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 my current list of non-recommended books and websites.

Last Updated: May 16, 2020

Books Updated to Match the New TOEFL

Kaplan’s TOEFL iBT Prep Plus 2020-2021. This was the first TOEFL textbook updated to match the new version of the test.  However, I don’t really recommend it.  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 (instead of the four promised on the book’s cover).  While the book has a ton of strategies, they are organized in such a way that many students will just be left confused after reading them.  You can also read my complete review.

 

Princeton Review’s TOEFL iBT Prep was the second book this year to match the new test.   This one is much better than Kaplan’s book, but it also has a lot of accuracy 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 software included), but there are additional practice questions throughout the book. The only good part of this book is the collection of skill building exercises in the beginning.   Note that this book used to be called “Cracking the TOEFL.”  That was a stupid name.

 

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.  Audio content and tests are provided online (not on CD).  Because of the ongoing COVID pandemic I haven’t been able to get a copy of the book yet, but I’ll publish a full review when I do.  I think that a Superpack featuring this book (and a couple others) will be sold in July.

 


Upcoming Books that Will Match the New TOEFL

An updated edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL  will be published in June or July of this year.  The Amazon listing says July, while the publisher’s website says June.  Keep checking here for updated information.  I’m happy to report that for the first time, audio and software content will be provided online, rather than on a DVD.  It will contain four practice tests, just like the previous edition.  I’ll write a detailed review as soon as I can get a copy for myself.

Note that on the same day as this guide is published, ETS will also publish updated versions of Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Official iBT Tests books.

Kaplan’s 4 Practice Tests for the TOEFL will be updated on September 1, 2020.  It will also be sold as a bundle with the Kaplan book mentioned above.  It will probably suck like most of Kaplan’s TOEFL books.

Barron’s Practice Exercises for the TOEFL (Ninth Edition) will be published on October 6, 2020.  This is the first edition of the book published since 2015.  Honestly, I’ve never used this book, so I can’t comment on the quality.  Apparently it has some material related to the TOEFL ITP (used by institutions), which is neat.  I’ll try to get a copy in October.

It looks like Smart Edition’s planned “TOEFL Full Study Guide” has been cancelled or delayed.  But check Amazon if you are interested.


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 June or July (see above).

 

 

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

I suppose that 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 I mentioned above so you will have to “modify” the tests by chopping out speaking questions 1 and 5 (and by remembering the the listening and reading sections are shorter.  Note, also, that the independent writing questions are a bit old and that the real test has a greater variety of question styles.  Remember that 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 June or July (see above).

 

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 can also read Amazon ebooks in your browser.  This book has been updated to match the new version of the test.


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 ELSE messes up.  It also includes some decent templates and concise strategies.  It isn’t bogged down with “information overload” like the Kaplan book, for example.  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 reading questions as well.

An equally good book is McGraw Hill’s 400 Essential Words for the TOEFL. It also includes some decent words, and has accurate TOEFL 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.”

 


Stuff I Don’t Like

  • “Writing for the TOEFL iBT” from Barrons – Inexcusably inaccurate sample questions
  • “Essential TOEFL Vocabulary” from McGraw-Hill – It isn’t a TOEFL book (despite the name)
  • “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
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[…] from 2020:  I’ve published a new list.  Ignore this one and check out the new one […]

Jesus
Jesus
4 months ago

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
Azi Bu Chou
3 months ago

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
kyeekennaing
3 months ago

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
Kenan Zeynalov
2 months ago

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
Sergio
20 days ago

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

Colleen
Colleen
3 days ago

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
Colleen
3 days ago

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
Colleen
1 day ago

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
Colleen
1 day ago

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
Colleen
1 day ago
Reply to  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
Colleen
1 day ago
Reply to  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
Colleen
2 hours ago

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 »