JLPT N1 Study Resources

While having a study method that matches your style of studying is the most important thing, choosing the right material to study with, is often the deal maker or breaker. A book can encourage or discourage you from studying. Take Soumatoume series for example. They are the most easiest books to study from – they save you the effort of how to plan and study from the book as well. Probably the only point that Shinkanzen Masuta series lack in comparison.

Coming fresh from N2 (just last December-passed with Total- 130 [Vocab- 35|Reading-50|Listening-45]), I decided that attacking N1 right off the bat would be a good idea. I did register for 5th July 2020 and I do want to study seriously so that I don’t go into a shock in July. 😀 Hence, here I am trying to create a shock absorbent plan. On a serious note, I do aim to pass N1 this year. I really can’t put it off anymore. Appearing for it again and again to get a better score or to brush up the knowledge is a different story. I know it will be a tall order to clear it in six months and me being a full time employed – commuting 3 hours everyday kind of person doesn’t make it any easier. But let’s just try, shall we?

MoJI-Goi (文字ー語彙)

  • Soumatoume Kanji
  • A nameless Goi book – this is sensei’s given material and what I found interesting was that it has the vocab and sentence usage. A very important thing to learn is knowing the context of the vocab.
  • Power Drill N1 Moji-goi – this is for solving purposes

I am starting with Soumatoume kanji book. It is divided into 8 weeks and that makes it super convenient. So while I am studying one page every day, I am also feeding those words in Anki deck creating week-wise sub decks (this is for the time being , once I am done with the book, I will combine all into a single deck). I have found that Anki really helps me get things efficiently done in short amount of time. (I am also feeding in the root meaning of new kanjis that come in the vocab. This helps with memorization through context.)

The catch here is that I don’t find enough time each day to go through the one page chapter and enter it in anki as well and this absolutely has to be done simultaneously so that you don’t waste anymore time in doing the anki procedure again. This is one of the N2 learnings. But given that, I think I will have to spread it through 3 months March-April-May so that it doesn’t bog me down. I am a bit skeptical about feeding vocab in the brain just through words hence, finding context while learning the words has been my inclination. Going through N2 vocab deck regularly is also a task that I deem of having a special importance. I will start with Nihongo Power Drill moji-goi book somewhere mid-April.

I am also giving a special importance to this section because my N2 test and result taught me that I lack in Goi which is an otherwise very scoring section. Hence, it’s definitely an area where I want to get really be better at.

Grammar (文法)

  • Shinkanzen Masuta(SKM) N1 Grammar book
  • An easier sensei’s grammar book which I think has fewer patterns than SKM but very easy sentences.
  • Try! N1 文法から伸ばす book

The question here is why the need for 3 books for a relatively small section of the exam. Two books are anyways necessary whether you choose SKM (I personally loved the N2 book and this is a definite must for me albeit a tedious one) or Soumatoume(I am not using this because sensei’s grammar book is a nice replacement) so that most of the grammar points are covered. Understanding-wise, referring to two books is beneficial since you also get to revise with more examples while doing the second book and you also understand somethings better from one book than the other. The third book because I really need that solving practice and ‘Try’ offers that. From my lackluster score of N2 in vocab and grammar section what I didn’t expect was to get a ‘B’ in grammar and ‘A’ in vocab. I thought it would be the other way. Although I don’t think I lack in grammar in general but still; I will have to take into account my score and study accordingly.

‘Try’ is the book that I am looking forward to most out of the lot. Not only does it have a different pattern compared to the normal grammar books but also that many reviewed it as a book that bridges gaps between understanding from previous levels.

Getting example sentences into Anki for each pattern has been my go to revision method, especially in the last month when you can quickly go through a lot of patterns in short amount of time without having to carry the books. I also prepared an N2 Grammar deck with1-2 examples for each pattern along with important pointers.

Nihongo no Mori on Youtube is also an excellent source.

Dokkai (読解)

  • Shinkanzen Masuta N1 Dokkai
  • Soumatoume N1 Dokkai?/ or some other series , I haven’t decided yet but probably I will stick with soumatoume as a second book.

The section which makes most japanese student’s brain pop out is surprisingly my favourite section. Not that it doesn’t hurt my brain but I did take special efforts into it since N2 and I can’t be more happy with the result of 50/60 last year. Coming from N2 SKM dokkai book, I definitely knew the N1 book is something that I should start immediately. My strategy is solving 2 passages per day and finish the book by the end of April (it would take a couple of months if you persevere and solve just 2 each day). Again, I am feeding the abundant new vocab into Anki. Once I am done with this book I will move on to the easier Soumatoume dokkai for more practice. Since N1 is also about extra reading and as much as reading as possible, I have included the below resources in my schedule.

The aim is to try and read at least one article per day outside of the exam books.

Choukai (聴解)

  • Shinkanzen Masuta Choukai /Soumatoume Choukai

Studying for choukai was a novel part for me in N2. Until then I never particular studied choukai from any book except solving papers on youtube before the exam. I have been listening to Japanese songs even before I started learning Japanese formally and later immersed into watching movies/animes/dramas. So that is majorly responsible for choukai being a strong section for me , a section that I never struggled with except N2 but for totally different reasons that I will account in N2 experiences. So 45/60 is still good in that context and only in that context.

The best way that actually increases your listening skills exponentially is to find a drama/movie of your favourite genre (mine is either slice of life or romance-a good one and not the high school cringy ones. read ‘boys over flowers’/’Good morning call’- please, I can’t stand it) and watch or listen to the episodes again and again. You pick up the phrases and patterns involuntarily and start imitating- a doubly whammy!

So I will probably go through shinkanzen masuta book in May. Lately due to hectic schedule I can’t really include a lot of stuff but I plan to shift to asadoras(they have short 15 min episodes) or listening to podcasts or japanese youtube videos/NHK news (although news is really heavy) . Apart from listening to occassional NHK news podcast , I also found this podcast with limited but very interesting material : https://jlptstories.com/ .

Exam Prep

  • Gokaku Dekiru N1 – A very important practice book in my opinion.
  • Sample papers – as many as possible
  • Solving the mock exams which is the last section in SKM books.

Hopefully, this helps you plan your studies as well. Also, if you guys have any suggestions as to what I should include or exclude, please do let me know in the comments. Since, I am appearing for N1 first time, I can always do with all the help that is out there.

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