People ask from time to time where we get the numbered grammar points from our Tuesday 2級 Grammar sections, so I thought I'd take up some trivia space today and recommend my favorite books.
The 日本語の力試験 実力アップ (JLPT Efficiency UP!) Series is what got me through 3級 with absolutely no problems whatsover, so I figured I'd go for it again this time around. I like it because they're written almost entirely in Japanese, so you have no recourse, no shortcuts...
It's sad, I guess, but growing up in the American school system I learned that the best way to pass tests is not to study the material, but to study the tests themselves. You'd think that knowing Japanese would be enough, but I believe it's actually better to know HOW and what the test is going to ask you. Do a couple of practice tests, and you pick up on patterns; you know what tricks to expect. These books are great for that.
For 3級 there was a book of grammar with practice questions to check your comprehension, and a list of the required kanji in the back. Add to that a book of two mock examinations, and you're all set. The gap between 3級 and 2級 however, is VAST, as you can see by the fact that the same series prints 4 separate books to prepare for 2級: Grammar, Listening, Reading, and Kanji/Vocab.
The Grammar book lists 191 grammar points, each with easy to understand explanations and example sentences, interspersed with practice questions.
The Listening book has drills to help you hear the difference in pronunciations (some that are extremely helpful, like the difference between 8日 (ようか) and 4日 (よっか) and some that are kind of unnecessary, like when じゃない means "isn't it?" and when じゃない means "it isn't." But the main focus of the book is tons and tons of practice for the two types of listening questions on the actual test: those with pictures and those without. It provides lots of helpful hints about things to listen for. On the 3級 test, for example, students listened to a man ordering his coffee and was then asked to describe how he liked it. He ordered by saying 「砂糖をいれずに」 even though 「～ずに」 is a 2級 grammar point. The practice book prepares you for these kind of things.
The Kanji book is my favorite so far. It starts by teaching you kanji that share radicals like (注、柱、駐、主、and, 住) and once you're done with seventy some pages of those, it moves on to kanji that share readings, like (表す、現す、and 著す). I'm about half-way done with this book, practicing by writing them out on flash cards and and then practicing in the same kanji notebooks my elementary school kids use. The better I get at production, the better I get at recognition, which I practice by reading the example sentences provided in the book.
I haven't yet started the Reading book; I'm waiting to finish the Kanji and Grammar, but it seems to be largely the same idea as the Listening. Drill after drill mixed up with tips on what to expect.
And when you're all done with that, there's the same set of practice tests that came with 3級.
If you're planning on taking any of the JLPT tests, you've got about four full months left now. How are you studying?