Thursday, September 16, 2010

In which the Narrator registers for the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam, and of the Nervous Tension which resulted from it

Pass/fail is determined for only those who take all sections of the test by both the total score and the scores for each scoring section. If you are absent from any test section(s), all other test sections, which you may take, will not be considered for scoring. If the score of any scoring section does not reach the minimum acceptable score (the least required score specified for each scoring section), you will fail however high your total score would be.

Japan has lots of tests. Students must take formal examinations to enter the college, high school, junior high school, and even some elementary schools of their (or their parents’) choice. University examinations are unique to individual institutions, and since each student may only take one exam in a given year, failure to pass means an awkward gap year after high school. From what I’ve heard, these tests make the SAT look like a Slylock Fox puzzle.

If you have a physical disability or other impairments and require special arrangements in taking the test, please call us at the Application Center to receive a Special Arrangement Request Form before sending your application, and submit the completed form together with your application as soon as possible, or by October 1 (Fri) at the latest. Please note that the Center may not be able to accommodate your requests due to test site conditions or other unavoidable reasons.

After graduation though, the fun doesn’t stop. Whereas most Americans will never touch another standardized test in their lives after college, many Japanese businessmen and office workers vie for the high score on the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) that will open them up for promotions, pay raises, or simply ensure their job security in an environment of ever-increasing competition.

Incomplete applications are rejected.

I haven’t taken an exam in over seven years. Like hall passes and pastel cafeteria trays, they’re a hallmark of high school that I’ve long left behind. But after seeing so many of my students putting so much stock in their success on these tests, I figured I’d try taking an exam myself to understand this part of the Japanese experience.

Please note that changes to the test level and/or test area cannot be made after submitting your application regardless of the reason. Correctly enter the test level and area of your selection.

The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test, or Nihongo noryoku shiken) was designed to test the Japanese proficiency of non-native Japanese speakers. I’ve been studying the language intermittently for nearly two years now, and thought that passing the December JLPT would give me something more impressive than broken conversation with nervous store clerks to show for my efforts.

The application must be placed in the application envelope, and you must go to a post office counter and send the application by delivery-certified mail (Tokutei kiroku yuubin). Ensure that you receive a receipt at the counter and keep the receipt until you receive your test voucher.

I don’t know enough kanji and am not confident enough with grammar to take the Level 4 exam, so I decided to take the basic Level 5 exam instead. I didn't want the higher certification badly enough to put in the extra study time required, nor did I want to waste my money on something I wasn’t going to pass.

The receipt is your proof of application in the event that the original application is lost in the mail. You will not be able to take the test if your application is lost in the mail and you do not have this receipt.

I picked up a test application booklet for five hundred yen at Rogetstudo bookstore in Kofu. Inside was a thick instruction manual written in four languages, a delivery-certified mail envelope, the sturdy cardboard application form, and a book of advertisements for test prep materials.

If you did not receive your voucher, or the voucher is lost, notify the Application Center of your fax number, so that the test voucher can be faxed to you. Inquiry Period: November 22 (Mon) – December 3 (Fri) (10:00-17:00). If you were unable to contact the Application Center during the above period, the test fee will not be refunded.

I read through the instruction manual carefully and found that for my application I needed a picture exactly three by four centimeters wide, taken against a white background, non-blurred, in which I had my eyes open, wasn’t wearing any hats or sunglasses, and my face was neither too big nor too small relative to the photo size.

Every year, there are examinees who do not receive their test voucher or notice of test results. Potential reasons for this are:

Fortunately, some helpful Japanese friends helped me get a photograph that met the necessary qualifications.

1. The examinee’s name is not displayed on the mailbox. (Your name must be displayed on the mailbox of your house/apartment in both kanji/katakana and Roman letters.) The test voucher and test results cannot be delivered if only the room number is indicated on your mailbox. In order to confirm your residence, your name must be displayed on the mailbox, otherwise the mail may not be delivered.

Back at home, I filled out the application form, looking up the specific numeric codes for my country, native language, occupation, test purpose, and number of study hours.

2. The examinee is living at someone else’s residence and did not write the property owner’s name (written as c/o + name) in the address column of the application form.

I filled out my name in block letters exactly as it appeared on my passport, and copied down my work address. For some reason, I was nervous about having anything sent to my apartment.

3. The examinee did not write the room/room number of their apartment on the application form.

After I’d quadruple-checked the application for errors, I made a list of the necessary steps to pay the testing fee and send that horrible cardboard application away forever so I could put this miserable ordeal behind me.

4. The postal code and address on the application form is written incorrectly (the chome and banshee numbers are omitted).

I would first have to make the required photocopy of the application for my records, then buy some white-out at the convenience store so I could fix the mistake in address I’d made on the official postal payment form before crossing back over to the post office to pay the test fee at the monetary service counter and carefully sort receipt A into the application envelope while keeping receipt B for my records so that I could seal the whole thing up and mail it via the Tokutei kiroku yuubin method that I’d been rehearsing in Japanese for the greater part of the morning.

5. The examinee has not completed the necessary change of address procedures. If you change your address, please report it immediately to your nearest post office.

I ran through these steps over and over before leaving the house, so afraid was I that I would muddle some horrendous mistake on the application that would cause me to embark on an epic series of phone calls, phone transfers, faxes, fees, application forms filed during the predetermined application window, fees, visits to the main post office, frantic protestations to the mailman, and more fees before I could finally recover my test voucher (maybe). I sweat profusely in the early September heat and regretted my decision to ever take this silly test.

A fee will be charged to reissue and resend undeliverable test vouchers or test results for reasons listed above.

I made it through all the steps despite my fears, and my breathing relaxed significantly after the round-faced man at the mail counter cheerfully took the envelope with a smile and handed me my receipt with both hands. With that taken care of, I was free to enjoy my free ticket to the Japanese flower arrangement display on the top floor of the local department store. The easy part was over.

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