Book Review: 4 Practice Tests for the TOEFL (2019-2020) by Kaplan

Book Review: 4 Practice Tests for the TOEFL (2019-2020) by Kaplan

Note: I only review the speaking and writing parts of TOEFL books, since that is what I am most familiar with.

My Overall Grade for this book: F-

This is the worst TOEFL textbook I have ever seen. It is bad. It is very bad. It is surprisingly bad, since it just a collection of tests. There are no lessons here to mess up… just tests. And Kaplan sure did mess up those tests.

All of the sample integrated writing questions are terrible. The real test uses a mirror format, which you can read about in my guide to that task. Basically, the reading presents three points and the lecture casts doubt on those three points. It directly casts doubt on those three specific points, and does so in the same order as they are presented in in the reading. Kaplan, basically, doesn’t follow this pattern, making the practice questions totally useless. I just don’t understand how Kaplan could mess this up so badly. The TOEFL hasn’t changed in 14 years. Didn’t they notice the pattern? The questions in this book have a superficial similarity, but superficial isn’t good enough. Who the heck wrote this book?

The integrated speaking questions are just as bad. A few of them are actually close to the real test, but they seem to have achieved accuracy just by chance. Most of them are garbage.

Here is the prompt at the end of question five in test two (page 57):

“The woman tried to persuade the man to do something. Say what she tries to persuade him to do and explain the reasons she gives.”

What the heck? There has never been anything like that on the test!

Here’s the prompt that goes with question four in test 3 (page 86):

“The professor talks about the results of wolves being brought back to Yellowstone National Park. Explain what those results are and how those results are contrary to what people living near the park expected.”

Huh?

Meanwhile, that strange “persuade” prompt pops up again on test four, but this time as part of a task 3 question (page 113).

I could go on and on and on. This book is garbage. I haven’t even mentioned the printing errors, and the problems I had trying to use Kaplan’s online registration to access the audio files (the book doesn’t come with a CD). Avoid this like the plague.

If one of the authors of this book (Sumi Aktar, Kim Bowers, Matthew Callan, Louise Cook, Scarlet Edmonds, Joanna Graham, Brian Holmes, Nimesh Shah) happens to read this review please send me an email. I would love to hear about the messed up editorial process that produced this monstrosity. I know it isn’t your fault… just tell me what happened!

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