Last year before taking the N1 for the second time, I had a 5 month plan that religiously stuck to. I managed to work my way through all 4 books that I wanted to get through in that time. I went through the So-Matome N1 Listening and Reading books, as well as the New Kanzen Master Listening and Reading books.
The last book that I went through before my month of sword sharpening was the New Kanzen Master Reading Comprehension book for N1. I didn’t do the N2 version of this book, but now, having finished the N1 level version, I wish I had. This is a pretty thick and useful book.
The New Kanzen Master series tends to be more difficult than the exam, especially their grammar books. But, this book seemed to be just about the right level, not easier, not harder. Some of the sections, like the ones that go over the business letters seemed laughably easy to me, but then again maybe that is because I have to read a lot of business letters and things at work and at home.
The New Kanzen Master book takes a different approach to the So-Matome N1 book. Instead of focusing on phrases and vocabulary, NKM focuses more on general reading skills and how to get the answer they are looking for. It walks you through what to do to comprehend the reading passages well.
Format of the Book
The book is divided up into 3 main chapters. The first 2 chapters cover specific strategies for different kinds of reading passages. These go over things like how to answer questions that ask for examples, or paying attention to contrasting statements in the reading. The 3rd chapter goes over real questions that are formated like the ones on the test. Finally, there is the obligatory practice test at the end to see how you are doing.
The first 2 chapters are great because it will walk you through one full-sized example before giving you more passages and questions to practice with. This is better than the So-Matome approach in some ways because you are working with a longer passages and so you can practice more general comprehension skills. For example, you can practice skimming to get a general idea of the meaning of the passage before going back and answering the questions about specific points.
I also like how each answer is explained in the answer key. So, if you get an answer wrong, it tells you specifically why you got it wrong. This really helps you to start to understand the kinds of mistakes you are making with your reading comprehension as well as what tricks the test will most likely have on it and how to look out for them.
Almost feel like the team that is writing the grammar book could learn a thing or two from those that wrote this book. The grammar book for the NKM series has virtually no explanations for why an answer is write or wrong.
What I like about It
There is a lot of reading practice smashed into this book at a pretty good price. There are 68 reading passages (with about 2 or 3 questions each) plus the practice test. You will still need to do reading outside of this to improve your Japanese and to prepare for the test, but with this much material you’ll be pretty prepared for what to expect on the exam.
I love the explanations too. I can’t tell you how much that has helped me narrow down and target my comprehension mistakes. I will most likely work my way through this book again at some point just to refocus and make sure I’ve improved upon my mistakes.
What I don’t like About It
Surprisingly, some of the questions in the book are just a little too easy compared to the real exam. In particular the information retrieval questions (the last section of the reading part) are pretty easy and don’t take much time to answer. On the real exam, the questions for these questions are quite large and wordy (2 to 3 sentences long) and can take a lot of time to find the answer.
A great book and good preparation for the exam. If you have to choose between So-Matome and this book to prepare for the N1, I would probably choose this one over So-Matome. The main reason for that is the amount of material and also the amount of more general strategy that can help in every situation. The So-Matome goes over a few phrases and things that may not come up all the time, but are still pretty useful.
What’s your Take?
Have you used the New Kanzen Master N1 Reading Comprehension book? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments.