A Japanese Language Proficiency Test Story

I took level three of the JLPT in 1999. I passed easily (well, after studying hardly). I spent all of 2000 preparing for level two. Again I passed, but not as easily. Well, the test wasn’t bad, but taking the test was. That is, well… let me explain.

IN THE YEAR 2000…

Yumi drove me to Kyoto to take the test. We were living in Fukui-ken and the drive took a few hours. We got to the university where the test was held safely and in two pieces—(one piece being me and the other her). I saw a man I had met the year before and we chatted while waiting for the first section of the test to begin.

The first section of the test began and I started out with confidence. The JLPT is all multiple choice where you have to pencil in the correct answer among four or five choices.

CLAY NEVER WAS GOOD AT MATH…

Then… horrors befell young Clay. Suddenly, I realized the past ten answers I answered were circled on the wrong line. I had somehow filled in question 5 on line 6 and thereafter all answers were marked on the next question’s line. I had to keep pace with the ongoing onslaught of questions whilest—and at the same time—going back to correct my mistakes.

I somehow managed to get it straight, but I had no confidence at all. That section of the test ended soon after, but as I stumbled out of my chair I realized I had a serious stress headache. I’ve never had a headache that bad before. I found Yumi and told her I needed to lie down. We found a nurse’s station and a bed. For a while I didn’t think I could continue with the test.

BUT THE CLOCK WAS A-TICKIN’…

Five minutes before the next section I pulled myself together and headed out to find the classroom for the next section. My head was hurting bad, but I was determined to finish the test. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be in Japan December 2001 (I wasn’t) and knew this would be my last chance to take the once-a-year test in Japan for a while. Added to all this was Yumi tempting me to forsake all hope and take a rest in the car! No pressure at all.

The worst thing is the next section was… listening. With a head about to explode and Yumi saying I looked like I was about to pass out, I boldly entered the classroom.

I guess I could write about what happened, but I would be making it up then. I don’t really remember much after that.

I got the results a few months later and despite expecting the worst, I somehow passed! I did pretty poor on the listening, but my kanji and grammar was good enough to carry me through to victory.


I’d like to hear other people’s stories. If you have taken the test, please share your experiences! If you have a long enough story and would like it posted here (with a link to your site of course), please email me at clay AT thejapanshop.com.

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