Best Books for the JLPT N2 (Or Any Level)
If you’re planning to take the JLPT N1 or N2, then getting the right books and study guides is essential. There are tons of books out there, and I have used many of them. Here are the ones that I think are the best.
1. Best Overall Books: Kanzen Master: 92/100
The most complete books for studying and passing any level of the JLPT. For the N1 and N2, there are 5 books available, each focusing on a different section of the test (grammar, vocabulary, kanji, reading, listening). These books are recommended by most people who have taken the JLPT. It is known for its thoroughness and relevant material.
Why it’s good: Covers a lot of information, most of which is relevant for passing the JLPT. I used both the N1 and N2 versions. Information that is actually found on the tests and accurately covers the material you need to know for each level.
Why it’s bad: While the material is organized nicely, it is mostly all Japanese text (N1 and N2) and packed in there. Flipping through the book, it looks like pages and pages of text. This can be intimidating and can be hard to get through all of those Japanese text.
Overall Best Book for the JLPT. If you could only get one set of books for the JLPT, these are the ones you should go for. Takes a lot of motivation and concentration to study these books due to the fact that it is very text heavy with not much white space. However, if you master all of the material in these books, you have a very good chance of passing the JLPT on your first try.
Buy These Books Here: Grammar, Vocabulary, Reading, Kanji, Listening
2. Easiest Books to Study: Sou Matome books
90/100 for grammar, reading, and vocabulary books.
80/100 for listening and kanji.
Consists of 5 books, with each one concentrating on a different section of the JLPT test (grammar, vocabulary, kanji, reading, listening). I used all of the books for both the N1 and N2 level.
Why it’s good: Very easy to read and actually study without getting bored or overwhelmed. Nice categorizing of content so you learn similar material together. Also very nice structure. Broken up into 8 weekly sections. Finish just one lesson per day and you’ll complete a book in 2 months. Very good for learning the basics of N1 or N2 level material, but is best combined with other books to cover all the material on the JLPT tests.
Why it’s bad: People have said that it is missing explanations and material found on tests. I agree with this, but no book has 100% of the JLPT material in it. However, the books are very simple, which makes it easy to read and study but doesn’t offer in-depth explanations
Overall Impression: Highly recommended. Do a lesson per day from each book and you’ll be done in 8 weeks. I learned a lot from these books. I recommending using them together with the other books on this list.
Buy These Books Here: Grammar, Vocabulary, Reading, Kanji, Listening
3. Best Way to Prepare: Nihongo Noryoku Shiken Koshiki Mondaishu JLPT N2: 95/100
Practice exam that uses questions on past JLPT N2 test. Good resource to see what kind of questions will be on the test. Also, it is really good practice to take this test and time yourself to see what kind of pace you need to have in order to finish in time.
Overall Impression: Very helpful and prepares you to pass the JLPT N2. Just running through questions will give you an idea of what to expect on the real test.
Buy These Books Here: Nihongo Noryoku Shiken Koshiki Mondaishu JLPT N2
4. Quick and Easy Study Material: Nihongo Power Drill Nihongo JLPT N2
80/100 for Kanji & Vocabulary
80/100 for Grammar
Questions and answer drill workbook. These questions will help you to see how well you remember the material you studied. It also helps you to see if you can apply the material you studied to answer test questions.
Most of the drills are multiple choice answer type of questions, which makes them easy to read and easy to study. Because of this, it added some necessary “spice” to my somewhat monotonous study routine. I recommend getting them if you already finished studying the other material on this page.
Overall Impression: While these questions are at the N2 level, they are not as accurate as the Koshiki Modaishu books listed above.
However, it is a nice way to learn JLPT N2 material when you’re too tired from studying the other JLPT N2 books. .The drills are simple and actually fun, so it breaks up the monotony in your study sessions while checking to see how well you know the JLPT N2 material.
Buy These Books Here: Grammar, Kanji & Vocabulary
If you used any books that you found helpful in learning the material and passing the JLPT N2, please let us know by leaving a comment below. Thanks!
Thanks for the post , I have failed N3 – 5 times but each time my mark has increased from prior ,though little i have progressed. Now i am planning to take N2 without passing N3 . By the way my aim is to improve language speaking and conversation skill which in turn get me job with high salary.
Firstly is it useful to take the exam to improve the language skills? Or is it just waste of time .
If your goal is to improve your speaking skills, I would concentrate on actual conversation practice instead of the JLPT. The only good thing about the JLPT is that it can provide motivation for you to study or it can qualify you for some jobs. But if you don’t need to pass the JLPT for any qualifications, I would focus my energy on speaking Japanese instead. If you want to know why this is important, or which level of the jlpt you should take in the future, check out this other article we wrote on the subject: Which Level of the JLPT Should I Take?. Hope this helps! And good luck with your studies!
Thank you for the post. I found it very helpful and informative. I will be sitting for the JLPT N1 or N2 (depending on how my studies progress) in December.
About the CD’s…do you know where I can download a digital format of the audio sections for the books (specifically for the Kanzen Master series)?
I haven’t used a CD in ages!
Sorry for my late reply!
I’m not too sure where you can get a digital copy of the Kanzen Master Series…however, there are some listening, grammar, and vocabulary vidoes/audio files on Youtube for both the JLPT N1 and N2.
Hope your studies are going well!
Hi Jack, Thanks a lot for such a good post… It was very helpful. I wanted to ask for a suggestion. To the point, I am planning to take N2 this July and using Sou Matome and Shin Kanzen Master books. I find Sou Matome’s dokkai very easy but on the other side Shin Kanzen’s dokkai very (very) tough. Is it my feeling or you had similar feeling as well…? I am continuously not able to get my dokkai answers correct in Shin Kanzen and losing hope (and bit scared)… Would appreciate if you can share your opinion…
Hi Nandha. I agree. I think the Kanzen Master books are harder….the material itself is hard, and it is hard to study since it’s very text heavy. The Sou Matome books have a lot more white space and some pictures, so it makes it really easy to study. That’s why I like using more than one book to study for the JLPT. So I think it’s great that you are using both books…especially since no one book covers all of the information on the test. I used the Sou Matome and Kanzen Master books, as well as a few others to help me prepare for the N2.
As for the answers…the only advice I can give you is to keep it up. Don’t stop. Continuously read, make mistakes, and learn. The more mistakes you make now, the less you’ll make on the test….that is, if you learn why you made those mistakes in the first place. I also found that for many practice JLPT tests, as well as some of the problems in the Kanzen Master books, they were harder than the actual test. So don’t get discouraged…even if don’t do so well on those practice questions, you might do better on the real test. That being said, practice does make perfect. So keep on reading as much as you can…you’ll increase your kanji knowledge, reading speed and comprehension. Then you can use the books like Sou Matome and Kanzen Master to learn how to answer JLPT type of questions.
Don’t lose hope! Keep on studying and you’ll get there!
Good luck with the test!
Thanks Jack! Your response is very motivating.
Hi Jack, thanks for the recommendation.
I’m planning to take the N2 test this July. I’m doing pretty good with grammar and I can understand it easily. The problem is I’m really bad at remembering vocabulary and kanji. Any advice for that?
Which books are you using to study for the JLPT? For vocabulary, I actually used 3 books. Sou Matome, Kanzen Master, and this other book by the Intercultural Institute of Japan (awesome book, but hard to find outside of Japan). For learning vocabulary, the Sou Matome book was by far the easiest to study. I completed the whole vocabulary book in two months or so. I made flash cards of most of the words (the ones I didn’t already know) and studied them daily. More importantly, I kept reviewing them until I mastered them. If you use apps to study, Anki is good for this too. Just a heads up…no matter how many vocabulary words you study, or how many books you use, there will probably be a few vocabulary words and kanji that you haven’t seen before. I think they do this purposely and adjust your score according to how many people get those questions right or wrong.
You definitely need to know a lot of kanji. There are a few questions in the beginning of the test (part 1) where you’ll be asked about kanji (how to read kanji, meanings of kanji, etc.). However, the reading section is all kanji. If you can’t read at least a few hundred kanji (or more like 1,000 or more) the reading part will not be fun. Heck, even if you know 2,000 kanji the reading part is not fun. But you’ll need to be able to read passages and small articles in Japanese quickly, and know little differences in meaning to answer the questions. To do this, I highly recommend reading Japanese as much as possible. At first, you should read things that interests you. I used to read magazines and blogs online. I would look up any kanji I didn’t know and write it down in a notebook. I would review all of these kanji, and re-read all of the material. After a few weeks, my reading speed and comprehension went up. I also learned a lot of kanji in the process….I couldn’t write those kanji, but I could read them. And that’s all you need to know how to do for the JLPT.
I also recommend reading flyers and business pages in Japanese. Usually at the end of the reading section, they will ask you a question that involves some “real-world” problem. For example, they might give you a timetable showing the hours of operation for a business, along with a few descriptive sentences under that. Then they’ll ask you about that. Or maybe they’ll give you a list with different gym membership prices vs benefits and ask you which one you sign up for if you want the most value, etc.
So learn those kanji and read, read, and read! Good luck with the test Miiko!
Thanks for the detailed information. I have passed JLPT N3 in July 2017. I appeared for JLPT N2 in December 2017, in a gap of 6 months. I failed by 33 marks. I fared badly in the reading section. Is it possible to pass N2 in 5 months? I live in India. So I do not have enough chance to speak in Japanese. I really want to improve my speaking skills and I want to pass N2. Please help. Thanks in advance.
congratulations on passing the N3! About passing the N2 in 5 months…is it possible? The answer is yes, it is possible to pass the N2 after 5 more months of studying, since you already passed the N3. However, the more important question is why do you want to pass the N2? Do you NEED to pass the N2 by the next test date? If you absolutely need to pass the N2 the next time you take it (for a job, school, scholarship, etc.) then just study a few JLPT N2 books and read as much as you can. However, you said you really want to improve you speaking skills. Passing the N2 does help with this, since you do learn a lot of useful grammar and words you can use for daily speaking. But if you’re rushing to pass the test in 5 months, I really doubt that you are mastering all of the material. If becoming good at Japanese is your goal, then I highly, highly suggest that you concentrate on improving your speaking and reading skills. Only study for the JLPT N2 as a supplement for your learning. If you can afford it, finding an online tutor to help your speaking is the best way to learn. If you’re on a budget, I really like the lessons on Japanesepod101, or you can even practice speaking on your own (check out our speaking Japanese on your own guide).
Read as much as you can as well. Find blogs online in Japanese, or search for websites or videos in Japanese about things you are interested in. Look up any kanji or words you don’t know and then write them in a notebook so you can review them later. Not only will your reading skills improve, but you’ll also learn a lot of kanji and vocab though context.
Hope this helps!
Hey Jack, I’ve been following your blog for quite some time, but this is the first time I’m commenting on it. I just wanted to thank you for the JLPT book recommendations as they helped me massively in passing the JLPT N3! I’ve been reading the replies you’ve given to others and they really helped me study more efficiently. I hope to pass N2 before 2020 and hopefully (just maybe) I might have the opportunity to volunteer in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
First of all, congratulations on passing the N3! That is awesome! And a huge thank you for reading this blog! It’s hearing comments like yours that makes it all worth it. I get pretty busy sometimes, but knowing that people are getting useful information from this site makes me want to publish more and more. Ganbarimasu! Thank you very much!
Thank you for posting the details on books for N2.
Yesterday (Dec 2017) I gave N3 Test but the test was too difficult i think i will not clear the exam that i was preparing from last 10 months but i am thinking to give N2 in Dec 2018 .
Should i go for N2 directly or try for N3 Again ? Is it good to use these book series for Self study same for N3 also?
I hope I explained myself clearly enough.
otsukare sama! Taking the JLPT is very tired so I hope you celebrated after you were finished. First of all, I would wait until you get the results of the test…even though it takes a while to come. The test might have been hard, but maybe you did better than you think.
If you find out that you didn’t pass, then that makes things more complicated. When deciding between taking the N2 or N3, you have to ask yourself 1 question. What is my goal for learning Japanese? If your goal is to become fluent in Japanese, or to just master one part of Japanese (speaking, reading, or writing), then I would say to take the N3 again.
This is because that the material from the N3 test is actually really useful and contains grammar patterns, vocabulary words, and kanji that you will be using a lot in Japanese. If you master the material in the N3 test first, not only will you learn some useful Japanese, but studying and understanding the material for the N2 test will be much easier. The only reasons I can think of where its better to skip the N3 to take the N2 is if you NEED to pass the N2. Some people need the JLPT N2 certification for school, jobs, or scholarships. Another reason why you might take the N2 before pass the N3 is if you are studying Japanese purely for fun. If you don’t plan on using Japanese in the future, then skipping ahead to the N2 might be okay. But to be honest, even in both these cases, if you have the time, its better to master the N3 material first before moving on to the N2.
As far as books go, the Kanzen Master and Sou Matome books are also great for the N3. I really like the Sou Matome books because they were very easy to study. It also has pictures and a lot of white space which made it easy to read. However, the Kanzen Master books have more information. If you can only get 1 book, get the Kanzen Master series. Because the books are packed full of Japanese text, it can be hard to study and read. But the information in those books are great.
Hope this helps. Good luck with the next test Van!
Hi Jack ! I have questions regarding to N2 test , I ”ve studied almost 2 yrs here in Japan and I started from N5 to N4 and N3 but Ive never tried to Take test until I got married to Japanese man , and We Are 2 years couple as OF now and Im planning to Take JLPTN2 , To know my level in understanding Japanese Language . So can you give me advice? What’s the best N2books will you recommend me especially , I do self studying thank you ! Waiting to your reply
Hello! Do you speak in Japanese with your husband? If you do, and you use Japanese in your daily life in Japan, you probably won’t need to worry about the listening part (although it’s still better to study that if you have time). For the JLPT N2, the most difficult part in my opinion was the reading. There were some kanji and vocabulary questions that were difficult, but the reading section took the most brainpower. So depending on your reading level, this might be the most difficult section too. If you can read a lot of kanji (1,500 +) and your reading comprehension is good, then the next thing to focus on is the grammar and vocab. I highly recommend you get a test book, like the JLPT test book on this list. You can take it to see how well you do. If you can afford only 1 book, it’s hard to beat the Kanzen Master series. I think it’s probably the most complete book for the JLPT (thought it still doesn’t cover EVERYTHING…I think they put questions in the test that no one can predict). If you can buy more than one book, the Sou Matome series is really good. The explanations and material isn’t as well covered as the Kanzen Master series, but I loved using these books to study. It was actually easy to study. I used the Kanzen Master books to fill in the gaps. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck on your studying!
Hi! Thanks for writing this article! It is very useful in deciding which books to buy. With your help, I’ve found what I think is the best combination for my situation. I’ve been studying on and off (without a proper textbook) for about a year to pass JLPT N1 and have already failed once but have decided to straighten things up recently. The problem is that I’m taking the test in less than 2 months (and my budget is quite limited). Please let me know what you think:
1. Sou matome grammar
2. Sou matome vocabulary
3. Sou matome reading
4. Kanzen master listening
5. Kanzen master kanji
If you feel those are the books that will help you the most, go for it. But if you use all of them, it will be hard to finish all of them in 2 months. I have used both the Sou Matome Series and Kanzen Master series for the JLPT N1, and I do like both of them. For me, the JLPT N1 was just like the N2, but much more difficult. The reading was still the most difficult for me, but there were quite a few kanji and vocabulary words I haven’t even seen before. I’m not sure about which areas of Japanese you are most skilled in, but for me, the reading, kanji, and vocabulary sections gave me more problems than then grammar or listening. If you can afford to get all of those books and have the time to study them, go for it. But if you can only afford to get 1 or two books, I would go for the Kanzen Master series (vocabulary, reading, and/or kanji). The Sou Matome series is much easier and more fun to study than the Kanzen Master series, but I feel the Kanzen Master books teach you more material related to the test.
Hope this helps! Good luck!
Hello, regarding about the JLPT test. Would learning to write kanji be nessessary? or would recognising them be sufficient?
Nope, you don’t need to know how to write the kanji. Just reading and understanding them is all you need. Thank goodness for that though! If I had to write the kanji too, I probably would have failed! haha
Thanks so much for this article! I had one quick question. If I just finished Genki I, and wanted to take the N2 in about a year, would you recommend getting an N2 study book (like Kanzen Master or Sou Matome) or starting with one for N4 or N3 and working my way up? I feel like I’m weakest in vocab and listening.
Hi Stephen! It really depends what your goals are. If you only want to pass the N2 for personal achievement, and don’t plan on using Japanese in the future, then jumping straight into the N2 books are okay. However, I really don’t recommend this. If you’re learning Japanese, you must be doing so for a reason. Either you love the language, or plan on using Japanese for your future. No matter the case, to truly master Japanese, you need to master the BASICS. And that’s what the N4 and N3 levels are. The grammar, vocabulary, and reading contained in those levels are very useful in the real world. And you definitely need to know this material to pass the N2, because it will have questions on it that come from the N3 and even N4 level. More importantly, if you master the N4 and N3 levels first, you’ll have a very good foundation to build on, which will make studying for the N2 much easier. I also highly recommend getting a personal tutor, in real life or online, to practice speaking. If you can speak with a native speaker, your listening will automatically improve. This is the best way to improve in all areas of Japanese. There are quite a few people who have passed the N2 level, but can’t even hold a conversation in Japanese. Be better that this. Learn the basics, try to apply what you learn in real conversations, and before you know it, you’ll know enough to pass the N2. Just keep in mind that the most challenging part of the N2 (in my opinion) is the reading section, so you’ll need to study lots of kanji and practice reading to prepare for it.
Hope this helps! Good luck my friend!
Thanks so much! That’s really helpful!
No problem! Glad I could help.
Thank you for sharing this information. I will give a try studying the New kanzen n2 🙂
Thanks for the comment! Good luck with the test! 🙂
Regarding the Sou-Matome Series, why were the listening and reading books scored 10 points lower than the others in the N2 series?
I gave the reading book the same score as the grammar and vocabulary books, which is 90/100. I gave the listening and kanji book 80/100, because I found them to be less effective and useful to study for the JLPT N2.
The reason I liked the grammar, vocabulary, and reading books was because they are very nicely organized into daily lessons, which makes it very easy to study. Also, there are no long explanations…pretty much just the Japanese word/grammar pattern and the definition with some additional insights for certain words/grammar. At first, this seems like this would be bad, but I found it very, very easy to study and understand. That’s why I could go through and study all of the books with no problems. I bought other books that were the opposite; long explanations with a lot of text. Seeing pages of text just made it difficult to study, and I would end up getting bored quickly.
That’s why I recommend buying both the Sou Matome books and the Kanzen Master series. I would go through the daily lessons in the Sou Matome books, and the study the Kanzen Master books for the grammar I didn’t fully understand.
Hope that helps!
I was already using Learning Japanese and imiwa!I wish Anki was chepear, I just can’t afford it.And, wow, I don’t know what I would do without imiwa. It’s not perfect, but it’s close to it, considering that it’s free.Useful post, thank you.
Hi jack!! Thanks for the recommendation I appreciate it so much! I have aquestion tho..is it possible for me to pass this test if I’m planning to take it in two years from now while using only sou matome n kanzen master? And which one should I start first? Should I go with vocab first then go to reading? Or I can start whichever I like to learn first?
Hi Mike! Thanks for dropping by! About passing the test in two years….that depends. Have you taken Japanese classes or studied Japanese before? If you mean passing the test in two years starting from 0, it will be a challenge, but you can still do it if you create a study schedule and stick to it. Two years is quite a long time…I think that even if you are brand new to learning Japanese, studying with intent an hour a day for two years can bring you up to the N2 level.
If you already are at a JLPT N3 or N4 level, you can definitely pass the N2 in two years. If you study just a little bit everyday, you should learn everything you need to pass the JLPT N2 in two years pretty easily. The most important thing is to create a study schedule and stick to it. I would go with the Sou Matome books first, as they are easier to study. Then study the Kanzen Master books if you feel like you need more practice.
Two tips: Make sure you don’t just study by just committing things to memory…try to use the Japanese that you learn with language partners. If you don’t have anyone to practice with, try creating and writing stories or a dairy using the grammar/vocabulary/kanji that you learn. Using what you learn is how you truly master any language.
Another tip is to read Japanese books, articles, blogs, or anything really. The reading section is probably the most difficult section for any level of the JLPT. So after you finish studying the Sou Matome or Kanzen Master books, be sure to practice reading Japanese. This will not only help you to read faster and smoother, but your comprehension and vocabulary will increase too.
When you get through all the material, it’s a good idea to try and take a timed, practice test like the
thanks for the article, I found it very useful (there are so many books out there for the Nouryoku Shiken, I was quite lost).
My question is probably a silly one, but still I’d like to know if you happen to know the difference between the Koushiki Mondaishuu you recommend here and the Yosou Mondaishuu. I’d like to buy only one of the two and I can’t figure out if the questions in the Youso are “official” or if they are just similar to the real exam.
I hope I explained myself clearly enough.
Hi Cla! Thank you for the comment. The Koushiki Mondaishu is what I recommend. The actual JLPT website also recommends this book. The reason why it is good is because it contains questions from actual JLPT tests from the past. I have never used the Yosou Mondaishuu practice test, but it looks like a typical book of JLPT level questions that are put together by someone. These questions might be not from previous tests like the Koushiki Mondaishu practice test.
That being said, no matter which book you choose, the real tests will be made up of different questions. These practice tests are good for preparing you for what the actual test will be like. It’s a lot of questions to answer in a short period of time. So timing yourself while taking these practice tests is also a good way to see if you can actually complete the test while racing against the clock.
I do recommend you take a practice test if you have time to do so. I’m sure either of these books will help you to get a feel of what the actual test will be like. But if I had to recommend one to you, I would go with the Koushiki Mondaishu since it’s recommended by the JLPT website. I also have used it, and it helped me get a feel for the actual JLPT test.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!
thanks a lot for your quick reply.
I’ll definitely buy the koushiki mondaishuu then, since I’m interested in real past tests.
Thank you for posting the details on books for N2. I am taking the N2 exams this december. I had cleared my N3 three years back and also gave an attempt on N2 which i did not clear though. I am a person who would like to see some English explanations in the book.
I needed your advice on choosing between the sou matome or the kanzen master. Thank you.
Hi Sam! Thank you for the comment. Both the sou matome and kanzen master books have very little English explanations in them. Since you are studying for the N2, these books assume you have enough Japanese to read and understand the explanations. Virtually all of the English in both books are from translations of example sentences, vocabulary, and kanji.
That being said, I think Kanzen Master is the overall more thorough and better book for the JLPT N2. However, I found the Sou Matome books to be much easier to study, since it was well organized and had more white space. If you can, I would get both. First study the Sou Matome, then go over the material in Kanzen Master. If you want material that is easier to study and digest, go with the Sou Matome series.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any other questions.