Let’s talk about the Kanzen Master series. It’s well known for getting you ready for the JLPT, but is it really worth the hype? Let’s find out.
My first experience with Kanzen Master
I first heard about Kanzen Master when I was attending a lecture from a person that went from zero Japanese knowledge to passing the JLPT N2 in ONE year. For those that don’t know, that is simply amazing and took an enormous amount of effort and dedication.
The guy that gave the lecture recommended to me the Kanzen Master N2 Grammar book. The next time I was on Amazon, I bought it and it came swiftly in the mail. And then I didn’t look at it for about a year to a year and a half. Why?
The answer is simple. I was intimidated and somewhat lazy. The N2 book had no English at all and I didn’t know the majority of vocabulary words in the grammar sentence examples. I wasn’t willing to work hard and bust my way through it.
I truly regret not looking more deeply inside Kanzen Master sooner. It’s one of the best study books you will find for the JLPT and will most certainly prepare you for whatever will be thrown at you.
What kind of books are there?
The Kanzen Master series covers all categories of study that you would need. Kanji, Vocabulary, Listening, Reading Comprehension, and Grammar.
Which books do you recommend?
I don’t like all the books in the series, but I’ll say which ones were the most effective/useful for me. You definitely want to get the Kanzen Master Grammar and Kanzen Master Reading Comprehension books. Those two books will help you tremendously.
I can’t recommend the Kanzen Master Listening Comprehension because it didn’t do much for preparing me. Instead, I recommend the Nihongo Sou Matome series of listening books. They have a better layout and are some of my favorite books for JLPT audio practice.
The Kanji and Vocabulary books are not needed in my opinion. You can pick up new vocabulary words and kanji through other methods and tools.
Why I recommend Kanzen Master
I’m only recommending the Grammar and Reading Comprehension books, so I’ll explain why they’re effective.
Kanzen Master Grammar (新完全マスター文法)
This is going to be your best friend when studying grammar. For N5-N3 levels, you can probably get away with other books, but these are a MUST for N2 and above. Every grammar point has several examples using sentences and patterns that are sometimes identical to the JLPT. The series does have books for N5-N3 and I believe there are English explanations in the book, but I have not personally used those.
The N2 books and onward do not have any English explanations, so you have to make an effort to read the Japanese explanations of the grammar points. This is going to sting at first, but it will make a man (or woman) out of you by the time you finish.
Each section introduces anywhere from 6 to 10 new grammar points accompanied by example sentences. After you get through understanding these, you turn the page and are quizzed on what you just learned. This is great for reinforcing what you are learning and you can track your progress.
You definitely want to go back and read over each section more than once. In my case, I’ll soon forget the grammar if I read over it and don’t review it after a few days.
Throw out your other grammar books and go for the Kanzen Master grammar series. Even if you aren’t ready for them yet, buy and keep them until you grow into them. They can be sort of a motivation for you to get to that level.
Kanzen Master Reading Comprehension (新完全マスター読解)
If there is a first love for textbooks, this would probably be in my top 3. The reading comprehension books for Kanzen Master are the best things out there. The reading comprehension book covers all kinds of example Japanese reading you will encounter on the JLPT and also in real life. There are going to be so many vocabulary words you don’t know, but don’t give up. This is preparing you for the JLPT or for real Japanese academic reading.
What I love about the reading comprehension books (I used N2 and N1) is they include a separate booklet of explanations for each of the reading passages. After you make your answer choices, you can go back and first check the answers. After that, you can read the explanation for why the chosen answer is the correct one. It also explains why the other options are not correct, which is great for someone like me.
By going through the reading books, your Japanese reading speed and ability are going to improve rapidly if you attempt to study with them on a regular basis. I couldn’t believe how much I could understand/read after I studied really hard. It happened without me realizing it.
Where can I buy them?
I recommend buying your Japanese study books from White Rabbit Press. They’re a really great store that has all sorts of stuff from Japan. I’ve bought several books from them as well as some high-quality flashcards.
Shin Kanzen Master Reading Comprehension
Shin Kanzen Master Grammar
I would recommend the reading books the most because they will really help you with the challenging reading that you’ll face on the JLPT.
Have you found textbooks that you feel are better? Have a question about which book is right for you? Drop me a comment down below!