Question about the JLPT (and comments about Eiken)

Recently, I’ve discovered that the Eiken is not that great of a test, in that there are Japanese people who have passed the highest levels of Eiken and can barely speak a word of English and/or their grammar usage is all over the place (and clearly confused).

So, I’ve been wondering how the JLPT compares. I only have a mild interest in the test to begin with, but I do think it is a generally worthwhile indicator of what sorts of texts and resources one should use (for example, I recently bought a test prep book and a couple vocabulary books that were all at the N4-N5 level).

For those who have taken the JLPT and passed, and for those that know others who have taken it and passed, what sorts of indicators of actual proficiency does one tend to demonstrate? Are those who have reached those levels actually competently using Japanese at the level the test claims they should be able to use it?


This is probably the most common complaint about the test, or the reason people give for dismissing/saying they won’t take it. Since there’s no spoken element, you can totally get to the highest levels without being good at speaking.

They’ve taken some steps toward trying to mitigate that, such as reducing the importance of knowing how to read kanji in certain areas of the test that aren’t really supposed to be “about” reading kanji. That removes one advantage from Chinese speakers who come into the test basically knowing most of the meanings of the kanji regardless of how much Japanese they’ve studied.

But until they add a speaking element, I don’t think you can ever really guarantee anything.


How’s the Listening section?

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The style of questions varies based on the level, but I’m not a super huge fan of some of the ones on N1.

The last part, if they’re still doing it this way, is always a super convoluted thing where you listen to two people have a conversation where they intentionally obscure all the things they are making references to. It’s completely unlike actually listening to real people speak, because in real speech people help each other out and add redundancy.

The other sections are better, such as one where you just listen to one person speak for a while and then have to choose the best summary of their thoughts. Or you hear a line and have to choose the best response to it.


I’d say that the JLPT mainly focuses on your overall comprehension of Japanese, but not your ability to output Japanese. This means that you can have a high JLPT level, but still be unable to create grammatically correct sentences.


Yeah. There are tests out there that involve some output, like J-Test, but J-Test still doesn’t have speaking. It has a written kanji section (see a kanji and write the hiragana reading) and a written grammar section (you are told to fill in the blanks of a sentence to appropriately connect the existing grammar points of it).

There are speaking tests out there, some of which you can do over the phone. I would be interested in trying them some day.


Its accuracy in determining someone’s overall language ability definitely doesn’t compare with the most prevalent proficiency tests for other widely learned languages, like IELTS for English, DELF/DALF for French, DELE for Spanish, or Goethe for German, which all include a writing and speaking component.


If you haven’t seen this, it might be what youre looking for.

On the JLPT itself:
I think it is a decent indicator of comprehension proficiency. Not in the sense that if you pass => you’re proficient but rather if youre proficient you should be able to walk in and pass.


I can confirm that just after getting the N1, my spoken and written Japanese (so, output in general) was garbage. Pretty much the same as the people you are talking about.
So I’d say the Eiken and JLPT are similar in that aspect.


It’s worth noting that the Eiken DOES have a spoken component for all grades.

Are qualified native-level speakers (who are trained in assessment) evaluating these tests according to a reliable standard?

No idea. But it’s still more than the JLPT

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I don’t know the process of becoming an evaluator for Eiken, but there definitely is training involved. Up to 2kyuu, I think the speaking evaluator is usually Japanese, but for the two top levels, there are I believe 2 people involved, one of which is a native English speaker. As for a reliable standard, there is Eiken’s standard. How reliable that is, who knows. I do know that both the speaking and written aspects of the test can a bit formulaic, especially up to pre-1st.


For the Eiken, I do wonder how they grade the writing and speaking tests - it feels inconsistent, based on the students I know who have passed or failed.

Personally, as a native speaker, I feel like the Eiken test is easier than the JLPT. The writing section is probably the most difficult in the Eiken, based on my students. I’ve gone through a lot of Eiken prep books, and the interview questions and writing prompts are fairly formulaic, so with enough practice it’s not too challenging. My kids weren’t ever hung up on the sections themselves, since they knew what to expect - they’d usually only get stuck if the content was over their heads (a question about credit cards or oil use, for example).

For the JLPT, the listening section alone is way different - even in the highest levels of Eiken, the speaking is quite slow and “textbook.” I feel like the language is a little less “tricky,” like Leebo said, in the Eiken listening portion.

I’d add that I’ve taught a few Japanese gradeschoolers that have passed the Eiken 4 - 2. The Eiken is really popular for kids and teenagers to take, at least where I was. Granted, there’s a different cultural dynamic of English in Japan vs Japanese in America, for example. But, it feels like the Eiken isn’t as common for adults to take? (There are definitely more complex topics in the upper levels of Eiken, though. I feel like the JLPT has more office-related questions, comparatively.)

I don’t know anything about the TOEIC, but I wonder if that’s a more apt comparison to the JLPT?


They should just take out the ‘proficiency’ part of the name since it only tests 2 of 4 domains. The Japanese Language Comprehension Test is more accurate.


I sat the TOEIC and yes, it’s very similar to the JLPT, although I do not remember a section that required to read a long text.


From what I’ve heard, the TOEFL or IELTs test would be preferable to the TOEIC, in terms of reliability, validity, and international standards.

Right, but sitting the TOEIC through my university was free, while the TOEFL was not :woman_shrugging:

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Especially in an academic context they are most definitely preferable. There are a lot of universities in English-speaking countries that will accept TOEFL and IELTS to meet admission requirements for international students from countries where English isn’t a majority language, but not TOEIC, and the UK also uses IELTS for immigration purposes.

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Yeah, I had to take the TOEFL in order to attend University in the US. It took a full day but it did cover reading, writing, speaking, and comprehension.

This was decades ago, so for me TOEIC wasn’t even an option. And I had to pay for the TOEFL. :confused:

The focus on TOEIC seems to be more towards general fluency, while the TOEFL is structured like a College Prep English class and focused more towards being able to complete assignments in school.