Basic Kanji 320
Basic Kanji 320 Corresponding to JLPT Level 3 Meguro Language Center
Well it does exactly what it says on the cover. The bulk of this book are the 284 kanji needed for JLPT3, plus an extra 36 kanji that might also be tested. (The wording on the MLC site suggested to me that they were prediciting 36 kanji out of the 284 that might appear on this years test. Alas that is not the case. )
The kanji are laid out in what is now a very predicable pattern. The kanji with stroke order, onyomi, kunyomi, English meaning, compounds that appear in JLPT3 and an example sentence.
Maybe it’s the only way it can be done but it’s hardly innovative. You end up with a list to be learnt by heart which is fairly difficult.
I can’t quite figure out the logic of the arrangement of kanji. I don’t think it’s even a case of 1 to 120 being Level4 plus MLCs extras with the last 36 kanji of the 320 being the extra ones. It would have been nice if the kanji were actually marked as to official JLPT level. There is an index of onyomi and kunyomi; I’m not sure how useful it is but it’s good that it’s there.
As a separate item you get 31 test sheets of 20 questions. The “writing” test is the usual multiple choice but the reading is harder as you have to give a correct reading rather than just choose one and more than one kanji is tested per sentence.
You score yourself by deducting 1 for each mistake rather than adding up correct answers. I’m unsure how accurate a picture this gives; a better scoring method would be 5 marks per question so you can see if you are actually getting over 60% correct. Unfortunately these tests are on groups of kanji; albeit increasingly larger groups are tested. I think to bring it all together a couple of full tests would have been good.
Lastly there is a sheet of the kanji tested in past exams. This can be downloaded from MLC’s site however and again I don’t know how useful this information is.
The book is self-published by MLC so in effect it’s a bound photocopy. This is ok except were there is black text on a dark grey background. I don’t think the method of denoting stroke order by using numbers on a single character is a good way of doing this. It would be beter to have a stroke by stroke series of diagrams or omit it entirely. Stroke order isn’t necessary for JLPT.
The other issue is it’s very hard to buy unless you are resident in Japan. They will only take payment as a bank transfer and only deliver to a Japanese address. I got a friend of mine to buy it for me. I think it would be better as a paid for pdf which can be paid for by credit card. Maybe they are concerned with piracy but there’s nothing to stop anyone scanning and uploading the paper version.
All in all I don’t think I’d recommend this. The kanji listing you can get at sites such as the JLPT Kanji project or the JLPT Study Page. The test sheets are the best feature but finding mock tests elsewhere isn’t too difficult.
If you are looking for a book to learn JLPT3 kanji I think JLPT3 Kanji by Examples is much better.