I took the JLPT N1 in December 2018 in the US and passed with a great score. I got a 59/60 on the Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar) section and I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to study grammar, so I thought I’d make a thread detailing my experience with N1 grammar. The advice in this post is about N1 but it applies to any level, more so to N2 and N3.
I began to study grammar a little more than two months before the exam. I decided to start by reviewing N2 grammar in order to build a foundation for N1 grammar, so I went through 日本語の森’s N2 grammar playlist (they have multiple N2 grammar playlists, but I picked the least thorough so as not to waste time). I wrote down all of the example sentences they gave and underlined each grammar point. I then took some quick notes about each grammar point’s usage and anything else important that was said about it. It took 4.5 hours in total, and I split it over two days. (JLPT grammar is supposedly cumulative but I didn’t end up seeing much N2 grammar from the levels prior to N1 on the strictly grammar section. I’m still glad I studied it because it came up a lot on the reading section, though.)
After finishing the N2 playlist, I started N1 grammar. I watched 日本語の森’s N1 grammar playlist and took detailed notes, which took around 6-7 hours in total. I did this over the course of a month or so because it was much heavier lifting for my brain than the less thorough N2 playlist. Spreading it out over a long period also helped with memorizing the more complex grammar points. In addition to the playlist, I bought 日本語パワードリル N1 文法 and did one 10-minute multiple-choice practice test every other day. The first one I did, I didn’t know 75% of the grammar that came up in the choices, so I highlighted everything I didn’t know and started taking notes on my computer. I would look up each grammar point in the format “(grammar point) grammar” (example: ざるを得ない grammar) which gave a lot of helpful results. I extracted example sentences from various sources and gave a short explanation (in Japanese) of how to use the grammar point.
The grammar from the playlist and the grammar on the practice drills gradually started to overlap, and my scores got better and better. At this point, I was doing only 20 minutes of grammar study a day, but it was very efficient and easy to fit into my daily routine if I had a free period at school or right before I went to sleep. I would watch a grammar video, take notes, and then do a practice test or watch another video. I continued in this fashion for the better part of two months.
The week before the test, I reviewed my grammar notes, but I was able to focus most of my energy on vocabulary because I had wisely spaced my grammar study out over a period of months. I had created a very detailed index of N1 grammar that I could refer back to whenever I needed, and I feel that this was the factor that contributed to my score the most.
When the actual test came around, I answered every grammar question with ease. The grammar points that came up on the test were all ones I had studied before and taken notes on. I don’t mean for this to come off as bragging, but I really think I couldn’t have done any better with studying for grammar and I want to share my method in case it helps anybody else.
Good luck and happy studying!