Revised 4 July 2010.
As many of you know, the format for the 日本語能力試験 Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is changing as of the July 2010 test. There have been plenty of unfounded rumors floating around about the changes, including “you’ll have to write the kanji!” and “there’s going to be a speaking section!”
There is a 70-page comprehensive guide to the changes for the 2010 JLPT available in Japanese only. I’ve consolidated the information here in English.
The New Levels
Most of you have heard about this part, but to reiterate…
Links go to the sample exams put out by the makers of the JLPT. You can download the listening questions, the listening scripts, and the answer key to the sample exams here (Japanese) and here (English).
N5 The new lowest level, about the same as the old Level 4
N4 About the same as the old Level 3
N3 New level: a level in-between the old Levels 2 and 3
N2 About the same was the old Level 2
N1 Harder than the old Level 1
The New Format
This is the part that everyone’s been nervous about. Calm down. Basically, all that’s happened is a simple rearrangement of the sections.
The old JLPT consisted of four subjects that were divided into three sections: kanji and vocabulary, listening, and grammar and reading (読解）.
The section break-down for N5, N4, and N3 are the same as before, with Linguistic Comprehension broken down into kanji/vocabulary and reading/grammar; and Listening Comprehension. The changes are that the reading and grammar are integrated instead of separate sections within a section–you’ll answer grammar and content questions pertaining to (at least) paragraph-level readings instead of doing grammar in single-sentence questions and instead of doing only content questions for the reading portion.
Also, the visual questions in the listening section have been removed EXCEPT in N5; half the questions in the listening sections for N1-N4 have the multiple-choice answers written out and half have the answers spoken after the question. There may be pictures accompanying the questions, but the pictures as multiple-choice answers will ONLY appear in N5.
And there’s a new type of questions for ALL levels:
Given a sentence with several blanks in it, put the grammatical points and vocabulary in the correct order; give the correct answer for the blank with the star in it. (If “watching/ TV/ the/ person/ Yamashita/ is” are the options, and the star is in blank 3, the answer is “watching.” See the example tests.)
The N4 and N5 tests will be offered in December only.
The N1, N2, and N3 tests will be offered twice a year in July and December. (July testing is currently only within Asia.)
The new sections for the N1 and N2 are 言語知識 (Linguistic Comprehension), which is basically a reformatted and integrated version of the old kanji-vocab, grammar and reading sections, and Listening Comprehension (聴解）.
There are still the following types of questions from the old format:
*Choosing the correct reading for the kanji and the correct kanji for the reading
*The correct use of vocabulary in sentences
*Complete the sentence with the correct word (often choosing from words with similar kanji or meanings)
*Choose the correct grammatical phrase for the sentence
*Place words in order to complete a sentence (grammar)
*Choose the correct word, phrase, or grammatical point to complete the sentence in a paragraph-level reading.
*Answer questions about the general content of readings
*Answer questions about the use of phrases in readings
The second section in the new N1 and N2 tests is Listening Comprehension (聴解）.
Both the N1 and N2 will have half the questions with multiple-choice answers written out and half with the answers spoken after the questions; there will be no multiple-choice visual questions like on the old JLPT.
For the N1, some listening content will have two questions associated with it.
Tests will have note-taking space for the questions with no written answers.
N1: 110 minutes for 言語知識, 60 minutes for 聴解
N2: 105 minutes for 言語知識, 50 minutes for 聴解
N3: 30 minutes for kanji/vocabulary; 70 minutes for reading/grammar; 40 minutes for listening
N4: 30 minutes for kanji/vocabulary; 60 minutes for reading/grammar; 35 minutes for listening
N5: 25 minutes for kanji/vocabulary; 50 minutes for reading/grammar; 30 minutes for listening
The old JLPT scores were basically pass/fail, but the test-taker also received a sheet with the percentages and number of correct answers. (For instance, 250/400 total questions correct, 62.5%, Pass [for Level 2-4]; then a breakdown for each section.)
The new format is very similar, but assigns a general grade and grades to the 2-3 sections. Each section (kanji/vocab, reading/grammar, and listening) in all tests will be worth 60 points for a total of 180 points (even though the sections are consolidated in N1-2). For instance, if you pass the test, there will be a numerical score breakdown for each of the sections and will include grades of A (67%+), B (34-66%), C (below 34%). (Whether A or B is pass or fail depends on the level of the test.) You must pass each section to pass the whole test. The guidebook states that percentage needed to pass each test will be specified in 2010. It appears the N1 is still 70% for passing.
Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu, and the JLPT eats her life.