When looking for work that requires Japanese language skills, having some sort of certification to prove your ability can certainly look good to potential employers. The JLPT is a great test for this; it’s very well known and the mastering its contents will give you a great grasp of the basics of the language. But there are also other tests out there that check your skills in different ways, or focus on very specific language skills.
One of these tests is the Business Japanese Proficiency Test (BJT). It measures understanding and ability to use polite Japanese and common documents, and might be worth taking (or at least studying the material) for anyone interested in working in Japanese office environment in the future. The test doesn’t really compare well to the JLPT since they’re so different, but the organizers themselves recommend taking the BJT from around the JLPT N2 level.
The test is administered in three major sections: Listening, Listening-Reading, and Reading, and each of these are divided into three further parts. In total there are 80 questions, all multiple choice, and the test takes approximately two hours. The test is 7000 yen, and can be taken throughout the year.
The test is now taken on computer. When I took the test in Fukuoka, I was shown to my desk actually a little later than scheduled (apparently there is a little wiggle room if the center falls behind schedule), and was given headphones, a small whiteboard for notes, and a marker. The test began as soon as I was seated and the overseer signed me in. There were no breaks until the test finished.
The sections were pretty much as the names describe. For the Listening section there is only a picture and the answer choices are read at the end, for Listening-Reading, you must read something while also listening to a conversation and process that information to choose the correct answer. For both these of sections, you must answer before the timer runs out, and you cannot go back and change answers. The Reading section has you choose the correct word or phrase to complete a sentence and extract information from documents. Unlike the previous two, you can return to and check your answers on the Reading section until your 30 minute time limit is up. Overall, the content all seemed very relevant to someone working in an office, although it has the same pitfall of the JLPT: since it is multiple choice, only your ability to recognize the right answer is tested; there is no test of ability to produce your own correct answer.
One of the great things about the test being computer-based is that you now receive your score immediately upon completion! A maximum 800 points are possible, and your level is determined by how many points you achieved. In place of a paper certificate, you will also be able to use the Pearson VUE Authenticate page to allow others to verify your achievement. After entering your registration and validation numbers, they will be able to see your name, the date and location of your test, and the level awarded. (The points are not shown.)
But how do you study for this test in the first place? Unlike the JLPT, there aren’t a lot of resources out there specifically for the BJT. First, I would recommend getting a good grasp of sonkeigo (respect language) and kenjougo (humble language) — this is an important part of the test, and also an important skill for working in a Japanese office. After this, I found the BJT textbooks I bought long ago (the yellow one and lime green one… they are both a little old now) to be good preparation, as well as just absorbing polite speech and writing that I heard or saw around me. There are a few other textbooks out now, as well as an online prep course.
**And tips for anyone that takes the BJT in Fukuoka at the Hakata testing center!
The testing center is further than you would expect based on the directions they send you. Make sure to check Google Maps to confirm the exact location. ^^;;
If the front door is locked, you will need to enter the center from the rear. It looks a little sketchy, but you can cut through the parking garage to get to the back of the building.
There will be other test takers at the center, but there is only one BJT computer. You can make reservations just a day or two in advance, but slots on popular days (ie, Saturdays) seem to fill up quickly. Also, if the person before you runs overtime, don’t stress. Apparently this won’t cut in to your test taking time since it’s not your fault. 🙂
CIR PA Hannah