It appears that the venerable Japanese Language Proficiency Test is to be no more!
Well, actually it has another year of life left (2009 will be the last one) before it is rippped up, burnt and replaced with... the revised JLPT.
Big deal I hear you cry. Well, there is a significant change afoot - the revised JLPT, which will still only test receptive skills but will get a funky new prefix to distinguish it from the old one, will be available in 5, count 'em (five) levels; again numbered from hardest to easiest; N1 (the hardest) will come in slightly tougher than the current JLPT 1-kyuu. At the easier end of the spectrum, N5 will be a direct, like-for-like replacement of the current 4-kyuu.
Well, plus ca change - the difference comes in the middle. Right in the middle actually. The new N3 will be an intermediate level, bridging the gulf between the current 2-kyuu and 3-kyuu.
For many students this leap is quite a challenge - the step up requires a three-fold expansion of kanji knowledge and requires an awareness of four times as much vocabulary. After the fairly moderate increase from 4-kyuu to 3-kyuu (ha! get me, I haven't managed yet have I?) this can present quite a daunting challenge unless you are in country (I know a few people who have tried and failed 2-kyuu here in the UK) though that's not to lessen the achievement of those who do manage it in Japan - it's still the same exam, after all.
Which brings us to the other change that will occur at the same time: biannual testing. Yes, for those who do fluff either of the harder level (N1, N2) exams, the opportunity will be there for a retest in July, though only for those in Japan, or its neighbours Korea, China and Taiwan.
Thrilling stuff. Let's just hope that I'm in a position to apply for N3 by 2010, the inaugral year...