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JLPT word lists

April 9, 2012

New students might not know, but before 2010 there were official lists with approximately 80% of words that might come up in the JLPT test. These lists were published in books, and if you learned all of them (and knew the necessary grammar and had a decent listening comprehension etc.), it wasn’t difficult to achieve a passing score.  I’m not trying to say that learning thousands of words is easy, but at least you had an idea what was expected of you. Since 2010 the official lists were abandoned, and with the introduction of a new level (N3, which came in the middle of the previously 4 level system) it became even less obvious what must be studied. Several sites popped up that claimed they have a reworked list of the old JLPT vocabulary for the new system, so students still have some clutches to help them.

This is probably not news for most people coming here, but every post must have some kind of introduction, right? :p

I was thinking about what could be the reason behind the decision not to publish official vocabulary lists, and I think the answer is that the test makers don’t have such lists anymore. And not because they want to hide these lists from test takers. Most proficiency tests for any language don’t have lists either, so this is not surprising, but in that case how do you decide which level you are on? I don’t know the answer, but there is discussion between test makers and teachers, so there must be some guidelines at least.

The next obvious question is whether we can use old JLPT lists for studying and whether sites with the original or updated lists are useful. I think the answer is yes, because even the originally published vocabulary didn’t cover 100% of the words needed to be learned, but it helped. All languages evolve with time, but not that much. In conclusion I believe that learning from available lists still help, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they give as much confidence as they did before the change.

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  1. jhack89
    April 10, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Great Job with Zkanji!! ;D

    • jhack89
      April 10, 2012 at 1:00 am

      About JLPT lists, I belive your’re quite right. I have no clue why they don’t publish any official list, but I find very helpful the very famous material at http://www.mlcjapanese.co.jp/MLC_JLPT_Page.htm which I belive, at least for N1 and N2 to be very reliable. Generally speaking anyway, even though there has been quite a few changes the tests, I belive 4kyuu lists can still be quite safely used for N5, 3kyuu for N4, 2kyuu for N2 and 1kyuu for N1. Bye!

  2. Oyatsu
    April 16, 2012 at 1:59 am

    As far as I know, the Japan Foundation wanted to update the test to be more like TOEIC or the tests of foreign language usage in Europe. If you look here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages
    if you look at the section on “Common Reference Levels” there is a short list of things the learner “can do” not a vocabulary list or list of grammatical structures. I’m not sure if it makes sense because for example “Writing a post card” may be very easy for someone learning Italian whose native language is English, but for someone to accurately write an address on a post card in Japanese, I think that requires a lot of knowledge about kanji. In any case, the standard on the new test is (theoretically) based on skills/functions, not on specific vocbaulary or kanji.

    That said, I think it is still a good idea to study high frequency, highly familiar vocabulary and grammar first, and then progress to more difficult, less common words. Therefore I think the old lists are fine, even if they can’t match the levels exactly.

    By the way, the Meguro Language Center website jhack89 posted the link to is great!

    • April 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      What I wanted to write in the post regarding the old word lists is not exactly what I finally did. Learning from them is fine, but noone can create a reliable N3 word list with an automatic method (ordering by frequency of use) because that level didn’t even exist before. As the requirements are now based on skills for doing specific things, studying high frequency words would only be useful for some higher level.
      I only decided not to add this in the post when I nearly finished writing it, because I don’t want to discourage anyone from studying. And I’m also creating an N3 list, so I would have argued against myself. 🙂 (Although I used an N3 teaching book for it.)

      I agree about that site.

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