And, finally, I have updated our guide to the independent TOEFL essay. This version reflects everything I have learned over the past 14 months about writing solid essays and about which strategies are easiest for students to grasp. Next, I plan to update all of my videos about the speaking section. Stay tuned!
I’m happy to report that the Web version of our guide to the integrated essay has now been updated to match the content of the video version. This means that the article now has new templates and new sample paragraphs. It also includes all of the special vocabulary and grammar tips I mentioned in the video.
I’m working on the 2017 edition of our guide to the independent essay, meanwhile. That should go online in just a few days, so keep an eye on the YouTube channel!
I’m happy to report that I have finally finished the 2017 edition of my guide to the integrated TOEFL essay. While the question itself hasn’t really changed since last year, I have learned a lot more about writing good essays and about which strategies work best for my students. I’ve tried to include all of those things in this new video. I hope you like it!
I will be working on new versions of all of the videos in my channel, so stay tuned.
New today is a guide to using compound sentences in your TOEFL Type Two essays. As I always tell my private students, you need to use both simple and compound sentences in your essays. The e-rater is programmed to recognize sentences of both types. Even if your grammar is strong, you won’t get a high score if you write only simple sentences.
The guide includes a short explanation of what a compound sentence is, as well as a definition of what a conjunction is. Most importantly, it provides a ton of example sentences drawn from actual TOEFL essays (which are linked).
I have just uploaded another sample essay. This one is on the old “a restaurant is opening in your neighborhood” question that has been in the Official Guide for ages. I actually dreaded writing this one (and, indeed, skipped it last year) as I find the question a bit tedious, but I am happy that I was able to come up with something at least somewhat logical and convincing. You can find the essay here. Enjoy!
For the first time in ages, I have uploaded a new sample essay. You can find it in the usual spot. The questions are taken from a Korean book (Hacker’s Actual Test) that you probably can’t find, but it does demonstrate the required structure and templates.
That will probably be my last sample integrated essay, as I am working on other stuff right now. I plan to upload a sample independent essay in the next day or two and then write some guides to things like grammar and vocabulary.
Also: I have reopened the old TOEFL Resources Forum and I will providing a few free evaluations each week. These will be at the same level as our paid evaluations, so stop by today if you need some help getting ready for the test.
I’m happy to announce that we now have an Android App. It is mostly a repackaging of the content on the main site, but I do hope you will take some time to check it out. It includes most of our sample essays, templates, guides ad videos. I’ll be updating it as time progresses, of course. Let me know what you want to see in the app.
Well, it’s now 2016 so I think it’s time for a new list of the best TOEFL preparation books available. Here’s what you need to know:
The Best books for Everyone
The Official Guide to the TOEFL. This is still the very best book on the market. It’s written by the same people who design the TOEFL, and it is full of both general strategies and sample questions. It contains three complete practice tests on CD-ROM, as well as a great number of realistic practice questions within the book itself. Students should note that it is a bit out-of-date and contains a few inaccurate questions (the integrated writing question in test one should be ignored) but this is the book that I recommend to 95% of my students.
Summary: The Official Guide will give you a great overview of the test, and a good amount of practice questions.
The Official Test Collection Volume 1 and Volume 2. There are now two volumes of official practice tests available in textbook form. Each book contains five practice tests. I highly recommend these two books. Most students need accurate practice tests more than anything else, and these ten tests are enough to really prepare for the test. If you have the Official Guide and you have these two tests collections, you probably don’t need anything else.
Summary: The Official Tests Collections are the absolute best source of practice tests.
Best Books for Skills Practice
Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL. This is an old book that hasn’t been updated in a long time, but I still rather like it. That’s mainly because it contains more skills practice than any other book on the market. Most students are really looking for skills practice but if you are… this is the best book available. It also contains seven practice tests on CD-ROM, but it must be said that these are out-of-date and some of the speaking and writing questions are out-0f-date and inaccurate. Only use these if you don’t have access to the official tests collection above.
Summary: The Cambridge Guide is still a great resource for skills practice, but the tests are not useful anymore.
Cracking the TOEFL. Princeton Review has published a new edition of their book for 2015/16! This also contains a lot of good skills practice exercise. If need more of that stuff, it’s almost as good as the Cambridge book. Sadly, it only contains one full length practice test on CD. Also, the sample integrated writing questions are not very good. To know more, you can read our full-length review.
Summary: Some good skills practice!
Kaplan TOEFL Premier. I really wanted to like this book. The book itself is actually pretty good, as it includes a lot of great strategies for all sections of the test. The language used to describe these tasks is pretty advanced, but for some students that might not be problematic. My problem with this book is the practice material. Student should know that they get nothing on CD-ROM. That’s right – the book comes with NO practice tests. Students are required to go online to get the tests. That sucks. Not only that, but students can’t jump between sections of the test. If you want to do the writing section you will have to click “next question” through all of the reading questions and then sit through all of the listening and speaking content. Not only that, but the accuracy of the questions is only mediocre. There is no reason to buy this instead of the Official Test Collection.
Barron’s TOEFL. This book is terrible. It’s been terrible for a long time. I don’t know why Barron’s refuses to fix it, even when the publish “new” editions. Students are drawn to it because it has eight complete practice tests. That’s nice, but the speaking and writing sections of those tests are quite inaccurate. Indeed, the integrated writing questions are some of the worst I’ve ever come across. Get this if you want some extra reading and listening practice… but don’t depend on it for help in the speaking and writing parts of the test. Read more about this book in our full-length review.
I’m often asked if it is a good idea to use speaking templates on the test. Some students fear that graders will see the same templates again and again and punish students for using them. This may be true, so if you are going to use templates make sure that you are using fresh templates. That is, make sure you use templates that have been developed recently… not a set that has been in textbooks for years and years.
With that in mind, I recently completed another revision of my own collection of templates. Not only are these brand new, but they reflect all of my most recent research and ideas about how the test is put together. The page also includes video lectures about all of the integrated speaking questions.
If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below.
Well, this is an old video that I made a few months ago, but I forgot to post it here on the blog.
The video demonstrates how to structure an integrated essay using the templates included on my site that I’ve been perfecting and modifying over the past few years. It uses an example from the “Official Guide” to walk students through the process of crafting an excellent introduction and three good body paragraphs.
Check it out! The method works. Really!