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.
You can pick the book up at Amazon(Japan), Amazon(US) or White Rabbit Press Worldwide
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
I may have no experience with this or any other grammar book, but one thing stood out for me: “Write up some journals using the grammar that you used or use it in conversation with your conversation partner.”
Use it, or lose it. This is a problem I have myself. I can drill vocab all day, but it won’t stick unless I use it and hear it being used multiple times. There is still so much grammar that I just don’t recognise. Perhaps a routine like the N3 総まとめ book encourages is just what I need to push me to keep improving.
Would you recommend the Shin Kanzen Master N3 series over the Sou Matome n3 series?
I haven’t tried Shin Kanzen Master for the N3 level yet, but, in general, Kanzen Master is more true to the level / in-depth, while So-Matome is easier to get through and clearer.
I took the N3 last December and passed it. I have Kanzen Master N3 Reading/Grammar and Sou Matome N3 Reading/Grammar.
I find Kanzen Master Grammar very informative as it lists down all the ways to use a particular grammar point (e.g. ばかり, よう, わけ, ぐらい). There are many example sentences for a grammar point (but no translations are provided). Explanations for grammar points are provided in Japanese, English and Chinese for easy reference. Each lesson is followed by some exercises to test your understanding. There are review exercises every 3-5 lessons. There are 2 practice tests at the end of the book. I think the actual difficulty of the grammar section is slightly easier than Kanzen Master exercises. But it is still a very good book to prepare for the exam. Most of all the N3 grammar are used frequently in conversation so you need to master them.
Sou Matome Grammar groups similar grammar points together and there is a small exercise after every lesson. Translations are given for all example sentences. On the 7th day of each week, there is a review exercise and the questions are like JLPT. But bear in mind the actual exam is harder than Sou Matome Grammar. The actual N3 has longer sentences. I think Sou Matome Grammar is a good introductory book if you are just starting to prepare for N3. There are many pictures which keeps you motivated (Kanzen Master Grammar is a bit dry). But you definitely need more than just Sou Matome. I used Sou Matome before Kanzen Master.
All in all, both books are good in different aspects. I think Sou Matome Grammar is a good introductory book for N3 but it is a bit too easy for the exam. Kanzen Master Grammar is a decent choice as it has more practice exercises. Some grammar points which are covered in Kanzen Master are not covered Sou Matome. Likewise, the opposite is also true. If you don’t have much money and only want to buy one grammar book, I recommend getting Kanzen Master Grammar.
As for reading.. both books are very useful as they have many tips on how to find the correct answer. Sou Matome starts off with easy things like infomation retrieval and the difficulty increases gradually as you proceed. On the 7th day of each week, there is a timed practice test to test your reading skills. Kanzen Master has more exercises and it sorts out exercises by the type of questions (short passages, mid-size passages, long passages, information retrieval) you see in exam. There is a practice test at the end of the book. I think both Sou Matome and Kanzen Master are good. But if you are running time I recommend buying Kanzen Master Reading.
I did not use the vocabulary and listening book for Kanzen Master and Sou Matome so I don’t want to comment much.
I used Sou Matome Kanji and I think it is still fairly decent. Though if you are getting the kanji book I recommend getting an exercise book to practise writing kanji if you are not used to it. I did not use Kanzen Master Kanji so I don’t know much.
All these comments only apply to N3. Hope it helps.
I’m not sure about N2 and N1 because I have not taken it yet. I’m currently preparing for N2 and I only have Sou Matome N2 Reading (it is a fairly decent book). I wonder if I should buy Try N2 or Shin Kanzen Grammar..
Hey thanks so much for this review, it has really helped me in making a decision of which book to go with. I won’t be taking the N3 test until December and I am quite new to N3 grammar so I think I will start with the Sou matome and then move on to the Kanzen master book later on. I appreciate the help thank you!
No problems! Good luck with the test!