Brief introduction to MEXT scholarship
Mext scholarship for undergraduate students provided by Japanese Government is a highly competitive scholarship that offers 5 years of studying in Japan national universities (1 year for intensive Japanese course + 4-year undergraduate) and monthly living stipend of 120000 yen. There are only few students selected for this program in every year. In 2019, there are 6 from Vietnam, 1 from Nepal, 4 from Brazil, … In this blog, I would like to share why I chose MEXT and how did I prepare and apply for MEXT scholarship.
When I was in grade 7, I had a chance to enroll in a free Japanese class held by a local Japanese company in my hometown. The first lesson of learning how to draw Hiragana-Japanese characters whetted my appetite. I spent time stroking those serpentine characters in my notebook. At that time, Japan remained an unfamiliar country to me. I knew nothing about its culture and tradition. I attended the Japanese class because it was free and because of my friends’ enticement. Thanks to my diligent Japanese teacher who encouraged me to study and participate in cultural exchange activities, I got my very first remarkable achievement in getting Japanese proficiency certificate of level N5 with full marks (180/180). Spurred by my successful effort, I went on pursuing higher level of Japanese tests. As I spent time digging in Japanese, my love for Japan built up. I made up my mind to go to study abroad after graduation from high school when I was only in grade 8. Since MEXT is a well-known scholarship that covers all the study expenses, I put it in my bucket list.
You can apply for MEXT via the embassy recommendation or the university recommendation. In this article, I would like to introduce the application via the embassy only. The procedure is divided into two main stages: Screening by the embassy in your country and screening by Japanese Government. The screening stage by the embassy in Vietnam includes three rounds: Document screening⇒Written test⇒Interview. Only selected candidates can go to the next rounds.
The scholarship announcement will be posted on the embassy website in May each year for undergraduate scholarship. After reading carefully the requirements, I downloaded the application form and filled it in using Excel. The application requires four main things: official transcript, recommendation letters from your teachers (can be high school teachers or university teachers who know you well) and short essays on the reason why you choose Japan to study abroad, what you will do after university graduation and a health check-up certification. All documents must be translated into English or Japanese and sent to the embassy.
If you major in Natural sciences, you have to take Maths, Physics, Chemistry/Biology, English and Japanese tests at the embassy after passing the documents screening round. The science test covers a wide range of knowledge learnt in high school. No calculator or electronic device are allowed in the test room. I had to take the test using 2B pencil. You do not need to write down all the solving steps in the maths test. Only final results are needed to fill in the blank. The other tests are multiple choices in which you choose the correct answers from A, B, C, D and fill in the blank.
Around 10 candidates with the highest scores on the tests will be sorted out and go on for the interview at the embassy. I had a 10-minute face-to-face interview with two interviewees in English. You can opt to have the interview conducted in Japanese if you want to. The questions are mainly about yourself and your goals. After passing the interview, your documents will be sent to Japan for the final inspection by the Japanese government.
Actually, 2019 is the second time I applied for this scholarship. In 2018, I applied and passed the written test and the interview at the embassy but unfortunately, I fail the second round (Japanese Government’s final selection round). I lose all my hope and went to University of Science and Technology of Hanoi, which has a very good studying environment. However, the love for Japan kept increasing, so I decided to take it up a notch and try one more time. I searched for past exam papers on the Internet, connected with past scholarship students for their advices, studied more Japanese to get the Japanese proficiency certificate of N2 level and made an attempt to achieve the National Olympiad Prizes so that my background would look outstanding from that thousands of exceptionally talented applicants. I do not know about other countries but in Vietnam, it is truly a cut-throat competition to get this scholarship. Everything paid off eventually when I passed the second screening.
Here are some things, in my opinion, that you are better to prepare in advance:
Some people might say this is not important but it plays an important in case you and someone else have the same capability, written test results… Mext students that I know either have IELTS or EJU or Japanese proficiency test certificate or high GPA score or some prizes in Olympic, etc. Talented students often achieved something. If you don’t have one, then it would be a disadvantage unless there are just a few students applying for this scholarship in your country. In Vietnam, there are only 5 or 6 people each year selected out of hundreds so the competition is very fierce.
Practice past written test:
Once you pass the document screening round, all you need to do is to focus on the written test held at the embassy. This test is conducted in Japanese/English depending on your request. If you major in Science then you have to take Math, Physics, Biology/Chemistry, Japanese and English. Math is always tough and not everyone can solve all the problems, plus you are not allowed to use calculator. Chemistry is similar to what I learnt in high school, which focuses on organic chemistry reactions and phenomenon. Physics requires you to understand the underlying principle and the test covers a wide range of knowledge, from Mechanics, Wave to Electricity and magnetism.
In 2019, physics test included thermo cyclo problem, wave, dopler effect, electricity. Chem is about what is the product of organic reactions, a paragraph which describe an element (2019 it is sulfur if I’m not wrong) and you have to answer its properties and the phenomenon related to its reactions. Math was about a parabola which is tangent to a circle, find the nth digit number of log something…
In 2020, physics test was about friction along inclined plane, cylinder-piston, moment of inertia, parabolic motion. Chemistry covered the knowledge of organic reactions(ether, alkane, acid carboxylic…), ion types, thermal constant,… For maths, there were problems about tricky integrals, find n that can divided by x, …
Here is the link to past written test papers for undergraduate that I collected. Here is for college of technology. Practicing as much as you can is the key to success for this round. One more important thing, try to do the Japanese test even just a few questions, never leave it blank. The staff at the embassy told me some people failed because of that. English test focuses on grammar, vocabulary and reading comprehension. Not a big deal to me :))
After I passed the written test, I was invited to the interview at the embassy. There were only 2 interviewers in my case and I sat in front of them. Dress properly, bow before sitting and say thank you before leaving. This is just to know about your motivation and your personality. I was asked about my hobby, my city….nothing academic. Try to be honest and make eye contact with the interviewers!
Above is my whole process to get MEXT scholarship. I hope this article provided you a closer look into the preparation and the procedure. If you are a fan of Japan and are yearning to study in Japan, why don’t you give it a try by applying for MEXT? Let’s note down the scholarship schedule and fill in the form when the application is open!