JLPT N2 Grammar Resource: New Kanzen Master N2 Grammar

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.
New Kanzen Master N2 Grammar

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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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Andrew January 16, 2012, 3:48 pm

    Somatome v. Kanzen

    For N2 studying i focused mostly on grammar and did kanzen and it was tough. I feel like I learned a lot but wouldn’t have been possible without a Japanese teacher or grammar encyclopedia. For n1 though I switched it up and went so-matome focusing mostly on vocab and slightly on grammar. The book was easier and possibly lighter material wise than kanzen but helped me get a good intro b4 this years December test.

    Based on my experience, My opinion is. If u have time do both starting with somatome. If u don’t have time maybe just somatome.

    • Mac January 22, 2012, 3:54 am

      I totally agree with this recommendation. I felt like So-Matome gave me a smooth introduction to the grammar, but New Kanzen Master was kind of like boot camp forcing you to study hard and be ready for the test.

      • Japaneselearner February 6, 2015, 3:31 pm


        I have to admit, that in my opinion, the sou-matome series textbooks are not a suitable preperation. I am looking forward to work through the quick mastery N2 series, which seem to be much better than the soumatome series.

        What I can definitely recommend and is in common with both your thoughts, are the Kanzen Master series. They are worth every cent.

        What do you suggest about the quick mastery series?

        • Clayton MacKnight February 8, 2015, 3:38 am

          I haven’t used the quick mastery series that much to be honest. I think if I go back to concentrating on JLPT study, I might pick up a few. I’ve heard they are pretty good, but to be honest, for N2 and N1, no textbook is going to fully prepare you. You have to do a lot of outside study.

          • Japaneselearner February 8, 2015, 5:33 pm

            Actually, that were also my thoughts.

            I did and still doing a lot of practice in Japanese, like reading newspapers online (Asahi or Yomiuri Shinbun), then I do a lot of reading practice with Japanese manga and when I still have the time, practicing on my 3NDS the Kanji part using my Kanken training DS Carts.

            For listening, I am watching Japanese drama series and sometimes also Animes and if a newspaper site has got additional listening features as well.

            But unfortunately I have to confess, that I now have failed the N2 exam twice and in the end I always detected, maybe I should have been giving more focus on the textbooks.

            I watched on youtube a video from a female English teacher (Emily is her name) and she actually bought a lot of N2 textbooks, there were the Soumatome series, the pink small one from Ask Publishing, the U-CAN textbooks and last but not least the mentioned Quick Mastery N2 textbooks. With only these textbooks, she passed the exam with flying colours. So I guess, all the secret about the Japanese Proficiency lies in the textbooks, perhaps?^^

            Anyway, if you have further recommendations I would be very grateful for that.

            Kind regards


  • Nick July 31, 2012, 5:17 am

    How does this book compare to the old kanzen master? Is it the same but with just a different name?

    • Mac August 1, 2012, 2:45 pm

      It’s pretty different. This revised version focuses on the strategies that are needed to pass the test by going over each a specific section in the back of the book. There are also some handy cheat sheets for the kind of grammar points that will show up in different sections of the grammar part of the exam. It is probably easily twice as thick too.

  • Nagareboshi August 9, 2012, 11:43 am

    Hi mac!

    I am going to take the N2 this december, which will be the first time for me. I’m currently working my way through the book, and I, just like you, started with the 総まとめ books to have an easy start. I like the Shin Kanzen Master book for several reasons. The explanations are clear and easy to follow, and even when answering questions wrong, the correct answer in the back of the book, and going over the wrongly answered questions once more is enough for me, to notice why my answer was wrong and to avoid it in the future.

    What I also like are the books big quizzes every 5th, 10th, 15th … chapter. It goes 5th day – day 1-5, 10th day – day 1-10, 15th day – day 1-15, so there is a constant repetition. This is an interesting method, as it makes every big quiz a little bit harder, and because the questions could ask for any one grammar points from the past chapters. I bet at the last chapter, it will be as difficult as the real test, due to the number of possible grammar points, to draw questions as well as right and wrong answers from.

    I also like the many pointers, when to use grammar points, what to look out for, when it is used and in which cases it isn’t. There are also hints in the example sentences and in the easier quizzes in every other chapter. And they are also only easy, because the grammar points are already incorporated, except for the last 4 or 5 questions.

    I really do hope that this book will up my chances to pass the section on the real test. Which of course mainly depends on my ability to remember it all. 🙂

    • Mac August 11, 2012, 2:35 am

      The last section that went over text grammar, and the sentential sentences (scrambled sentences) were a real help for me. I think that section alone increased my score by a good 4 or 5 points. I don’t think I could have passed without this book. Great resource.

  • Keisha B. November 6, 2013, 12:34 pm

    Hey Mac!

    I think this is the first comment I’ve left on your site so first I’d like to say a HUGE THANK YOU for everything you put into jlptbootcamp. The articles and resources are great and I love all the hard work you put into studying Japanese.

    Have you looked through the So-Matome N3 books? I know here you’ve mentioned that their N2 books won’t fully prepare or challenge you enough for the N2, so I’m wondering if the same goes for the N3 books. I’m currently preparing for the N3 and 新完全マスターN3文法 was the first thing I picked up. (I’m in love with it, haha.) I’m also planning on getting 聴解 too, but sadly after that that’s it for the Kanzen Master series in N3. (At least there are a wider range of books for the N2 when I’m ready to aim for that level. T^T) I’ve been thinking about picking up the So-Matome books but I’m not sure if I should or if there’s something better.

    • Clayton MacKnight November 9, 2013, 11:45 pm

      I would say the So-Matome books are pretty good for the N3 level. I have the grammar book, and it offers a different perspective, as well as extra practice. I don’t have any experience with any of the other books (vocabulary, listening, reading). There really aren’t a lot of good books for that particular level. I think because book makers don’t have a lot to use as reference, a lot of guess work.

      JapanesePod101 also has an N3 course that you might want to check out, too.

      • Keisha B. November 10, 2013, 10:40 pm

        Thanks for the response! I’ll check out JP101’s course.

        • Luis December 16, 2013, 7:44 pm

          The so-matome books are perfect if you don´t have any idea how the test will be, I used it for the N3 and think my results would be good because sincerlly all the kanjis that so matome has appear in the test. The grammar point is exactly like the test, vocabulary is so special because you learn a lot of words with out any difficulty and this was great for me. I have all series of N3, and for N2 i have all but listening book, but I´ll start with this books because are easier than Shin Kanzen Master, There are one year from now to complete the So matome Books and the Shin Kanzen Master, i have other books too, but i ´ll focuse on it.
          Sorry for my bad english I´m from Mexico

          • Keisha B. January 8, 2014, 12:53 am

            Thanks for replying. It sounds like they make for very good N3 practice if a lot of their material is on the test and they explain things well.

  • Priyanka June 2, 2016, 8:38 am

    Request you to please provide the JLPT Levels material to prepare all the sections online.
    Especially from the books – Kanzen Master, New kanzen Mastera and Soumatome etc.

  • JH April 21, 2018, 11:24 am

    This is a very good and comprehensive textbook and I highly recommend it as it helps to improve your overall language ability if you use it correctly. I normally learn the grammar first and then do the practice questions to see if I have understood the grammar points well. I just completed lesson 21 and I think have understood the points fairly well. I also review the grammar points regularly and try to use them in conversation because I tend to forget them if I don’t use them often. I also have N3 and N4 Shin Kanzen Grammar and they are also very good. I also have the reading book for N2 and N3. I have not started using the N2 book though.

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