JLPT N1 Listening Resource: New Kanzen Master N1 Listening

JLPT N1 Listening Resource: New Kanzen Master N1 Listening post image

I took a little break in the middle of August for Obon holiday (some people say Japan’s Festival of the Dead, but without all the people in skeleton costumes).  I told myself I was going to stick to my strict schedule of doing 15 to 30 minutes or so of listening practice every day, but that of course did not happen at all.

But, I’m still on track with my 5 month plan.  I just finished off the Kanzen Master N1 Listening book before the end of August.  The book was a lot like what I had expected.  I went through the New Kanzen Master N2 book to prepare for that test, so this one was much of the same, only with more advanced concepts and more difficult vocabulary.

The New Kanzen Master series focus more on listening strategies than vocabulary or grammar.  They do, however, cover a few phrases and differences in meaning between different intonation, which is a tricky skill to master.  I felt like there were times when they strayed away and used vocabulary that was just a little more difficult than the test, and some of the questions were definitely a lot trickier.

I think if you had to pick up only one book for the listening section of the N1, this would be it.  However, it is best to try to diversify and get as much listening practice as you can for the test with some other listening books that are available for this level like, the So-Matome book.

jlpt N1 new kanzen master listening

Purple Listening Book of Wonders.

Format of the Book

There are basically 3 main sections of the book divided into 8 chapters.  The first section, which contains only one chapter, goes over each type of question in turn and gives you a basic overview of what to do on the test.  I like this section a lot because it gets you ready for what to expect in each of the chapters that drill a particular question.

The second, and main, section of the book has one short chapter on listening for tricky sounds followed by 5 chapters that go over the skills needed to answer each question.  The first chapter is especially useful because it goes over those tricky sounds that we all get messed up, even at higher levels.  Things like where the っ is in a word, or whether it is しょう, しょ or しょお.

In general, each of these sections fill you in on what listening strategies will specifically work on each of the questions.  They also go over what kinds of questions to expect, so you are not caught by surprise.  I like how a lot of the example questions are specifically-formulated to focus on a particular skill that you need to master.

Some of these strategies are quite useful.  For example, there are some basic strategies on how to take notes that can really make the difference with a lot of the listening questions where they don’t ask you the question first.  Other questions are just down right nasty, but these are still pretty useful in the sense that you are going to have to get used to guessing the answer to a few questions.

There are some lists of phrases to practice, but for the most part NKM is all about the strategy.  If you are looking for more practice with the vocabulary that can get easily confused, the So-Matome book covers this quite well.

What I like About It

This book is tough and teaches you a lot of the difficult skills you need to master on the test.  During the ending practice test I seemed to get most of the questions right except two sections: the third and fifth sections.  In these sections, I almost completely failed!  A little bit due to vocabulary and a little bit due to the sheer difficulty of these questions.  Even when I read the script it took me twice to figure out why exactly the correct answer was what it was even though I knew all the vocabulary.

And I prefer this.  I want something more difficult than the test, so when I go to take the test it is easier and I can be more confident.

What I don’t like About It

Some of the strategies they go over seem to be good in theory, but not in practice.  More like things you should keep in mind and not actually do.  Also, the NKM series is famously short on explanations and this book is no exceptions. For example, there are not a lot of pointers on how to physically take notes, should I write everything down?  Just kanji?  Write in romaji if I can’t write kana fast?


This is a great primary book for the N1.  If you are only thinking about buying one book for listening this would be it.  I would recommend picking up So-Matome as well, just keep your bases covered though.

What’s your Take?

Have you used the New Kanzen Master N1 Listening book to study with?  How did you feel about it?  Let me know in the comments.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Mariano September 15, 2012, 2:34 pm

    Thanks for the review, I was looking forward to it. One think is working for me to practice listening at home: Although I forced myself my first year in Japan, except for the news I don’t like Japanese tv, actually cant stand it. Now I found a few sites with western series dubbed in japanese so im rewatching some stuff in Japanese. That plus the rental dvd I can find.

    How do you feel about watching variety shows for picking up vocabulary? I thought its good for casual conversation but not very much for work/school/formal use.

    • Mac September 16, 2012, 12:29 am

      Yeah, variety shows aren’t exactly full of JLPT vocab. I think jDramas are a good fit though. Especially ‘everyday’ type dramas, not like crime dramas or something based off anime where all the characters are overgeneralized and extreme.

      I would think the western series dubbed would be great practice because you don’t have to crack through the culture barrier to get jokes and general story lines.

  • lazuli August 16, 2013, 7:31 pm

    new book to buy, thanks! xD

    • Clayton MacKnight August 25, 2013, 11:59 pm

      This proved invaluable for my test prep. I don’t have any serious issues with listening anymore (just need to build up vocabulary).

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