Update: Did you know that Magoosh has a new list of TOEFL Book Reviews? Compare TOEFL prep materials to find the ones that are right for you.
If you are studying seriously for the TOEFL, and you need to make a large improvement, Official TOEFL iBT Tests is a fantastic supplement to another book or online TOEFL preparation course. Alone, it is not enough for anything, but if you only want more official practice, this is the best place to look.
But if you only want to become familiar with the test, plan on buying only one book, and do not expect to need a very large score increase, the Official Guide is a better resource.
Authenticity of practice material: A+
Amount of practice material: A
Quality of explanations: F
Skill building material: None
Test strategy and advice: None (Only reprint of free material)
In a way, it’s not fair to review this book the same way I would other TOEFL preparation books. Most books include instruction, practice, explanations, and other exercises as well as practice tests. This book, on the other hand, only includes practice tests. If you’re thinking about a more general book check out the The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test (Fourth Edition) Book Review I wrote recently.
And that’s all that it says it will include. This is a book of practice tests, nothing more. So why even review the book, then? Well, there are a few details to note. Not all practice tests are created equal, after all.
Included Practice Material
Official TOEFL iBT Tests has five practice tests inside. That’s 250 pages of practice tests on paper. And these are the best practice tests you can find because they are real. The only other book with real practice tests is The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, and that only includes three tests. There is no overlap between the two books, so if you really want practice, that makes eight available official tests.
There is one very big difference between the tests in the Official Guide and those in this book, Official Tests: the three tests in the Official Guide also come on a CD-rom, so you can take the tests on your computer in a format that’s very similar to what you will use on test day. Meanwhile, the tests in Official TOEFL iBT Tests are paper-only. There is a CD, but it’s only an mp3 CD. There are only audio files on the CD, not practice test software.
It would be much better if the CD had full practice tests.
Sadly, there are no explanations for the reading and listening sections in the book. There are answers, yes, and the writing & speaking sections include guidance on what a good answer would be, but that’s not enough.
Although the explanations in the Official Guide are poor, they’re still much better than no explanations, like in this book. And while the O.G. provides some sample responses for every speaking or writing question with comments, this book does not.
There are only tests.
Test Strategy and Advice
Well, almost only tests. There is an 87-page section at the back of the book called the “TOEFL Test Prep Planner” that offers a lot of the same advice and information that can be found in the Official Guide. It’s generally good advice, but it doesn’t give specific test strategy and doesn’t offer any practice opportunities for specific skills.
And you know what? The whole “planner” is available for free online. So that doesn’t add much value to the book, although it is nice to have on paper.