Best TOEFL Books of 2016

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  Students should note that it is a bit out-of-date and contains a few inaccurate questions (the integrated writing question in test one should be ignored) but this is the book that I recommend to 95% of my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  It also contains seven practice tests on CD-ROM, but it must be said that these are out-of-date and some of the speaking and writing questions are out-0f-date and inaccurate.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!

Terrible Books

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.

Should You Use Speaking Templates on the TOEFL?

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.

How to Write a Perfect TOEFL Integrated Essay

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!

New Video: How to write a high-scoring independent TOEFL essay

I’ve uploaded a new video!  Finally!

This one is all about how to write an independent essay that will score more than twenty-five points.  It is similar to my earlier video, but includes slightly more complex strategies for advanced students.

Let me know what you think.

Today’s Sample TOEFL Essay: People are Living Longer

Today’s sample essay is about reasons why people are living longer.  This is actually the second time I have answered this question, as I completely forgot that I had already written on the topic last year.  Whoops.

I’ll try to write a few more this week, but will be mainly focusing on getting a new video online.

What is an Average TOEFL Score?

An average TOEFL score is eighty points.

Or at least that is what my research indicates.  Today’s article summarizes average scores based on level of study, gender and mother tongue.  Let me know what you think.

Five New Sample TOEFL Essays

I’ve published five new sample essays since my last update.  The most recent essay is about whether is it better to learn with a teacher or to learn alone.  Enjoy!  Let me know if there are any topics you would like me to produce essays about.

Book Review: Cracking the TOEFL 2016

I’ve started another new series.  This one is book reviews of popular TOEFL textbooks.  First up is a review of “Cracking the TOEFL 2016” from Princeton Review.  Click the link for a complete review, but the short version is that it is a better-than-average book with lots of practice questions, but a few flaws in the integrated writing section.

TOEFL Requirements for CalTech

I’m a bit bored of writing sample essays, so my new series is about compiling the TOEFL requirements for popular universities.  In my experience, it is difficult to get all of this information in a centralized location, so perhaps some concise guides will help students out.  It is also necessary to simply contact some of the universities because their websites are fairly incomplete.

Today’s guide is all about CalTech.  Enjoy, engineers!

New Sample Essay: Why do People Visit Museums

Wow!  I’ve finally posted a new sample essay.   Sorry about not posting any of these lately.  I was busy traveling for all of October (and a bit of September) and quite busy.  I’m home now, so there should be a few more of these coming up.

Today’s question asks “why do people visit museums when they go somewhere new?”  Find it here.

TOEFL Resources


This blog complements TOEFL Resources, a collection of guides to the TOEFL iBT.

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