Here’s a frequent question:

“I just scheduled a date for TOEFL special home edition with Proctor U, but my account at ETS still says my test date is “to be scheduled.”  Is that normal?”

And another:

“I have finished the TOEFL home edition, but my ETS account still says “to be scheduled.”  Is that normal?

Yes, that is normal.  The system kind of sucks. It happens to everyone. Your account at ETS will say “to be scheduled” even after you schedule a test with Proctor U.  It will continue to say that until a few days after you take the test.  Just pay attention to your account at Proctor U for confirmation that you have scheduled a test.

Eventually, your account at ETS will switch to “scores not available.”  A few days after that you’ll get your scores.  Hopefully.

 

Hey, I finally uploaded the 2020 version of my guide to the independent TOEFL essay.  This is the fifth annual installment of this video!  In the next few days, I will update the website version to match the content here.

The new video has a slightly different template, a new sample essay and a few different ideas about grammar.  I also (finally) added an “FAQ” section to the end in order to avoid answering the same questions in the comments again and again!

I’ll create and film a video about the integrated writing task before the end of the month (I hope).

Okay, so here is a selection of countries, and both the old and new price to register for the TOEFL.  Increases range from $5 to $25. Countries where prices have changed are indicated in bold.  As you will see, in some countries prices have not changed. 

I am sure that prices have changed in additional countries, but I didn’t track them.  Note that I cannot track prices in China since ETS doesn’t handle the registration there (but I will ask some people on the ground there for news).  Note, also, that ETS currently doesn’t have any prices listed for Sweden.

Note that you can look up your own country on the ETS website.

I’ll update the chart next week in case any changes are delayed.

Country

Old Price

New Price (August 1)

Afghanistan 

$200

$220 

Argentina

$195

$195

Australia

$300

$300

Bangladesh

$190

$200

Benin

$185

$185

Brazil

$215

$215

Canada

$245

$245

Colombia

$240

$240

Egypt

$180

$185

France

$255

$265

French Polynesia

$180

$185

Germany

$255

$260

Ghana

$200

$220

Guadalupe

$180

$185

Hong Kong

$225

$245

Indonesia

$205

$205

Iceland

$230

$220

India

$180

$185

Iran

$225

$245

Iraq

$195

$215

Italy

$255

$270

Japan

$235

$235

Kenya

$200

$220

Korea

$200

$210

Mexico

$180

$185

Mongolia

$195

$210

Netherlands

$255

$265

New Zealand

$270

$270

Nigeria

$195

$195

Norway

$290

$315 (!)

Pakistan

$195

$195

Peru

$210

$220

Philippines

$200

$215

Russia

$260

$260

South Africa

$230

$230

Spain

$245

$250

Sweden

$270

?

Switzerland

$295

$320 (!)

Thailand

$195

$210

Turkey

$185

$185

Uganda

$195

$215

United Arab Emirates

$240

$255

United Kingdom

$210

$220

United States

$205

$225

Vietnam

$190

$220

 

Breaking news – the cost of taking the TOEFL will increase on August 1. More news on this as I get it.

Update: confirmation from ETS is  here.  It says:

“Effective August 1, 2020, the TOEFL iBT® test fee will increase in some locations. Test fees vary by testing location. To see the current TOEFL iBT test fee for test center appointments or TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition appointments in your location, search for your local test center.”

Update 2:  It appears that you can still book August sittings for the old price.  That is, no prices will change until August 1.   If you plan to take the test, you should probably register now.  I’ll try to add a “before and after” chart for selected countries once the changes go into effect.

Update 3:  The price increases range from $5 to $20.  Here is a list of countries and the changes.

Uh, are you wondering what ETS’s new slogans will be?  They are:

“TOEFL GoLearn!”

and

“TOEFL GoMentor!”

The trademarks were granted this month. Actually, you can see the “GoLearn!” slogan on the cover of the forthcoming sixth edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL.

“GoLearn” sounds pretty good, but “GoMentor!” sounds a bit too similar to the idiom “Go Mental” which is considered offensive nowadays.

These will replace “In English with Confidence,” which I kind of like.

I want to draw attention to a new site called  TOEFL Bank , which a lot of students have been using for preparation lately.  It takes a new approach to preparation, and purports to use AI deep learning to score practice essays and speaking responses submitted by students.  

The site contains 14 practice tests which are somewhat accurate.

Do check it out and let me know what you think.  I’m especially interested in comparing scores from the AI to my own estimates.

There are a few good TOEFL books.  There are a lot of bad TOEFL books.  I hope that this article helps you pick the best ones.   I’ll update and revise this list throughout the year as new books are released. At the end you can find a list of stuff I don’t like, and a list of stuff that will be published in the future.

Last Updated: July 12, 2020

Books Updated to Match the New TOEFL

Barron’s TOEFL iBT (17th Edition) was published on April 7, 2020.  This is the first edition where the entire book and the practice tests match the new version of the test. This is by far the best book available from a major publisher, but it still has some problems so make sure to read my full review of the book before you use it.  In short, it has fairly good reading and listening content, decent writing content, and weak speaking content.  It also has a huge amount of practice questions. Audio content and practice tests are provided online (not on CD).  For what it’s worth,  a Superpack featuring this book (and a couple others) is also available.

 

Princeton Review’s TOEFL iBT Prep is the second best book this year.  It has a lot of problems.  The most obvious are in the chapters about the reading and speaking sections.  You can read about all of them in my full review of the book.  There is only one complete sample test (which can only be done on paper as there is no test software included), but there are additional practice questions throughout the book. The only part of this book I really recommend is the collection of skill building exercises found at the beginning.   Note that this book used to be called “Cracking the TOEFL.”  That was a stupid name.

 

Kaplan’s  TOEFL iBT Prep Plus 2020-2021 is the worst of the three modern TOEFL books.  It truly is flaming garbage.  The sample questions in the book are not very accurate, especially the reading and writing questions.  The questions in the sample tests (provided online) are also very inaccurate.  They just don’t match the structure and organization of questions used on the real test.  Moreover, there are only three practice tests provided online even though the cover of the book promises four tests.  While the book suggests a ton of strategies, they are organized in such a way that many students will just feel confused and overwhelmed after reading them.  For more information, you can also read my complete review.


Best Overview of the Test

The Official Guide to the TOEFL (5th Edition)  is still probably the best overview of the test.  I’ve been teaching for a decade and I still open it up now and then to check some specific detail of the test.  Needless to say, it will teach you about all four sections of the test and the different types of questions.  It is also illustrated with plenty of examples.  Note, though, that it has not been updated to match the changes to the test that began in August of 2019.  It also contains a few errors and inaccurate sample questions (particular in the chapter on integrated writing and the first practice test).  ETS will publish a new version in August (see below).

 

The TOEFL Emergency Course from TST Prep is the best overview of the test that is actually updated for the new version.  Just note that it is an online course, not an actual book.  It includes a 12 page overview of the test provided via PDF, some sample questions and strategies.  If you just want the overview, choose the “basic” version since it is cheapest.  And if you use the coupon code “goodine10off” you can get a 10% discount.


Best Books for Practice Tests

The two Official TOEFL iBT Tests books are still the best source of practice tests.  Each contains five complete practice tests.  They are the closest you will get to the real test, since they are made by ETS.  Note, though, that they are not updated to match the changes from 2019 so you will have to “modify” the tests by chopping out speaking questions 1 and 5. You must also remember that the the listening and reading sections are now shorter.  There are two books you can get – Volume 1 (3rd edition) and Volume 2 (2nd Edition).  They have different tests.  ETS will publish new versions of these books in August (see below).

 

If you want some practice tests that are updated to match the new format, I recommend the ten test pack from TST Prep.  These are the most accurate practice tests you will get from an unofficial source.  They also include all of the modern independent writing prompt styles, so in some ways they are even better than the official materials.  The price is pretty good, and if you use the coupon code “goodine10off” you will probably get a 10% discount.  Note that these are provided online, and not in an actual book.


Best Book for TOEFL Reading

I recommend Kathy Spratt’s “Mastering the Reading Section for the TOEFL,” which is in its third edition.  It is available only as an Amazon ebook, but remember that you don’t need a special device to read ebooks.  You can just access them in your web browser if necessary. 


Best “Book” for TOEFL Listening

There really aren’t any good TOEFL listening books.  If you want some decent content, though, I recommend signing up at Magoosh TOEFL.  They have some good reading and listening stuff, but note that their writing and speaking content is quite bad.  You can also read my full review of Magoosh.


Best Book for TOEFL Speaking

I still really love “TOEFL Listening and Speaking Skills ” from Collins Cobuild.  It is sort of old (it was published in 2012) but it still has the most accurate speaking sample questions of any printed textbook not from ETS.  It also comes with some decent templates and very concise strategies to use on the test.  And, heck, you get some listening stuff too.  Audio files are provided online (though the company also sells a version with a CD).  Note that the book has not been updated to match the most recent changes to the test, so you will just have to ignore the sections on speaking questions 1 and 5.  That said, Collins has hinted (on Twitter) that this book will be updated in 2020 so just keep an eye out for a newer version.


Best Book for TOEFL Writing

Collins again!  I really like their  “TOEFL Reading and Writing Skills.”  This book has really accurate question samples.  Even the integrated questions, which almost everyone messes up.  It also includes some decent templates and concise strategies.  It isn’t bogged down with “information overload” like the Kaplan book mentioned above.  The independent writing prompts are a bit weaker, though, as they don’t include all of the modern styles.

 


Best Books for Vocabulary

I don’t usually recommend TOEFL vocabulary books.  I’m not entirely sure that studying vocabulary lists is totally helpful, as the odds that the words you study will actually show up on the test are somewhat low.  Not only that, but the new TOEFL introduced in 2019 seems to de-emphasize vocabulary questions in the reading section.  That said, you have a few options. 

First up, “Essential Words for the TOEFL” from Barron’s is pretty good.  I like the difficulty level of the words, and I like that it includes some realistic vocabulary questions as well.

An equally good book is McGraw Hill’s 400 Essential Words for the TOEFL. It includes helpful vocabulary, and has accurate practice reading questions of all types.  That’s neat.

Meanwhile, if you just want a whole bunch of words for a really low price (2 bucks) I recommend Darakwon’s “1800 TOEFL Essential Vocabulary .”  It’s an ebook.


Best Books for Grammar

I don’t recommend any “TOEFL Grammar” books.  For now, I just suggest my students get the 5th edition of English Grammar in Usefrom Cambridge University press. This book has been around forever, and it is still the best source of grammar explanations and practice questions.  After getting a copy, you can check out my list of  recommended units to study.  if you want even more content,  Cambridge sells a supplementary book with more practice questions!  For lower level students (writing scores below 20), I recommend getting something a bit easier like “Basic Grammar in Use.”


Upcoming TOEFL Books

Stuff I Don’t Like

  • “Writing for the TOEFL iBT” from Barrons – Very inaccurate sample questions
  • “4 Practice Tests for the TOEFL” by Kaplan – Terrible sample tests
  • “Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL” by Nova – Needless complication
  • Edusynch – Questions are the same as the TPO and official books
  • Best My Test – Questions are the same as the TPO and official books

If you are going to take the at-home version make sure to TEST YOUR MICROPHONE. And I don’t mean just using the ProctorU website. I mean making a whole lot of test recordings.  And actually listening to them carefully.

I can’t prove it, but I think a lot of students are getting low speaking scores (and cancelled scores) because of bad microphones.

Moreover, I can state that about 50% of the recordings that students make at home and send to me for evaluation sound like garbage.  Like they were made on some of Thomas Edison’s wax tubes.