An interesting question, especially when you don’t live in Japan, is how do you tell if your Japanese is improving, getting worse or more or less staying the same? It’s a tough question.

Some of us use the JLPT in order to measure our Japanese proficiency, but as this test doesn’t take into account speaking or writing it’s hardly full-proof. Further, by studying specifically for the test you can significantly boost your marks: The JLPT is not a flawless way to measure Japanese ability.

Having said that, it still gives you some indication of how your Japanese has improved or worsened. That’s one of the reasons I have decided to take the test in England again this year. Not only that, but it keeps me studying, for part of the year, at least.

2005 Paper, Then & Now

I’ve completed last year’s 2005 JLPT level 1 test as practice. It’s incredible that with many of the questions, as soon as I saw or heard them, I remembered parts of them from the actual exam (for example, the terrible cheeze joke in the listening section).

After marking my answers and comparing them with my actual marks from last year, my listening was about the same and my vocabulary was ever so slightly better (probably random variation where guessing was necessary…).

The pleasant surprise was the comprehension and grammar section, where I scored far more than last year. The most obvious difference was that I reached the end of the paper whereas last year I didn’t get close to finishing. Has my newspaper skim reading started to pay off? Or is this a result of improved exam technique, perhaps?

When added everything up, I still didn’t get a passing grade. Also, as I was doing the same questions for a second time you might say that it was likely that I’d score higher this time around. Still, I wouldn’t expect that to be the only reason for scoring 10% more.

Goal for 2006

I’ll have to take another practice test before the actual exam on Sunday to see whether I have actually improved or whether these results are misleading. This year, if I score higher than last year, I’ll be pretty happy. I’ve set myself a target of 60-70%. 70%+ in the year 2007?


  1. Wasn’t that cheese joke in level 2? Maybe it was in both .

  2. It could well have been in level 2 as well as the questions are often duplicated between levels 1 and 2.

  3. Just curious Darren, if you were to take level 2 instead of 1 what score do you think you would get? I tried level 2 last year because I took level 3 practice tests and got about 97%. So, if somebody is going for level 1, would that mean the person should probably get upper 90s on level 2?

  4. Now that is another difficult question. Probably 80-90%, I’d say.
    When I looked briefly at a level 2 kanji/vocab test the other day, it was far far easier than level 1. The comprehension questions are also much easier in level 2, as far as I remember.
    However, you have to realise that people that are taking level 1 are not necessarily going to pass.