How should I target N3 grammar?

Hi at all,

I was actually aiming for my first JPLT certificate (N4) in summer, but due to poor city planning I’d have to travel a bit farther then I’d like to :slight_smile: A closer city is possible in winter and now I’m thinking whether it is feasible to get up to N3 level within this time span (Doing N4 in winter for me feels kind of a bummer when I should technically have achieved more in this time span)

Vocabulary coverage should not be a problem (I made an estimation with unofficial lists), reading is safe as well but I DO have a huge grammar gap (I made a N4 mock tests and passed but…grammar more…luck based cough)

I have only done Genki I and the complete Living Language Series (Advanced might cover around 20-30% of Genki II) and am starting with Genki II right now. I read that Genki II is needed completely for the N4. So I’d have to go trough 12 chapters here.

But for N3? Complete Tobira?
What about Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide? Does it go beyond N4 level?
And also: Are the Nihongo So-Matome books any good?
I read some reviews but somehow I can’t figure out exactly how they should be used. I guess they are more review kind of thing but not like a text book where they teach grammar etc.? (I’d also like to get the 500 quiz thingie if some can recommend it)

How long did it take you to go from N4 to N3? And with how much time per day?

I’m usually investing 2 hours a day for learning, reading, repetition. To be honest I was neglecting grammar for quite a time now because of cramming vocabulary (I’m addicted and this is not a good thing…I have a basic vocabulary knowledge of 3000 words with around 1000 Kanji (in compound words) by now but I REALLY need to make a break because Anki reviews are killing me)

Thanks a lot for any advice and your opinion on this matter :blush:

P.s. I just love how chill everyone on this board is <3 I’ve seen so many communities in my life but usually in every thread there were persons giving harsh comments or bringing other people down. So let me say that I’m really grateful for all of you and that I’m able to ask things without worrying to much :smiley:


I passed N3 after finishing maybe two-thirds to three-quarters of Tobira, but I couldn’t say whether or not that’s necessary. Some of my classmates did N2 at the same time. I did N5 after one year, and then N3 after three. Never did N4.

Sorry, I don’t have anything useful to say, but I’m considering taking a JLPT and I imagine N3 would be the most sensible option, so I’m commenting to ensure I check out any replies!


Don’t forget to also consider the Shin Kanzen Master series – i.e. 新完全マスター文法 日本語能力試験N3 ベトナム語版 | スリーエーネットワーク (or at Amazon: )


I like the So-Matome books but you don’t necessarily need the whole series and you should think carefully which ones you need. For example, do you need the kanji one since you’re already doing WaniKani etc etc. I have the reading comprehension ones for levels N3-N1 and I really like them because they have English and Korean translations which suits me well because I’m studying them too. And you can find new vocab and expressions in them too.

And definitely check out Tae Kim, Bunpro and nihongonomori youtube channel. Also, have you read through the ultimate resource list here on the forums? It might take a while to find the right learning method for you but there really are tons of options.


i feel like we’re kind of in the same boat… only your vocabulary and kanji knowledge are way better than mine. I think that if you can make it through tobira by the end of the year, you’d probably be able to pass N3. but this is JUST CONJECTURE. how are you with listening? you mentioned you’re alright with reading… but, i don’t see how that’s possible if you have a huge grammar gap? do you mean you can read individual words? because if you’re able to extrapolate the meaning and stuff… you must have at least some basic grammar knowledge.

i have the n4 and n3 sets of soumatome books. i bought these when i was thinking of taking jlpt way before i was actually ready, with the hopes that i could use them to actually very quickly learn all of the grammar concepts i needed. this is and isn’t so. They are really great for REVIEW. so if you pretty much have the grammar concepts, i think they’d be a really great refresher. They are also pretty alright if you want to use them alongside a supplementary source. what i found really helpful was to read through the stuff in the soumatome books and then look up that stuff somewhere else like imabi for more complete and detailed information on the topic, or i’d ask one of my japanese friends about it. most of the grammar points i studied that way, did kind of stick with me. However, if you intend to use them as a substitute for a textbook, (which was what i was kind of thinking i could do) it’s a bad idea. They just aren’t thorough enough.

Hope that helps… gambatte!!!


I just took N4 while going to class using the Genki books. While I did not pass due to various failings, I can assure you that if you get up to chapter 18 of Genki II then you will have zero problems with N4 (provided you are more studious than me).

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i forgot to mention… i’ve used the 500 problem quizbook things. i kind of really like those. they are set up so that you can go through them several times and compare your results to previous times going through them. i thought that was kind of neat.

and also, soumatome books do have brief explanations. they are like very mini-lessons. but if you don’t already understand the grammar concept, they just won’t really help you a whole lot…

i second normful’s shin kanzen master series… i have one or two of those as well. sometimes i just buy things 'cause buying new books and learning stuff can help me with motivation or something.

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I passed N4 in December and I’m trying to work out the best approach to advance towards N3 but I don’t have an exact answer. I got the sou matome N3 vocab book and I’m SRSing content from there using custom entries into Houhou. I also visit NHK Easy web news every day or two and try reading an article or two.

Once I’ve got through most of the sou matome book I will start to study grammar, reading and listening (maybe not all at once but overlapping where it makes sense and time allows.) I’m thinking about getting Tobira but I haven’t committed to that yet. I’m not exactly sure how much study/practice is going to be needed before I can even think about taking on the actual exam, so I’m interested to hear what everyone else is doing or has done.

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Also aiming for N3; also have a lot of work to do! Thanks @Akiho for posting.


So I never took the N4 but before i came to Japan I think I was around that level. If that estimate is correct, it took me ~4 months from N4 to N3 with 2 months of full time study at a language shool. I mainly improved my grammar and listening and speaking there, since I had the Kanji already covered with WaniKani and a pretty good vocabulary pool for N3.

As for Strategy. I prefer getting a fast overview over most of the grammar poinis with the “Try!” series. After that get the grammar book of 新完全マスター and others that I feel I need for that level (reading, listening, etc). Tobira is nice, but since it is not aimed at a specific level and the workbook is not structured like the JLPT tests, it is not as efficient at preparing you for the JLPT as my route (my opinion). You will get more out of if for practical application though. So it really depends on your priorities and what your aim is.


I passed N3 this year. (I had never taken any JLPT) I studied for 3 months intensely when I came back from my exchange in Japan

What motivated me the most was theses videos by 日本語の森 日本語能力試験 JLPT N3 Grammar #1 Learn japanese [日本語の森] - YouTube
I bought some JLPT books in Japan to practice, and it helped understanding the types of questions. Any grammar points I wanted to study, I’d put example sentences in Anki to review.
For Kanji I was already fine with WK, only about 20 or so to study by myself (mostly did through vocab)
For listening I did some practice with YouTube videos.

I think the greatest thing to do is try a practice test and see what areas you need to work on.


Tae Kim overlaps a lot with Genki II but ends up covering more. It’s a free resource so you can either choose to move off Genki II or finish Genki II and then speed through the parts you’ve already covered.

After you’re done with with that you can move to Shin Kanzen Master N3. It has some new points that Tae Kim’s guide doesn’t cover but the two still have a lot of overlap. It’ll serve as a good place to review and the multiple choice questions at the end of each section are good practice.

If your goal is to pass N3, don’t mess with Tobira. I feel like it has a lot of useful stuff for reading but it won’t help you that much with passing N3 specifically. It’s a weird mix of N3 and N2 points as well as stuff that doesn’t appear on either test but is useful anyway.

Best advice I can give is get through 3 or 4 grammar points a day. Don’t worry about conjugation or anything until you’ve finished the whole book. Then you can go back and iron out the finer details of each point until you’re good. Also use as a supplement (it’s not good for learning new points tho).


I think tobira is fine. I used it and passed N3.


There’s nothing wrong with it, it just isn’t specifically made for the JLPT like Kanzen Master is.


For what it’s worth, I read a review (can’t remember where) that recommended Sou Matome for Listening, flashcards (e.g. Anki) for vocab, and Kanzen Master for Grammar and Reading Comprehension. I can’t speak to Sou Matome since I’ve been putting off listening practice (I don’t actually plan to take a test any time soon—I’m just using JLPT as a sort of rubric), but I love Kanzen Master for Grammar and Reading Comprehension. I glanced through Tobira in the store, but didn’t think it added much to Kanzen. (Can’t say how I’d feel if I didn’t already have different books I’d worked halfway through, but I felt it looked a little slow?)

Since it’s a little expensive to import, you might want to consider getting N3 and N2 books (of whatever system) at the same time. It can’t hurt to have both, and I like dabbling in N2 occasionally for the challenge. There’s a fair amount of overlapping material, and the N2 book often describes things a little differently. In case you haven’t heard: the N3 (and below) book has Japanese-English-Chinese grammar explanations, but the N2 (and above) is only in Japanese. The N3 books are great practice in this respect. (Read the descriptions in both Japanese and English!)

The explanations are concise and minimal in Kanzen Master Grammar, so I agree you’ll want to go on the internet if you need detail, but I actually really like the way it’s done. Everything is grouped according to what you might mix up, so it sort of makes you compare the grammar explanations and example sentences for nuance and context. I like to try to think up a catch-(almost)-all English translation for each grammar point (e.g. “さえ = as long as”), then compare it to other sources. Basically, you have to think a little, and that helps you learn. In fact, there’s no English for the example sentences, but they’re chosen thoughtfully so that usually only one translation feels right in context. It’s like a mini-fusion of immersive learning with actual explanations.

Also, plenty of practice questions.

Hope this helps!

P.S. You can often find textbook previews on Whiterabbit.


Since I got so many replies in the past days (sorry coulnd’t check) let me say a big fat thank you for the support <3 I’ll make sure to check every source and tip you wrote ^ ^

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Yes I have “basic” (not just beginner) grammar knowledge (or up to around middle of N4? I’m still lacking the remaining part I meant :slight_smile: And N3 as a whole even though I have quite a bit Kanji/vocab out of this section. I think my reading speed (passages, sentences - not single words :wink: ) are fine with the level I’m approaching. Listening is alright as well (I surround myself with japanese audiobooks all day, so even if I do not understand everything I can keep up with the speed)

By the way I slam every single sentence and text I get my hands on into my Anki…The amount of “pure reading review” I have a day are ridiculous. But I feel it helps to have it like this

Thanks a lot for the part on the soumatome, I was feeling they looked more like review than actual learning ^^

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Sorry to bump the old thread, but this discussion is exactly what I’m looking for.

Since you mention having used both soumatome and the 500 question book, I was wondering if you noticed any overlap between the questions in them? I was thinking of getting both of them, but from the cover design it looks like they are put out by the same group, and I don’t want to pay twice just to get the same questions over again.

Also, have you used any of the shin kanzen master series for grammar? If so, did you find that those have more or less explanation than soumatome?

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hmm… that’s a good question. for sure the soumatome and the 500 question books are the same publisher. so… the soumatome books have like mini review lessons with brief explanations of the grammar points and little pictures and stuff. they’re like really really abbreviated textbooks that highlight major points but don’t THOROUGHLY explain things and then give you some practice items, kind of like a super-speed textbook companion. they are not thorough enough to substitute for textbooks, 'cause the explanations are quite limited. they are definitely meant for people who already know the material to use as refreshers/review. the question books are basically a butt-ton of multiple choice q’s that are geared specifically toward checking your understanding of grammar points/vocab/kanji recognition. the answer keys in the question books do have very abbreviated explanations of why the correct answer is the correct answer and will sometimes give you little phrases or synonyms/antonyms or things like that. In terms of OVERLAP, I mean… because they are test prep, the grammar points that are in the review books are the same kind of grammar points that are in sentences in the question book because that’s the level of grammar that would be on the JLPT or whatever. even so, the approach actually feels pretty different somehow. I also don’t really remember there being any identical sentences or whatever, and i generally have a head for sentences and notice close repetition. but, when you’ve got the same kind of vocabulary set, there’s bound to be some duplication of sorts. i also didn’t go through the books concurrently, so enough time might have passed between my picking up one or t’other that i’d not have noticed the repetition. i’ve also never actually worked my way through 100% of any of the books I have. i am UNFORTUNATELY the sort of person who just buys lots of different resources and works through some portion of what i’ve just bought, then gets distracted, then picks up something else and works through some of it. i pretty much lack any semblance of consistency and discipline, and that’s why i’ve made so very little progress in the past couple of years. it’s disappointing. not sure if that helped to answer that part of your question or not. hopefully it helped a little. if i were to buy only one or the other, i’d buy the 500 question book, because there are still mini explanations which you can use as a reference point to look up more thorough explanations elsewhere, but you just get more exposure to the language from the problem books than the review books. if neither is going to really TEACH you, you might as well go for language exposure volume, imo. the question books are also set-up with the intention for you to work through them multiple times and catalog your progress. and that sort of repetition can be pretty helpful if you use them that way.

as for the shin kanzen master series for grammar – why yes! i have that, too, lol. and i would say that i do actually like them a bit better in terms of explanations and what not. they’re a bit less cute but a little more thorough. I just picked a random grammar point from N4 level books to compare: ~なら
soumatome explanation: “expresses the judgment or wishes of the speaker” and has 2 sample sentences.
shin kanzen master explanation: “expresses speaker’s judgment, volition or inducement in light of ~ (information). ~ is a topic raised by another person’s words or state” and has 3 sample 2 sentence dialogue exchanges. in terms of practice problems - soumatome: 5 practice problems for a section that contains 4 grammar points. shin kanzen master: 13 practice problems for a section that contains 2 grammar points. i also think that if you’re the kind of person who benefits from drilling conjugations and what not, shin kanzen does that. it’s approach is different from soumatome and i think it’s kind of cool and really practical. it’s kind of like: step 1: memorize the form. step 2: learn the function. step 3: put it into a reading context. if i had limited funds, and i wanted to really focus on grammar, i’d pick the shin kanzen master book over the soumatome book.

maybe helpful?

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