JLPT N2 Reading Material

Very eager to start preparing for the N2 at the end of the year, and wanted to hear from the people:

What reading material did you find engaging, entertaining, and appropriate to your skill level during your preparation for the N2 exam?

I’m currently keeping up the Kanji practice with WK and gliding through Tobira. Will eventually use some of the Sou Matome books when the time comes. I find straight up native Japanese sites (like news, online magazines, etc.) and manga that I like (Berserk, Shingekinokyojin) to be a little overwhelming.
While prepping for N3, I definitely loved the structure and enjoyed level 4 of the Japanese Graded Readers, but actually didn’t find it challenging enough then and am thus hesitant to invest in the other volumes for N2 practice.

Anyway, please hit me with your suggestions! Open to anything.

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Sorry to hijack your N2 thread, but I’m aiming for N3 - you wrote that the readers weren’t challenging enough; was that in regards to prepping you for the test, or in regard to your skill-levels at the time?

Hi Rowena,

I actually found the reading section of the N3 exam to be tougher than expected, especially because I thought it would be the easiest section of the exam I’d be most prepared for.

The only specific prep I did for reading in my studying before was the volume 1 of the level 4 reader, which cut it a bit short imo. There’s furigana for ALL the kanji (which you can actually cover up with a piece of paper as reading to effectively “turn it off”), but the grammar and story layout itself is very straightforward and easy to process. So for my skill-level, it was good +1 practice, but didn’t cut it. In retrospect I would have done the Sou matome reading practice as well, because the surgical info seeking reading skills you need for the JLPT are vastly different from enjoying and fully comprehending a spoon-fed story w/ pictures and furigana.

Hope that helps.

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I think at an N2 level you should be able to read and comprehend what it’s said on most newspapers, why not trying with an online one? The Asahi Shimbun or Mainichi Shimbun are two of the biggest ones. The NHK News site should be a good source as well.


What really helped me kick ass on N2 was Shin Kanzen Master Dokkai.

Read a bunch of other stuff, haltingly, and while I believe they helped my Japanese overall, the Dokkai book was geared towards getting a passing grade on the test.

It’s written all in Japanese. I had no interest in spending multiple hours reading just one section, so I had to get faster and better at understanding the directions and explanations, and then Japanese.


I’d second Kanzen Master as exam prep. I’ve tried both that and Sou Matome. While there’s nothing wrong with Sou Matome, I think Kanzen Master is superior in just about every way. Lots and lots to read in there as well as techniques to help you.


Have you tried children’s manga? Doraemon and Chibi Maruko-chan are simple, but have a lot of common expressions and different types of speak (old person, child, young women, etc.)

While fun, it’s not very good for test prep. If you’re in Japan, I found that the test study books they make for different subjects for elementary / JHS students readable when I was studying for N2. It also helps that, as adults, we know most of that information so unfamiliar words are easy to figure out.

It was also around that time that I was able to use Wikipedia in Japanese for very basic things. So if you have something that interests you, see if there’s a Japanese Wikipedia page and you can flip to the English site to gauge your understanding.

I also third (?) Shin Kanzen Master Dokkai. I’m a big fan of that series.

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By the way, I also like TBS News. Their site is easy to navigate, the articles are usually fairly short - about the length of an N2 reading exercise - and (I think) written a little more simply than those on other news sites. Plus there’s almost always an accompanying video in which what the newscaster reads is almost exactly the same as what’s written.


I’d also (fourth?) recommend Shin Kanzen Master. That’s what I used for the test last year and it helped a lot both in preparing for the types of questions on the test and just for general reading practice since my reading level was definitely below N2 when I started it. As @Odonata mentioned, maybe also try reading some Japanese Wikipedia pages about things that you’re interested in.

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Thanks very much. For N3 prep, I actually rode it out pretty hard with Sou Matome (vocab, listening, grammar) as @riccyjay mentioned. Will definitely give Kanzen Master a try this time around, maybe in combination with some of the Sou Matome books. Is Kanzen Master really just all around superior though to Sou Matome? Maybe I should just go with their prep books instead this time around eh.

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