NAIST Division of Biological Science


The examination procedure

The examination procedure

On the day of the examination, you must come to the entrance hall of the division building to complete check-in by the appointed time. The staff at check-in will hand you a form. After checking in, you enter the lecture hall and complete the form. On this form, you indicate the research fields and labs you are interested in. Every 20 minutes, a member of staff will call out examinee numbers. When your number is called, you will proceed to the exam preparation room. Here, you will receive a form that tests your basic knowledge. You have 30 minutes to answer the questions. For more information about this test, see the section at the bottom of the page about difficulty level. No dictionaries are provided, and you are prohibited from bringing any into the testing room.

There is no English test on the day of the examination. Instead, you submit your TOEIC or equivalent English test score. There is no score threshold set for eliminating candidates. You can take the entrance examination without having taken the TOEIC or an equivalent English test, but your score on the English test will count as zero. When it is difficult to submit along with the other required documents, or a new score is obtained after submitting the application documents, the score can be submitted within the designated term [should arrive at NAIST within this period] (indicated in “Submission Form of Documents to Verify English Proficiency”). The final score you submitted (Not the highest score) will be considered when evaluating your application.

After the 30 minutes have elapsed, a member of staff will summon you to the test room. Please bring your completed question form with you to the test room. In the test room, you will be interviewed for 20 minutes. The interview consists of two parts: a basic knowledge test lasting about 5 minutes, and a general interview lasting about 15 minutes. There are three interviewers. When you arrive at the test room, state your name and examinee number and then take a seat. For the basic knowledge part of the interview test, you will read out the answers to the questions on basic knowledge you stated in the exam preparation room.

The general interview will typically proceed as follows. The interviewers will ask you to briefly describe your graduation thesis, which you wrote about in your research statement. Try to summarize the content in around 3 minutes. The interviewers will have already read your research statement, so be sure to convey the key points succinctly. The interviewers will then ask you detailed questions about your statements. All three interviewers will ask questions, and these questions will represent a variety of perspectives. You will not just be asked about your thesis. The interviewers will also inquire into your mastery of the basic knowledge of the field and how you engage in research in that area. They will also try to gauge your grasp of cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and other scientific fields related to your research. If you are interested in a particular field of study, you can expect to receive questions about this field. These questions will test your awareness of the relevant research issues. Likewise, you should expect questions about the fields of study you wish to research at NAIST, and they will be based on the descriptions in your research statement. For example, the interviewers might ask you why you are interested in the field and how you intend to pursue your research therein. In answering these questions, try to use appropriate terminology. Below is an example of interview questions and answers.

General interview example

What research would you like to engage in at NAIST?

I am interested in environmental conservation, so I would like to join a lab that researches environmental issues.

What do you think science can do to address environmental issues? What field of scientific research will you engage in to help address these issues?

I am interested in using biotechnology to breed salt-tolerant plants and facilitate desert greening and bioremediation.

How should plants be cultivated in saline soil? If you can, cite some examples of compatible solutes. Then, for one of these solutes, name an enzyme involved in the synthesis. Could you please also describe the reaction this enzyme catalyzes?


The interviewers will also ask you about what you want to do after you enroll. In the example above, the interviewers were impressed by the examinee’s interest in environmental issues and his/her knowledge about how science can address these issues. However, they would have been even more impressed had the student gone a step further and demonstrated more advanced academic awareness. While preparing for your interview, try to deepen your knowledge in your fields of interest.

How the interviewers score your interview

Each of the three interviewers gives a separate score. They give a score for the general interview describing the quality of your research statement, your mastery of undergraduate knowledge, and your competence in bioscience. These scores are then added to your scores for the English test and basic knowledge test to give a final examination score.

Difficulty level of the basic knowledge test

The basic knowledge test consists of undergraduate-level questions on bioscience and chemistry. There are 20 questions in total with a variety of question formats, including fill-in-the-blank, true-false, and calculation problems, as well as questions that test scientific thinking skills. Fill-in-the-blank questions present a phrase with a missing section. The person must fill in the missing section to complete the phrase. True-or-false questions present a statement, and the person must determine whether the statement is true or false. The questions are taken from the fourth edition of Essential Cell Biology (the Japanese version; translated by Nakamura et al. and published by Nankodo). Many of the questions are from the first half of Essential Cell Biology, but some are from the second half. You should thoroughly read this textbook to prepare for the examination. Although the questions are taken from the fourth edition, the third edition is also applicable.