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What is the SPI test, anyway? A Guide for International Students Job Hunting in Japan

What kinds of tests are there?

Before you can start studying to pass one of these tests, you’ll need to know what kind of test you’ll be taking. In this article, we’ll introduce you to two of the more common test types:

“SPI” is a written test made by the company Recruit Career Co., Ltd, and one of the most well-known and often used tests of its kind. SPI is used by a variety of companies in their hiring process, from smaller-sized companies to large multinationals.

Test Subject/s: The test is divided into two parts, which test basic ability/knowledge, and personality, respectively. The basic ability/knowledge portion of the test is further divided into “linguistic” and “non-linguistic” sections.

Test Prep: Books of practice questions are available for purchase to test-takers. You can also take a mock test on the Rikunabi website:


These tests are administrated by England-based talent assessment company SHL Group. CAB and/or GAB tend to be issued by foreign companies, famous trading companies, financial institutions, etc.

The CAB test is used to test the skills and knowledge of applicants to engineering or computer-related positions. The GAB test, on the other hand, is not limited to any particular job type.

Test Subject/s: CAB tests mental arithmetic and character/personality, as well as a number of different visual puzzles in which test-takers will be required to determine the missing piece according to the pattern of shapes they’re given, determine the pattern that governs a set of shapes, etc. (It’s best to take a look at some example problems beforehand, as these questions are largely visual, and it’s important to get used to the format of the questions you’ll be faced with. You can find examples on the website below.GAB tests language ability, mathematics, and character/personality.

A quick search in Japanese should also give you lots of websites with GAB practice questions.

Test Prep: Books with practice questions are available for both of these tests as well. You can even take mock exams on the SHL website below:

When to starting preparing

It’s said that it’s best to take about three months to prep for one of these aptitude tests. But with the busyness and strict format of the Japanese job hunting season, once you begin attending setsumeikai (group information sessions in which many companies offer presentations) and writing your first entry sheets, you won’t have much time left over to study for an exam, so, early as it is, the recommendation is to finish studying for these tests at least one month before you start job hunting.

Try to prepare more time than you think you’ll need!

Which test will the company I’m applying to require?

In most cases, applicants won’t know the format of the test until they actually take it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a search online to see what was offered in previous years!

Since a majority of companies require the SPI test, it’s a good idea to prep for this one anyway.

How and where you’ll take the test

There are four different ways to take one of these aptitude tests:

1. At a test center: You’ll take the test on a computer at a room set aside specially for the exam.

2. In-house testing: You’ll take the test on a computer at the company where you’re applying.

3. Web testing: You’ll take the test online, on your on computer, and in your own home, if you want to.

4. Paper testing: You’ll take the test on paper at the company you’re applying to.

The tests can be offered either with a scantron or mark-in sheet, or you may be required to write answers long-hand. With a scantron in particular, it’s important to bring a good pencil to fill in your answers quickly.

A lot of companies do offer computer testing, though, so make sure to study not just with a book of practice questions, but with a digital version of the test, too!

If you prepare for the SPI, CAB, or GAB tests in advance, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Some universities even offer seminars and mock tests for students to practice and prepare with, so be sure to take advantage of any support you can get from your school when you prepare. There are some companies in Kyoto that may not require you to take such a test, or even have special screening methods for non-Japanese students, so be sure to do your research, too!

Keep an eye out for such companies when you apply, and good luck on your job hunt in Japan!

Also, for more information and advice on job hunting in Japanese, check out some of our other articles!

Kyoto Companies & the International Student Job Search – from the 2018 Paid Internship Seminar –

My Japanese Job Hunting Experience

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