Top English Assessment Tests For Japanese Students


Looking to help your students improve their English? Check out the top English assessment tests for Japanese students to find out the best approach.

When you are new to teaching English as a foreign language to Japanese students, it’s surprising to find out how many tests and assessment methods there seem to be. With varying standards and criteria, it’s tough to choose what kind of exam you should suggest for your students. Your goal is to find out about their skill levels and help them enhance their skills and abilities. However, you need guidance to find out where to begin to be able to create the most appropriate lesson plans for them.

Take a look at the most notable English assessment tests for Japanese students and determine each one’s pros and cons.

A Teacher’s Guide to Assessing the Skills and Level of ESL Students

top English assessment skills for Japanese students

In Japan, it seems that there are more assessment programs and examinations than there are English teachers. The problem is, there is no unifying standard that you can use as a basis for comparison. The rules and criteria vary from one learning institution to another. Fortunately, for English teachers, physical and online alike, there are four leading English-language ability tests worth checking out. This post will discuss IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, and Eiken.


Described as the most laborious English assessment system in Japan, the Test of English for International Communication comes in two sections. This test covers the four core skills –listening, speaking, writing, and reading.

The first paper, which was first introduced back in 2006, primarily intends to test students’ listening and reading abilities. There are 200 questions with multiple choices. The examinee must finish the exam within 2 hours. The writing and speaking tests, on the other hand, come in separate sections. However, the examinees do not need to take these activities once they’ve taken the listening and reading test, or vice versa. Unfortunately, many English teachers see this setup as a source of dilemmas. According to several studies, the TOEIC often produces ESL students who are excellent in one or two core skills. However, they often lack the skills in the remaining areas.

As a teacher, it is your responsibility to help your students determine if this English assessment test is valuable for them. For instance, if your student would not use the English language every day and is just after a certificate needed to land a particular job, then this test proves to be good enough. However, if their goal is to develop their English communication skills, you need to pass on recommending this option.

And though the TOEIC test is still one of the most prestigious English tests in Japan, its reputation in other countries is not that good because of cheating scandals. Japanese students and other test takers cannot use their TOEIC certificate when applying for a UK visa.


TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. This English assessment exam shares a good deal of crossover with the TOEIC test. But while there are many similarities, there are also distinguishable differences. For instance, the TOEFL is more US-centric. Created back in the 60s with the primary goal of testing the English proficiency of international students seeking to enroll in American colleges and universities.

Also, as opposed to the paper-based system of the TOEIC test, the student takes the exam on a computer. The examinees enter their answers using a mouse and keyboard directly into the test program. It also has shorter sections that, according to the majority of test-takers, are more comprehensible.

The TOEFL also gives students a listening and reading test. For 90 minutes, the student has to listen to designated audio recordings and answer each question along the process. On the other hand, the reading test gives examinees 60 minutes where they need to answer questions in between. Then, a speaking test lasts for 20 minutes on average, followed by the writing task. In this last activity, the examinees have 50 minutes.

If your Japanese student needs a measure of their English ability because they are preparing to enter universities, then the TOEFL is mostly geared for their needs. Also, the certificate for this test remains valid for a lifetime unless a student decided to retake it to get higher results.

3. Eiken

Both the TOEIC and TOEFL tests are widely known in Japan in academic and corporate sectors alike. However, the Eiken test (Nihon Eigo Kentei Kyokai) is the only assessment program that boasts the Japanese government’s seal of approval. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology oversees this test.

The examinations mentioned above are usually taken by students preparing to enter colleges and universities. Meanwhile, the Eiken test is primarily for junior high school students and even to those younger examinees.

Eiken’s grading system is separated into different levels, from 5 to 1. Grade 5 is for complete beginners – the lowest ability. The highest grade of 1, taken by those students whose English skills are comparable with native level proficiency.

For many English teachers in Japan, Eiken is the most accessible assessment program with a wide-reaching scope. The tests are available four times a year, giving students significant opportunities to enhance their universal language skills.


The International English Language Testing System is the most famous type of English skill assessment test in this list and the most multicultural. It is a joint project of Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. However, despite its creation outside the US, this test emphasizes American English as well. Notably, 20% of the listening materials use American accents.

For most English teachers, IELTS is the most practical test their students can take. It is also the only examination certificate that the UK recognizes for visa applications.

The IELTS test covers the four core English skills –listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Everything takes two and a half hours to complete. What’s most notable about this exam is the speaking test wherein a student converses with a native English speaker for about 14 minutes. This part allows them to unleash their full vocabulary range, and assessors also recognize the students’ common sense when grading their performances.

And while every exam on this list has its own set of pros and cons, many English teachers believe that IELTS is the most streamlined assessment test of all. Notably, each section aims to encourage the students to show off their true abilities. The grading system is also known as the fairest among the four. However, a significant drawback is that this test has yet to gain popularity among Japanese students and academics.

Key Takeaways about the Top English Assessment Tests for Japanese Students

Your students would likely ask for your advice before deciding what test to take. To help them land on the best decision, you must keep in mind the following key information about the top English assessment tests for Japanese students.

The TOEIC is the best choice if your students intend to stay in Japan and use the English language at work.

The TOEFL is the best bet for students who plan to study abroad, particularly in the US, and for those who want to work for international firms where they need to speak in English almost all the time.

On the other hand, Eiken is the most excellent test for beginners, those who are just in the earliest stage of learning a foreign language. It is also most appropriate for school-age learners.

However, if your Japanese students want to become well-rounded and effective English communicators IELTS is the top choice, regardless of whether their goals are personal, academic, or profession-related.

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