Although there is some information available about grading of answers on the Kanken kanji test like for example that kanji form and shape should be neat, without any abbreviations and features of a cursive style like writing several strokes at once.
However, these guidelines are related to the rules according to which kanji themselves must be written for them be graded as correct.
What is less known is how exactly the grading of answer sheets is done, and who actually does it.
As someone with a name from which most would probably assume that that person is likely not a native Japanese speaker, which of course may not necessarily be factually correct as even if someone has a foreign sounding name if they are raised in japan they actually WOULD be native Japanese speakers, but I am digressing.
So, given such a personal background it has always interested me if one’s answer sheet is anonymized before and at the time it is graded or not
of course, even without any proof it must be reasonable to assume that it WOULD, for a simple fact that to ensure objectivity and fairness it SHOULD, but you can never be sure of anything.
So, while researching about this topic I happened to stumble upon a document titled 検定試験の自己評価シート or the “Test examination self-evaluation sheet” which appears to be a check-list for the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation to assess its compliance with its own rules and regulations.
The document appears to be rather for internal use, but it does not look to contain any secret information,
and the document itself can be found on the same domain as the Kanken website through a search engine.
Individual items in the document include such questions as if the goal of the test is clearly stated and announced, whether the structure of the organization is optimized to achieve its goal, whether there is a sufficient level of financial accountability, if measures are taken to protect the privacy of those who take the test, and so on.
But among them the most interesting item is number 21 asking about the crucial topic of question making and grading.
The reply stated in the document is as follows:
Test questions are made by the “Question making committee” and the “Grading committee” composed of the Foundation’s full time staff and commissined non-staff members.
Grading is conducted by specially trained grading personnel in accordance with the grading criteria and the grading manual.
Anonymized answer sheets are graded by two personnel. In case of disagreement between them, the grading is checked by a third member.
So, as we can see from this document, yes when they are graded your answer sheets do not contain your name, and the grading is done by two persons,
which I guess helps to reduce potential impact on your score from a bias any particular individual may have about how kanji should be written, which of course is quite a big issue for Kanken kanji test takers as many of them, author included, are sometimes perplexed as to why some questions they are sure they have answered correctly are for some reason marked as incorrect on their result sheets.
Since the test’s answers are written by hand, and are graded by humans there is a certain degree of inevitable ambiguity which can be seen in this picture from the Kanken website
here the examples of correct shapes include such patterns where strokes are not touching each other where they suppose to, or where one stroke which in terms of the character’s canonical interpretation should be shorter than the other is made longer, and so forth.
On the other hand, all incorrect examples in this picture are in one way or another are indeed incorrect whether because of a too cursive shape
or a different radical (like “nisui” instead of sanzui).
Yet in a different place on the same website it is stated that untidy characters will be graded as incorrect, or if you translate it literally will not be considered for grading at all, and since we don’t have our answer sheets returned we can only guess where exactly did we make a mistake to render our answer either as incorrect or unworthy of grading to begin with.
Using my personal recent experience as an example, on the level 1 of the second test in 2021 (Reiwa period year 3) for a reason I remain completely unaware of rather then guessing that there could have been something wrong with the handwriting, I got two answers marked as incorrect which I am sure I must have answered correctly with one of them being from section 1 for reading which actually means that I might have been penalized for incorrect shape of hiragana.
On a side note, in the level pre 1 which I concurrently took on the same day I got around 10 or 15 points deducted for unknown reasons for which the possible explanation may be either one of the following options:
1. criteria for handwriting grading are more strict for level pre 1 than they are for level 1
(though I am not sure if that could be counted among possibilities at all)
2. is that considering that since level pre 1 is held after level 1, I might have been too exhausted to maintain sufficient level of attention to my handwriting, or perhaps was too distracted with frustration that was not able to do better on level 1 where my final score turned out to be 158 points which is just 2 points (or 1 correct 2 point answer) behind the passing line.