Over a year ago I wrote Tips for Studying for the JLPT N1 and Tips for When you Take the JLPT N1. The I gave general studying advice as well as what to look out for and tips for taking the exam. This post is all about some useful resources for studying for the JLPT N1.
As I said before, I’ve noticed that some people find the N1 very easy and others find it a real challenge. Everyone learns differently and work differently, so some of what I’m suggesting will work for you, some might not.
How to Get Your Bases Covered+
As I mentioned before it’s important to get your lower level (N5-N2) Japanese solid. This means getting strong vocabulary, kanji, and grammar from N5 to N2. Even if you’ve taken the N2 recently it cannot hurt to go back over the basics.
A great resource I’ve found for vocabulary is 日本語単語スピードマスター. I have used 日本語総まとめ and 新完全マスター, as well as various Memrise courses, but I really think the 日本語単語スピードマスター is the best for vocabulary!
日本語単語スピードマスター is great because it’s easy to use and you can get through vocabulary really quickly. It has a LOT of vocabulary that’s not found in other books, and groups them by subjects! It’s also great for kanji based vocabulary reviews.
I suggest using Intermediate to review N2 vocabulary and the Advanced book for N1. The combination of these two books covers over 5300 vocabulary with example sentences!
I’ve been working through these books and have created a Memrise list of words I’m unsure of or don’t know and have been learning them.
Besides Kanji based vocabulary I’ve found it’s incredibly beneficial to go over the 訓読み and 音読み of all kanji. From N5 to N1. There are often odd readings from the lower level kanji that appear in higher levels, so it’s a good idea to revise them. This is also important if you’ve never studied the kanji readings on their own before.
The best tools I’ve found for kanji are Japanese Kanji Study (Android) and Kanji Box (iOS). These are two very different apps but are both great for working on kanji readings, meanings and vocabulary for the JLPT.
I went through the entire 日本語単語スピードマスター books for N2 and N1 but NONE of the kanji in the kanji part of the test I recognized. I STRONGLY suggest you use these apps to learn unknown kanji readings, and words with odd readings. Even if it says the kanji won’t appear in the test.
It’s important to go over previous levels of grammar of course. You might have grammar notes from working on N3 and N2 but if it’s a weak spot I strongly suggest the Try! 日本語能力試験 文法から伸ばす日本語 series.
These books explain grammar fairly well in English and Japanese. (Although there are times I need to confirm the definition online). They also have practice questions in the style of the JLPT reading, listening and grammar questions. This series is also great for learning N1 grammar.
HOWEVER! I stumbled on a study method for grammar that works incredibly well for the exam. All you do it work through a grammar drill book: The Best Way to Study Grammar for the JLPT
Reading and Listening Beyond Textbooks
I mentioned in the last post that it’s important to go through books for reading and listening. 新完全マスター is a great book for practicing reading and listening exercises for the exam. But you need to read others too.
I do like NHK news, but I feel like it’s too easy for JLPT N1 because of the basic grammar and short sentences/articles. In the last JLPT N1 I took there was an article from the Yomiuri Shimbun.
A few resources I suggested in Top 10 Resources for Advanced Japanese include news sites and blogs. Such as: Reuters (focused on business and world news); Nifty ニュース (has a balance of short news articles); IT Media (news on anything to do with IT); and blogs Overseas Blogmura and Ameba.
But there are so many more! It’s good to find a variety of things that interest you and have fun reading them.
As for listening, the exam covers a wide variety of topics and I found listening to NHK news podcasts and trying to take notes of what they’re saying, is a huge help. I also suggest listening to other Japanese podcasts on a variety of topics.
If there is a section you are really weak on, have you ever thought about going though a drill book for that subject?
There are lots of books that focus on a section of the exam and just have questions on them.
All of those books have a multitude of practice questions for the exam and are incredibly useful at working on your weak spots.
There are a few websites that try to create quizzes that are similar to the ones on the exam, but personally I don’t trust them and prefer to go through a book.
It is impossible to find past papers. You can only practice with practice exams written by companies that are similar to the exam. (This is the same with the drill books).
But it is helpful to do some practice exams before the real thing! The more the better.
You can do one just to get an idea of the exam and find your weakness, but I strongly suggest doing timed practice exams. The more the better.
Most people’s weakness on the exam is time. Almost everyone runs out of time and the last few questions often get rushed, which is why practicing them beforehand is so important!
The official JLPT website does have some practice questions, but I don’t feel like it’s enough and it’s only enough for 1 exam. Also be careful, because you can buy practice questions from JLPT themselves, but these are the same questions you can access for free online.
Other books you might want to invest in are:
日本語能力試験 模試と対策 N1
In my last post on advice for the JLPT N1 I suggested giving yourself plenty of time. This is why! It’s not just a matter of studying all the materials but practicing them too. Practice them to a time limit. Especially in the month or two leading up to the exam so you can work on sections you’re struggling with.
Do you have your own advice for the JLPT N1? Let us know on the Facebook Page!