Official Guide to the TOEFLI want to finish off my series on the 5th edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL by listing everything in the book that is wrong or just misleading.

This is the kind of information that I think is very important for both students and teachers. I remember when I started preparing students for the TOEFL and put too much trust in textbook publishers. I ended up teaching useless lessons with inaccurate material.

While I have noted quite a few problems with this book, it is worth noting that the Official Guide is still the most accurate prep book for the TOEFL. Yes, the stuff from third-party publishers is way worse. I’ve considered writing lists of all the stuff wrong with those books, but it seems like it might be a waste of both my time and my money.

Anyways… here’s what I spotted:

Chapter 2: Reading

Each of the practice sets (Page 60-67, 69-73) have 13 questions. On the real test there are 14 questions per set. Students using these sections to time their ability to complete a set should adjust their clocks accordingly.

Chapter 4: Speaking

The description of speaking question 1 (page 166) says that students “will be asked to speak about a person, place, object or event that is familiar to you.” The example question fits this description. However, the real test includes at least three other styles of questions which are not mentioned. Descriptions can be found here.

Likewise the description of speaking question 2 (page 168) insists that students “will be presented with two possible actions, situations or opinions… and will be asked to say which of the actions or situations you think is preferable.” The example question fits this description. However, the real test includes at least three other styles of questions which are not mentioned. Descriptions can be found here.

Notably, the “advantages and disadvantages” styles in questions one and two are not mentioned anywhere. They are described at the links above.

Chapter 5: Writing

The sample integrated writing question (page 196-198) does not match the structure used on the real test. On the real test the reading will have four paragraphs. In the book it has two. On the real test the lecture will have four “paragraphs.” Here it has three. On the real test the reading points and lecture counter-points are presented in a “mirror” style and come in the same order. Here that is not the case. Students can consult this guide for a proper depiction of the integrated writing question.

Page 198 suggests that sometimes the lecture will support the argument made in the reading. On the real test that never happens.

Pages 217-220 contain a collection of 40 sample independent writing questions. About 12 of them are of a style that does not match what is used on the real test. Since the book does not describe the three main styles, students should read this blog post that does.

The Practice Tests

The integrated writing question in practice test one does not match the real test. Again, the structure does not match what is used by ETS nowadays. The reading contains just three paragraphs, and the lecture does not rebut the reading’s arguments in the proper order.

The rest of the practice tests seem fine.

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[…] when it comes to the writing section of the test. If you buy this book, make sure to read my article about all of the mistakes it contains.The link above is to the 5th edition. You can save money by getting the 4th edition, […]

Sergio Meza Padilla

Thank you Michael for sharing. Your input is very much appreciated.

[…] topic at hand, without challenging the specific points made in the reading. This is similar to the flawed practice test contained in the Official Guide, which the author of this text might have leaned too heavily […]

[…] I like this book just as much as I like the matching speaking and listening book from Collins. Like that book, this title is incredibly accurate in its depictions of TOEFL questions. Indeed, I have never seen a printed book with such accurate TOEFL integrated writing questions. There are only five of them, but they are all perfectly designed to match the real test. In each of them the author makes three points, and the lecturer casts doubt on the three points in the right order. Reading these five questions is a heavenly experience. You will remember from my… Read more »

[…] when it comes to the writing section of the test. If you buy this book, make sure to read my article about all of the mistakes it contains.The link above is to the 5th edition. You can save money by getting the 4th edition, […]