Book review: Soumatome for N3

While Minna no Nihongo is widely used for N4/N5 exams,  “Soumatome” (総まとめ)is the book of choice for N3. There are a total of 5 books for N3 – one each for listening practice, reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar and Kanjis. All the books are quite comprehensive and cover a wide range of topics. The books are designed as a 6-week course with the lessons for each week split neatly into 6 days. There is a quiz for the last day of the week to check your understanding. Technically speaking, you should be done studying for N3 in 6 weeks! Six months is a more reasonable time frame to get through all the books though:-).

Soumatome for Grammar:

  • Covers pretty much all topics that are required for N3.
  • Daily plus weekly exercises to check your understanding
  • On the flip side though, the explanation given for each grammar topic is grossly insufficient. Each grammar point is followed by 2-3 example sentences and students are expected to deduce the usage and meaning of the grammar point based on this. The nuanced difference in the usage of seemingly similar grammar points such as  mitai desu, rashii desu have not been nicely explained.

Soumatome for Vocab and Kanjis:

  • The kanji book is pretty comprehensive with 328 kanjis listing out both “onyomi” and “kunyomi” along with the “stroke count” for each. The stroke order has not been given though.
  • The vocab book is divided into topics such as “Household”, “Outdoor” and so on and must easily have around 600-700 words.

Soumatome for reading comprehension:

  • There is a bit of vocab and grammar here too that precedes every passage.
  • Letters, diary entries, dialogues, newspaper articles (some of them vertically aligned from right to left), opinion pieces….simply put “written Japanese” of every kind has been covered.

Soumatome for listening:

  • Comes with 2 CDs plus script. Here again there is a bit of vocab and grammar that you must go through before every listening section.
  • Some of the audio questions are really tough. Repeated listening on a regular basis (preferably daily) will give you a lot of confidence to face the actual exam. The listening section in the actual exam in all likelihood will be much easier.



Book review – Minna no Nihongo

The most widely used book for N5/N4 is “Minna no Nihongo”. Minna no Nihongo for N5 has 25 lessons and Minna no Nihongo for N4 has another 25 lessons. The books are easily available on Amazon. There are several free apps available in Playstore for Minna no Nihongo – vocab and conversation section.

  • The main textbook comes with a supplementary reference book with “translation and grammar notes” in English.
  • Each lesson in the main text book carries a lot of example sentences using the grammar points introduced in that lesson. There are also small sample dialogues and a lot of practice exercises. However the main textbook is fully in Japanese and so can seem a little daunting for those not already familiar with Hiragana and Katakana. This is good reading practice though, for those aspiring to take the exam.
  • The supplementary book lists out new words with meanings and also gives brief grammar notes in English.  This is a little insufficient though(in the absence of a teacher) for understanding grammar thoroughly.
  • The books for both N5 and N4 come with CDs. All the lessons therefore are in audio format too. The exercise section includes an audio quiz.
  • The lessons don’t have Kanji lessons. There is another book from the same publisher for Kanji practice.