【Jobs for Foreign Software Engineers】Three Language Certifications to Acquire Business Japanese

Foreigners working in Japan may find it difficult to communicate in Japanese at work, despite their N2 or N1 certifications in Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). If they want to improve their Japanese, it will be effective to aim for Japanese certifications which are more difficult than JLPT. In this article, we introduce language certifications recommendable to those who want to learn Japanese one step more difficult than the JLPT, so please take a look.

Why acquire Japanese certifications other than the JLPT?

Many foreigners set the ultimate goal of their Japanese studies to pass the JLPT N1. However, there are situations where your Japanese language skills determined by JLPT are not useful while working in a Japanese company. Because in the business practice in Japanese companies, business communication skills are especially important. JLPT is a test to determine basic reading and listening skills, not to determine Japanese for business purposes.

This means that even if you have passed JLPT N1, you may face communication problems when working in Japanese companies. In particular, people whose native language is Chinese tend to pass JLPT N1 easily as they are good at Kanji, and even if they pass, their actual Japanese speaking and listening skill may be at the level of daily conversation.

In addition, as a working adult, some people may find it difficult to concentrate on Japanese studying as they did as a student. Other than the reason that working people do not have enough free time, it is also because it may be rather difficult to follow your study plan since you do not have to study to pass exams like you did when you were a student.

If you want to improve your Japanese by setting a goal, it is recommended to obtain Japanese certification. Since applying for a certification test comes with the cost of a test fee and a deadline, it is easier to commit yourself to study. Although JLPT is the most popular Japanese certification, there are several certifications with higher levels so you may want to consider those. Please refer to the three Japanese language certifications below.

Recommended Japanese certifications

J-TEST Practical Efficiency in Japanese: B level to Special A level

The J-TEST Practical Efficiency in Japanese is a Japanese language test for foreigners conducted since 1991, with 50,000 examinees per year.

There are three levels of J-TEST: “A-C Level Test” for advanced, “D-E Level Test” for primary and intermediate, and “F-G Level Test” for beginners. B, Pre-A, A and Special A levels are more difficult compared to JLPT N1. In particular, the Special A level, with its criterion of “advanced communication skills in Japanese to understand and respond to specialized topics in various fields and situations”, is even higher than CEFR C2*.  J.TEST is characterized by its ability to measure a wide range of Japanese language levels and is recommended for those who want to challenge themselves with advanced Japanese.

* International standard that evaluates language skill on six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2). A1 is beginner level and C2 is nearly equal to the native level. The JLPT applies to C1 (advanced level).

Test details (A-C Level)

Schedule: January, March, May, July, September, November
Fee 4,800 yen until March 2021

5,200 yen from May 2021

Test contents Reading comprehension test

– Grammar and vocabulary

– Reading comprehension

– Kanji

– Writing

Listening comprehension test

– Photo/picture questions

– Listening and reading comprehension

– Responding

– Conversation

– Explanation

Test sites in Japan 6 times per year (January, March, May, July, September, November):

Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, Yokohama, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Oita and Okinawa

3 times per year (March, July, and November):

Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma Ishikawa, Gifu, Okayama, Takamatsu and Kumamoto

Test areas outside of Japan China, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Mongolia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil, Nepal, and Myanmar
Website https://j-test.jp/


TOP-J Practical Japanese Language Proficiency Test: Advanced A

TOP-J Practical Japanese Language Proficiency Test is a test for foreigners to measure basic skills such as Japanese vocabulary, grammar, and sentence pattern, as well as the ability to understand the customs and culture of Japanese society and Japanese companies. The characteristic of TOPJ is that it emphasizes not only the Japanese language but also the ability to understand Japanese culture by choosing scenes from studying and working in Japan.

Being the highest level of TOPJ, Advanced A level is equivalent to CEFR C2, which is more difficult than JLPT N1. According to the official website of TOPJ, the aim of this level is to “have the ability to discuss equally with Japanese at meetings by using Japanese and having the ability to make documents with a proper understanding of technical terms and Kanji. In addition, to become one who can play an active role as a foreign leader in Japanese companies which operate in and out of Japan”.

Test details

Schedule: January, March, May, July, September, November
Fee 5,000 yen
Test contents Listening test

– Photo/picture questions

– Conversation

– Explanation

– Difficult reading comprehension

Reading test

– General

– Reading comprehension

– Japanese culture

Test sites in Japan Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, Okinawa
Test areas outside of Japan China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka
Website https://www.topj-test.org/



BJT Business Japanese Proficiency Test is a test for foreigners to assess their communication skills in the Japanese language required in business situations. It is easy to adjust your test schedule as BLT is conducted almost every day, and you can join the test by using a computer in their test centers.

In BJT, you are evaluated on a scale of 0 to 800 points (scores) and six levels from J5 to J1+ which respond to your score. Just like JLPT, BJT has the advantage of being approved by the Immigration Services Agency, Ministry of Justice as a certificate standard for the Status of Residence application. Since a BJT score of 800 or above is equivalent to JLPT N1, you can consider a BJT score of 480 or higher is equivalent to N1 or higher. In particular, the highest level J1+ requires quite a high Japanese level with its criterion that one must be “able to communicate sufficiently in Japanese in any business situation”.

Test details

Schedule: As needed
Fee 7,000 yen
Test contents Listening section

– Scene comprehension

– Speech listening comprehension

– General listening comprehension

Listening and reading section

– Situation comprehension

– Material comprehension

– General comprehension

Reading section

– Vocabulary and grammar

– Expression comprehension

– General comprehension

Test sites in Japan Sapporo, Sendai, Koriyama, Niigata, Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, Hamamatsu, Nagoya, Matsumoto, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Matsuyama, Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Kumamoto, Oita, Naha
Test areas outside of Japan China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Singapore, USA, Mexico, Brazil, France, England, Germany, Italy
Website https://www.kanken.or.jp/bjt/


ONiT (Oral Business Japanese Exam)

ONiT is an abbreviation for Oral Nihongo Test (Oral Nihongo Test), which is a test (CBT) that uses a computer to measure the “speaking” ability of Japanese in business situations, mainly for non-native speakers of Japanese. ). The problem is presented by audio or image.

ONiT is a practical performance test that measures your Japanese speaking ability in business situations through situations such as messages, reports, contacts, and consultations used internally, as well as external business negotiations and meetings.

ONiT is evaluated with a score of 0 to 300 points and 7 levels from 1 to 7, and the evaluation report also shows the standard of which level of CEFR (mainly B1, B2, C1, C2) corresponds to. Analytical evaluation can confirm the balance of oral ability by evaluating from six viewpoints: pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, contextual adequacy, structure, and fluency. Detailed evaluation reports are also useful for learning after the exam.

Exam details

Schedule At any time
Exam fee
15,000 yen + tax
5,000 yen + tax (consulting to examinees based on the examination results)
Question contents ・ Situation explanation ability
・ Instruction confirmation ability
・ Message ability
・ Situation communication ability
・ Confirmation ability (email)
・ Report consultation ability
・ Opinion explanation ability (table)
・ Reporting ability
・ Honorific proficiency
・ Ability to explain dissenting opinions (graph)
・ Ability to propose solutions
・ Ability to explain opinions and grounds
Examination venue ・Suginami-ku, Tokyo
・ZOOM (Applicable for corporate customers only.
Homepage https://oralnihongotest.org


Foreigners who can speak business level Japanese have better chances to work in Japanese companies. In addition, if you are aiming for a management position in Japanese companies, you are required Japanese skills similar to that of native Japanese speakers, since you may have Japanese junior staff in your team. If you want to acquire more advanced Japanese for your future career development, why not try the Japanese language certifications introduced here?

Learning Japanese

Business Japanese

List of ways to look for jobs in Japan

Job Hunting Guide for International Students