Just work through Kanzen Master and pass N2?

I’m thinking about taking the JLPT N2 at the end of this year. For N4 and N3 after going through a textbook (Genki for N4 and An integrated approach to intermediate Japanese for N3) I mainly studied with the Shinkanzen Master Series for that level and was able to pass.

The N2 scares me and I’m wondering if I can just do the same and pass ? In half a year maybe I’d be able to work through Tobira and then Kanzen Master Series for N2. Or do I need to consume native material for a longer period of time, maybe even spend time in Japan for a longer amount of time ? Or work through multiple books/series, which wouldn’t be possible for me to do until the end of the year.

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I’m not sure honestly. I think you can finish the SKM N2 series within half a year. Would that allow you to pass? Probably. How easily? I don’t know. All I wanted to say is that I actually learnt almost all my N2 level knowledge from anime over the course of 1-2 years. I just kept googling and looking things up. I was also very busy with other things, so I was really taking my time. It could have happened much more quickly. How is this related to your question? Well, everything I learnt also meant that Tobira (which is the textbook I was trying to study at the time) rapidly became useless for everything except vocabulary. There was almost nothing in the book under grammar that I hadn’t already learnt while googling.

I honestly don’t think Tobira texts are N2 level though? I’m not sure. I’d say that how realistic your ‘end of year’ goal is really depends on how much time you have for Japanese to begin with. I think I’ll tag @WeebPotato, since he’s got experience with the N2, whereas I’ve only ever taken the N1, and didn’t really do consistent preparation.


Thanks for your reply. First I’m curious how you learned from anime ? Because even with N3, when I’m watching anime I only get the basic sentences. So without subtitles my comprehension is maybe at 20 %

Also concerning tobira: Do you know any higher level textbook ? Or would you even recommend working with one at this point? According to my knowledge there are a few higher level textbook, but none is a clear recommendation like Tobira.

And to give a little more background: I could probably study around 5 hours Japanese a week until december.

Tagging also @Thofte . In order of the stuff mentioned

  • I don’t know if doing SKM N2 books alone is enough to pass the N2. Based on the exam my impression was that reading speed and very good familiarity with native sources is more important than cramming grammar or working through mock tests. Also, if you’ve passed N3 already, Tobira might be obsolete.

  • Doing all SKM N2 books properly within half a year to me sounds quite ambitious. If it’s only as rep and one has a lot of time daily, 1-2 months might be enough, though.

  • In general it’s possible to cover most N2 grammar by reading manga and watching anime, but there are some grammar points which are very formal and appear with low frequency. However, in a broader scope of things that might be irrelevant.

  • Tobira is around N3, for sure not N2 in any stretch. The texts would be around N3, though they intentionally contain only most common words so it’s easier to focus on reading comprehension. Therefore, they might not be representative of actual N3. Grammar-wise the issue with Tobira is that it introduces a ton of grammar expressions which no other resource classifies as grammar so it’s challenging to corroborate that with JLPT requirements or find matching supplementary materials for that matter.

  • As mentioned in an earlier point, to be ready to comfortably pass N2 without stressing out during the exam like me, one should interact with a variety of native sources - conversations, news reports and possibly TV dramas for listening and books, novels and news articles for reading. The emphasis should be comprehension.

Tobira is very much an intermediate level textbook. If you’d like something that goes beyond and is not specifically geared towards JLPT like Soumatome and SKM, probably the Quartet books. I vaguely remember @NicoleIsEnough having the upper intermediate ones.

How is your comprehension with other materials like news/weather reports, etc. or TV dramas? If it’s also around 20%, that’s definitely something to work on in general. Both the Soumatome and SKM N2 聴解 books helped me with this massively.

That might be just enough to work through the SKM N2 books then.


You mean the Quartet books? No, that must have been someone else, I only used the SKM books (grammar and reading).


Hi, then what would your general recommendation be for passing N2 ? Basically follow native material for a few years ?

About the comprehension: Reading is a lot easier than Listening for me. Of course when I’m able to look things up my comprehension is a lot better than 20 %, but also without I can take my time with a sentence and think about it, so still better than 20 %.

But Listening is my weakest point. Thinking about it now 20 % might even be a little too much. And yes, I’d say that is true about any material. I always just assumed that Listening would develop last and someway down the road. But if SKM N2 helped a lot with your comprehension that would mean that would could just pass my working through them, I think… ?

and did you pass N2 only with the SKM books ?


Bear in mind that the tests are timed, so you can’t necessarily take your time over the reading. People who’ve taken the tests more recently will know, but I have a feeling that N2 is where you start to need to be able to read at a comparatively fast pace. Certainly by N1 the time limit is a big part of the difficulty level.

My personal suggestion would be some combination of a textbook-based progression, an increased diet of native resources (and generally starting to use the language to do whatever it is you wanted to learn it to do), and then Kanzen Master just to fill in gaps and do test-specific practice as necessary. But that’s mostly because that’s what worked for me. (I did my textbook based study in a language school in Japan, which I can recommend as a life experience, but it’s certainly not necessary…)

On how much study is required, Wikipedia has a table:

Level Study hours (if kanji already known) Study hours (otherwise)
N1 1700–2600 hours 3000–4800 hours
N2 1150–1800 hours 1600–2800 hours
N3 700–1100 hours 950–1700 hours
N4 400–700 hours 575–1000 hours
N5 250–450 hours 325–600 hours

These are averages (and quite big ranges) and to be taken with a huge pinch of salt, but you can see that the gap between N3 and N2 is bigger than the N4 to N3 jump, the N5 to N4 jump and the 0 to N5 jump (which are mostly similar). So since you know how much effort it took you to get to N4 and N3 you may be able to form an estimate for N2.


It was supposed to be made for the old JLPT Level 2, so I think there is some N2-level material in there. I definitely think some of the vocabulary is N2, at any rate. But grammar-wise, my impression is that N2 stuff only appears at the end of Tobira, and not much of it.

Are the Quartet books actually more advanced than Tobira? I haven’t looked into them at all.

My recommendation would be these two:

They’re N2-N1 level. To be fully ready for the N1 as a test, you’d probably need to study a bit of rare grammar with something like SKM on the side, but I think it’ll be more than enough for N2 if you can get through the second one. The only issue is that these textbooks are entirely in Japanese aside from the vocabulary lists, so I’m not sure if you’ll be comfortable with them immediately.


Probably the below

One in general doesn’t need to religiously study with SKM to pass, but familiarity with the slightly different and more time-constrained format of N2 is a big plus. Also, one probably doesn’t need to study for years to get from N3 to N2, but the jump in difficulty should not be underestimated.

There are some N2 and N1 grammar points, and N2 vocab for sure, but perhaps after the JLPT level split things have changed to the point that Tobira is not a solid enough prep for JLPT N2 (current). At least I had a lot to learn after finishing it.

Supposedly. QUARTET: Intermediate Japanese Across the Four Language Skills I - ジャパンタイムズ出版 BOOKCLUB

I thought it’s kind of relevant to mention, but I very likely did not pass N2 this July :sweat_smile:.


I don’t know yet :sweat_smile: (in December I failed by 2 points, and I’m waiting for the results of my July attempt)

But to address the second half, my main method of studying is (in order of importance for me):

  • Reading books
  • Grammar with SKM (reinforced with Bunpro)
  • Learning vocab with Anki (words I find in these books as well as in an N2 list)
  • Kanji on WK
  • Taking Japanese lessons at an online school
  • Talking to Japanese friends about 3 hours per week (sometimes more)
  • Reading with SKM

It’s not that obvious from this list, but for me vocab is really THE centerpiece of it all. If you don’t know the vocab, you cannot understand the contents, no matter how good your reading or listening or kanji or grammar skills are. So that would be my #1 recommendation.


Since this is kind of on topic here, I started reading https://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/001779/files/57228_58735.html
In the preface alone I came across like 2-3 N2 grammar points already :sweat_smile: . And the thing is really scarce on kanji and clearly for kids.

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