After I passed the N3 test last December, I started studying for N2 in order to hopefully pass it in 2011. The first book I bought was the So-Matome N2 Grammar Book, which was a pretty good introduction to the grammar and eased me into taking the test.
The only problem was is that it didn’t get me all the way there. I would say this textbook is great after you just pass N3 because the vocabulary used in it is not very difficult. But, it will not properly prepare you for the level of difficulty of the test. The test is actually a lot harder.
Enter the New Kanzen Master series that just came out this last year. If you are familiar with the Kanzen Master series, you’ll know that they had a reputation in the past as being THE book to pick up to study for the JLPT. It looks like they have returned with more of the same for this new series of thicker, test strategy packed series.
Format of the Book
The book has essentially 4 major sections: a quick overview of the grammar part of the JLPT; a grammar points reference; test strategies; and finally two mock tests. This book is probably the thickest N2 grammar book you can find. They packed a lot of content into this thing.
1st Section – Overview
The first 4 or 5 pages contains a brief overview of the 3 types of questions you’ll see in the grammar section of the exam. Although the grammar you learn in this textbook will be important in other sections such reading and listening, you’ll be tested on it specifically in the grammar section of the exam.
Nothing too advanced here. The book simply walks through some of the things to look out for and not only the format of the questions, but what they will be asking about. The N2 goes beyond simply the meaning of the grammar point, but how it is used and with what connotation.
2nd Section – Grammar Points
This is the bulk of the book. There are 26 chapters that cover about 4 to 6 grammar points a piece. The book claims to go over 211 grammar points in total. I’m not sure if they are all there or not, but there is a lot of info about the grammar points.
Each entry in the book comes with linking information to help you understand how that grammar point links to other words in the sentence. For example, does it take a noun in front of it? Does it take the past tense of verb instead of the present tense? This is the type of stuff the test will try to trick you on.
Each grammar point also contains notes on the usage of the grammar point. Some grammar points can only used with commands or warnings while others have to be used with opinions and conjecture. You’ll find that information here. I should also say that NKM goes into much more depth than other books (including it’s predecessor).
At the end of every chapter (2 pages of grammar points) there are two pages of questions that are slightly easier than the real thing. They only have 3 choices instead of 4. Each chapter contains about 3 to 5 questions for each specific grammar point and then a small group of questions that ask about all the grammar points in the chapter.
About every 5 units, there are review units that have questions on par with the real JLPT. These questions are like the ones you will see in the first part of the grammar section of the test. The only problem with this section is that there are no explanations to the questions, so if you get one wrong, you’ll need to do the research yourself.
3rd Section – Test Strategies
This section goes over each of type of question in turn and provides cheat sheets for you to look over before the test. I think this section is incredibly valuable and definitely worth the price of the book alone. I learned a lot of stuff here going over the different problems and puzzling out the answers.
The text grammar part of this section is particularly useful. What you learn there will not only be invaluable for the grammar section of the JLPT, but will also come in handy for the reading section as well. There were a lot of nuances and things I didn’t know about tenses that I picked up from this grammar book.
4th Section – Mock Tests
The final section contains two mock tests for you to work your way through. They contain the same number of questions as the real test and are at the same level of the test as well, so excellent practice. My only problem with the mock tests is that there are no explanations of the answers, so, again, you’ll have to do a little ground work to find out what you got wrong and why.
So-Matome v. New Kanzen Master
These two books – So-Matome N2 Grammar book and the New Kanzen Master N2 Grammar Book – both have their advantages and disadvantages. The So-Matome series is a good way to ease into N2 and learn the grammar and get used to the format, but it is too easy for the real test. Furthermore, some of the example questions are asked in the wrong way.
The New Kanzen Master series is more in line with how difficult the test actually is. I can’t say that after doing this and mastering it you will be completely ready to go for test day, but you will be pretty darn close. However, it does need a tutor or teacher to help you with some of the more difficult questions, so it might not be suitable as the first book you pick up to study for the N2.
Time for You to Weigh In
Have you tried this book out? What did you think of it? Was it a winner or did it fall flat? Let me know in the comments below.
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