Best TOEFL Preparation Books
The TOEFL exam may be intimidating to even the seasoned English speaker. The reason behind this being the hidden tricks in the questions or the particular flavor of responses that raters look for.
In other words, familiarizing or learning from the choices of TOEFL preparatory books would be a far-sighted approach to taking it.
The risks, otherwise, would involve not only the loss of good ol’ cash spent in test registration, but also the low score report that may puncture your hopes of getting in your desired school, if it’s below their minimum need.
We understand the dilemma, however, that the many choices of preparatory books present to the test-taker. You want to get the best one in the interest of money and time. So we’ve put together short reviews for all the famous books out there in the eduverse. They have been mostly collected from actual reviews shared by users.
Reviews of the top TOEFL Preparation Books
The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test and Official TOEFL iBT Tests (Volumes 1 & 2)
Being right from the horse’s mouth, these test books may seem like the obvious choice for getting through TOEFL prep woes. There are, however, certain caveats to be considered before jumping in.
Yes, it is from the ETS lords and its tests are by far the best in the business when it comes to authenticity and replication.
However, the 4 tests (on the official guide) and 5 real past tests (on the test volumes 1 & 2), along with an interactive DVD ROM, are its best and most salient features.
The other plusses include:
– Many real TOEFL test questions and essay topics.
– Tips and practice exercises for the four sections, with audio transcripts and answer keys
– Detailed scoring explanations.
– Comments from actual raters and a writer’s handbook
Some of the drawbacks are listed below.
– The official ETS prep books are really best suited for test takers who are already quite comfortable with the English language. The language of the content itself is suited to such a comprehension level.
– There are barely any skill building exercises within the rest of the content. No strategies are shared to help the scoring abilities of the test takers.
– The lack of explanation on practice questions also suggests the audience level for the book. If you are familiar with the language, it will be easy for you to pick up on your mistakes.
Buy on Amazon.
Kaplan’s TOEFL iBT Premier
It has been on the standardized testing scene (GRE, TOEFL, etc.) for a while. For TOEFL, it is especially useful with strategy techniques on each section, though some test takers do feel overwhelmed with the endless strategies and lack of objectivity.
Question types and sections are explained well and you can also build your vocabulary. There are a healthy number of questions and a lot of listening practice.
The four full length tests, online, can be accessed on purchasing the book. It also happens to be mobile friendly for learning on the go.
However, as reviews suggest, Kaplan is best suited for advanced English speakers as the content seems to be staged best for someone who is already comfortable with the language or has used another accompanying preparatory book for skill development.
Buy on Amazon.
Barron’s TOEFL iBT
A veteran in the testing scene, it is also one of the cheapest prep books with CD et al. The focus is on practice questions and general strategies.
There are many more practice tests in Barron’s (7 on CD with one extra for frills). The answer keys and explanations also form a large part of the book.
However, the problem often lies when some of the practice questions don’t correlate with the actual TOEFL test questions in difficulty. Good for listening and reading practice though.
The skill building only focusses on how to take notes and paraphrase. Building on English skills through vocabulary and grammar are not the highlight of this book.
For the price though, it is one of the most comprehensive books out there.
Buy on Amazon.
Princeton Review Cracking the TOEFL iBT
It can be best described as a beginner’s guide to TOEFL. It is by far the easiest to understand and the most user friendly, as a lot of test takers claim.
But as many critics have pointed out, the content does not address the need to know how to attempt the more challenging TOEFL exam questions.
The format is similar to the test but there is only one practice test which is certainly in paling comparison to other TOEFL preparatory books.
Cambridge Preparation for TOEFL
Also quite popular, it has many advantages for a quick preparation with time constraint.
It has 7 full length practice tests with enough skill building exercises for the novice speaker. It helps with test taking strategies and English grammar skill development. The test format in the software is a good replication of the actual iBT.
The newer versions have an online access to the tests which is compatible on both Mac and PC.
However, the practice test questions are sometimes designed with not much explanation on why the correct response is one over the other even though it may seem like an alternate choice.
According to real test takers, the sample responses on the speaking and writing tasks are not helpful.
There are more than a handful number of TOEFL books out there and a lot of the decision on which one to choose lies in the level of confidence one feels in the language itself.
The rest is all about learning strategies, managing time, building on skills, and practice – loads and loads of it.
Despite the suggestions and reviews, it is advisable for you to get a hold of an older edition of the book in your school library or borrow it from your seniors who have been through the TOEFL rigging. Find your match and prepare on.
And then the rest is going beyond the comforts of one prep book and exploring developing your fluency through extensive reading in formal English – try newspapers, British or American news casts, or radio.
Here’re some pointers and information for your TOEFL test plan.