There are a few good TOEFL books. There are a lot of bad ones. I hope that this article helps you pick the best TOEFL books. 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: October 31, 2020
Best Overview of the Test
The Official Guide to the TOEFL (6th Edition) is the best overview of the test. I’ve been teaching for a decade and I still open it up now and then to look up some specific detail. Needless to say, it will teach you about all four sections of the test and the different types of questions each section contains. It is also illustrated with plenty of examples. But note that is also contains a few errors and inaccurate sample questions (particular in the chapter on integrated writing and the first practice test). Note that the 6th edition matches the new version of the TOEFL that started in 2019. For more details, check out my complete review.
Other Books Updated to Match the New TOEFL
Barron’s TOEFL iBT (17th Edition) was published on April 7, 2020. This is the first edition that matches the new version of the test. This is by far the best book not from ETS this year. However, it still has some issues 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. However, 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.
If you don’t want to buy a physical book, 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. The books also reflect the new version of the test that began in 2019. There are two books you can get – Volume 1 (4th edition) and Volume 2 (3rd Edition) . Each book contains an access code to download software that simulates the official test. If you want to know more about these two books, check out my review.
If you want some more practice tests, 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 has fewer 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 Use” from 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
- A new edition of “TOEFL iBT Prep” from Princeton Review will be published in February 2021.
- A new edition of “TOEFL iBT Writing” from Barron’s will be published in May 2021.
- Smart Edition will publish their first TOEFL book in May 2021.
Stuff I Don’t Like
- “Writing for the TOEFL iBT” from Barron’s – Very inaccurate sample questions
- “4 Practice Tests for the TOEFL” by Kaplan – Terrible sample tests
- “TOEFL Practice Exercises” by Barron’s – Accuracy problems
- “TOEFL Prep Plus” by Kaplan – Terrible, terrible, terrible
- “Speaking and Writing Strategies for the TOEFL” by Nova – Needless complication
- Best My Test
Note that the above links are sponsored – if you order the books from Amazon I’ll make a few bucks.