Note: I only review the speaking and writing sections of TOEFL books, since that is my area of expertise.
My Overall Grade for Kaplan TOEFL Prep Plus: F
Skills Building: What a strange book. The book is all about “strategy.” And it sure provides a lot of strategies. Strategy after strategy after strategy. The book just goes on and on and on. And it is written in a difficult style that I suspect a lot of ESL students will struggle with. This is a beefy book with fairly small print… and barely any sample questions.
I hate to say it, but I think it has too many strategies. Regarding speaking question four, for example, it provides 13 unique strategies, each about a paragraph long. This is the sort of thing that will overwhelm students, and makes the TOEFL needlessly complicated and perplexing. The book might be useful for teachers planning a long curriculum at a TOEFL tutoring center, but I don’t think students need this much information. To make matters worse, often these strategies are illustrated using inaccurate sample questions, which will just compound the problem. Grade: D-
Accuracy (speaking): The descriptions of speaking questions 1 and 2 are fine. The book doesn’t mention some of the more recent question styles (such as “giving advice” and “advantages and disadvantages”) but I can forgive that since it was published back in 2017.
The sample of speaking question 3 (page 201) is terrible. The reading is a “help wanted” posting for a school newspaper, and does not describe a change on campus. Obviously, then, it has no reasons for a change that can be referred to in the listening part.
The sample of speaking question 4 (page 213) is pretty bad as well. It includes a decent reading part, but the listening part includes four examples of the concept referred to in the reading. The real test includes one or two examples.
The samples of questions 5 and 6 are acceptable. Grade: C+
Accuracy (writing): This part of the book is pretty bad. This chapter starts with a terrible integrated writing question (page 269) that includes just two giant paragraphs in the reading section. The real test will always have four.
It includes a second terrible integrated writing question on page 291. The reading part has no introductory paragraph, and includes a gigantic body paragraph of ten sentences. The real test average about 4 or 5 sentences per paragraph. It pairs that with a lecture that is way too long.
The book does have one good integrated writing question – on page 290.
It includes a few good independent writing questions, but does not include any multiple choice prompts, which is a major shortcoming. Grade: F
Sample Tests: Note that the sample tests are only on Kaplan’s website. Follow the instructions in the book to gain access to them. Also note that while the book promises FOUR online tests, I can only find THREE. Maybe I’m dumb, or maybe Kaplan isn’t giving us what was promised. Let me know if you can find the last test.
Note also that there is no option to read transcripts of the tests, or to skip to certain sections. If you want to get to the speaking and writing sections, be prepare for a lot of clicking, and to sit through all of the listening stuff. I suffered a browser freeze up once after having wasted 15 minutes of my life clicking through just to get to the speaking section.
Anyways, I don’t recommend actually using the tests since they are also affected by the inaccuracies described above. Get the Official iBT Tests instead. Grade: D-
Note that this book (and all books) will be out of date starting August 1 of 2019 when the TOEFL will change.