Tried and Tested

I, the defendant, Carla Bianchi, plead guilty to the crime of taking the N3 (upper intermediate) Japanese Language Proficiency Test without adequate preparation. On Sunday, July 1st, I did knowingly enter into the N3 JLPT to be tried and tested on my Japanese language skills without the necessary ability to ensure a pass verdict.

The general public might have expected me to plead not guilty to the charges laid against me. Having recently had a string of bad dating experiences with Japanese men (the last was married with children…I’m officially cured of Asian Fever), it stands to reason that my lack of preparation for the exam could be attributed to a disinterest in engaging such perpetrators.

That defense will not hold up in court however, and I must own the guilty plea and stand trial for my alleged crime. All that stands between me and a pass or fail verdict now is the evidence and the jury…

Evidence for the defense

Exhibit A shows that I already have an N4 JLPT pass verdict in my criminal file. This prior conviction was obtained in December 2010, a whole 18 months prior to this trial.  So it stands to reason that my Japanese knowledge and general language acquisition abilities should have naturally improved in this period of time, regardless of the lack of premeditated study…giving me a greater chance of obtaining a pass verdict.

Exhibit A

In addition to my defense, N3 is the newest level to be added to the JLPT system (only having been introduced in 2010) and as such, very little study material or past papers are on hand to help as study weapons. While vague lists of kanji, vocabulary and grammar exist, N3 is a largely deemed the ‘wild card’ test. Even after cramming my brain with 600 kanji and almost double that in vocabulary since my N4 exam, there was no way to be sure I had covered all the material that might be required for my trial. Extenuating circumstances warranting a pass verdict no doubt?

The most compelling argument for my defense is that Japanese is an undeniably difficult language to learn. Google ‘Top 5 most difficult languages to learn’ and Japanese will appear in nine out of ten lists as a perpetrator…often featuring as one of the top three most notorious criminals, along with Arabic and Chinese. The person who made the tenth list (where Japanese doesn’t feature), clearly hasn’t been a victim of its difficulty. Add to this evidence that language acquisition does not come naturally to me, and the jury should look on me with a sympathetic eye.

Closing argument for the defense would like to point out the less than ideal conditions at the scene on the day of the alleged crime. Test applicants were told it was admissible to wear a watch into the exam…but not necessary. Having had my watch battery abandon me a week before the test, I faced trial without a timing device…only to find there was no clock in the test room.

There were no facilities to purchase food in or around the scene of the alleged crime either. Try taking the JLPT when your hands are shaking from low blood sugar levels and see if you can secure a pass verdict. Add to this the mitigating evidence that an assailant in my test room read all the test questions out loud and another tapped their pen on the desk for the duration of the test. The jury should see the additional stress I was subjected to on the day of the alleged crime and perhaps issue a pass verdict on the grounds of temporary insanity.

Evidence for the prosecution

Japanese as a language is difficult, but kanji does come naturally to me. The pictographic representation of words appeals to my sense of logic and ability to problem solve. For example: 消 (extinguish) + 火 (fire) + 器 (utensil) = 消火器 (fire extinguisher). Not only that, there are just some kanji (Exhibit B) that you couldn’t forget if you tried…

Exhibit B

But despite this natural ability with kanji, the majority of the vocabulary needed for the N3 JLPT centred predominantly around politics and business. I have very little interest in these two topics in English, let alone Japanese, making the task of studying even more challenging. With the inability to retain such vocabulary, the jury could see fit to issue a fail verdict.

The most compelling evidence for the prosecution to ensure a fail verdict is that my prior N4 conviction was achieved within a mere nine months of arriving in Japan. A 60% overall result was required to pass, and I attained 73%. This 73% score was secured through endless hours of study, enthusiasm and conviction to the task. Despite having double the amount of time to prepare for the N3 JLPT, the prosecution could easily convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt that far less vigor was given to the task this time around.

In closing, in December 2011, 49,235 people sat trial for the N3 JLPT. Of these examinees, only 39.9% received a pass verdict. The prosecution rests its case.


The jury is still out and a verdict won’t be in until September. Pass or fail, who knows? It’s a hung jury right now. I am already considering my options and council strongly advises I launch an appeal and retake the exam in December if the verdict comes back fail…if I’m willing to be tried and tested again…

6 thoughts on “Tried and Tested

  1. Ah yes – I fell victim to the no clock / no wristwatch thing last year!

    This year I had a moment of panic when I thought I would have to actually wear the wristwatch I brought with me, which I had borrowed from my incredibly slender-wristed missus – thankfully the officiators didn’t say anything when I put it on the desk instead…

  2. 39%? Seems kinda low. Not really batting the odds. Did the reader also call out their answers as well?

    • I know, I was pretty shocked at the low average too. No, sadly the perpetrator did not read out his answers for me…so I was left madly guessing and scribbling in random answers at the end when I ran out of time…

  3. […] trip with Tennis Sensei.  Despite having avoided speaking Japanese of any sort since being ‘Tried and Tested‘ just over a month ago, I had no fears about having to speak Japanese for a whole two days […]

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