It is no surprise that Japan has a very deep affection for problem solving and quizzes. Two of the most famous Japanese puzzles–the Sudoku and Kakuro–has even made other countries’ people hooked as well. Quiz shows are also ubiquitous among TV shows. Many tests have been designed also in order to test your knowledges of the landscapes, history and culture of the Edo period. This type of certification exam is known as kentei shiken. One of the most popular certification exams in the country is the Kanji Kentei or Kanken which tests your knowledge of the numerous Chinese characters used in the Japanese language.
The Kanken basically tests one’s ability to read and write the characters. The lowest level is level 10 in which you only need to know about 80 characters which children learn in their first grade. As you aim for a higher level, of course, the level of difficulty increases. To get you to level 2, you need to at least be knowledgeable of the 2,136 kanji which are learned throughout high school. But to reach level 1, you will first have to master 3,000 characters to pass pre-level 1 while it takes mastery of around 6,000 characters for the most difficult level 1. While the Japanese are expected to have a basic familiarity of 3,000 kanji characters initially, many of the kanji are not generally used in current publications because they are quite old and rare.
The Kanken is very popular among middle to higher levels. Many participants are taking the level 3 test which is learned through junior high school. High schools, universities, and some companies consider Kanken certificates a plus in their selection process. There are three testing periods for the Kanken but during winter, there are about 250,000 people taking the level 3 test. Most of these participants are junior students hoping to use the results to get into the school of their choice. Many are still aiming their arrow to the pinnacle–a challenge that is also part of the charms of taking the Kanken. Of the total participants taking the level 1 test, only about 10-15% participants actually pass each year joining the elite level 1 club which roughly has about 500-600 passers annually.
How good is your Kanji understanding? Would you try taking this test?
Master 20 Basic Japanese Kanji by the time you Finish this Article!