Applying for the JLPT in Corona times

The Corona pandemic has affected all parts of society and education is no exception. In May 2020, the Japan Foundation announced the worldwide cancellation of the mid-2020 JLPT – Japan and overseas.

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is a multiple-choice test with sections for grammar, reading and listening. There is no essay writing nor communication part. Lots of people gather in small rooms to test their Japanese proficiency according to the JLPT criteria. I applied for the test in July and for the December one. The cancellation in July didn’t come unexpected – despite some widespread belief that Corona might be over in the Summer – while the December one was stopped in some countries.

In my case, the December test was cancelled even through it was previously announced that attendance numbers would be limited for safety reasons. JLPT was not the only event with precaution measures. I attended a retro trade fair (more like an indoor flea market) where the measures consisted of one-way paths, split entry/exit, vastly increased space between booths and face masks.

I’m curious to see in what shape or form the test will return. As a voluntary language test it’s  not at the same level of importance as any test held in public schools. Nor can the cancellation be compared to the closing of museums, shops or the shut down of certain industries. It’s frustrating though to apply, study and then receive a notice one month before the test that it has been cancelled.

Having a worldwide test in person on the same day that’s ultimately graded by a computer may be an outdated concept anyway. The JLPT was modernised just once – a new test level was introduced – but other than that, it remained unchanged. Even the application process is old-fashioned for my test site and it may be the only time of year when I actually use my printer as a printer and not a scanner 😉

Like movie festivals or even museum visits (to some degree), the language test could be held online. The current form of the test requires no grading by a human anyway. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is an Internet-based test, while the Business Japanese Proficiency Test is a computer-based held at various test centers worldwide.

I’m not sure whether the Japan Foundation would consider a switch to an Internet-based test however. Moving the test online would make cheating much easier. While the relevance of the JLPT is sometimes disputed, the two highest levels (N1 and N2) are accepted by high schools and the Japanese government’s point-based immigration system. Job offers sometimes require a certain JLPT level too – but cheating one’s way through the test would be futile in this case, because companies would do an interview too.

Mia Jaap

Journalist, developer and passionate about Japanese and Korean language. Japan is my #1 country for travelling, penguins my favourite animals.

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