JLPT vs. NAT: Which Japanese Language Test is Right for You?


JLPT vs. NAT: Which Japanese Language Test is Right for You?

Learning Japanese Language is nowhere less than a rewarding journey which opens doors to cultural experiences and career opportunities. In order to check your proficiency level, you must either opt for Nihongo Aptitude Test - NAT or Japanese Language Proficiency Tests - JLPT. Both tests serve as benchmarks for your language skills, but they have distinct differences.

Here in this ultimate guide, we will understand about Nihongo Aptitude Tests - NAT and Japanese Language Proficiency Tests - JLPT in detail and compare to see which is the right choice. 

Nihongo Aptitude Test – NAT

NAT is one of the well-known proficiency tests for Japanese Language learners. The test is basically designed by Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES) in cooperation with the Association of International Education, Japan (AIEJ). It basically measures the practical Japanese skills of non-native speakers. 

Test Structure

NAT – test structure is also similar to JLPT structure and offers five levels. However, in NAT 5Q id for the beginners and 1Q is the advanced level. The test covers three main sections:

  1. Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar)
  2. Reading
  3. Listening

Scoring and Results

Each section of the NAT is scored separately, and a each level score determines your overall performance. Unlike the JLPT, NAT results are typically available within a few weeks after the test.

Pros and Cons of NAT


  • Frequent Testing: Conducted six times a year, providing more flexibility.
  • Quick Results: Faster turnaround time for results.
  • Practical Focus: Emphasizes practical use of Japanese.


  • Recognition: Less widely recognized compared to JLPT.
  • Limited Test Centres: Fewer locations globally where the test is administered.


Japanese Language Proficiency Test – JLPT 

JLPT – Japanese Language Proficiency Test is the widely recognised test for measuring the Japanese Language Proficiency. This test is administered by the Japan Foundation and Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES).

Test Structure

The JLPT is divided into five levels, from N5 (beginner) to N1 (advanced). The JLPT N3 level is further divided into 3 major sections as follows:

  • Vocabulary: kanji, orthography, contextually defined expressions, paragraphs, and their usages.
  • Grammar and Reading: Grammar form, sentence composition, short and mid-length passages.
  • Listening: task-based comprehensions, verbal expressions, and quick responses.


Scoring and Results

The test is scored on a scale, with each section (Language Knowledge, Reading, and Listening) having its own score. To pass, you need to achieve the overall pass mark as well as the minimum score required in each section. Results are typically released two to three months after the test date.

Pros and Cons of JLPT


  • Widely Recognized: Accepted by most Japanese universities and companies.
  • Structured Levels: Clear progression from beginner to advanced levels.
  • Comprehensive: Tests various aspects of language proficiency.


  • Infrequent: Only held twice a year.
  • Delayed Results: Waiting period for results can be lengthy.

Which Test Should You Choose?

Career and Education Goals

If your goal is to study or work in Japan, the JLPT is generally more beneficial due to its widespread recognition. Japanese universities and companies often require JLPT certification, especially at the N2 or N1 levels.

Testing Frequency and Flexibility

If you need a more flexible testing schedule, NAT is the better option. With six test dates a year, you can plan your test around your schedule and retake it sooner if needed.

Preparation and Study Focus

Both tests have similar structures, but if you prefer a test that emphasizes practical language use, NAT might be more suitable. On the other hand, if you appreciate a structured progression with clear levels, JLPT’s format will be advantageous.

Location and Accessibility

Consider the availability of test centres near you. JLPT is offered in more countries and cities worldwide, which might make it more accessible depending on your location.

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