I’ve been meaning to write a review of Magoosh TOEFL for ages.  Magoosh has been around forever and is still really popular with students.  But is a good source of information?  Well, I recommend it for reading and listening practice.  It is a poor resource for writing and speaking practice.

Let’s take a closer look…

The Lessons

The lessons aren’t flashy, but they are functional.  They are mostly just the Magoosh teacher talking over a whiteboard style presentation.  Thankfully transcripts are provided, and students can speed up the videos if they find them too slow.  The lessons have all been updated for the 2019 version of the TOEFL, except for a few minor instances which the site’s editors missed.

I like the reading lessons provided by Magoosh quite a lot.  The site provides 19 video lessons, totaling about three hours of video.  Each question type is described in detail with a sample of each one.  Common “answer traps” for each type are described in separate videos.  There aren’t a whole lot of “strategies” other than pacing techniques, but I think that’s probably a fine approach.  As I’ve talked about in my own content, using strategies is probably a bad idea for this section of the test.

The listening lessons are also quite strong.  Honestly, there aren’t any good TOEFL listening lessons online, so I’d enthusiastically recommend this content.  These are presented the same as the reading lessons – videos for each section question type and for common traps.  There is more content on basic strategy here, which is probably more appropriate for the listening section.

The speaking lessons are decent.  Speaking question one is described in accurate terms, which is something that most books and websites don’t do.  Magoosh makes sure to mention the “paired choice” style prompt that is mostly ignored by other sources.  It is quite disappointing that the lessons for questions 2 to 4 use the old TOEFL “Quick Prep” sets from ETS, since students can get those for free on their own, but at least it makes the material in the lessons more accurate that most sites.  Heck… that’s what I do for many of my videos.  The templates and timing suggestions for each question (provided in separate videos) are very good.  Sadly, this is all paired with weak practice questions (see below).

The writing lessons are a bit weaker.  There are a few inaccuracies in the videos.  Early in his description of the integrated writing task, the teacher suggests that the details in the reading might be in a different order than the details in the lecture.  That’s not true.  Likewise, the lesson on the independent writing task leaves out the multiple-choice style prompts.  That’s an unfortunate over site. The lessons about constructing the essay, though, are fine.  They will lead to the creation of effective essays.  These are also paired with bad practice questions (see below).

Finally, there are a bunch of grammar videos.  I checked a few of them out and they seem fine.  Honestly, though, there are better places to study grammar.  That’s not why anyone is buying a Magoosh membership.

The Practice

Well, the writing practice is bad.  Of the seven integrated writing questions provided, only three of them are accurate (Globalization, Rococo, Trade).  The rest are badly created with either too many or too few paragraphs, points that don’t match up, or faulty ordering of points.  Sadly the very first practice question (Gone with the Wind) is especially bad.  I wish that one could be moved to the end of the practice section so fewer students would see it.  The independent writing questions are all accurate, but no multiple-choice prompts are provided.  That makes the material seem a bit dated.

The speaking practice is weak.  The practice questions for task one are all accurate… but they don’t include any of the more modern “good idea” style questions.    The sample questions for task two don’t always follow the same structure used by ETS when they create questions.  They seem to emphasize the giving of details about the changes being announced rather than two two reasons for the changes on the real test.  Moreover,  the students in the Magoosh conversations sometimes address details not mentioned in the reading part, which is unlike the real test.  For what it’s worth, I recommend two of the practice questions (vegetarian meals, college radio).  You can skip the rest.  The task three and four practice questions are fine.  I feel that the prompts are a bit too specific and verbose (the real test is more likely to ask the students to more broadly define the term or concept using the examples) the construction of the questions is acceptable here.  Students might not even notice the difference when they take the real test (which is easier).

I like the reading practice a lot.  The passages and questions all look accurate.  The authors of the passages seem to really understand how the test is put together, and they avoid all of the problems that most textbook authors make.  The tests have been updated for the new TOEFL, and the number of questions for each article has been reduced to ten.  I didn’t count the question type distribution, but it seems accurate.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this section of Magoosh.

The listening practice looks good and updated.  I would also recommend it.  It appears quite accurate.  I would also recommend it.  I love that the questions here all include detailed explanations instead of just an answer key.  A lot of work went into those. 

Verdict

If you can afford it, buy this only for listening and reading practice.  There is a ton of good content here to help you prepare for those parts of the test.  Use the speaking and writing content sparingly, and make sure to supplement with some more accurate practice questions (the Official Guide and iBT Tests books, for instance).

 

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[…] 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. […]