Planning to Study in Japan? Then Start Learning the Symbols Used to Mark Tests and Exams!

  • HOW TO
  • In many parts of the world, the symbols used when marking test or exam papers is simply a ‘tick’ for correct or ‘X’ for incorrect. However, generally, this is not applied in Japan. The Japanese use different symbols, which can may it confusing for any current or future international students sitting tests and exams in Japan!

    The Circle and ‘X’

    To those that live outside of Japan, circling answers are usually associated with teachers trying to highlight a specific part of the answer that was incorrect. However, in Japan, the circle symbol actually means your answer is correct – but is an average or poor answer!

    Similar to the general use of ‘X’ that most people are familiar with, ‘X’ also means incorrect in Japan, so you get no marks for any answers marked with an ‘X’!

    Ticks/Check marks

    This is where things may start to get confusing. If you get many ticks or check marks in a Japanese test paper, it’s definitely not something to be happy about. Similar to the ‘X’ symbol, a tick means it’s incorrect – and is used the same way in Korea and Sweden too. Ticks are used this way because it’s a faster way to mark ‘X’.


    The triangle symbol may be unfamiliar to most people outside of Japan. However, a triangle symbol is used to mean almost, or close, so it means that your answer is not correct but not completely incorrect either.

    Double circle

    Since a circle means correct, a double circle must mean something even better! And yes, the assumption is true. The double circle is equivalent to a silver star and is a way for the teacher to mark an answer as not only correct but a ‘good answer’ in test papers.

    Flower circle

    Now, what could possibly beat the double circle? A flower circle, of course! The flower circle is the best mark you can receive in a test and is equivalent to a gold star or ‘perfect’.

    So, if you’re sitting exams or tests during your overseas experience here in Japan, I hope this clears up any confusion when you receive your test papers back. Another interesting fact is that the PlayStation has the ‘O’ and ‘X’ symbols on the console buttons, to represent the ‘OK’ and ‘CANCEL’ buttons respectively.

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