I was reading the JLPT home page (or whatever you’d want to call it) yesterday to see when applications for this year’s test will be available (July 15) and if there’s some place close where they are sold (there is: the Yurindo bookstore in Atre Ebisu where I always buy books).
Anyway, I also found this shocking announcement of changes to the JLPT test! Shocking not in itself nor in its scope, but because they finally got around to doing it. For my fellow students who have not yet reached level 2, here are changes in a nutshell:
- Starting July 2009, exams for level 1 and 2 will be held twice a year.
- Starting 2010, the test itself will change. There will be 5 levels, N1-N5.
The new levels will be laid out like this:
- N1: Like the current level 1, but with a somewhat higher scope.
- N2: Like the current level 2.
- N3: Between the current level 2 and level 3.
- N4: Like the current level 3.
- N5: Like the current level 4.
In other words, there’ll be a new level between levels 2 and 3, and level 1 will be adjusted to be a little bit harder. There will be no changes in the composition or methodology of the test. So still the same parts, same scoring, still only multiple answer questions, no writing, no speaking, etc. The “N” stands for “Nihongo” and “New”… bit lame if you ask me.
So what to make of this? Having the test twice a year is definitely a good thing. I would have taken it now in July if it was available. As we all know, passing a test doesn’t just mean studying the target of the test, one must study the test itself too (unless it’s really below one’s level). I wonder why they only included levels 1 and 2 for the July exams though. Going from level 4 (N5) to level 3 (N4) in half a year should be possible…
The new N3 level: a good motivator perhaps for people struggling between old level 3 and old level 2? That was probably the largest gap in the levels, since it meant going from essentially only trivial kanji to actually being able to read some real material. But since everything below level 2 is hobby level without practical significance, I can’t help thinking that part of the reason is to make more money from applications… as mentioned in the report, there are now over 3 million students of Japanese world wide, and with each application costing 5,500 yen, that’s serious money.
Changing level 1: it would have been nice to get a little more concrete information regarding that change. They essentially say “it’s gonna be that same… but a teeny weeny bit harder”, which isn’t very informative. I would have liked to see one more new level above level 1. As I’m approaching level 1, I still feel there’s more to go for Japanese fluency. A new top level would not only certify that, but also serve as a motivation. Well, at least there’s the Business Japanese test and kanji kentei…
Anyhow, I’m still on track to pass the good old level 1 in December. I’ll probably take it the following years too to make sure I’m still progressing. Might as well take the new N1 level in 2010… Keep studying, everyone!