Japanese NAT-TEST: All You Need to Know About the Best Substitute for JLPT

After two years since the pandemic started, the Japan Foundation Manila (JFM) has finally decided to resume the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). But here’s the catch: Only the most difficult levels, N1 and N2, will be conducted for the July 2022 exam in Manila.

This is a huge problem for those who want to take lower levels of the JLPT especially N4, the level which always has the greatest number of Filipino examinees by a wide margin.

Fortunately, the Japanese NAT-TEST (or “NAT-TEST”) can be the perfect alternative. While not as famous as the JLPT, it serves the same purpose and is widely accepted in the Philippines.

The NAT-TEST is administered by Senmon Kyouiku Publishing Co., Ltd in several Asian countries since 1989. It is formerly known as the Japanese Language Achievement Test until it was renewed under its current name in 2007.

The NAT-TEST is also commonly referred to as “JNAT”, especially in the Philippines, but official sources of information always use the term “NAT-TEST.”

For comprehensive information about the test, please refer to its official website.


Purpose and Benefits

The main purpose of the NAT-TEST is to measure and certify the Japanese language proficiency of non-native speakers. The test is designed to mirror the format and content of the JLPT.

The certificate obtained upon passing the exam can be used for admissions to schools and applications for jobs. It can also be simply used as concrete and verifiable proof of Japanese language skill.

Since the NAT-TEST is similar to the JLPT and is held several times a year, many use it as a mock exam to prepare for the JLPT (1) to simulate an actual test environment and (2) to evaluate areas of weaknesses since the NAT-TEST score reports are more detailed.

Test Levels

The NAT-TEST has five levels of proficiency, each of which corresponds to its respective level on the JLPT.

Therefore, Level 5 of the NAT-TEST is equivalent to N5 of the JLPT, Level 4 is equivalent to N4, and so on. Level 5 is the easiest while Level 1 is the hardest.

All NAT-TEST levels correspond to their respective JLPT levels

You may also find that the NAT-TEST levels are sometimes referred to as 1Q, 2Q, 3Q, 4Q, and 5Q. The “Q” here represents the Japanese word, kyuu (級), which means “level”.


Format and Composition

Since the NAT-TEST is closely similar to the JLPT, the test is also in multiple-choice format with three major sections:

Graphic art showing three sections of a test
* Includes vocabulary, grammar, and kanji

Like the JLPT, the test does not measure speaking and writing, which are both active Japanese language skills.

Language Knowledge and Reading Comprehension are also combined in one section for Levels 1 and 2.

The NAT-TEST provides more detailed information about the scope of the exam, unlike the JLPT which does not publicly disclose it. This serves as a good reference for those who are measuring their progress in Japanese studies.

You may refer to this page to get an idea about what types of questions will appear in the test.


Schedule

Compared to the JLPT which is held twice a year, the NAT-TEST is held six times a year (every other month) on a Sunday. This provides increased accessibility and flexibility for those who want to get certified as soon as possible.

The only exception, however, is NAT-TEST Level 1 which is only available three times in a year.

  • Level 1 – February, June, October
  • Levels 2, 3, 4, 5 – February, April, June, August, October, December

If the above schedule is difficult to remember, just take note that exams are held on even months of the year.

Specific dates of the exams vary. While the JLPT is always scheduled on the first Sunday of the month, the NAT-TEST schedule can be unpredictable. It can be scheduled on a Sunday at the beginning, middle, or even end of the month.

The test dates are announced on the official website at the beginning of the year.

Test Length

The length of each section of the test is the same as that of the JLPT.

Short breaks are given in between sections, so the total time that it takes to complete the whole exam is slightly longer than what is indicated in the table above.


Scoring

The overall score for the NAT-TEST is 180 points, with each section totaling 60 points. These numbers represent scaled scores.

The pass-or-fail determination is slightly different from that of the JLPT. To pass the NAT-TEST, BOTH criteria below must be met:

  1. An examinee is required to score a minimum of 25% marks in each section. Since each section is worth a total of 60 points, then 25% of it is equal to 15 points.
  2. An examinee is required to score a minimum of the passing score in the aggregate of all sections. The total passing score may vary by test, but it is always close to 60%.
The passing scores for each level and each test occasion in 2021, as well as the passing scores of the JLPT for comparison

The difference in difficulty for both exams isn’t very noticeable, but the scoring method and criteria are not exactly the same.

As to why the overall passing score varies, it could be due to the methodology applied in computing the scaled scores. Perhaps there is no base or reference test, i.e. a previous test as benchmark, to make the passing scores in future test versions the same.

Looking at the statistics of previous exams for BOTH tests, the average scores of examinees tend to fall below the passing score by 10 to 15 points. Therefore, it is hasty to conclude that the NAT-TEST is more difficult than the JLPT.


Registration Process

To register for the exam, you should pay the test fee and submit all requirements at least one month before the exam. If the test date is June 10, then the last day for registration is May 11.

There is no “start date” for registration as in the JLPT. The period for registration is longer and more flexible for the NAT-TEST.

For inquiries on the registration, please send an email to the designated contact person of the Philippine test site, Dr. Francis Christie C. Arnado, at fcc_arnado1960@yahoo.com. You may also contact him by landline at +632-89258959.

1. Payment of the test fee

The test fee is USD 60 for all levels. Payments in Philippine peso are NOT accepted.

If you do not have a dollar account, you can buy dollars at a local money changer.

Deposit the test fee to either the BPI or Metrobank bank account of the Philippine Christian University Corporation. The specific bank account numbers will be given to you by reaching out to the above-mentioned contact person.

Note: I will not disclose the bank account numbers here for confidentiality.

2. Submission of documents

The required documents for registration are enumerated below:

  • Proof of payment of the test fee (screenshot of bank transfer or scanned copy of deposit slip)
  • 2pcs of 2×2 latest colored ID picture with white background (300 dpi)- shoulder width 300 X 400 pixel
  • Duly accomplished registration form (download the form here)
  • Photocopy of any company or government valid ID
  • Photocopy of birth certificate

Submit the documents in hardcopy by visiting the office address below:

Data Protection Office, Rm 226, 2nd floor Academic Bldg., Philippine Christian University, 1648 Taft Avenue corner Pedro Gil, Malate, Manila

You may also send the documents in soft copy to the designated contact person by email. If you send them by soft copy, bring the hard copies on the day of the exam, so make sure to keep all your documents.

3. Receipt of admission ticket and instructions

Upon validation of your submitted documents, you will receive an email confirmation from the designated contact person.

Your admission ticket, together with additional reminders, will be sent by email within one or two weeks from the actual day of the test. Make sure to print the ticket and bring it on the day of the test.

The admission ticket that is sent by email

Venue

In the Philippines, the NAT-TEST is conducted in only one test site:

Manila
Philippine Christian University, 1648 Taft Avenue cor Pedro Gil St., Malate, Manila


Test Day Reminders

The call time for the exam varies depending on the schedule of your exam. It is 7:00 am for the morning session (Levels 3 and 5) or 10:30 am for the afternoon session (Levels 2 and 4).

The above call times are earlier than the actual start of the test by at least 2 hours. This is more than enough time already, so you need not arrive earlier than the specified call time.

All examinees are required to wear a white t-shirt. There are no restrictions as to your bottom clothes–you can wear pants or a skirt.

When you arrive at the test site, you will need to show your admission ticket to the entrance security guard. For verification purposes, you are also asked to bring all the application documents (ID photo, valid ID, birth certificate).

Upon confirmation of the ticket and documents, the security guard will inform you of your assigned room number and building and allow you entry into the campus.

Before the exam, you can claim your official receipt at the office of the secretariat (also referred to as the “war room”). Then, you can wait at the designated holding area until examinees are called into the testing rooms.

For the exam, you will need a black ballpen and two Mongol #2 pencils. Actually, the answer sheets for the NAT-TEST aren’t scantron forms; they’re just normal sheets of paper. I believe there shouldn’t be much issue if your pencil isn’t Mongol #2.

Water and snacks are allowed but you may only consume them during the break between test sections. Bring a jacket because the test room might be chilly.

The test proctors will issue you a stub of paper showing your photo, examination number, name, and birthdate as well as a small sheet of paper containing instructions on how to claim the hard copy of the results of the test.


Results

1.   Online test results

Within two weeks after the actual test, the results will be announced on the official website of the NAT-TEST (usually on a Tuesday).

You can click the link for the test results announcement on the “Information” section of the homepage or click “Exam Results” in the left menu.

The top portion of the official NAT-TEST website where you can access the exam results

When you open the “Exam Results” page of the website, click the level corresponding to the date of your test. You will find a list of examination numbers for those who passed the exam.

The list of successful examinees are posted on the website

Since there are so many numbers on this page, especially for the lower levels, you can try locating your number by using the Find function. Press Ctrl+F and type in your number. If your examination number cannot be found on the list, it means you failed the exam.

Unlike the JLPT, the exact scores will not be posted online; you will only know whether you passed or failed. You will have to wait for your score report.

2.   Certificate and official score report

One month after the online results announcement, you will be able to claim your certificate (if you pass) and official score report. The certificate does not expire.

The official certificate and the score report are available nearly two months after the test date.

The scores are divided into two parts: (1) by scoring section and (2) by problem type. In the JLPT, only scores per scoring section are reported. With the scores by problem type, the NAT-TEST score reports provide more information about test performance. (See Format and Composition section.)

To claim your documents, you will need to visit the Data Protection Office of the test venue again. (Refer to the full address in the Registration Process section above.)

Prior to visiting, you must call the office at 0998-9872658 or (02) 8925-8959 to notify your planned visit to claim the documents. The office is open on weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm. Bring your valid ID and present it to the contact person.

Alternatively, you may request that the documents be sent to you by courier if you cannot visit the office yourself. You need to email the contact person and provide the following details:

  1. Full name
  2. Birthdate
  3. Examination number
  4. Complete address
  5. Contact number

The office will arrange delivery by courier (LBC, DHL, etc.) and request you to pay the corresponding fee by GCash. Then, forward the proof of payment by email.

If you live in Metro Manila, you will receive your documents within one or two days.


The NAT-TEST is your best option as an alternative for the JLPT. During this time of uncertainty, I highly recommend that you take this test instead of waiting for six more months for a JLPT schedule to be announced.

Even if there is a chance that the JLPT will resume all levels in the near future, the NAT-TEST still serves as great practice. After all, it helps objectively measure your Japanese ability.

If there is any information that you would like to know but is not mentioned in any part of this article, feel free to leave a comment below.

Note: The above article was written based on my experience with the NAT-TEST at the time of the pandemic. Registration and test-taking procedures could be changed when health protocols and restrictions are lifted.

Author: Francesca Galve

Japanese language enthusiast (JLPT N1). Master's student in Tokyo, Japan. Accountant by profession.

2 thoughts on “Japanese NAT-TEST: All You Need to Know About the Best Substitute for JLPT”

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