This is another question that I’m often asked. The “best” book depends on your individual circumstances and what you are looking for. Here’s a few suggestions (updated August 6, 2016):
The Best Textbooks for Most Students
1. The Official Guide to the TOEFL (4th Edition) is the best book for new students who need an overview of the test and some basic help. This guide is published by the people who create the TOEFL, and comes with three practice tests on CD. The tests are pretty good – the only better source of practice tests is in the Official Tests Collection (link below). Just note that the first integrated writing question (about altruism) is somewhat outdated. There is nothing revolutionary in this book, but I do recommend it to students who are just beginning to study for the TOEFL. Many students find that this is the only book they need. It also contains a somewhat useful grammar guide. Amazon sells an electronic version of this guide.
2. Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL iBT is a great book that breaks down and simplifies the speaking and writing sections of the test. Many students find these sections most difficult to study for. This short book details exactly what should go into a good essay and speaking answer without wasting too much space on unnecessary explanations and descriptions of the test. It assumes that you know about the test already and concentrates on giving you the strategies you will need to deliver solid answers.
The Best Textbooks for Advanced Students
1. Delta’s Key to the TOEFL iBT: Advanced Skill Practice (2011) is recommended for advanced students. This book contains page after page of practice exercises and study tips. Use this book to “fine tune” your skills, or if you need to focus on certain areas. It could help you squeeze a few more points out of your current ability level! The book also includes four practice tests, which are completed on paper (with the necessary audio provided via CD).
2. Cracking the TOEFL iBT (2016) from Princeton Review is my secondary recommendation. It is perfect for students who are very confident about their overall English ability and want to focus on specific strategies and techniques for mastering the TOEFL. It contains one full-length practice test. Don’t be dissuaded by the fact that there is just one practice test here, as the book also contains a great number of “drills” which are complete practice questions for each section.
1. The Official TOEFL iBT Tests Collection (2012) is the best source of practice tests. This book contains five actual tests administered in the past by ETS. Amazon sells it in a bundle with the Official Guide (above) which I highly recommend. Note that a second volume of tests is now available.
2. Barron’s Guide to the TOEFL is a very popular practice textbook. It contains an incredible eight practice tests. I recommend it, but I must point out that the integrated writing practice questions are not accurate. Students should only use this collection to prepare for the reading, listening, speaking and independent writing sections of the test.
3. Students who are looking for graded speaking and writing practice should check out our TOEFL essay evaluation and grading service. For a small fee, a native speaking TOEFL expert will evaluate your practice essays, correct your grammar mistakes line by line and estimate how your essay would score on test day. Our service has been used by hundreds of students and it really works!
1. TOEFL Grammar Guide: 23 Grammar Rules You Must Know To Guarantee Your Success On The TOEFL Exam (2013) is a good, concise guide to the grammar skills you need to succeed on the TOEFL. This book just runs through various grammar rules, focusing on the ones that you are most likely to use on test day, while ignoring rules and tenses that you probably won’t use in your written and spoken answers. It’s very short and very cheap.
2. Collins Vocabulary and Grammar for the TOEFL Test (2013) is a great new book that also focuses on the grammar skills that students will need on the TOEFL (and ignores rules that aren’t very helpful). It contains more practice exercises that the above pick.
Best Textbooks for TOEFL Vocabulary
1. 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL (2014) is a wonderful vocabulary textbook. It focuses on subject-specific words that will help students in the listening and reading sections of the test.
2. The Essential TOEFL Vocabulary flashcard kit by Princeton Review is a good way to start practicing vocabulary, though I suggest combining it with your own home-made vocabulary cards.