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  Students should note that it is a bit out-of-date and contains a few inaccurate questions (the integrated writing question in test one should be ignored) but this is the book that I recommend to 95% of my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  It also contains seven practice tests on CD-ROM, but it must be said that these are out-of-date and some of the speaking and writing questions are out-0f-date and inaccurate.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

Which GMAT Textbook is the Best?

I am often asked which GMAT book I feel is the best. The “best” book really depends your individual circumstances and level, of course, but here are a few recommendations that should help you along:

The Best Textbooks for Beginners

1. The Official Guide for GMAT Review is the best book for beginners. It offers a broad overview of the test, describing each section in detail and includes 900 practice questions. Some students might need only this book. It is a bit concise, though, so you may be better off purchasing it as part of a 13th Edition Bundle, which includes the official guides to the verbal and quantitative sections.

2. Kaplan GMAT Premier 2014 is another good general (unofficial) look at the whole test. A feature that sets it apart from the above is its inclusion of six practice tests on DVD. It is also newer than the above – it was published in 2014.

3. The Manhattan GMAT Complete Strategy Guide Set is a good option if you’ve got lots of money. It is expensive, but includes ten individual textbooks (and they are BIG books) that will help you focus really closely on the sections that you need help with. This set really does have everything.

The Best Books for Advanced Students

1. Kaplan GMAT 800: Advanced Prep is a good choice for advanced students who are already pretty comfortable with the test. It is designed “especially for students aspiring to score above the 90th percentile” says the ad copy. It is new in 2014, which is nice.

2. Advanced GMAT Quant from Manhattan is also nice. Curiously, it is not included in the mega-bundle described above. How strange.

The Best Books for GMAT Math

1. Kaplan GMAT Math Workbook is probably the best book specifically designed for students who need extra math help. It offers details math review and plenty of practice questions with answer explanations.

2. Foundations of GMAT Math from Manhattan is a good book for lower-level students who need something of a “refresher” before tackling the test, or for students who find the Kaplan book a little too hard.

The Best Books for GMAT Verbal and Analytical Writing

1. The Official Guide for GMAT Verbal Review is getting a bit long in the tooth (it was published in 2009), but I think it is your best bet. It succinctly explains necessary concepts, and includes 300 practice questions taken from past tests.

2. GMAT Analytical Writing: Solutions to the Real Argument Topics is pretty good. There aren’t a ton of books dedicated to preparing for the analytical writing section, but this one should provide help to those who need it. It should be particularly useful to international students.

TOEFL Resources


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

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