JLPT Journal #1: pick up resources

Welcome to the first entry of my JLPT journal!

The first step for me is to select the textbooks I want to study with. In 2017, I sat the JLPT N2 in July and December. I studied with the So-matome series for July and the Shin Kanzen series for December.

I thought that I would more or less do the same for the JLPT N1 but reading tips from people who already passed N1 dissuaded me from doing so. The most enlightening tips I found were from Japanese Talk Online. From what I gather, the JLPT N1 is not really associated with a defined set of grammar rules and vocabulary like the previous levels. You are more or less supposed to know everything. As a result, it is better to be done with the textbooks long before the test and spend more time practising, reading and listening.

Instead of working first with So-matome and then Shin Kanzen as I did last time, I will try to be done with all the vocabulary, kanji and grammar textbooks before the end of the Summer.

These are the resources I will use:

Vocabulary: 日本語単語スピードマスター

Here again, I must thank Japanese Talk Online for this resource. This book looks really great, very thorough and easy to use. I like that the words are sorted by topic and have at least one example sentence. What I like the most, is that you can review directly using the book thanks to the red card that hides the pronunciation and meaning. This year, I have decided to not add the N1 to my Anki deck, so I am grateful to be able to review using the book.

Grammar: 3 resources!

Grammar is my weak point compared to vocabulary and kanji. Learning N2 grammar was a nightmare. I just could not understand the difference between similar grammar points or remember how they are used. This is why I chose three resources to tackle the grammar of N1:

So-matome Grammar

I don’t think that the So-matome book is thorough enough. It looks suspiciously thin! However, I like that the grammar points are grouped by meaning. I also like the layout of the book and the illustrations. The Shin Kanzen book also introduces the grammar points sorted by meaning, but I find this series to be more intimidating for a start.

The So-matome is not perfect, it only has two or three example sentences per grammar which is not enough. Also, they do not explain the grammar, they only give an easier equivalent in Japanese.

Strong point: Grammar points are sorted by meaning

JLPT 콕콕 찍어주마 N1 문법

I chose this book because it has a lot of sentences for each grammar. The example sentences are using the same format than the test questions for grammar, which is interesting. Generally speaking, I find the Korean textbooks for the JLPT to be more strategy-oriented than the Japanese ones. (I will write a more detailed review of this book with pictures).

What I don’t like is that the grammar points are presented one after the other in alphabetical order, there is no attempt to group them by meaning like in So-matome. Finally, the explanations are in Korean, which is overwhelming to me.

Strong point: a lot of example sentences and a strategical approach.


If you are struggling with grammar, this is a must-have! It is a dictionary, so you cannot really use it on its own to study. But it is a perfect complement to a method like So-matome. Each grammar has a lot of example sentences and an explanation in Japanese that is both precise and concise.

Strong point: a lot of example sentences and a concise explanation in Japanese for each grammar.

Kanji: So-matome

I like both the So-matome and the Shin Kanzen book to learn the kanji. For N2, I found that So-matome was better for learning and Shin Kanzen for reviewing and practising. This is why I only bought the So-matome method for now, and I will get the Shin Kanzen when I am done with the So-matome.

I will spend the whole month of January reviewing the kanji of N2 so I will start this book only in February. However, I did have a look at it and it looks like there is a huge gap between N2 and N1. 😨

That’s it for a start! I think that at some time in the year, I will get the whole Shin Kanzen series (except vocabulary). I think that the methods I have now will keep me busy for the first half of the year!