List of Recommended JLPT Review Books for N5-N4 Levels

If you have already spent a few months or a year studying Japanese, you might be already thinking of taking your very first attempt at the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). The JLPT’s lowest level is N5 (Beginner), which is followed by N4 (Basic).

Taking the JLPT involves a lot of dedication, commitment, and hard work. While the N5 and N4 levels are far less demanding than the higher JLPT levels, some form of preparation will still be needed, especially if you care about the level of your performance.

Your likelihood of success at the JLPT will become higher if you (1) familiarize yourself with the form and content of the test, and (2) master Japanese language concepts.

The best way to do it? Use JLPT review books!

Overview

Over the course of my preparation for JLPT N5 to N4 levels, I read a lot of review books. My friends often ask me about which books I recommend for JLPT preparation, so I made this list with short written descriptions for each book.

I divided them into three main categories:

  1. General Concepts – This category covers more than one section of the JLPT and often includes series of books.
  2. Specific Concepts – This category focuses on only one section of the JLPT or one aspect of the language.
  3. Question Banks and Mock Tests – This category is for books that contain only practice questions and mock tests that mirror the JLPT.

At a basic level, you might find some kanji written on book covers difficult to read. You may refer to the table below as your guide:

KanjiHiraganaRomajiEnglish Translation
日本語能力試験にほんごのうりょくしけんNihongo Nouryoku ShikenJapanese Language Proficiency Test
漢字かんじKanjiChinese Character
文字もじMojiLetter, Character, Writing
語彙ごいGoiVocabulary
言葉ことばKotobaVocabulary, Word
文法ぶんぽうBunpouGrammar
読解どっかいDokkaiReading Comprehension
読むよむYomuRead
聴解ちょうかいChoukaiListening Comprehension
聞くきくKikuListen

Before we proceed to the list, please keep in mind the following important points:

  • The books listed here are review books, which are different from books that build your foundation in the language such as Minna no Nihongo and Genki. Some level of Japanese knowledge is required to make the most out of them.
  • The cost is higher for books with CDs. For example, Shin Kanzen Master Listening costs ¥300 more than the other books in the same series. Prices indicated also exclude 10% consumption tax in Japan.

General Concepts

1. Shin Kanzen Master

Japanese Title新完全マスター
Publisherスリーエーネットワーク (3A Network)
Year Published2018-2020
Available LevelsN4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in SeriesN4 – 5 (Vocabulary, Kanji, Grammar, Reading, Listening)
Language TranslationsEnglish, Vietnamese
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,200~1,500

This is my personal favorite among JLPT reviewers, because it packs a lot of content, and the difficulty level is very close to that of the actual exam. If you want to step up your level of review, then give this series a try.

The books contain numerous practice questions, with a culminating JLPT-type test at the end. In addition, the presentation of lessons is highly organized, so it’s easy to skim through the book if you’ve already finished it and you just want to refresh your memory with key concepts.

For Japanese learners new to the JLPT or to the language itself, this set might be too intimidating but do remember that this book series is not intended to be finished in one sitting or in a few study sessions.

Regular and frequent reviews over a period (for example, two to three months) will help you get the most out of these books. If you do not have that much time, then it will be better to skip this and choose a more compact review book.

In the past, Shin Kanzen Master only included levels N3 to N1, so this N4 set is a fairly new addition, having been published only in late 2018. The book for vocabulary was only published in 2020.

2. Nihongo Sou Matome

Japanese Title日本語総まとめ
Publisherアスク (Ask)
Year Published2017
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in SeriesN5 – 1 (Kanji/Grammar/Reading/Listening)
N4 – 2 (Kanji/Grammar, Reading/Listening)
Language TranslationsEnglish, Vietnamese
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,200~1,500

Nihongo Sou Matome is a strong contender for one of the best JLPT reviewers, alongside Shin Kanzen Master. The N5 and N4 entries for Sou Matome do not really have a lot of content, but they are still great resources for a well-rounded review.

Sou Matome has an interesting review outline. The lessons are structured as daily reviewers and exercises, with a culminating test on the seventh day of the week as a refresher. This format is helpful for those who are at a loss in managing their time in reviewing for the JLPT.

The chapters are all visually appealing, so it is fun to study, compared with Shin Kanzen Master which does not have illustrations at all. You certainly won’t feel bored or overwhelmed with information when reading these books.

3. Try! Bunpou Kara Nobasu Nihongo

Japanese Titleトライ!日本語能力試験 文法から伸ばす
日本語
Publisherアスク (Ask)
Year Published2014
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in SeriesN5 – 1, N4 – 1
Language TranslationsEnglish, Vietnamese
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,500~1,700

Try! is focused on grammar concepts. Each explanation of a grammar point is immediately followed by a short exercise to test your understanding. This presentation will allow you to absorb lessons in short and manageable chunks.

At the end of each chapter is an overall test that covers all grammar concepts introduced in that chapter and includes a handful of reading and listening problems.

I often start my JLPT review with the Try! series of books because its content is easy to follow and understand. It’s a nice warm-up before ramping up the intensity of my review.

4. Nihongo Challenge

Japanese Titleにほんごチャレンジ
Publisherアスク (Ask)
Year Published2010
Available LevelsN4
Number of Books in Series3 (Vocabulary, Kanji, Grammar/Reading)
Language TranslationsEnglish, Portuguese, Korean
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,200~1,400

Nihongo Challenge is an excellent choice for visual learners. The chapters are organized by theme, and each concept introduced in the chapter is supplemented by images.

For example, each kanji has an illustration to show how it is created. This illustration isn’t exactly the origin of the kanji, but it’s more of a visual representation that will help you imagine what the kanji means and how it is written.

All books in this series contain a fair number of JLPT-type problems, so you’ll get some practice for the JLPT too. Plus, at the end of each book is a summary or glossary for additional reference.

5. Jitsuryoku Up!

Japanese Title実力アップ! 日本語能力試験
Publisherユニコム (Unicom)
Year Published2010
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in SeriesN5 – 1 (Yomu),
N4 – 2 (Yomu, Kiku)
Language TranslationsEnglish
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,900~2,300

Though compact in size, this book is quite expensive because it has colored pages. But with this presentation, lessons are much easier to follow and understand because key terms and definitions are emphasized with colored text.

On top of that, it contains sample conversation dialogues to show how each grammar point or expression is used. The book also provides JLPT-type problems so you can practice applying what you learned.

However, the titles for the N5 and N4 books are misleading. Though these say Yomu, there are no reading exercises at all for N5; only grammar is discussed in the book. For N4, it’s mostly grammar but it includes a few problem sets on text grammar (i.e. finding the appropriate grammar expression for blank areas in a written passage).

6. Mimi Kara Oboeru

Japanese Title耳から覚える
Publisherアルク (ALC)
Year Published2010-2011
Available LevelsN4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in SeriesN4 – 2 (Grammar, Listening)
Language TranslationsEnglish
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,600~2,000

Mimi Kara Oboeru introduces a unique method of studying for JLPT N4. All the lessons are accompanied by an audio track, so it’s the perfect fit for those who learn most efficiently by listening or hearing.

For a book that features listening, there are a LOT of practice questions and quizzes for each chapter. There are also comprehensive or overall tests that contain more than 50 questions.

Even if you do not utilize the CD that comes with the book, you’ll certainly find the grammar book worth buying by just reading the lessons and completing the practice drills.

Personally, I prefer the vocabulary book in this series because it helps me better remember new words by listening to the CD, but that kind of book is only available from N3 to N1.

7. Speed Master

Japanese Title日本語能力試験問題集 スピードマスター
PublisherJリサーチ (J-Research)
Year Published2016
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in SeriesN5 – 4 (Vocabulary, Grammar, Reading, Listening)
N4 – 4 (Vocabulary, Grammar, Reading, Listening)
Language TranslationsEnglish, Chinese, Vietnamese
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,200

Speed Master is a comprehensive set of books that will help you thoroughly understand each section of the JLPT.

N5 doesn’t have a lot of content in the first place, so most JLPT prep books skip to N4 or combine all JLPT sections into one N5 book instead. But that’s not the case with Speed Master which has a full set for N5.

The books have three major sections: (1) warm-up, (2) practice, and (3) mock tests. With the warm-up section, you’ll get brief lessons on vocabulary, kanji, and grammar, and test-taking tips for reading and listening comprehension.

For the practice section, you’ll answer JLPT-type questions to apply what you learned from the warm-up section. Finally, the last part of the book contains two standard-length mock tests for a specific section of the JLPT.


Specific Concepts

8. Kirari ☆ Nihongo

Japanese Titleきらり☆日本語
Publisher凡人社 (Bonjinsha)
Year Published2012
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3
Number of Books in Series1 (Vocabulary)
Language TranslationsEnglish
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,200

Kirari Nihongo is a book that aims to help readers increase vocabulary. It’s a full B5-sized book like most JLPT prep books but it is relatively thinner.

The book has two main parts. The first part is called “Vocabulary Builder.” In this section, each chapter contains words that have a common theme. On the left side of the page is the list of vocabulary and on the right side are images that show or describe those words.

This presentation is effective if you are a visual learner. You can simply cover the left side and recite the words that represent each image when you review.

The second part is for the “JLPT Vocabulary Test.” Here, you’ll find JLPT-type questions for the Language Knowledge section to test your understanding.

At the end is a list containing hiragana readings and English translations for all the vocabulary in the first section.

9. Hajimete no Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken Tango

Japanese Titleはじめての日本語能力試験単語
Publisherアスク (Ask)
Year Published2017
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1 (Vocabulary)
Language TranslationsEnglish, Vietnamese
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,300~1,400

This is a nice compact and small book that you can easily bring along anywhere. It’s a perfect choice for studying while being on the go.

All chapters are organized by theme, e.g. shopping, time, adverbs. Each vocabulary has an accompanying example sentence so you can better understand its usage.

This book has colored pages where important words are printed in red color. It comes with a red film sheet so that you can use it for review. Simply cover the page with it so that the vocabulary in red text blends in with the film, while the definition and example sentences remain visible.

As a bonus, you can download the audio tracks and access online quizzes from the official website so you can practice and apply your learnings after completing each chapter.

10. Kanji Master

Japanese Title漢字マスター
Publisher三修社 (Sanshuusha)
Year Published2012
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsEnglish
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,800

For those who are looking to strengthen their kanji skills, Kanji Master is one of the best options. It has comprehensive content that is sure to sharpen your memory and deepen your knowledge of kanji.

As with other kanji books, the on- and kun- readings and the stroke order for each character are presented. A few columns of boxes are also provided for you to practice writing.

But what makes this book much more valuable is that the exercises do not follow the JLPT format of multiple-choice problems. The questions always ask you to write out the kanji reading in hiragana or vice versa. In other words, there are no answer choices; you must write the answer yourself.

This method is really effective if you are weak in kanji as it teaches you to know the kanji by heart. If you are doing well in kanji, this book is still useful for practice, so it’s worth taking a look.

11. Nihongo Katsuyou Master

Japanese Titleにほんご活用マスター
Publisherアスク (Ask)
Year Published2018
Available LevelsN5-N4
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsEnglish, Chinese, Vietnamese
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,300

If you are having a tough time with verb conjugations, then consider getting this book. It’s a great supplement to your grammar studies, especially if it is your weakest area.

All the verb conjugations that you must know at N5 and N4 levels are included. Each lesson provides simple and easy-to-follow instructions on how to conjugate verbs.

The book contains example sentences using the conjugated verbs as well as practice questions to test your understanding of the lesson.

Like Hajimete no Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken Tango, this book comes with a red film sheet which you can use during your review.


Question Banks and Mock Tests

13. Koushiki Mondaishuu

Japanese Title日本語能力試験公式問題集
Publisher凡人社 (Bonjinsha) 
Year Published2012
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsNone
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥700

This is the official mock test by the makers of the JLPT. The book contains only one mock test, but the content and level of difficulty are the closest you can get to the actual exam.

Therefore, I highly recommend that you use this book as your final practice for the exam. Take the mock test seriously in one sitting. The results from completing this test will give you an idea of your probable performance on the day of the JLPT.

There isn’t really any incentive in buying the paperback version of this book because it is FREE on the internet. You can download it from the JLPT official website.

14. Koushiki Mondaishuu Vol. 2

Japanese Title日本語能力試験公式問題集 第二集
Publisher凡人社 (Bonjinsha) 
Year Published2018
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsNone
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥700

Six years after the first set of official mock tests were published in 2012, a new set of mock tests was made available online and in physical stores.

If you need additional practice on mock tests, then get this book as well. Like the first set, it is closest to the real deal because the test-makers of the JLPT themselves developed this mock test.

Again, this series is absolutely FREE, so don’t bother buying the paperback version anymore and just download it from the JLPT official website.

15. Goukaku Dekiru

Japanese Title合格できる
Publisherアルク (ALC)
Year Published2010
Available LevelsN5-N4 (Combined)
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsNone
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥2,200

Goukaku Dekiru is one of the best books for JLPT question banks because of its MASSIVE content. Since N5 and N4 are basic levels that have a narrow scope, they have been combined in just one book.

The first part of the book contains practice drills. There are numerous problems or questions for you to answer, especially for the N4 portion where some problem types even have as many as 90 questions!

The second part is an overall review. It also contains several test-type questions, but the length is about the same as that of a full-length test. Therefore, you can use this second part as a mock test.

I often use Goukaku Dekiru to practice and polish my pacing. I set a time limit to answer each question so that by the actual exam, I am able to finish everything before time runs out.

16. Yosou Mondaishuu

Japanese Title予想問題集
Publisher国書刊行会 (Kokusho Kankoukai)
Year Published2013
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsEnglish, Chinese, Korean
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,400~1,500

This is another series that is an excellent resource for practice questions. The questions aren’t as many as those in Goukaku Dekiru, but what makes these books valuable is that the level of difficulty is a notch higher than the actual JLPT.

Each problem type contains more questions than the standard JLPT, so you cannot take this as a full mock exam. At best, you can use this for practice drills.

Also, take note that this is just a question bank, so you won’t find explanations on test-taking strategies or lessons on language concepts.

If you want to crack the JLPT with perfect or near-perfect scores, then by all means, include this book as part of your review regimen. It will help you prepare for tough JLPT questions.

17. Pattern Betsu Tettei Drill

Japanese Titleパターン別徹底ドリル
Publisherアルク (ALC)
Year Published2011
Available LevelsN4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsNone
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥2,200

Like the previously mentioned books for question banks, Pattern Betsu Tettei Drill contains numerous JLPT-type questions. You’ll get a lot of practice with this book.

Though not as massive as Goukaku Dekiru, this book is unique since the question sets are immediately followed by short explanations for the answers on the succeeding page. This is particularly useful and convenient whenever you want to check your answers immediately.

The order of sections is quite odd, though. Listening comprehension comes in second, while reading comprehension comes last. In any case, you can finish the book in your preferred order.

18. Tanki Master

Japanese Title短期マスター
Publisher凡人社 (Bonjinsha) 
Year Published2012
Available LevelsN5, N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsNone
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,300

Tanki Master is a book that contains two mock exams. If you still do not feel confident enough for the actual JLPT, then you can do more mock exams with this book.

In terms of difficulty level, I would say it is slightly easier than the official mock exams, Koushiki Mondaishuu. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s not much value content-wise. It’s still useful for review and practice.

Of course, if you do a mock exam, you’ll need to finish it in one sitting. So with this book, you’ll only get to use it twice. Considering that this book isn’t free, then it’s better to study with the other books on this list and then assess whether you need another mock exam.

19. Shin Nihongo 500 Mon

Japanese Title新日本語500問
Publisherアスク (Ask)
Year Published2015
Available LevelsN5-N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsEnglish, Vietnamese
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥1,200

Like Sou Matome, the book is divided into daily practice sessions. There are five pages to be done in one day, and each page contains three questions: character (kanji or hiragana), vocabulary, and grammar. At the reverse side of the page are translations of the question sentence and short explanations for the answers.

Overall, there is four weeks’ worth of practice questions, which is nearly equal to one month. The seventh day of each week is a culminating test. Of course, you can do more questions in a day so that you can finish this book earlier.

This book comes in a small size that is easy to carry around. In the remaining few weeks before the actual JLPT, I usually bring this along with me so I can sneak in some JLPT practice whenever I have free time.

20. Super Moshi

Japanese Titleスーパー模試
Publisherアルク (ALC)
Year Published2012
Available LevelsN5-N4, N3, N2, N1
Number of Books in Series1
Language TranslationsNone
Cost Range (Tax-Exclusive)¥2,200

As the title implies, Super Moshi is a book containing mock tests. Moshi (模試)is a contraction of the word mogi shiken (模擬試験).

This book contains four mock tests – two for N5 and another two for N4. Considering that this also comes with a CD, you’re getting a lot of value with its price tag. You can use it for both N5 and N4 reviews.

Again, I highly recommend that you prioritize the two Koushiki Mondaishuu books over other mock tests. Get this book only if you believe that you still need to do more mock tests.


My Personal Recommendations

I was fortunate enough to register and make the most out of the Japan Foundation Manila (JFM) Library, so I was able to get my hands on all these books without actually buying them. But sadly, the JFM Library closed its doors in 2019, so the only option now is to purchase them. (I do not advocate piracy.)

If you are on a tight budget or you don’t have enough time to read all these books, then you can just pick a few good books out of this list and still get decent scores on the JLPT.

Here are my top picks out of the above list for N5-N4:

  • Grammar – Try! Bunpou Kara Nobasu Nihongo
  • Kanji – Kanji Master
  • Vocabulary – Hajimete no Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken Tango
  • Reading – Shin Kanzen Master
  • Listening – Mimi Kara Oboeru
  • Question Bank – Goukaku Dekiru
  • Mock Test – Koushiki Mondaishuu Vol. 1

Again, just pick the books that you need the most in your review. You don’t have to get them all. But if you have ample time in your schedule and you can commit yourself to studying regularly until the actual JLPT, then you can do more books than what is necessary to achieve mastery of levels N5 to N4.

Most importantly, practice diligently and consistently. The quality of your review, rather than the number of resources you own, will determine the level of your performance on the test.

Good luck with your JLPT review!

Author: Francesca Galve

Japanese language enthusiast (JLPT N1). Master's student in Tokyo, Japan. Accountant by profession.

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