N3 is a really weird test. It lays somewhere between N2 and N4, but not a lot of people know what is covered. Before 2010, the legend were clearly labeled and you could actual lists of what was covered. But, when they created the new ‘N’ series of tests, they stopped publishing what was on the test. And so, nobody really knows for sure what is covered.
Even now, there are just a lot of well-educated guesses, which makes the test a lot harder to study for. Previously, you could simply drill drill drill and eventually get through enough previous test questions to ace the exam. The test has been changed to try to measure your real level, and not how well you can drill test questions.
But, having said all that, you have to start somewhere. And there are a few textbook authors that have attempted a best guess of what is covered. So-Matome does a pretty good job of holding your hand through the grammar for the N3 level and giving you the basics. It is very easy to get through, which is its strength and weakness. Overall, you can do worse than the So-Matome N3 Grammar book, but it is still a good tool and your tool kit.
The So-Matome books follow a weekly study pattern and the grammar book is no different. This book is divided into 6 weeks of training. Each week has 6 days of grammar learning and then on the 7th day there is a comprehensive test to check your understanding.
Each daily page covers somewhere between 3 and 5 grammar points. They are usually tied together in some way. For example, the first day covers using the passive voice and the different situations that it would come up. Technically it is one grammar point, but the page breaks it down into 4 different concepts.
Each grammar point gets a short explanation and about 3 or 4 example sentences. There is a handy little box to the right that goes over patterns and how the point is commonly used. Each sentence has a translation in English, Chinese, and Korean.
The translations are very natural. There is no attempt at making it be literal, which can lead to some confusion with some grammar points. However, they do offer a Japanese translation that can prove pretty useful to use. I found myself reading both the English and the Japanese so I can see the point from two different angles to get a clear understanding.
Every daily page also offers up 3 Sentential I questions (choose the right part) and 2 Sentential II questions (unscramble the sentence) that are linked to the grammar points that are covered that day. Sometimes these questions are limited to just two choices, but they commonly have 4 options just like the real test.
What I like About It
The textbook is overall very clear and organized. It is very easy to look up a particular grammar point and see a healthy list of example sentences and how it is used. There is a good list of grammar points in the back to help you look up anything you don’t know pretty easily.
The weekly pattern of studying is extremely useful. Half of getting your studying done is having a good study habit and to have something like this nicely laid out and easy to follow can help you taking the steps forward you need to get all grammar learned before the test. And it just makes it easy to plan for. You can sit down every day, work for about 15 minutes and be done, no big surprises.
There is also plenty of English in this textbook. All of the example sentences have translations and a lot of the notes are well-translated. This can be very helpful with grammar points in order to get the exact meaning of something.
What I don’t like
The grammar questions are just kind of there randomly to give you some understanding of what the questions will be like, but the book doesn’t really go over any strategies of any kind for each type of question.
Although a particular level covers certain grammar points. Those grammar points usually only appear in certain sections of the exam. For example, a lot of the spoken grammar that is covered on the N3 is still treated to the same sentential sentence question treatment. This is okay, but it would be more helpful if they had different kinds of exercises based on the grammar point.
Kanzen Master on the other hand is organized a little bit more differently. There is more of a focus on strategy for each part of the exam. This can be very helpful advice that could earn you a few more points as well make your studying a little more efficient.
There is a mock test at the end of the book, but I would like to have seen another one at least. It would also be good to see the suggested times for each section so that you can get used to reading more quickly to get through the exam.
Generally speaking, there isn’t a real focus on strategy of taking the test. This is just a big list of grammar points and example sentences. This is very useful and worth the price, but they could have added some real value by adding in a few tips on how to pass the test.
This book is a little too easy. Both in terms of the questions asked and how they are asked. The questions for each grammar point are on the opposite page or on the same page where the grammar point is introduced. This makes it very tempting to cheat. And even if you don’t cheat, you just saw the information, so it will probably not have enough time to soak in or soak in superficially.
I would much rather see some exercise that walk you through how to form the grammar point first. Then, you can test your understanding by going through the sentential questions.
This is a great hand-holding introduction into N3 grammar. It makes all very unintimidating and easy to get your hands around. Unfortunately, the real test is going to be a little bit tougher. So is this a bad book? Not necessarily. Just don’t let it lull you into thinking that you have the grammar mastered if all you’ve done is work through this book and completed the questions.
You’ll have to take a few extra steps in order to lock all this stuff in. Write up some journals using the grammar that you used or use it in conversation with your conversation partner. Don’t let just sit there on the page.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.