The Japanese Real Estate License Takken is national qualification needed to operate a real estate business in Japan. A Takken holder needs to be present during a real estate transaction and needs to explain the details of the transaction to the parties involved. Real estate companies also need to have at least a one in five Takken holder staff ratio in order to operate with a license.
In this article I will explain how I prepared for and passed the Japanese Takken exam. I will try to provide some advice and useful information to people who might be interested in giving this test a try.
First off (this might seem obvious) I would like to say that you need to be fluent in Japanese in order to have a chance at passing this exam. If you think the level 1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is hard, you will probably have a hard time with this test. The Takken test is so much a Japanese language exam as it is a real estate exam; a Japanese language exam that Japanese people find difficult. Your Japanese needs to be ninja level!
The test does not have prerequisites such as work experience or other titles or degrees, etc.
How hard is this exam?
Back in the 80’s or 90’s, the bar was apparently not that high. For the past decade or so however, the exam difficulty has gone up significantly.
The exam is only held only once a year; every October. This ups the difficulty significantly because the test requires a high degree of cramming before the test day. If you have a bad day this test day (are nervous, catch a cold or get little sleep the day before, etc.) you won’t get another chance for another year; by then you will have forgotten all that you have crammed and will need to cram again.
The exam usually has a pass rate of 10 to 20 percent; for 2015 the pass rate was 15.4%. This might seem as a low percentage but please keep in mind that half of the examinees are young real estate salesmen who do not study. To sum up, If you study (hard), you will pass.
How much do I have to study?
If your Japanese is native, you have passed other Japanese style exams (for example Japanese University entrance exams) and you’re used to cramming, 300 study hours should be enough. If it is your first time with a Japanese style test and Japanese is your second language, I would double this number to 600. You will have to start with learning the language used in the exam, getting used to the question style on top of learning all of the actual real estate concepts. Practical knowledge or work experience in real estate does not give you that much of an edge in this exam.
Personally, I started studying six months before the exam. For the last three months before the exam I studied every day for two to eight hours per day.
How useful is the exam/license?
The license is of course useful if you work or want to work in the real estate field in Japan. It does give you background knowledge about the laws and regulations that surround real estate in Japan, as well as a base in Japanese civil law. As I mention above however, practical work experience in real estate does not give you much of an advantage in passing this exam. In other words, the test is more of a just a test that tests if you studied for the test and not a test to test your knowledge of real estate. This is a common pattern in many Japanese examinations.
The exam is two hours and consists of 50 multiple choice questions (14 civil law questions, 20 questions about real estate business laws, 8 questions about city planning and building regulations and 8 questions about taxes, etc.). Approximately 40% of the questions are from previous year examinations (similar or close to the same questions that have already come up in past exams).
How to study:
Step one to studying is to read a Takken reference book from start to finish. Even if you don’t understand half the book, you will get used to the language and the kanji used.
The series of books that I used and recommend was らくらく宅建塾 .
Because close to half of the test is from past exam questions, you will need to study and memorize past exam questions. Buy books that have past exam questions (for example the last five or ten years’ worth) and study by trying to solve old problems. I also recommend this site: tokagekyo. The site has a ton of past questions, explanations and other useful information (all in Japanese of course).
Do some questions, check your answers, check answer explanations and keep track of the questions you got wrong, you want to do these questions again later. Once you have done a few hundred questions I recommend reading through the main Takken reference book again. This time around you should have a good understanding of the book content and also have all of the concepts, laws and key numbers memorized.
The next step is to train by doing mock examinations. A month before the test I bought 10 mock exams and did one every day. I would first do the mock exam, check my answers and study up on the answers I didn’t get. 10 days later I would do the mock exams again but only do the questions I didn’t get the first time.
The key is to get yourself used to the type of questions asked and how they are asked. Learning the actual content is only half of the studying process. The test is full of trick questions and the key to passing is being able to tell if the question at hand is a normal question, a trick question or simply a difficult question that needs to be skipped as to not waste time.
If you can get more than 30 points on the mock exams within the allowed two hours, you have a chance at passing.
The passing line varies year to year but it is usually around the 30 to 35 range (in 2015 it was 31). Note that most examinees that study do get around thirty points; i.e.: the vast majority fail by one or two points. In other words, every single point is crucial!
If you have a strong area, for example civil law (minpo), I recommend you perfect this area to get that extra point that the other examinees couldn’t get. Remember, you need to beat over 80% of the other examinees to be in the passing percentile.
The Five Question Exemption:
If you work for a real estate company you are eligible to have the last five questions of the exam exempt. If you have this option I highly recommend you do so; a huge plus!
My last words to anyone taking the Takken exam: Good Luck!