When you’re shopping for TOEFL books, it can be hard to know which are high-quality and which you should walk away (if not run away) from! That’s why I’ve put together this list of TOEFL book reviews: the best TOEFL books of 2022. Here, you’ll see exactly why some books stand out from the crowd—and learn what to avoid when searching for good TOEFL prep for Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing.
Official TOEFL Books from ETS
- Best Unofficial TOEFL Prep Books
- Magoosh TOEFL Books
Official TOEFL Books from ETS
ETS itself makes three official TOEFL prep books that I highly recommend. These official practice materials will always be the ones most accurate to the real exam. If possible, you’ll want to get the most recent editions of each book, the ones released in 2020; these are the only editions thus far that are consistent with the 2019 updates to the test format. The practice tests in these books do have many of the same questions as the practice tests in earlier editions, but the questions and sections have now been reformatted in important ways. So, let’s take a closer look at each book.
1. The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, 6th Edition
There are three good things about the TOEFL Official Guide:
- It has the most accurate description of what you see on the TOEFL iBT
- The practice sets at the ends of the chapters
- The four practice tests, which come with downloadable software and audio files (these can be taken in-book or through the software)
- Sample Speaking and Writing responses, with scorer commentary.
But none of it is perfect, oddly. For more details of the pros and cons of this book, read my full review of the Official Guide to the TOEFL iBT Test.
2. Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Volume 2, Third Edition
The three official TOEFL books are all very close to each other in ranking, but the best of the three for cheap, authentic practice tests is this book. And this book really does focus just on practice tests. There are no extra practice questions, and no supplemental chapters that give extra information about the tests. To learn more about why the official practice tests here are even better than the official prep in the other two ETS TOEFL books, check out my full review of Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Volume 2, Third Edition.
3. Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Volume 1, 4th Edition
Before there was a Volume 2 of these tests, there obviously had to be Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Vol. 1, 4th Edition. The book still has the same practice tests as before, but the tests have been shortened and reformatted to match the updated TOEFL that was rolled out in 2019. While this book is very similar in quality to the second volume, there are a few important differences that are worth considering. Learn more by reading my full review of this first volume of Official TOEFL iBT Practice tests.
Best Unofficial TOEFL Prep Books of 2022
Yes, official TOEFL prep materials are a must-have for any serious student. But there’s a lot of really helpful prep to be found beyond ETS, and even beyond Magoosh. Here are three TOEFL books from other publishers that just might be a good addition to your test prep bookshelf.
4. Barron’s TOEFL iBT, With 8 Online Practice Tests
The ugly truth is that really good unofficial TOEFL prep materials are hard to find. But Barron’s does a really great job as an unofficial resource. This Barron’s book is by far their most comprehensive. In the full review of Barron’s TOEFL iBT, David gives a detailed description of Barron’s offerings, and some pros and cons to help you decide if the book is right for you. The pros and cons are also summarized below.
Barron’s TOEFL iBT Pros and Cons
|TOEFL Reading is very similar to the real exam.||Their TOEFL Listening audio tracks are shorter than the real ones.|
|Barron’s TOEFL Listening questions are also very TOEFL-like.||Integrated Speaking and Integrated Writing are inconsistent– sometimes like the real test, sometimes much harder or easier.|
|The Independent Speaking tasks are just like the real ones.||The online resources are difficult to access and navigate.|
|Barron’s Independent Writing is also just like the actual TOEFL.||Answer explanations don’t go into enough depth.|
|Excellent advice on every aspect of TOEFL Prep.|
|The online and printed content go together very well.|
5. Barron’s Essential Words for the TOEFL
Barron’s does it again! To see if this recommended vocabulary resource is truly right for you, read David’s full review of Barron’s Essential Words for the TOEFL.
Barron’s Essential Words Pros and Cons (summary)
|Great resource for TOEFL Reading practice.||This book is really only for students who especially struggle with vocabulary.|
|Offers activities that help you learn new vocabulary by using it, rather than just memorizing it.||The TOEFL practice passages and questions are outdated, reflecting the pre-2019 version of the TOEFL.|
|The vocabulary words are accurate to the vocabulary on the real TOEFL.||Focuses on vocabulary in TOEFL Reading, not in other sections of the test.|
|Includes one full TOEFL Reading section.|
|The tips and tricks are insightful and helpful.|
|An alphabetical index of the vocabulary words helps you quickly look up any word you want to study.|
6. 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL Test
This book is from McGraw Hill. As a publishing company, McGraw Hill puts out the official TOEFL books; as an educational company, they also make and publish unofficial TOEFL resources of their own. How good is this unofficial resource from the publisher of the official books? Read this review to find out. Or read a quick summary of the review in the table below:
400 Must-Have Words: Pros and Cons
|Covers vocabulary for a very broad range of topics.||Includes some vocabulary words and topics that would never appear on the TOEFL.|
|Organizes vocabulary words and lessons by topic.||Geared more toward general English vocabulary skills, and less toward building vocab specifically for the exam.|
|The topics are presented in a fun, interesting way.|
|Most topics and vocabulary words are ones you could see on the TOEFL.|
|Great for getting more comfortable with TOEFL topics that you struggle to understand.|
7. Kaplan TOEFL iBT Prep Plus
This book from Kaplan is not quite as good as the other resources above, but still has many strong points. Becuase of this, I’m not giving it a full, separate review, but I will describe it in a little more detail here.
The advice in the book is, for the most part, excellent! Great tips and tricks on study habits, language learning, and test strategy. The practice material itself is flawed but helpful. Kaplan’s Reading and Listening practice questions are close enough to the real thing that you’ll get good practice. The Speaking and Writing practice are a little further off from the real thing, but can still help you build test skills and English skills.
One thing to be wary of: the Kaplan does get certain key aspects of the TOEFL’s structure wrong. To name a few inaccuracies, their Reading questions don’t follow the order of ideas in the passage, Kaplan’s Integrated Speaking and Writing tasks are much more complicated than they should be, and the Listening sections feature class discussions, but not monologues.
Pros and Cons of Kaplan TOEFL
|Reading passages and questions are very much like the real TOEFL.||Reading questions are presented out-of-order.|
|Listening audio and questions are similar to what you’d see on test day.||Over-emphasis on TOEFL Reading vocabulary questions.|
|Very helpful tips on language learning, test strategy, and study habits.||Some inaccurate descriptions of the TOEFL’s structure and content.|
|High quality Independent tasks for Speaking and Writing.||The online exams are buggy and can only be used on the Firefox browser.|
|Comes with a set of video lessons and full-length practice tests.||The software for the online exams is different from the real TOEFL iBT software in a number of distracting ways.|
|Integrated tasks for Speaking and Writing are much harder than real TOEFL Integrated tasks.|
8. The ELT Grammar Book (Non-TOEFL Prep Book)
While the ELT Grammar book is billed as a teacher’s resource, TOEFL teachers and students alike may find it useful. To read more about this book and see if it can help you in your TOEFL prep and English studies, see David’s full review of the book.
ELT Grammar Book Pros and Cons In a Nutshell
|A great reference book for just about any aspect of English grammar.||Too long to easily be read cover to cover.|
|An excellent teacher’s resource for ESL instructors.||Contains some obscure jargon related to teaching that will be confusing to students and even to many teachers.|
|Useful quick summaries of grammar principles at the end of each tutorial.|
|For quick reference, grammar concepts are clearly listed in both the table of contents and the index.|
|Explains very complicated grammar concepts in an easy-to-understand way.|
Magoosh TOEFL Books and Prep
Though Magoosh has not published a hard-copy TOEFL book (which helps keep our TOEFL prep accessible and low-cost) we go one better by offering tons of free eBook PDFs that you can take on the go. Here are just a few—you can browse the rest in our full list of TOEFL eBooks and PDFs!
And if you are an interactive learner (I think most people are), then I’d recommend trying our self-paced, online course with a Magoosh TOEFL free trial.
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