Review of N5 スピードマスター読解/聴解 (N5 Speed Master Reading / Listening)

Review of N5 スピードマスター読解/聴解 (N5 Speed Master Reading / Listening) post image

J-Research has a few books available for the N5 level. A few weeks ago, I reviewed their mock test book for the N5 level. It offers up a few extra questions to help you prepare for the N5. Although not perfectly on level, it could be helpful in preparing you for the exam.

Today, I’m going to be looking at a set of books that are meant to focus on both reading and listening. Neither one is very big. You could easily work through one in a month or so before the big exam, which is maybe all you need if you are looking for a little extra reading or listening practice at the N5 level.

For those taking the N5, you might have a hard time looking for good reading and listening practice at your material. This is one of the biggest requests I get actually. After all, most material at this level is meant to be as user friendly as possible, but the test goes out of its way to try to trick you with misleading expressions and nuances.

Structure

Both the listening and reading books contain a warming up section, a vocabulary section, practice section and two practice tests. Additionally, the reading book contains a special section detailing the kind of material that you might see on the test as well as some key vocabulary you would need for those particular types of reading.

The reading warming up section contains tips on how to answer certain questions. In particular, it has a pretty good section going over discourse markers. Those are those small words that glue a reading together like そして (and), or だから (so). There is also a section on what type of documents you will see in the reading section, like invitations or blog posts. Listening section warming up, on the other hand, just has basic questions.

Very much like the hypothetical test question book J-Research put out, there seems to be a random number of each question type.

Section of the TestType of QuestionIn the BookActual Test
ReadingComprehension (Short passages)30(6)3
Comprehension (Mid-size passages)12(4)2
Information retrieval10(2)1
ListeningTask-based comprehension29(14)7
Point comprehension23(12)6
Utterance expressions20(10)5
Quick response22(12)6

*The number in () parentheses are in the 2 mock tests at the back of each book.

Good

Both of these books give you concentrated reading or listening practice, which is sometimes hard to find. The questions fairly closely emulate what you will see on the real test. Although they are slightly above the real level of the test, it will help you prepare for the variety of questions you will see on the real thing.

The reading book is especially handy since it is difficult to find appropriate study material for that level sometimes. There really isn’t any source of easy native reading material. You could try to read children’s books in Japanese, but they are obviously geared towards a different audience and might not be that interesting. Even if you are interested in learning about Cinderella, most of the vocabulary and grammar you will learn can’t be applied to the JLPT, so a book like this is pretty handy.

Bad

Honestly, these are good supplements, but I don’t feel like each skill deserves a whole book to itself. These could have been easily put into one book and been pretty valuable. With the amount of material that they currently have in them, they just don’t warrant an individual purchase. The listening book is especially thin on walking people through building up good listening skills. It simply presents a simple overview.

Some of the reading strategies are for higher levels of the test. Again, it is useful to get familiar with these points as soon as possible so that you can practice them as much as possible, but it might be frustrating for some people studying for the N5.

There are virtually no listening strategies at all. They don’t go over any sample questions that you might commonly see or situations. There is just a simple overview of what each section of the exam covers, which can be easily found elsewhere.

Overall

If you feel like you are weak in these areas – reading and listening, pick one or both of these books up. It is a cheap insurance policy and provides extra practice. However, these are not necessary for you to pass the test. They are good supplements to other, more well-rounded books.

The reading practice gives you a decent overview of what to expect, but the listening doesn’t even attempt that. They had a lot of potential to do something here, but they just didn’t give it the time or energy it deserves I feel.

The reading book is available in Japan or worldwide.
The listening book is available in Japan or worldwide.

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