After Kanken 2009


Yesterday I sat the kanji kentei 漢字検定 in London. There were surprisingly few candidates there. Less than 30 for all levels by my reckoning. This is a real pity as it’s an interesting and challenging test of real Japanese reading and writing ability. I hope the numbers are sufficient to keep it being held regularly in London.
Probably because of the smaller numbers it was much more smoothly run than JLPT at SOAS in my experience. They would actually do well to tell those doing the JLPT about the Kanken and keep an email mailing list to remind past applicants about forthcoming tests.

I signed up for 2 tests, but due to a lack of time and hence a lack of study I decided to concentrate on the lower test, 9 kyu, instead of 8 kyu. In theory you could sit as many tests as you want, each taking 40 minutes, but in practice those taking more than one test only took two. The plus is you don’t have to wait another year, the minus is you may be paying out extra money for a test you don’t take or mightn’t pass.
I might have passed 9 kyu. I’ll know within 2 weeks. (Again much faster than JLPT and it involves a human marker rather than machine marking.) I was reasonably confident going in having gotten good marks in the practice tests I’ve been taking. However the pass mark is a high 80%. It hinges on vocabulary. I know the target kanji, I know their readings, Where it starts to get difficult is putting this together with vocabulary and my vocabulary isn’t as good as an eight year old’s!

My advice, for what it is worth, is learn vocabulary using the target kanji.
The most useful tool I had was my Nintendo DS and a title called 正しい漢字かきとりくん (Tadashii Kanji kakitorikun). The original edition. There is an extended kanken version, but this is too advanced until you are ready for the post primary school grades. Although it’s test questions are more comprehensive.
The advantage of using DS is you have to write your answers and you get instant feedback of whether you are correct and the quality of your writing. The style of questions are the sort you will get on the kanken.
The teacher behind the method used in kakitorikun has an interesting paper on his method, the Kageyama method.
The other resources I used were the official kanken books, both the step up book and best of all the practice test book.
For a while (when I had the time by a computer) I used, which has a great set of quizzes specifically for kanken and uses a spaced repetition formula. I also made a number of vocabulary lists on

So, today, I started once again revising for 8 kyu and with luck will take it next year. Will I try 7 kyu as well I wonder….

09. November 2009 by ロバート
Categories: 02 reading • 読む事, 03 writing • 書く事 | Tags: , , | 5 comments

Comments (5)

  1. I know little about this test myself, but you certainly piqued my curiousity. Writing kanji is the one skill I’ve barely ever developed, outside of some high-school level Chinese language courses, long forgotten. And it is kind of embarrasing to study kanji, but not be able to write them out, so I should really look into it.

    Thank you,


  2. I’m still waiting on results. I thought it was meant to be faster than this, in Japan I believe they mark it on the spot and you get to take away the exam paper. Maybe I’m mistaken.

    I don’t really need to write kanji but I find it very satisfying.

  3. I checked and sadly it’s not offered anywhere outside of Japan besides the UK. Nothing for a guy like me in the States to do. :(

    Oh well, I’ll still look into it should I have another trip to Japan or something. :)

    Best of luck on your scores by the way.

  4. There is a school in British Columbia that offers it. Maybe closer than the US centres. (You’re in Seattle aren’t you?) I’m surprised it isn’t on offer around there I thought it was a big centre of Japanese immigration after San Francisco.

    But it’s hard to take this test outside Japan it seems. The books and papers are good study resources even if you can’t sit the test.

    In Japan it seems to be held three times a year for individuals not attending school.

  5. That’s good to know actually. Vancouver is about 3 hours drive from Seattle (border crossing notwithstanding), so it’s a feasible thing to try. :)

    I did Google search a few different permutations for the test on Google for the US, but found nothing, whereas the JLPT has a dedicated site for it, so either the site just doesn’t exist, or it’s not offered at large. Ah well.

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