology.

2. Educational Opportunities: Many Japanese universities and educational institutions require a certain JLPT level for admission. A high score can increase your chances of getting accepted into prestigious programs and accessing scholarships.

3. Cultural Integration: The JLPT helps learners engage more deeply with Japanese culture. Understanding the language allows for richer experiences in literature, media, and social interactions, making it easier to integrate into Japanese-speaking communities.

4. Personal Achievement: Passing the JLPT is a significant milestone for learners of Japanese. It provides a clear, standardised way to measure progress and set future learning goals, boosting self-confidence and motivation.

Market Potential for Japanese Speakers in Singapore

The demand for Japanese speakers in Singapore has been steadily increasing. Here are some statistics highlighting the market potential:

  • Employment Opportunities: Companies in sectors like tourism, hospitality, and international trade actively seek employees with Japanese language skills. The ability to communicate effectively with Japanese clients and partners can lead to lucrative job offers.
  • Salary Premium: Bilingual or multilingual professionals, particularly those fluent in Japanese, often command higher salaries. In some industries, the salary premium for Japanese speakers can range from 10% to 30%.
  • Business Expansion: With Japan being one of Singapore’s top trading partners, proficiency in Japanese is highly valued for roles in business development, sales, and customer relations.


The JLPT is more than just a language test; it’s a gateway to numerous opportunities in education, career advancement, and personal growth. By understanding what the JLPT entails and why it’s beneficial, learners can better prepare for the test and leverage their skills in the job market. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series, where we will delve into the specifics of taking the JLPT in Singapore.


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