UNICOM 1kyuu Prep Series
List of Books Reviewed
As mentioned in How I passed the 2kyuu, I was a big fan of the 2kyuu books, and credit them with a lot of my success in passing the test. So, when I began my 1kyuu preparation I naturally purchased the corresponding 1kyuu books.
There are the same four books in the 1kyuu series as the 2kyuu series, covering each test topic (reading, listening, grammar, and vocabulary). The reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and grammar books are laid out identically to the 2kyuu versions; they just include harder material. The vocabulary book, however, is quite different. Whereas the 2kyuu vocab collection has lists of words sorting by on readings with English translations and example sentences, the 1kyuu version is fully in Japanese and includes words that are pronounced the same but use different kanji, and drills to determine the correct kanji. In other words, while the 2kyuu book assumes you are still learning kanji, the 1kyuu book assumes you already know the kanji and just need some practice determining which is which.
The listening practice book obviously comes with a set of CDs, but I should note that the grammar book also includes a 2 CD set. On the grammar CDs are all of the example sentences in the book read aloud. This is for two purposes: 1) the book doesn't use any furigana and 2) supposedly you can cram grammar "on the go" this way. I somewhat doubt the wisdom of this approach, but you may find it useful.
UNICOM has an annoying tendency to pad their books with extra pages, making them heavier and thicker than they need to be (and making it appear like there is more content than there is when you're in the bookstore). However, these books are great; the only other problem is that they're a bit pricey when you buy the whole set. If you have to skip one, I'd recommend skipping the listening, as the 2kyuu and 1kyuu listening are very similar and it won't hurt you so much to not have that.
If you could only buy one of these books, I'd get the reading comprehension volume. On the 1kyuu that section is worth nearly half of the points, and it's quite difficult, so it's important to get all of the practice in that area that you can get.