Preparing for a test I know nothing about

Hi all!
I am going to a new school next year and to my delight, they have a Japanese program. Because I have been studying for almost a year, of course I want to take the placement test.
In most Japanese programs in American high schools, there are 4-5 courses. Japanese 1, Japanese 2, Japanese 3 (sometimes honors), Japanese 4 (also sometimes honors), and AP Japanese language and culture. From looking at the Japanese program website for the school, I want to try to place into Japanese 3.
The thing is I don’t know how I’m supposed to study for the placement test, and it’s in about a month. I think that they use genki 1 and 2 for Japanese 1-3, and tobira for 4-5. So should I study genki content? I didn’t use genki but I think I know most things in it.
Does anyone with experience in high school Japanese have any tips? Since the programs are mostly the same across the board, I was wondering if anyone who has taken these classes knew how I should prepare.
Thank you so much :slight_smile:.

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I have no idea. No high schools around me offered Japanese, nor do I know anyone who took Japanese in high school.
But my personal opinion, don’t worry about it. If you ‘study for the test’, is that really best? The placement test is about how well you know Japanese. Figuring out ‘the system’ and learning to game it, would only hinder you. May get into the higher level class, but would that really be where you belong? Take it naturally, and you’ll get a true evaluation and placement.


It goes both ways, though. If you have to spend time during the test to actually figure out what you are supposed to do, it may hinder your score and give you a lower result than your actual level. Knowing what to expect is important for the placement to be accurate, I think.

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There’s a healthy middle-ground.

In a perfect world, you would be comfortable with the format of questions, but have no idea what specific questions will be asked.


Knowing format is good. But it’s sounds like like OP wants to know more what they’ll ask, not how.
Is it multiple choice, short answer, etc. Good to know. But not, these kanji, these vocab, etc


Yeah… when you think about what the purpose of a placement test is, not knowing the range of possible kanji or grammar is probably for the best. They want to see how far you can go.

If it was a test just to pass or fail a given level, that would be different.


Do you have access to an old version of the test and then can you do it a few days before or so? This way, you’ll be aware of the format, but it’s not like doing 1 test will influence how well you go on the real one. It will make you safer during the test itself.

Written by a lazy student with the experience of getting the most out of too little study.

There’s very little info about the test itself, so no example tests or even any idea of what the layout is, etc.

I think I might just keep my usual study schedule and hopefully that will be enough. What I’m most worried about though is if there will be a listening comprehension part because my listening skills are 苦手 at best. I went through the whole 日本語総まとめ book for N3 listening comprehension recently (probably too above my level anyway, I consider myself about an N4) and on the comprehensive test at the end I got a 37. Love that for me.

I didn’t take the placement test in university 5 years ago, I just signed up for Japanese 1 (and then 2). I’m just learning for fun, so I didn’t care too much about efficiency. It was fun being at the top of the class, but I really did learn a lot of vocab and grammar that I had missed during self study, and also it was great to have writing and speaking practice 5 days per week. Even stuff I already “knew” like verb/adjective conjugations became a whole lot harder when I was being called on to answer a question or talk about my weekend in the middle of class.


In my experience of high school Japanese tests (albeit Australia) they’re not overly general. I would recommend looking online for the curriculum for Japanese classes below you and seeing what kind of stuff was taught there and go through that stuff. Not sure how much it differs but in the years 7-10 in Australia we did stuff like shopping, fashion, seasons etc. but really just learnt colors, simple conjugations and some verbs. Generally, in-class assessments were:

  • We were given a written passage and asked questions about it. “What does Mariko want to do on the weekend?”, “What did Jane wear to the party?”, “What day did Takeshi and Soma decide to go to the movies?”
  • A listening section (always repeated twice) where we have to fill in a table or answer simple questions. “What day is it?”, “Who is Harry talking to?”, and the most complicated was probably things like “What did Chiharu get for Christmas?”

I doubt the format would change too much but definitely look online for a curriculum, or maybe email the school and ask if they can give you an outline? I think knowing everything in Genki 1 will cover you 100%, high school grammar isn’t complicated in my experience

Good luck :sparkles:

Honestly, the point of a placement test is to determine what you currently know, and then to place you in the class for the level that you represent.

If you try to study for the test, you might score higher, but then find yourself in a class that is far harder than you expected. The worst that comes from this is that you have to take an extra class, which you might still learn something in.

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I think it’s pretty hard for us Internet strangers to have any more idea than you would about this particular placement test. It might have been written by the person administering the test. I might be a fair test of what you know about Japanese, or it might not. It might test specifically what was taught in levels 1 and 2 of the particular course at your school, which might be particular to your school and not necessarily representative of what’s taught in Genki.

I think your best bet for finding out the general format of the test is to either ask current students who may already have taken it, or just to ask the teacher directly what kinds of things to expect.

Or, you know, just go in there and hope for the best with the knowledge you’ve already acquired.If by some chance you get placed in a level that’s really below your current level, you could ask to be given a chance in the higher level (assuming it works out with your schedule, etc.).

But if “next year” means September of this year, then you have plenty of time to look through the Genki books and see if you’re missing anything, and if not, why not jump start on Tobira, or better yet, just read/listen to as much Japanese as possible in the meantime. Good luck!

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