7 Best TOEFL Prep Books (2020)

The Best Books to Prepare for the TOEFL Exam

Standardized tests are hard enough, but taking one in your non-native language poses extra challenges. The Test of English as a Foreign Language is used around the world to test academic language proficiency for students applying to English-speaking colleges and universities.

When preparing for the TOEFL, you need to understand both the material and the test. A TOEFL prep book acts as an invaluable aid to help you master both. You’ll find no shortage of options, but how do you know which is the best for your needs and study style?

Our complete guide has everything you need to know about finding the best TOEFL prep book, including several mini-reviews of popular sellers. Additionally, our FAQ provides clear answers to common queries.

We’re here to help remove the fear out of taking the TOEFL. Let’s get started!

The Best Books to Prepare for the TOEFL Exam

Our #1 Choice
The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test with DVD-ROM, Fifth Edition
Runner Up
TOEFL iBT Prep Plus 2020-2021: 4 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies +...
Also Consider
Princeton Review TOEFL iBT Prep with Audio CD, 2020: Practice Test + Audio...
The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test with DVD-ROM, Fifth Edition
TOEFL iBT Prep Plus 2020-2021: 4 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies +...
Princeton Review TOEFL iBT Prep with Audio CD, 2020: Practice Test + Audio...
Our #1 Choice
The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test with DVD-ROM, Fifth Edition
The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test with DVD-ROM, Fifth Edition
Runner Up
TOEFL iBT Prep Plus 2020-2021: 4 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies +...
TOEFL iBT Prep Plus 2020-2021: 4 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies +...
Also Consider
Princeton Review TOEFL iBT Prep with Audio CD, 2020: Practice Test + Audio...
Princeton Review TOEFL iBT Prep with Audio CD, 2020: Practice Test + Audio...

Reviews of the Best TOEFL Prep Books

Here’s a closer look at several prep books you’ll want to consider:

1. The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test with DVD-ROM, Fifth Edition

The official guide from the makers of the TOEFL test includes authentic test questions, four practice tests, and a DVD with a wealth of additional study material.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

Year: 2017

Number of Pages: 747

Our Final Grade: A+

The Official Guide is the closest you can get to taking the real test in your own home. It’s divided into two sections. The first 220 pages describe how the exam works while the rest of the book is filled with up-to-date sample questions and exercises, including four practice tests.

Additionally, because this is the official guide, it’s commonly required for many ESL classes, especially those related to business. While comprehensive, it’s not designed for beginners. Instead, it’s best-suited for those with an intermediate to advanced knowledge of both English and academic language.

Pros

  • Includes real questions from earlier versions of tests
  • Provides detailed information on the format of the test
  • Commonly required in many ESL/business college courses

Cons

  • The guide isn’t designed for beginners
  • The e-book version lacks audio

2. Kaplan Test Prep TOEFL iBT Prep Plus 2020-2021

From an undisputed leader in test prep, Kaplan’s TOEFL Prep Plus combines a textbook with online resources and a money-back guarantee.

Publisher: Kaplan Publishing

Year: 2019

Number of Pages: 324

Our Final Grade: A

Kaplan is so confident in their TOEFL prep book that they’ll refund your money if your score doesn’t improve from your previous results. It’s an ideal choice if you’ve already taken the test, but didn’t do as well as you’d hoped, and want to take it again.

Purchasing the textbook also gives you access to video lessons which you watch on your home computer or even your mobile device. You get over 450 authentic practice questions organized into sections by topics. Additionally, the book includes access to 95 minutes of audio for Listening, Speaking, and Writing (along with written transcripts).

Pros

  • Detailed practice material organized in clear sections
  • Kaplan is a trusted name in test prep
  • Includes over 450 authentic practice questions
  • Includes 95 minutes of audio plus robust online instruction

Cons

  • Listening sections don’t completely match-up to written materials
  • Accessing online scores for practices test can be confusing

3. Princeton Review TOEFL Prep

The Princeton Review TOEFL Prop Book is ideal for students with a solid understanding of the material but who need help organizing the information so they can recall it during test-taking.

Publisher: Princeton Review

Year: 2020

Number of Pages: 608

Our Final Grade: B

The Princeton Review is another trusted name in test prep, and their TOEFL prep book is a thorough resource to help you prepare for the test in its entirety. The textbook details unique, step-by-step instructions for each section of the test, allowing you to specifically prepare for the sections you find difficult.

The lessons include a grammar review, guidance for essay writing, organization tips, and more. When you’ve completed the lessons, you can take a full-length, simulated TOEFL test to better understand what you know and where you need more help.

Pros

  • Detailed instructions for each section on the test
  • Includes full-length prep test
  • Features grammar review, essay tips, and other specific learning tools

Cons

  • Only includes one practice test

4. Trivium Test Prep TOEFL Preparation Book

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An easy-to-use guide designed to quickly prepare you to pass the test the first time you take it.

Publisher: Trivium Test Prep

Year: 2020

Number of Pages: 88

Our Final Grade: B+

Why waste time and money taking the TOEFL multiple times when you can get the score you want on the first try? Trivium’s Preparation Book is specifically designed for the 2020 and 2021 TOEFL test. Their user-friendly guide covers the entire test with practice questions, graphics, and other easy-to-digest info.

At Trivium, they’ve spent years refining their teaching methods so students can learn the material quickly and effectively. A unique, single-page Table of Contents and shaded page edges help you find the specific material you need, allowing you to customize your learning experience.

Pros

  • Provides an easy-to-understand overview of the entire test
  • Color-coded pages let you find sections quickly
  • Instruction pages include graphics to help explain concepts

Cons

  • The guide has fewer practice quizzes than many similar prep books

5. Winning TOEFL Essays the Right Way

This guide helps you with the essay sections of the TOEFL, which is often considered one of the most difficult sections of the test.

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Year: 2018

Number of Pages: 272

Our Final Grade: B

ESL experts Konnie Wong and Matthew Preston have created a comprehensive guide to writing high-scoring essays for the TOEFL. You’ll learn about the harder aspects of the English language, such as idioms, common phrases, and irregular sentence structures.

The book is filled with real essays so you can learn what to say and what strategies to avoid. By organizing essays into four types, you can learn how to create an essay on any topic. Plus, the thematic vocabulary list teaches you how to properly use over 1,000 winning words.

Pros

  • It’s specifically designed to help you with the essay section
  • Features real essays from high-scoring tests
  • Unique teaching system organizes essay into four categories

Cons

  • Instruction exclusively focuses on this specific aspect of the test

6. Mometrix Test Prep

Mometrix’s book is a comprehensive guide to all the sections of the TOEFL test.

Publisher: Mometrix Media LLC

Year: 2020

Number of Pages: 123

Our Final Grade: B

If you’ve never taken the TOEFL before and don’t know much about it, this guide from Mometrix provides a complete overview. You’ll learn strategies for each section plus how to tackle the test as a whole.

Additionally, you get access to video tutorials and practice test questions. While the prep book doesn’t go into as much detail as some of the other options on our list, it’s a handy all-in-one resource.

Pros

  • Provides an overview of all four test sections
  • Includes high-quality sample exams
  • Written in a clear, easy-to-understand style

Cons

  • Doesn’t have as unique of a teaching style compared to other options

7. Test Prep Books TOEFL Preparation Book

This guide from Test Prep Books provides a quick but comprehensive overview of the entire test with strategies specific for each of its sections.

Publisher: Test Prep Books

Year: 2020

Number of Pages: 123

Our Final Grade: B-

Aside from learning the material on the test, you want to develop strategies for how to take the test itself. With this guide from Test Prep Books, you’ll learn how to manage your time so you can devote proper attention to each question.

Additionally, the guide focuses on common ways people answer questions incorrectly. By identifying common mistakes, you can avoid making them.

Keep in mind this isn’t a comprehensive study guide. You won’t find tons of sample questions and tests. Instead, it’s geared more towards those who understand the material but want help mastering the test.

Pros

  • Helps develop strategies for test-taking
  • Teaches you to maximize your time during the test
  • Focuses on helping you prevent common mistakes

Cons

  • Doesn’t include many sample questions and tests

Frequently Asked Questions about the TOEFL Prep

If you’ve never taken the TOEFL before (or even if you have), it’s natural to have questions about what it is and how it works. Here’s everything you need to know:

What is the TOEFL?

TOEFL stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. It’s a standardized test that measures a person’s proficiency in the English language. Specifically, it focuses on English as used in academic settings.

Academic language is more formal and uses a more advanced vocabulary than conversational English. It’s used in classrooms, research papers, and otherwise throughout academia at all levels.

Who Should Take a TOEFL Test?

TOEFL tests are mainly used by colleges and universities during the admissions process. Most people who take them are applicants applying to graduate schools or other academic programs in English-speaking countries where the applicant isn’t a native citizen.

However, the TOEFL isn’t limited to prospective students. Other people who might need to take the test include:

  • Applicants to a high school or community college in an English-speaking country
  • Students applying to an exchange program
  • Applicants earning various licenses or certifications

Additionally, anyone who needs to prove proficiency in academic-based English will find a TOEFL test useful.

Who Doesn’t Need to Take a TOEFL Test?

If you live in a foreign country, but English is your primary language, especially if the English language is commonly used in your country, many schools will waive the TOEFL requirement.

Additionally, you might not need to take the test if you’ve scored within a certain percentile on the ACT or SAT in various English-based sections. A degree from an English-speaking institution might also result in a waiver.

Some countries more commonly require the PTE or IELTS exam to demonstrate English proficiency.

Finally, the TOEFL isn’t recommended for students under 11th grade. The high-level, academic vocabulary is often beyond students in the age group. An English test with a more casual focus is usually the more appropriate way to measure language skills.

What is the Test Like?

The TOEFL is a standardized test with a strict timetable.

It’s a computerized test given only at designated testing centers. The test takes four hours. It’s divided into four sections:

  • Reading – 60 to 80 Minutes
  • Listening – 60 to 90 Minutes
  • Speaking – 20 Minutes
  • Writing – 50 Minutes

Why do the first two sections have a range of time? They include experimental questions. These questions are unscored, so it doesn’t matter if you get them wrong. Instead, they’re used to create future test questions. You’re not shown which questions are experimental.

Between the Listening and Speaking sections, you get a mandatory 10-minute break. During the test, you can take a break if you want, but time continues counting down.

The test center provides the testing computer, a headset, a microphone, scratch paper for notes, and pencils.

What are the Different Sections?

The Reading section consists of 36 to 56 questions. They relate to either three or four written passages.

The Listening section has 34 to 51 questions. You listen to four to six lectures, and two to three conversations, and then answer questions about the content.

The Speaking section has six tasks. They involve answering questions about academic topics plus questions about life on a typical college campus.

Finally, the Writing section involves two passages. You’ll compare a written passage with a lecture. Then you’ll write an essay discussing each of them.

What is TOEIC?

TOEIC is the Test of English for International Communication. It focuses on general English instead of academics. Typically, it’s used in situations involving an application for work visas.


Conclusion

While understanding the material is obviously vital, it’s only the first step towards success. You also must understand the test itself, such as what types of questions to expect, how to manage your time, and how the essay sections are scored.

The best TOEFL prep book doesn’t just include information and sample tests, but it presents those resources in a clear, engaging way that matches your preferred learning style. With determination, good study habits, and the right prep book by your side, you can earn a great score on the TOEFL!

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Brett Gordon
 

Founder of ExamCave.com