This is a review for the workbook 「日本語パワードリル N2 文字・語彙」from the publisher Ask Publishing. It is the same publisher of the series So-Matome for the preparation of JLPT. As I love this series, I decided to also buy this exercise book.
There is also the same kind of drill book for the grammar. This review is only about the workbook for vocabulary.
It costs 880 yen.
The structure of the book is straightforward. You have 30 sessions. Each session is composed of 6 questions and should be complete in 10 minutes. So you can finish this book pretty quickly.
Every five sessions, you will find a double page of additional exercises called “concentration training”.
What I really appreciate about this book (and it was something I liked in So-Matome series, too), is that it is very straightforward. Every session consists of a double-page. It may seem to be a detail of no importance, but I realised that working on this kind of well-structured books helped me to stay focused. For example, I already worked with drills books where you had 10 pages of drills with no structure at all. I couldn’t possibly do the 10 pages in a row, but I didn’t know where to stop. So I just stopped when I had enough. And sometimes, I didn’t want to go back to something started but not finished, and I could wait several days before picking my drills book again. I couldn’t measure my progress, and I wasn’t working on a regular basis.
With a well-structured book, you just won’t leave a session unfinished, it would make no sense. Each double-page, meaning each session, has a timer (10 minutes) and a score (20 points). It is easy to see if you are making progress or not. And it is easy to plan one’s study, too. For example, you can plan to do a session a day or, if you are preparing for the JLPT, to do 5 sessions every day the last week before the test. Even if you should allot time to the correction, you know that doing a session will take you between 10 and 20 or 30 minutes (depending on how you correct yourself)
Those are typical JLPT questions. Each session is composed of 6 different exercises:
Exercise 1: You have to find the right pronunciation of the underlined kanji word in a sentence. There are 3 questions.
Exercise 2: You have to find the right kanji to an underlined word (written in hiragana) in a sentence. There are 3 questions
Exercise 3: You have to complete a sentence with the right word. There are 4 questions.
Exercise 4: Same as exercise 3, you have to complete a blank space left in a sentence. Contrary to exercise 3 were you add to pick among nouns or verbs, onomatopoeia or adverbs, the exercise 4 is mainly about choosing among one-kanji words. There are 3 questions.
Exercise 5: A sentence is given with an underlined word, and you have to pick the word with the most similar meaning. There are 3 questions.
Exercise 6: A word is given. You have to choose between 4 sentences the one in which the given word is used correctly. There are 2 questions.
Other interesting features
At the beginning, there is a study plan. For each exercise, you can write down the date where you plan to study, the date when you effectively studied it, your score and a memo. The score has to be noted on a scale from 0 to 20, you can colour or mark your progress.
The answers are given at the end of the book in a separate booklet, just like in the So-Matome series. I do not actually use it as a separate booklet, but, I don’t know, I find it cool to have a removable answer booklet.
The only inconvenient that I see is the absence of explanations. The answer booklet will only tell you which answer is correct but not why. So if you don’t understand why your answer was incorrect, you will have to find the explanation by yourself, and that’s why I think that correcting yourself might take longer than the time needed to do the drills.
One could say that having to search for the explanations and eventually doing research to understand why the answer was wrong, has the advantage that you are more likely to remember the right word next time you encounter it. But still, I would have liked to have more explanations…
I love having a drill book apart from my vocabulary book. Until now, I have studied with manuals where you had first a list of words and then drills that used those words. It was generally not that difficult to guess the answer when, among the 4 possible choices, only one was a word of the studied list.
Apart from studying typical JLPT questions type, this book also allows me to see words in context and more than once I realised that I hadn’t fully understood a word I thought I knew. That’s why i believe that those drills can be a good exercise for any Japanese learner, even if you don’t prepare for the JLPT.
Anyway, I really recommend this book to practice your vocabulary. And if you are cramming for the JLPT it really is a must. It allows to make target revisions and to change from your main JLPT preparatory book.
How I work with this book
This is applicable for any book of drills at any level.
Obviously, I do the exercises. As I think that I might want to do them again later, I don’t write directly on the book, but I use a notebook dedicated to that. I use a whole page, and I write all the answer one under the other on the left side of the page.
10 minutes is usually more than enough to answer the questions, so I use the remaining time to try to answer wisely the questions I (thought I) didn’t know and answered randomly. Almost in every session, I can find questions that puzzled me at first but to which I actually knew the answer. Sometimes, it is something that I had more or less forgotten, and I really need to concentrate on it to find the answer. Sometimes, it is something that I can guess. Either by elimination or by using some reasonable deduction. Anyway, for these questions that I thought I couldn’t answer, all I needed was a little amount of reflexion. I think that I am too lazy and that I prefer telling myself: “mmh, no, I don’t know this one… next!” than reflecting upon it. It is a matter of attitude before intellectual effort, and it can make the difference the day of the test.
I correct myself with the answer booklet. It takes a few seconds to see where I did wrong and write down the right answer. I also write down my score. It sometimes is humiliating, but it sometimes is encouraging, satisfying or even surprisingly good. In any case, tracking one’s score is the best way to measure one’s progress.
This is, I think, the most important part of the process. I go once again through the whole double-page to check where I hesitated and where I did wrong.
For the questions where I was sure of myself and right, I just skip them.
For the questions where I hesitated, I try to understand why I was not sure and search for unknown words. For example, if I hesitated between two words, it is generally because they are synonyms. If the dictionary does not help me, I google the words to find their definition in Japanese or how they are used. I write down the results of my investigation in my notebook, in front of the answer.
For the questions where I was wrong, I need to search for the unknown words or expressions. Again, I write them in front of the answer.
Most of the time, this correction does not require too much time, but it does happen that I don’t understand why my answer was wrong. I need to make some research to better understand the words and the colloquial expressions attached to them.
Searching for new words or complementary information for known words is not enough, I will have to remember it. There are two options: either I enter it in my Anki deck (either by creating new cards for new words or by adding information to existing cards), or I re-read the notes of my previous sessions before beginning a new session.
I think that making a session and just check the answers is not enough. The most important thing is to understand one’s mistakes and take the opportunity of the exercise to learn more information about vocabulary and expressions. That’s why I never begin a session unless I have 20 or 30 minutes of spare time before me.