My Schedule for JLPT1 Preparation
Here is a general outline of the schedule I followed to prepare for the 1kyuu. I do not recommend blindly following this schedule; this is only provided as a reference to give you some idea of how one person did it.
I took the JLPT 2kyuu the first week of December. After an exhaustive four months of studying, I took a break for one month. However, during this time I continued to use SuperMemo to study the flashcards I had created to prepare for the 2kyuu.
In January, while I was still waiting for the results of the 2kyuu, I continued to practice using SuperMemo. However, I grew tired of SuperMemo's bugs so I looked at many other memory programs, before finally settling on Mnemosyne. Knowing the JLPT was still almost a full year away, I took it pretty easy this month, too.
At this point I began the Kanji in Context series, which took a full three months, but allowed me to learn how to read all of the Ministry of Education kanji recommended through the high school level. I also picked up several thousand vocabulary words during this time. I think Kanji in Context is the single most important set of books to acquire Japanese literacy.
Mid March- JLPT Practice Test
Halfway through Kanji in Context, I took an 1kyuu practice exam and scored 58% (70% and above is passing). Although I didn't pass, I didn't think my score was too bad, either (since I still have several months to go), so I decided that after I finished Kanji in Context I would ease up on studying a little and do more fun things in Japanese rather than just cram grammar.
After finishing Kanji in Context, I could read nearly all the kanji I encountered, so I spent the next two months reading books in Japanese that I enjoyed, adding any unknown words or interesting sentences into Mnemosyne.
In August I decided I needed a more thorough review of grammar and so went through the first two volumes of the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar series.
In September I finished the third and final volume of the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar series.
In October I worked through two UNICOM books.
First, I worked my way through UNICOM's 1kyuu and 2kyuu combined grammar book. I found this book very useful because although it drills you on the common mistakes of grammar, it does so through difficult sentences, so it's not something you quickly grow tired of as you review the grammar.You can find the book here: 実力アップ!日本語能力試験1・2級対策 文法・語彙編
Second, I used UNICOM's 1kyuu reading practice book, completing all the example problems and scoring a 74% on the whole. Read my review of the UNICOM 1kyuu prep series.
With one month to go I worked through three more UNICOM books: the 1kyuu grammar book (実力アップ!日本語能力試験1級 文法編), the vocabulary book (実力アップ!日本語能力試験 まとめて覚える!漢字単語ドリル 1級), and the listening comprehension book (実力アップ!日本語能力試験1級聴解問題). Since the UNICOM books had helped me so much during my 2kyuu preparation, I thought working through the advanced versions would be the best way for me to prepare for the 1kyuu.
Still, I found the 1kyuu grammar quite difficult, so I did one more book of practice problems, from the Kanzen Master series: 完全マスター1級 日本語能力試験文法問題対策. I found the Kanzen Master book to be more helpful at teaching how to actually use the grammar. Unfortunately, though it helped my general Japanese ability more than the UNICOM grammar book, I found the UNICOM book more practical for actually taking the JLPT.
I finished up my preparation by doing one more practice test, on which I scored a 75%, just enough to not be too worried about passing. I took the test on December 7.
In February, I was notified that I passed. After taking a day off to celebrate, I moved on to continue my study of Japanese.