7 Best TOEFL Prep Books 2024
February 5, 2024
Are you an ESL student looking to prepare for the TOEFL? If so, you might be wondering where to start with your studies. Today, we’re here to answer the vital question of the best TOEFL prep books so that you can take this test feeling eager and confident. Let’s get into it!
What is the TOEFL?
The TOEFL stands for the Test of English as a Foreign Language. The Educational Testing Service, or ETS, administers this test, which may be taken online or at a local testing center. (To schedule your test, click here.) Many colleges require the TOEFL in order for international students to prove their English language proficiency level. Think of this test as the golden ticket you need before stepping through the door of Wonka’s factory, where a red-coated Timothée Chalamet awaits. Note that other tests exist for you to prove your English proficiency, such as the IELTS. For a more thorough guide on whether you should take the TOEFL or IELTS, see here.
What Material Does the TOEFL Cover?
The TOEFL is designed with your future as a university student in mind. Thus, the test was created to reflect the conversations and lectures you might encounter in an academic setting. These include listening tasks, where students are asked to listen to audio clips of educational lectures and discussions and answer questions on them; reading tasks, where students are given passages and asked to answer questions on them; speaking tasks, where students are requested to express their thoughts on prescribed topics; and writing tasks, where students write essay responses based on a prompt.
How Did the TOEFL Change in 2023?
You may have heard that the TOEFL exam changed in July 2023. The good news is that the four sections covered remain the same. The even better news is that these sections are now shorter than before. The most significant change to the test is in the Writing section, which now includes a new second part called the academic discussion question, such as whether social media is detrimental to society and whether AI should be banned from schools. For similar questions to those appearing in the revised Writing section, check out our article here on the best argumentative essay topics for students.
How Should I Study for the TOEFL? And for How Long?
Look: you wouldn’t run a marathon without lacing up your sneakers and loading that Spotify playlist, right? Even if you are confident in your English abilities, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the material on the TOEFL so that you encounter no surprises on test day. At the very least, you should know exactly what materials each section covers and the basic guidelines for answering the questions. However, test prep is about more than enhancing your proficiency. As with any test, the TOEFL checks test-takers for particular abilities, such as responding to academic argument questions in essay form and expressing your opinion on a familiar topic. These skills may differ from those used in daily life, so we recommend doing at least a few practice tests to ensure you feel comfortable with them.
What Online Resources Are Available to Me?
As you well know by now, the internet—famed home to famous Barbie memes and videos of Mr. Beast giving away ridiculous amounts of money—offers a plethora of resources for test-takers. From YouTube videos to online tutors, the web can be a great place to help you get all the testing skills and advice you need to succeed. An excellent place to start online is the ETS Website itself. Here, students can find updated practice tests to help gauge their current level. ETS also offers an “Official TOEFL iBT Prep Course,” designed to be a comprehensive guide for students to elevate their scores.
We also highly recommend Magoosh for online test prep. Here, students are paired with TOEFL experts who grade their essays and provide tips for improvement. Students are also given study checklists and custom schedules, ranging from two weeks to two months long, to help keep them on track. Magoosh even offers a money-back guarantee if your score doesn’t rise by at least four points. How’s that for quality!? (For reference, a Magoosh course will run you $109 USD for one month and $129 for six months.)
Do I Need a TOEFL Prep Book?
“To book or not to book?” is a question famously posed by Hamlet. Okay, not really, but still, whether or not you need a TOEFL prep book to help you study and build essential skills for this particular exam will ultimately come down to your specific needs as a student. We will say that these books provide more than just practice tests; they also offer explanations of the types of questions you’ll find on the TOEFL and test-taking strategies designed to improve the scores of even the most competent test-takers. We also like these TOEFL prep guides because they closely analyze the four TOEFL sections: writing, reading, listening, and speaking. Thus, if you need more practice in one area, you can concentrate specifically on those guidebook pages.
What are the Best TOEFL Prep Books in 2024?
When preparing for the TOEFL, it makes sense to go to the test’s creator for the best material. This book, put out by the ETS (Educational Testing Service) is, according to them, “the most complete and reliable guide” to the TOEFL—and we here at College Transitions are inclined to agree! This guide contains four full-length practice tests, hundreds of test questions, and essay topics to help you practice the Writing section. Additionally, the guide comes complete with study strategies to help you ace that big day. Remember that since the TOEFL changed in 2023, you’ll want to get the most recent edition of this book so that all the test changes are adequately reflected in your studies.
Next up on our list is the Princeton Review’s latest TOEFL Prep Book, released February 6, 2024. This book includes two practice tests—not quite as many as the ETS version—as well as practice drills for the various sections and detailed answer explanations. We love this version for its helpful explanations and test-taking techniques.
The pros: This book contains eight full-length practice tests with explanations, as well as eight additional online tests. If you’re looking to get your test-taking fix, this book is for you! Additionally, the book provides audio files, flashcards, and other test-taking techniques.
The cons: Since this book was published in 2020, it doesn’t reflect the 2023 changes made to the TOEFL exam. There are several limitations to using an outdated book. Luckily, Barron’s plans to release a new test prep book in April 2024.
We love this book for so many reasons! The Mometrix Test Book offers practice tests, review guides, and video explanations to help students prepare for the TOEFL. Note that this guide, officially published in October 2022, does not reflect the latest changes to the TOEFL test. Still, their tips and strategies and video tutorials will be useful to anyone looking to brush up on their skills for the TOEFL reading, writing, speaking, and listening sections.
This guide offers test-taking strategies, practice test questions, and detailed explanations of each category. Its language is straightforward and practical, thoroughly breaking down each section and going in-depth to allow students to feel competent with each. It also offers online video and audio content to supplement the materials found in the book. Note that some reviewers say the book is not worth its cost, and that the Writing section does not reflect the changes made to the exam in July 2023.
Specialized TOEFL Prep Books
This guide, put out by Kaplan Test Prep, provides vocabulary words and idioms in a flashcard-like design. The content concentrates on advanced vocabulary and terms that appear on typical TOEFL exams. Additionally, the book offers practice exercises to guide students. This book truly is small enough to fit in your pocket. If you want to study on the go, we highly recommend it.
Like the Kaplan Test Prep book, this book focuses on the vocabulary found in all four sections of the TOEFL. This vocabulary includes common words and phrases students encounter while taking the test. The book also includes practice exercises for five hundred “need to know” words.
One Final Note About Choosing Your TOEFL Prep Book:
Since the TOEFL changed in 2023, few books have been published to reflect the newest changes to the exam. We recommend finding a book published this year or last to help steer your studies. This will be essential to ensuring that the material you cover mimics that found on the exam itself.