Barron's TOEFL (14th Edition)

Published by: Barron's Educational

​Pros:

  • Lots of reading and listening practice

Cons:

  • Some of the speaking question types are not accurate
  • Integrated Writing Practice is useless

The Review

Barron’s Guide to the TOEFL, now in its fourteenth edition, is one of the most popular TOEFL preparation books available.  However, it is a deeply flawed book and should not be favored by students until it is given a significant update.

The book has some value, but this value is overshadowed by incorrect information.  Let's start with an overview of the problems.

Speaking

The description of type three speaking questions is out of date/incorrect.  The text says that type three questions involve an announcement about a campus situation followed by a recording of a speech about the situation.  However, on the actual TOEFL the announcement is followed by a conversation between two students about the topic.  The same error is reflected in the practice tests included in the book.  This is a relatively minor problem, but really should have been corrected in the most recent version of the book.

Writing

The integrated writing practice contained in this book is useless.  The questions are not similar in any way to the real test.  On the real test, students read an article containing a clear argument and three supporting points.  This is followed by a lecture that casts doubt on the reading with three counterpoints that match the points from the reading (and are presented in the same order).  The questions in this book do not followed this fixed pattern.  On the real test, students will write an essay showing how the lecture casts doubt on the reading.  On the Barron’s practice tests, students are asked a general question about the topic which they answer using their notes.  THIS IS IN NO WAY SIMILAR TO THE REAL TEST.

This problem with the writing practice is inexcusable.  Students studying with this book will not be prepared for the integrated writing section which accounts for ⅛ of their total score!  Indeed, students may actually lower their writing score by studying from this book. Barron’s should withdraw their book from publication until it is fixed.

Any Good Stuff?

  • Yes, the book contains some good stuff.  Including:
  • Lots of good reading and listening practice
  • Plenty of Independent Speaking practice questions (though you can find plenty more for free online)
  • Good speaking practice (except for the above problem)

The Final Word

Overall, if you need more reading and listening practice you might want to buy this book, but you should remember to ignore the writing sections in the book and on the practice tests.  Frankly, though, you shouldn't support a publisher who is selling useless writing practice to unsuspecting students.