Best books for TOEFL exam preparation

Sean Campbell
Sean Campbell

19 October 2020 • 4 min read

If you’re interested in studying abroad in the likes of the UK, the USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, you’ll need to have certified proof of your English language fluency. 

One of the best ways of doing this is by completing the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL for short. Broken into four sections, the TOEFL iBT tests your skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking English. A TOEFL certification is accepted by most universities in English speaking countries, and all universities in the UK. 

But TOEFL takes a good deal of preparation. Believe me I know -- I spent six years teaching TOEFL to prospective university students, and I’ll happily admit that at the start, even I found the test tricky! 

The key thing in preparing for TOEFL is to familiarize yourself with the structure and style of questions in the exam. And the best way to do this is by buying yourself one or two useful TOEFL preparation books, which come with sample questions and answers. This will help you avoid any nasty surprises when you sit your test. 

Read on to find out the 5 best TOEFL preparation books. 

1. The Official Guide to TOEFL (6th edition)

The most up to date edition of The Official Guide is, hands down, the best general overview of the exam. Each test section is covered in great detail, and will really help to get you up to scratch on how the test works. 

Why we like it:

  • A fantastic comprehensive guide on the structure of TOEFL.
  • Reading, Listening and Speaking chapters are top notch. 
  • A huge number of example answers.
  • Comes with access to lots of downloadable digital content. 

What could be better: 

  • Integrated writing section contains quite a few inaccuracies.
  • Could focus much more on test strategy. 

2. Barron’s TOEFL iBT (17th edition)

Re-issued to match the 2020 version of TOEFL, Barron’s is the most up to date TOEFL preparation book out there (for now). While the Official Guide to TOEFL, mentioned above, is great for getting an overview of the whole test, Barron’s is excellent for test practice. 

Why we like it:

  • Comes with 8 full model tests and 8 mini practice tests.  
  • Reading & Listening practice is particularly great. 
  • A very useful chapter on frequently made mistakes. 
  • Also has access to lots of downloadable content. 

 

What could be better: 

 

  • Speaking practice sections are not very accurate or useful.
  • Doesn’t go into much detail on what the TOEFL exam looks like.

3. Collins English for Exams, TOEFL Listening & Speaking Skills

Where Barron’s suffers in terms of the speaking practice, Collins makes up for it. Although it’s now 8 years old, this book is still one of the very best for speaking practice.

Why we like it:

  • Very accurate speaking sample questions. 
  • Focuses on test strategy.
  • Once again, comes with downloadable content (or a CD). 

What could be better: 

  • Because of its age, speaking questions 1 & 5 are obsolete. 
  • Some sample answers contain errors. 

4. Collins English for Exams, TOEFL Reading & Writing Skills

Once again, Collins comes to the fore. And once again, this book shines despite its age (published in 2012). It also comes with some great focus on test strategies, helping to break down the best approach to sitting the reading & writing sections of TOEFL. 

Why we like it:

  • Strategy focused approach.
  • Accurate sample questions and answers. 
  • Particularly strong integrated writing samples.

What could be better: 

  • Could have more skill building exercises.
  • Independent writing prompts could be improved. 

5. English Grammar in Use (5th edition), Cambridge University Press 

You’ll want to make sure your grammar is accurate ahead of your test. And while there are plenty of dedicated TOEFL Grammar books out there, not many of them are particularly useful. However,  English Grammar in Use still proves to be one of the very best (and my personal favourite) grammar books around. 

Why we like it:

  • Really comprehensive grammar explanations.
  • Excellent practice questions. 
  • Pairs perfectly with a supplementary exercise book (sold separately).

What could be better:  

  • That supplementary exercise book (mentioned above) is sold separately…
  • Can be quite technical for lower - mid level learners. 
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Sean Campbell
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Sean Campbell

Sean is a writer, copywriter & editor from Ireland.


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