Three times a year, Japanese students can take a Kanji Aptitude Test (漢字能力検定試験 Kanji Nouryoku Kentei Shiken). This test is a measure of Kanji ability; being able to basically read, write, know the stroke order and recognize the different combinations of Kanji characters that form words. There are 12 levels: 10 being the lowest and 1 being the highest, with an additional pre-2 and pre-1 in between. I’ve met several foreigners who’ve taken levels 7 and 6. A lot of them were really good at Japanese.
One co-worker told me that if I wanted to pass the test, all I had to do was buy a review book and do as much of the problems as I could. I found that there are whole sections in bookstores dedicated to review materials. I checked out the books, they were all dated. It seems they come out with new editions every year. I chose to take Level 7, as it contained Kanji I was familiar with. I studied for maybe a month, and passed with only a few mistakes. I planned to take Level 6 the next time, but the test date didn’t match my schedule. I was able to study well for it though. Even if you don’t know the English meanings, you could pass the test. The trick is to memorize the patterns in the review books. The Kanji themselves don’t change, so you can just memorize and practice Kanji readings, stroke orders and combinations.
*Note: The Image is from Baka Kentei. Seems there are hundreds of Kenteis… There is a list of the ten strangest Kenteis on What Japan Thinks.
By the way, the next Kanji Kentei is in February. Deadline for applications is on December 19th. Application forms are sold at bookstores.