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
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
35 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] from 2020:  I’ve published a new list.  Ignore this one and check out the new one […]

Jesus

Hello!

Thank you for posting a comprehensive list of materials you find to be helpful! 🙂 I am a native English speaker looking to try prepare students for the new TOEFL. Looking forward to more information regarding teaching resources and once the books above get published any recommendations you have!

Azi Bu Chou

How about Peterson’s TOEFL READING/GRAMMER/WORD FLASH books? It is the only material I have. I do really appreciate your reply in advance.

kyeekennaing

Hi,
Thank you for your kind review on TOEFL books. It is really helpful.
I would like to ask you a few things. Since I am living in the country where there is very limited to access to such books.
When I went to the city, I did not find these books and I just got the Peterson’s TOEFL FLASH books. Are they good books for preparation. Please share me your kind comments. I do really appreciate your comments in advance.

Kenan Zeynalov

Thank you so much it really helped me about which book should I use 🙂 I just have a question, before reading this text I bought Barrons TOEFL 15th edition book. Can I use it just for practise tests? Thanks <3

Sergio

Tnak you for this review! What do you think about the book “Cracking TOEFL iBT”?

Colleen

English Grammar in Use is the British language version. If you compare, you’ll see that Grammar in Use Intermediate, 4th edition, has exactly the same content and can also be bought with the eBook option, but its cover displays the banner: American English. Here are some examples of the differences just from the first couple of pages: “Where’s Mark?” “He’s having a shower.” vs. “Where’s Mark?” “He’s taking a shower.” / “Kate phoned last night. She’s on holiday with friends.” “Kate called last night. She’s on a trip with friends.” / “Present Simple.” “Simple Present.” / “Nurses look after patients… Read more »

Colleen

I use the Grammar in Use Intermediate Workbook with Answers, Third edition, for students who need more practice. It’s also for “North American English” and seems to work well with Grammar in Use Intermediate.

Colleen

I’m not familiar with the English book, but this one has 200 pages and follows the format for the 4th edition Grammar in Use Intermediate. I haven’t heard anything about a 4th edition of the workbook, but the 3rd edition is OK. It just isn’t as “pretty” as the main book–the cover art is a little dated, and the more modern use of color and graphics is missing. ISBN 978-0-521-73478-3. Also, the Barron’s TOEFL iBT 17th edition is available from amazon now. I have a TOEFL student who is completing the 15th edition, and we were hoping for a sequel… Read more »

Colleen

It’s unfortunate to hear about the one-hour tests. Barron’s sent me a link to the online resources, so I have now looked at those. I found that there are a lot of resources there, including videos, PowerPoints, flashcards, and so on. I’d suggest looking them over if you can get in. My password from Barrons worked fine, but when I tried to get in via the instructions in the book, I failed! It’s also an overly complicated way to access the material. I did want to add that there are a couple of confusing areas. For example, the “Landing Page”… Read more »

Colleen

Regarding your comment about the recycled material, I wondered the same thing. I sure hope the new ETS books that are supposed to come out in a couple of months have new content. How many years can they keep selling the same content in “new editions”? And how hard would it be to replace it with some of their newer material?

Colleen

Sorry, I meant to add that the 17th edition also has two fairly robust sections on Usage and Style that weren’t in the 15th edition.

Colleen

Your points are excellent, and I did see that the ETS release date has been pushed back. It would be nice if this indicated that they were doing a complete overhaul of the book’s content and “mistakes.” However, it’s probably just due to the coronavirus workforce delays. The thing that puzzles me the most is that, for years, ETS has been putting together tests that can determine the future of a prospective college student. They make money selling these tests. Yet, they don’t seem to care about really keeping their official guide up-to-date and accurate. I wonder if it’s because… Read more »

Maurizio

In your review you did not mention the book:
 
Cambridge Preparation to the TOEFL 4th

Maurizio

Thanks for your point of you!

Alkanza Patih

I’ve see this review but I have some problem… i already have many toefl books from my brother this year(2020)… He gives me All ETS Newest official practice test books, All Barrons 15th books in Superpack, Princeton 2019, Mometrix Toefl Prep, Kaplan 2020-2021, Cambridge Toefl, Collins Toefl. It’s serious i’m not joking, so i started confuse which book from all these top expensive books should i use to master toefl in about 3 months preparation?

Emad Ali

Could u please send me some of these materials..?
I would be highly grateful for u
http://www.emad19555@gmail.com

Michel

Hello!

I will pass my TOEFL again in 2-3months i already passed it before and i had the score of 71 (11R,19L,21S,20W).
I was wondering which Book should i buy between the official guide of TOEFL (5th edition) that is not updated yet or the Barron’s TOEFL IBT (17th edition) which is updated but not official.
Best regards.

Michel

Thank you for your answer, i just ordered it.

John H

The Kaplan is disappointing on a number of levels. My biggest complaint is the structure. For example, take the Listening chapter: Listening -General Listening Strategies: Conversations and Lectures -11 Strategies -General Listening Strategies: Conversations -8 Strategies -General Listening Strategies: Lectures -30 Strategies It’s not clear how a student is supposed to absorb such a wide number of concepts. “Strategies” in this chapter, like ‘listen actively’ and ‘think critically’, are unsatisfying and even lazy advice nuggets that characterize much of the book. This one is a missed opportunity for Kaplan. Instead of focusing on a handful of actionable tactics that learners… Read more »

Bashar

Thank you for your efforts.