I know some of you have wanted this for a while. A way to figure out your exact level. I’ve provided you with some general guidelines in the past. But you want it down to a finer art.
This is not an easy task, which is why I’ve waited this long to create this post, deciding if it is really possible to make an accurate test. I’ve seen online tests. You know my views on the JLPT. The difficulty lies in testing your understanding naturally, not artificially. Which is why this test will not include:
1. Multiple choice: ever notice how you can study how to take a multiple choice test to do better on the test?
2. Fill in the blank multiple choice: in real life you aren’t limited in choices. You will use the way that you know how to say something most naturally or one of the dozen alternatives.
3. True/False: I doubt these type of language tests exist, but it would be amusing.
4. Putting similar kanji/similar words together where you have to guess which one has the correct reading or kanji: this reminds me of spelling tests in elementary school, where you knew how to spell the word correctly until you suddenly see two very close candidates.
5. Reading comprehension paragraphs: tests not only your Japanese, but your ability to not lose interest while reading a boring excerpt of something you don’t care about enough to answer silly multiple choice questions on it at the end that are aimed to trip you up.
6. Anything timed: I’m aware that without a timed test, the concept of a test really can’t exist, but real life isn’t timed (or is it…?)
So what kind of test can I possibly give you? How about a test that reflects how you actually study Japanese, and even better, how you actually use it.
The JALUP test is separated into level blocks. Start at level 1, regardless of what level you think you may be.
Three Comprehension Lines
Each level block has three comprehension lines. Each line either contains RTK keywords in English/Japanese (for the beginning levels) or sentences. Since not everyone uses RTK (seriously, what are you thinking?), I’ve chosen English keywords that are pretty obvious what kanji is the right answer, regardless of whether you’ve been through RTK. Also each English keyword is paired with the Japanese keyword that goes with it.
– Your goal for the keywords is to be able to write out by hand in kanji the part of the word that is in hiragana.
– Your goal for the sentences is to understand them.
Passing a Level Block
Learning experience and materials you’ve used are varied. Your easy Edo history conversation is not my easy legal conversation. So to make this fair, in addition to trying to choose fairly neutral sentences, to move on to the next level block, you only need understand 2 out of the 3 comprehension lines. This also solves the problem of people who don’t study how to write kanji.
What Does Understand Mean?
By understanding 2 of 3 lines, you must be able to either:
1. Write the kanji correctly (in the case of keywords), or
2. Read the sentence(s) out loud and “comprehend” 90% of what you’ve just read with the ability to respond to the sentence(s) as if you heard it in a conversation. It does not mean you can translate it into English. This is irrelevant. Ask yourself this. Could you continue this conversation with the other person? Not sure if you can? Try saying something in response.
Failing a level block. Where do you stand?
You passed the level 10 block and failed the level 20. So what level are you actually? Take the level block you failed and see how much you knew.
– Understood one line fully, and some of another line: you are closer to level 17-19.
– Understood one line completely, but none of the others: closer to 14-17.
– Understood a some of one line, but nothing of the rest? Closer to 11-13.
Or more simply, take what percentage you understood of the 3 combined lines and add that to the previously passed level:
80% understood: level 18
40% understood: level 14
10% understood: level 11
And for those super beginners out there: if you fail level 1, you are level 1. We’ve all been there.
If you’re judging your own ability of comprehension, how accurate can this test be?
Very. How accurate do think a test that is designed for the “average Japanese learner?” You know yourself better than anyone else. You will be your best judge. You will be honest to yourself. And while this test may look like just random sentences thrown together with increasing difficulty, a lot of work was put into this to make it both engaging, interesting, and as precise as possible.
Level 1: Newbie
1. Four (よん), Two (に), Day (ひ), Month (つき)
Level 5: Beginner
1. Old (ふるい), In (なか), Child (こ), White (しろ)
Level 10: Elementary
1. Fish (さかな）, Sell (うる）, Country （くに）, Meeting (かい社）
Level 20: Intermediate
1. Both (りょう方)、Limit (げん界)、Face (かお)、Island (しま)
As you can probably guess by the sudden abrupt end here, this will be continued in two more parts. Made it to intermediate? Congratulations. You are going to have to wait till the next post to see how high you can climb. Didn’t fare so well? Don’t worry. You will soon.
To all those taking the test, I would love it if in the comments section you could list your:
1. Test results level
2. How long you’ve been studying Japanese for (both length of time and frequency). Ex: 2 years at 4 hours a week. Or 6 months at 20 hours a week. Include both passive/active hours.
3. What method(s) you are using
This will help those who have taken the test have something to compare their results to. If you pass all levels tested in Part 1, save your information for the comments section of either part 2 or part 3.
– Do not read the comments until you’ve taken the test, as they contain spoilers to the answers
– I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about how you did, but first read through all the comments and responses I gave to others, as your question will probably already be answered.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.