Hello fellow students! I hope I didn't overlook a topic which could answer these questions for me, if so I am sorry > <
I am thinking of trying for the December JLPT next year, level N1. I barely passed the N2 a year ago, so I feel like I should change my study regimen. Currently my main resource is renshuu, which I supplement with Nihongo no Mori and other websites. I would like to get a book to structure my studies and for practice exercises. I was thinking of maybe the 新完全マスター series or the 日本語総まとめ series. My budget is limited and since I don't have any Japanese bookstores in the vicinity I would probably have to import them which is quite expensive as well(I live in a small European country), so if anyone knows some online resources that are good it would be appreciated.
I was wondering if you have passed the N1, what resources, ways of studying helped you to pass. If you are using either one of those series I am curious what you think of them (or maybe have another book that you use) and what the pro's and con's are.
I passed the N1 several years ago mostly using the 日本語総まとめ series and some other resources. I would say both that series and the 新完全マスター series have their own benefits and problems. The 日本語総まとめ books have some typos and a few of the quizzes list the wrong correct answer, but the main issue is that the translations are generally poor, if not outright wrong. If you ignore the provided translations and just rely on the Japanese text, I think the books are still pretty useful, and I found that the quizzes and tests included were more helpful in preparing for the actual test than the ones in the 新完全マスター books. I would say that the 新完全マスター books are more professionally done, but you will definitely end up being overprepared if you study all the material in them. You can see that as a good or bad thing, I'll just say that the actual test material when I took it was a lot easier than the stuff in the 新完全マスター books. Also, one cautionary note: the 新完全マスター books are more professionally done, so you may feel that means the material is more trustworthy, but that's not necessarily the case; it still has occasional errors, mainly because it seems to take a prescriptivist approach to grammar.
I would say doing a lot of practice exercises modeled after the actual test helped me a lot, since a lot of people trip up over the format if they aren't used to it. You can find some materials online, but there are also books you can buy with just practice quizzes and tests in them, including several supplements to the 日本語総まとめ books. Doing a lot of reading and listening practice with native materials was also key; I believe I was one of the only people in my test group to actually finish the entire reading section (with time to spare!), which I owe to reading both light novels and non-fiction books without using a dictionary. Reading without the help of reference materials will improve your reading speed, and also improve your ability to read around the parts you don't understand, a skill I think a lot of people lack. And I think it's important that you don't only read fiction, since the N1 level material covers a lot of formal grammar patterns and compound nouns that you're not going to find in most novels, and on the actual test, the reading section will contain a lot of essay-like material, rather than novel excerpts; fiction is good for improving your vocab and grammar skills, though. For listening practice, I watched a lot of anime I hadn't seen before without subtitles, and played Japanese videogames with extensive voice acting. Finally, in the month or so leading up to the test, I crammed vocab on renshuu, putting all the N1 vocab in a schedule, then studying all available terms each day. This was before there were grammar questions on renshuu, but I imagine studying those would be helpful as well.
As far as sources, I've used White Rabbit Japan and Amazon Japan to order a lot of my books, you may be able to get stuff from there if they ship to your country. I also get some of my reading material from my local Bookoff and Kinokuniya stores, not sure if they have those or anything similar in Europe.
@htatsuha Thank you for your quick reply! And really elaborate too :o I actually hoped books would be a bit more reliable than the internet in terms of mistakes. I wonder if I am able to pick out all mistakes without starting to doubt myself too much :( My current preference probably would go to the 新完全マスター series over the 日本語総まとめ. I don't mind being over prepared and I won't get distracted by translations (which I tend to read before I read the Japanese because it is just easier to grab at a glance still... saying that I should just read a lot more Japanese. Thank you for the tip about reading things aside from fiction is really good. Reading is definitely a weakness. Do you have any websites or books that you can recommend for that? Also I probably should get a book with practice questions.
I was thinking of ordering with cd japan, since I saw they do sell some books and I find the easiest to navigate thus far. Also I have a friend who successfully bought stuff from there. I don't think Amazon is active here :/
Thank you for the elaborate reply again. It clearly has given me more ideas about how to proceed with my studies.
Oh, the books are pretty reliable in general, especially the 新完全マスター series, it's just there might be some points where it'll say, for example, "this grammar pattern can only be used with nouns and adjectives", when it's used all the time with verbs in casual/slang Japanese. So the information is correct enough for taking the test, it just might not match up with real language use by actual Japanese people. Maybe I shouldn't call it "mistakes", so much as a very specific view of how the Japanese language should function. Kinda like how some English teachers think you shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction, even though people do it all the time. The 新完全マスター books should be good prep books for you, just make sure you allow enough time to get through them, as they cover a LOT of material.
As far as reading goes, for nonfiction, there's a lot of websites you can use. Japanese Wikipedia and NHK (not the simplified version) or other news sites are pretty good, but really, reading any site in Japanese will be helpful. I'm not too sure about fiction, but I imagine there are public domain works that you might be able to get for free online. Unfortunately, most of the online fiction resources I'm aware of are more appropriate for the lower levels of the JLPT test; you may be able to find other recommendations elsewhere on this forum. But I have found some stuff on https://forum.koohii.com/forum... before, you may find it helpful. As far as physical books, anything written for teenagers or adults would be good prep; for example, in the lead up to my test, I read several of the Sword Art Online light novels, The Ring, and a few Japanese history and linguistic books that I had previously read in English during college.
CD Japan should be good, I used to order stuff from there all the time. I forgot they did textbooks now too. It looks like they also sell some light novels and other books, that might be a good resource for you to get reading material.
Thank you. If it is just slang I'll probably be fine. Spoken language is in most languages not technically grammatically correct. I'll probably inquire with my Japanese friends if they have some recommendations for interesting reading resources. Getting a book with essays or a more slice of life story might be good.