Doshisha’s Placement Test and Course Registration

Doshisha’s Placement Test and Course Registration

Hi all! Today I thought I’d do another post for future Doshisha University exchange students who are entering the CJLC program to study Japanese at Doshisha! Classes for the 2015 Fall Semester just started a few days ago, so it seems like a good time for me to share my experience with the Doshisha University Japanese placement test and course registration!

Doshisha University’s Placement Levels

First of all, Doshisha has 9 separate levels of Japanese language courses, with Level I for students who have had little to no Japanese language study, and Level 9 for students who have most likely passed the JLPT N1 and are virtually fluent.

  • Level 1, 2: Elementary Japanese, great for those with no Japanese skill yet
  • Level 3, 4: Upper Elementary, Pre-Intermediate, targeted towards students developing N3 skills
  • Level 5, 6: Intermediate, Pre-Advanced, targeted towards students who have N3 skills and are studying for N2/N1
  • Level 7-9: Advanced, targeted towards students studying for or surpassed the N1 level

With three years of university-level Japanese study, I was able to enter into Level V, which is right in the middle! To give you some perspective, there are also many students (about 100) in Level 8, but only 10 students in Level 9 (the highest level).

Doshisha University’s Written Placement Exam

There are two parts to Doshisha University’s placement exam: a written exam, and an interview.

The written exam is all multiple choice questions (so you do not have to write any kanji, hooray!) and is divided into three sections: I, II, and III. We were told that Section I, the largest section, is composed of grammar and vocabulary from JLPT N5 through N3; Section II is composed of mostly N2 material, and Section III is solely N1 material. You do not have to answer all the questions nor complete all the sections. When the material gets too hard for you, you are allowed to stop and turn in your test early. The allotted time for the placement exam was fairly short, only 70 minutes or so.

I was really nervous about the placement exam because I knew I had to place in a level equivalent to my home university’s 4th-year Japanese courses. Still, I felt fairly confident going into the test having received highest marks in all of my university’s Japanese classes… and that confidence was shattered halfway through the placement exam!

Despite being told that Section I was supposed to be Elementary/Pre-Intermediate material, I found that many of the grammar points I had learned at my university at the intermediate N2 level were in Section I. Then, when I got to Section II which is where the “intermediate” material was supposed to be, I barely recognized anything at all!

However, it turns out I was not alone in finding the placement exam difficult. Many of my friends who are between N3 and N2 felt the same way. In fact, one of my friends who has already passed the JLPT N3 said she thought that this placement exam was much, much harder than the actual N3 exam was.

So, if you find the written placement exam surprisingly challenging, don’t worry! Many of us did! You also get a chance to discuss your level with a teacher during the interview, too, which brings me to…

Doshisha University’s Placement Interview

The day after the written placement exam was our interview with Japanese language teacher(s) from the CJLC. For some reason still unbeknownst to us, some students were interviewed in groups of two or three, while others went alone. I had a solo interview and was interviewed by two teachers. (I heard that many of the students who placed in Levels 8 and 9 also had solo interviews… but with an entire panel of teachers!)

During my interview, the teachers asked how I thought I did in Section II of the written exam. I was honest, and told them I thought I understood maybe 20% (6 out of 30 questions), which they reassured me was good, thus proving that Section II was, in fact difficult for the intermediate level! They also asked me to read a few kanji and a sentence, and asked about at what JLPT level I have studied at previously. All in all, my interview took perhaps 5-7 minutes and was not as terrifying as I thought it would be.

If I can give you any advice regarding the interview, then it would be: don’t let the interview scare you. The interview is your chance to tell the teachers what you want to get out of your Japanese study at Doshisha, whether it’s advancement, review, or even just solidifying the very basics. If you don’t let the teachers know, then you may be placed in a level too high or too low than what you are hoping. In my case, as a Japanese language major, my goal is to challenge myself and go into a level as high as possible. However, if you are a student who would rather review what you have already learned, you can tell them that during the interview as well!

Doshisha University’s Placement Results

I was so anxious over my placement results, I barely slept the night before they were posted. And then, much to my dismay, I found out I was placed in Level IV, which is Pre-Intermediate – a full level lower than what I had been aiming for. I panicked a bit because I knew that Level IV was too low for me to transfer credits back to my home university, so I rushed to the classroom where our course guidance was about to be and managed to talk to the Level IV teachers before they entered the classroom.

I told them about my credit situation, and without hesitation, they rushed me to the Level V classroom and explained my situation to the Level V coordinator. Luckily, it seems that the teachers had been already considering putting me into Level V, so they let me switch with no problems and I was able to enter Level V from Course Guidance day!

If you encounter a situation like mine in which you are placed in a level you are unhappy with, you are absolutely allowed to switch levels within the first few days of classes. You can even switch levels for individual classes as well – so say you are in the Level 6 General course but find the Level 6 Written Expression course too difficult, you can to switch to the Level 5 Written Expression course while staying in Level 6 General!

So if you are disappointed or stressed by your level placement, don’t do what I did and panic in front of the placement result message board. Just talk to the teachers and explain your situation, and they will surely help you. 🙂

Course Registration

Course registration at Doshisha is a bit complicated, but once you get a hang of reading the time table, it gets much easier. For those of you who are not Japanese majors or focused on Japanese language study, you can choose to do a Japanese Elective route (選択コース) in which you only have to take only a single Japanese class (日本語総合, Comprehensive Japanese) that meets for 1.5 hour classes five times a week. That way you still have time to take other lectures more related to your major or field of study.

If, like me, you are a Japanese language student, you can take the Intensive Language route (集中コース), that includes the 日本語総合 class as well as up to five other Japanese language electives (Reading Comprehension A and B, Written Expression, and Oral Communication A and B). The elective courses meet for 1.5 hours a week once a week.

Of course, whether you go to the Elective or Intensive route, you can take other seminars and courses as well! For example, I am taking a JLPT N2 Preparatory Course, a Grammar Review course, and a regular Doshisha lecture. (Regular Doshisha lectures, which are carried out entirely in Japanese, are generally only available to students who are placed in Level V and above.)

There are three parts to course registration:

  • Advance Registration: For limited seating special lottery classes, such as an ikebana class and an anime class
  • Class Group Registration (optional): The larger levels, such as Level V which I am in, have so many students they divide them into separate groups which have different time tables. You can ask to be placed in a group of your choosing to get a schedule that best suits your interest; if not the teachers will place you in a group automatically. (You only have one day to let them know which group you want to be in, so be careful!)
  • Registration Day: After finding out which time table group you are in, you make sure you have no time conflicts among your chosen courses, and then turn in your registration form which lets the teachers know what courses you want to take.

And that’s it! Once your registration form is turned in, you are all set! If you find out there are any errors, you can fix that within the first week of classes. One thing to keep in mind is that at Doshisha, you are not allowed to add any courses once registration ends; you can only drop courses. So most of us have registered for more classes than we intend on keeping, and are planning on dropping the ones we don’t want later.

Phew, that was a long post. I hope future Doshisha students find this information useful! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! Good luck!


  • kuba

    Great guide!!
    So many Japanese language courses.. your Japanese will improve so much over the year! =) Really makes me wish I could study there as well…

  • Rae'La Whatley

    This article was so helpful! I read the previous article about the Richard’s dorm and I was so glad to have visuals of the dorm I will be in.

    I leave for Japan September 5th and I’m stressing so much over the interview portion of the placement test because I’m aiming to be placed in the level 4 Japanese language classes and oral speaking is unfortunately my weak point AND my biggest insecurity when it comes to speaking japanese!

    This article was so helpful because it basically tells me what to expect so that helped my nerves A LOT! but speaking always makes me nervous. Especially in front of new people.

    If you can give any more advice on this that would be wonderful!

  • Kaonashi

    Thank you for this article!
    I will study at Doshisha starting on September and I have no idea what my japanese level actually is. I am a bit scared but excited to take this placement test!
    I also wondered if there was a difference between the elective program and the intensive program regarding the number of classes in a week. How many classes had you in a week for instance?
    Anyway thanks for your blog and all the useful experience you’re sharing with us 🙂

  • olga

    Hi, I just have a quick question.
    The interview is through Japanese yes?

    • Kira

      Hi Olga! I’m very sorry for the late response – I hope this reaches you in time that you need it.

      Yes, the interview is through Japanese! It may be in partial English for lower levels (1~3) as there are some students who come with no Japanese experience yet.

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