Sakura Mentor

Job-Hunting Notes - Part 3
Entry Test Preparation and the Gaussian Distribution
Ha Hoang Updated in June 2021

Job hunting for new graduates in Japan can be divided into 3 parts: entry sheet submission, taking aptitude test/written exam, and 2-3 interviews. Without passing written test, you won’t have opportunity to interview and show off your passion. Then it is very important to pass the test.

You might see Japanese students always have thick books called SPI examination with them. As international students who are not good at Japanese, how can you pass the exam? Luckily, many large companies offer written exam in both English and Japanese, so I want to share with you how I studied for English aptitude test.

In general, I categorize it into 2 groups: hard skills (math, science, logic...) and soft skills (personality). Personality test is simple. However, for hard skills, I think you should spend at least 1 month to study and practice. You can google or refer some free tests here:

Figure 1. Aptitude test
Source: Practice Reasoning Tests

Almost all tests are multiple-choice-questions (MCQ). However, one company I used to apply for, gave a fill-in-the-blank test. It was the hardest test I've ever taken because when time ran out or when I could not find an answer, I could not choose randomly like MCQ. Although I practiced very hard, I never could finish all questions on time during the real test. I think I only completed around 80% of all questions. Many Japanese friends told me that I need to speed up and complete all questions. I was very upset about myself because no matter what I tried, I still could not finish all of them.

One time, I talked to my supervisor─Prof. Fujiwara, who always supported me, and hoped if he could give me some advice. He told me to remember the Gaussian distribution. He said: “Companies will never give easy tests that everyone can get 100 points. The test results will follow the Gaussian distribution. There is no one or just a few who can get 100. Most applicants will get 40 - 60 points. If they set the passing level at 100, they certainly will not get any students for the interviews. Perhaps their passing level is around 50 or 60. You did 80% of the test, which was not bad. If your answers are all correct, you will get 80 points, which is very high. Don’t worry too much about the test result as long as you get more than 60 points.”

My mind was blown away after listening to his words. I never thought about the application of Gaussian distribution in real life. It is really wonderful to know that. If you are now in the same situation like me at that time, please do not worry too much about the written test. Why? Because you have already known the answers─right?

Figure 2. Gaussian distribution