What is the JLPT?

JLPT stands for “Japanese Language Proficiency Test.” In Japanese, that’s 日本語能力試験 (にほんごのうりょくしけん). 日本語 (にほんご) means "Japanese," 能力 (のうりょく) means "ability," and 試験 (しけん) means "test."

The JLPT has five levels. N5 is the easiest, while N1 is the hardest.


What the JLPT levels officially signify

The following descriptions were adapted from the Official JLPT website and do not reflect NativShark's actual belief in the levels of proficiency measured by the JLPT. More on this will be discussed at the bottom of this page.

JLPT N5

Passing N5 means that you have the ability to understand some basic Japanese.

The test is meant to assess the following.

Reading: One is able to read and understand typical expressions and sentences written in hiragana, katakana, and basic kanji.

Listening: One is able to listen and comprehend conversations about topics regularly encountered in daily life and classroom situations, and is able to pick up necessary information from short conversations spoken slowly.

In other words, N5 means that you have the absolute basics down.

JLPT N4

Passing N4 means that you have the ability to understand most basic Japanese.

The test is meant to assess the following.

Reading: One is able to read and understand passages on familiar daily topics written in basic vocabulary and kanji.

Listening: One is able to listen and comprehend conversations encountered in daily life and generally follow their contents, provided that they are spoken slowly.

In other words, N4 means that you have the ability to get around using only Japanese.

JLPT N3

Passing N4 means that you have the ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations to a certain degree.

The test is meant to assess the following.

Reading: One is able to read and understand written materials with specific contents concerning everyday topics. One is also able to grasp summary information such as newspaper headlines. In addition, one is also able to read slightly difficult writings encountered in everyday situations and understand the main points of the content if some alternative phrases are available to aid one’s understanding.

Listening: One is able to listen and comprehend coherent conversations in everyday situations, spoken at near-natural speed, and is generally able to follow their contents as well as grasp the relationships among the people involved.

In other words, passing N3 means that you have the ability to have fun, make friends, and chat with teachers.

JLPT N2

Passing N4 means that you have the ability to understand Japanese used in everyday situations, and in a variety of circumstances to a certain degree.

The test is meant to assess the following.

Reading: One is able to read materials written clearly on a variety of topics, such as articles and commentaries in newspapers and magazines as well as simple critiques, and comprehend their contents. One is also able to read written materials on general topics and follow their narratives as well as understand the intent of the writers.

Listening: One is able to comprehend orally presented materials such as coherent conversations and news reports, spoken at nearly natural speed in everyday situations as well as in a variety of settings, and is able to follow their ideas and comprehend their contents. One is also able to understand the relationships among the people involved and the essential points of the presented materials.

In other words, passing N2 means that you have the ability to not be totally lost in virtually any situation where Japanese is being used.

JLPT N1

Passing N4 means that you have the ability to understand Japanese used in a variety of circumstances.

The test is meant to assess the following.

Reading: One is able to read writings with logical complexity and/or abstract writings on a variety of topics, such as newspaper editorials and critiques, and comprehend both their structures and contents. One is also able to read written materials with profound contents on various topics and follow their narratives as well as understand the intent of the writers comprehensively.

Listening: One is able to comprehend orally presented materials such as coherent conversations, news reports, and lectures, spoken at natural speed in a broad variety of settings, and is able to follow their ideas and comprehend their contents comprehensively. One is also able to understand the details of the presented materials such as the relationships among the people involved, the logical structures, and the essential points.

In other words, passing N1 means that you have the ability to be a (mostly) fully-functioning, adult member of society.


Issues with the JLPT

The main problem with those JLPT levels above is that they aren't all that accurate for measuring a person's ability, particularly if we're talking about the ability to communicate with people in casual, everyday situations. Casual language ー and slang, especially ー are more or less ignored in JLPT tests.

And even at the N1 level, the audio is unnaturally slow and clear. You can pass N1 and still not be able to catch what people are saying because they appear to speak too quickly. NativShark Phase One audio is faster than JLPT N1 audio. That's because our voice actors speak at natural speed.

On the other hand, the JLPT is such a widely respected measure of Japanese ability that there are a lot of benefits to taking it. For example, it's hard to get a job in a Japanese-speaking office environment without N2 certification. It's hard to become a translator without N1 certification. Also, most of the grammar introduced in JLPT N5-N3 is more or less essential for becoming "fluent," even if they only present it in overly stiff language on the exams.

If you're studying with NativShark, you don't need to worry about any of this. We cover all of it ー the proper grammar and the everyday language that people use most of the time.

Just by showing up every day and clicking "Study Now," you will eventually pass all levels of the JLPT.

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