記念受験 (きねんじゅけん, kinen juken) is a standard Japanese word that means ‘taking exams just as a memory’. It is used when you take exams for qualifications or admission into school with little chance of success. For instance, it is going to be a ‘memorial exam’ if you take the JLPT N1 test armed only with in-depth knowledge about anime and manga. It is usually used as a self-deprecating way when you take exams knowing you will never make it.
記念受験 and University Entrance Exams in Japan
In fact, many high school students in Japan do 記念受験, hoping to get enrolled in universities that are way out of their league. Some of them do 浪人 (ろうにん, rounin); that is, spending one or more extra years at a cram school or by themselves to prepare for the next annual entrance exams. For instance, about 30% of students at Todai (The University of Tokyo) actually spend the one extra year after graduating from high school. Recently, however, the number of such students has been decreasing overall, reflecting the current climate of opinion in Japan that people prefer realistic and low-risk options to challenging ones.
記念 (きねん, kinen) means ‘memory, anniversary’ and 受験 (じゅけん, juken) means ‘taking exams for qualifications or admission into school’.
I did 記念受験 (‘taking admission tests as a memory’) to The University of Tokyo and so I was so surprised that I actually passed them.
Because that was something like 記念受験 (taking exams as a memory), I didn’t feel depressed when I failed.
Related Words and Phrases: 記念（きねん）memory, anniversary, 受験(じゅけん) ‘taking exams for qualifications or admission into school’.