I find that the best way learn is by listening and reading. Unfortunately, the grammar points found on the higher level JLPTs tend to be rather stiff and formal, especially the grammar found in JLPT N1. As a matter of fact, the top echelons of the grammar food chain are almost all very formal written grammar or at least grammar that is rarely spoken by those under 70 or so. In addition to a personal dislike for all things anime, this is one reason why I don't advocate the popular "let's learn Japanese by reading heaps of manga" approach to Japanese study.
While flash cards are all the rage with vocabulary fiends, I have found that they are a great help for JLPT grammar points as well. My approach is as follows:
- Get some big flash cards, none of those teeny-tiny 100 yen shop suckers. Write the grammar point on the front with no explanation. It is a good idea to develop a numbering system and jot it down on the corner of the card.
- On the back, write some example sentences (preferable ones from a study guide) and what the grammar point means, including rules and exceptions. I also have found it helpful to make a note of similar grammar points.
- If you are the anal-retentive type, you can sort your cards by categories (question grammar, time and place grammar, etc) or leves. If you are study for the JLPT N2 and plan to go on to N1, it is a good idea to hang on to your old cards since N1 makes plenty of use of N2 grammar.
I find that it is helpful to quiz yourself on a few grammar points every night in addition to attempting to use said grammar points in various example sentences of your own. Not only does this get your brain used to writing with fairly complex grammar, but it also is good for the dreaded "word scramble" section of the grammar test. This is the part when you have the beginning and the end of a long sentence with four blanks in the middle. You have four numbered sentence fragments to rearrange in the proper order and answer which fragment fits in the designated blank.
Basically, these questions are designed to test your knowledge of how a given grammar point works within a sentence and how to "rebuild" a sentence using grammatical clues. Needless to say, if you are able to quickly access you have a solid mental grammar bank to draw upon then you will have a lot easier time figuring out the scramble.
Any other hints or tips for attaining total grammar mastery? If you have any, let us know in the comment section.