The purpose of this paper is to analyze test items in the Eiken Pre-1st grade interview. The Eiken Foundation of Japan (formerly STEP, the Society for Testing English Proficiency, Inc.), or Nihon Eigo Kentei Kyokai, is a public-interest incorporated foundation established in 1963 and based in Tokyo, Japan. It produces and administers English-proficiency tests with the backing of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and in cooperation with Japanese prefectural and local boards of education, public and private schools, and other leading testing bodies. Therefore, students are often encouraged to take Eiken English-proficiency tests, and English teachers of public secondary schools are expected to reach a threshold level of Pre-1st grade or 1st grade.
First, a brief history of Eiken is reported and the proficiency level of Pre-1st grade and the contents of its first-stage test and second-stage interview are summarized. Then, features of picture cards used for the interviews from 2007 through 2015 (academic years) are analyzed. There are 54 picture cards over the nine years and they have 216 question items in total. There are two categories to be analyzed and discussed: (1) a series of four pictures for narration performance, and (2) four question items to be asked afterwards. As for the first category, topics or themes described in the pictures are analyzed. For the second category of question items to be asked, some unique linguistic features are reported as well as popular topics or themes. The present paper has identified several key words to describe the features of Eiken Pre-1st interview tests: social, abstract, and logical. Successful speakers of the Pre-1st grade should not only have basic knowledge of important social issues, but also be able to speak about them logically. It has also found that interview questions have a number of featured sentence patterns and that they contain both topic-related and many basic-level vocabulary items.