For someone planning to move to Japan for educational, professional, or even cultural reasons, taking the JLPT is an important milestone. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into every aspect of this test, from understanding its structure and levels to offering expert tips on how to prepare effectively.

If you’re an international student looking to take the JLPT and study in Japan, you’re at the right place. Dive right into this complete guide for international students to learn more about JLPT!

What is the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)?

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) was established in 1984 to assess non-natives’ proficiency in Japanese. Since then, it has grown and evolved tremendously, even undergoing design changes to make it a more effective tool. Administered in various parts of the world, it is now the most recognized and widely used Japanese language test.

The test is managed jointly by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services. Also, the Japan Foundation works with local organizations to administer the exam so aspiring international students can take the JLPT without going to Japan.

Benefits of Taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

As a standardized measure of proficiency, JLPT is often an admission requirement for international students who dream of studying at a Japanese university. Moreover, a high JLPT score can increase the chances of securing scholarships for international students in Japan.

The test is also required for entry into certain professions, especially in the healthcare field. Even in other spheres, showing proof of your high proficiency in the language will boost your employment opportunities and career advancement in Japanese companies.

When and Where to Take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)?

The JLPT is held biannually in Japan, typically in July and December. For those taking the test outside Japan, depending on the test site and country, the exam is held either once a year (in either July or December) or twice a year (in both July and December). You can check the schedule for your city on the official website.

The test locations vary per country, and interested candidates are advised to check the official JLPT website or contact local test authorities to find the nearest test site in their country. Also, the website provides a list of test overseas sites, ensuring that international students can opt to take the JLPT at a testing center that suits their location and schedule. Also, it’s essential to plan and register in advance to secure a desired test date and location, as test availability can vary depending on demand in different regions.

Cost of Taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)

The cost of taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) depends on the test center, location, and country. While in some countries like the US and Japan, the fee remains the same for all levels, in some countries the fee increases as the level becomes more advanced.

For instance, the test fee is $100 in the US, 7,500 yen in Japan, and £100 in the UK. In large countries like India, where the test is administered by several different local organizations, the cost may even vary across regions – it costs 1,800 INR in the capital New Delhi, but it costs between INR 1,180 to INR 1,770 in the city of Pune, depending on the level. Wherever you take the test, these fees are typically non-refundable.

Overview of JLPT Levels

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) consists of five levels, from N1 (most advanced) to N5 (beginner). They are designed to comprehensively assess an individual’s proficiency in Japanese. To gain admission to a Japanese-taught program in higher education, both undergraduate and graduate levels, a recommended level is typically N2 or N1, as these levels demonstrate a high degree of fluency and comprehension of academic Japanese.

The following table has a detailed breakdown of competence expected for each JLPT level in two main areas – reading (R) and listening (L). For more information, the official website serves as a guide for international students who want to know more about the JLPT criteria and expectations from each level.

JLPT Level Linguistic Competence
N5 Students can comprehend simple sentences and expressions written in hiragana, katakana, and basic kanji. They can also follow simple conversations and extract information from slow-paced speech
N4 Students can understand simple material written in basic vocabulary about familiar topics, as well as follow everyday conversations when spoken slowly.
N3 Students can comprehend summary information like newspaper headlines and slightly difficult writing that is often used in everyday circumstances. They can also follow coherent exchanges in ordinary situations spoken at almost natural speed, and understand relationships between people.
N2 Students can read and understand written content on a range of subjects and can grasp nuances like narrative and the author’s intentions. They are also capable of understanding verbally presented information spoken at a fairly natural pace. Lastly, they can understand the relationships between people and the main points of any presented matter.
N1 Students can comprehend both the structure and meaning of complex or abstract texts, such as newspaper editorials, as well as in-depth material on various topics. They are also able to fully comprehend different types of orally presented information spoken at a natural pace. Additionally, they can also understand the specifics of presented material such as relationships between people, logical structures, and main points.

Overview of JLPT Test Structure

The JLPT test structure varies based on the level, but all of them are comprised of multiple-choice questions divided into various sections to evaluate different language skills.

For N5 and N4 levels, the JLPT consists of three sections:

  • Language Knowledge (Vocabulary): This section assesses your vocabulary knowledge and contains questions related to skills such as spelling, kanji reading, and basic Japanese language comprehension.
  • Language Knowledge (Grammar)/Reading: This section evaluates your understanding of Japanese grammar and reading comprehension. It includes questions that test your ability to read and understand simple texts.
  • Listening: The listening section assesses your listening skills by presenting various spoken scenarios and asking questions based on what you’ve heard.

For N3 to N1 levels, the test comprises two sections:

  • Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar)/Reading: This section combines vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension, testing your ability to understand and use more complex language structures.
  • Listening: Similar to the lower levels, the listening section evaluates your listening skills, but at a more advanced level.

The table below highlights the specific test duration and number of questions for each section of every JLPT level. For more information on the different sections, check out the official website as it contains a complete guide on the JLPT levels, which is helpful for international students like you.

Level Test Section Description
N1 Vocabulary, Grammar, and Reading Listening The total duration of the test is 165 minutes.
The time allotted for the Vocabulary, Grammar, and Reading section is 110 minutes. It contains approximately 25 items to test Vocabulary, 20 items to test Grammar, and 26 items to test Reading.The time allowed to complete the Listening section is 55 minutes, with around 37 questions.
N2 Vocabulary, Grammar, and Reading Listening The total duration of the test is 155 minutes.
Vocabulary, Grammar, and Reading is allotted 105 minutes and contains approximately 32 items to test Vocabulary, 22 items to test Grammar, and 21 items to test Reading.The time allowed to complete the Listening section is 50 minutes, which contains around 32 questions.
N3 Vocabulary Grammar and Reading Listening The total duration of the test is 140 minutes.
The Vocabulary section is allotted 30 minutes and has about 35 test items. The Grammar and Reading section is for 70 minutes and has approximately 39 items.The time allowed to complete the Listening section is 40 minutes. It contains around 28 questions.
N4 Vocabulary Grammar and Reading Listening The total duration of the test is 115 minutes.
The Vocabulary section is allotted 25 minutes and has about 28 test items. The Grammar and Reading section is for 55 minutes and has approximately 29 test items.The time allowed to complete the Listening section is 35 minutes. It contains around 28 questions.
N5 Vocabulary Grammar and Reading Listening The total duration of the test is 90 minutes.
The Vocabulary section is allotted 20 minutes and has about 21 test items. The Grammar and Reading section is for 40 minutes and has approximately 22 test items.The time allowed to complete the Listening section is 30 minutes. It contains around 24 questions.

Ways to Prepare for JLPT

Use these tips as a guide on how to prepare for the JLPT as an aspiring international student:

1. Craft an Effective Study Plan

Create a well-structured study plan that outlines daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Divide the JLPT curriculum into smaller sections and allow a certain amount of time for each. This helps you stay organized and ensures comprehensive coverage of the material.

2. Familiarize Yourself With the Test Format

JLPT consists of multiple sections, such as reading comprehension, grammar, listening, and vocabulary. Know what to expect in each section, how they are scored, and the time allocated for each. Read and understand the test instructions thoroughly. Being familiar with the instructions will save you time during the actual exam, allowing you to focus on the questions.

3. Practice

Consistently answering practice tests is the key to success. Obtain JLPT practice materials or past exam papers and try completing sections within the allocated time. This familiarity will not only enhance your test-taking efficiency but also boost your overall performance, increasing your chances of success in the JLPT.

Analyze your mistakes to identify weak areas and focus on those during your preparation. However, don’t forget to improve your strengths, as well.

4. Maximize the Use of Study Materials and Resources

  • The Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services offer official guidebooks and practice workbooks for each level. You can find out more about it on their website here. Test takers can also download sample questions from the website.
  • Apart from the official sources, digital resources such as apps like Anki and Memrise are powerful ways to learn the language and improve vocabulary. Tae Kim’s online guide also offers comprehensive lessons on Japanese grammar, an essential component of JLPT preparation. Meanwhile, JLPT Sensei is a resource-rich website featuring grammar explanations, practice questions, and vocabulary lists tailored to JLPT levels.
  • If you are more of an auditory learner, JapanesePod101 is a popular podcast platform that offers both free and paid Japanese lessons and study materials, including JLPT-specific content. And of course, as with every topic under the sun, YouTube has many excellent content creators to simplify learning Japanese and taking the JLPT – these are particularly useful if you learn best with audio-visual content instead of text.

Universities and Institutions Accepting JLPT

As we’ve discussed, doing well on the JLPT could unlock doors to higher education in Japan. Here are some of the universities that consider JLPT scores for admissions:

University Name City / Location Minimum JLPT Score Accepted
1. University of Tokyo Tokyo N1
2. Aichi University Toyohashi N1
3. Osaka University Osaka N3
4. Hokkaido University Sapporo N1
5. Okayama University Okayama N2
6. Kagoshima University Kagoshima N1
7. Tokushima University Tokushima N3
8. Nagoya University of the Arts Kitanagoya N4
9. Yokohama City University Yokohama N2
10. Gunma University Maebashi N2


Taking the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) unlocks a world of opportunities – whether it’s higher education in Japan, career advancement, or simply mastering this beautiful language. Thus, this comprehensive guide for international students is a step towards those opportunities, as it aims to help you know more about JLPT and how to pass the test.


We hope this guide on JLPT has been helpful in starting your international student journey in Japan. If you want to know more about studying in this country, check out our Study in Japan page! For courses, you can visit our Available Programs for International Students for more study options!


Are you curious about what language you need to learn in other countries, you can visit our Foreign Language Proficiency page for more information!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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