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.
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 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.”
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