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Official TOEFL iBT Tests Book Review

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Official TOEFL iBT Tests Cover Image
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.

Report Card:

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)

A note

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.

 

Explanations

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.

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35 Responses to Official TOEFL iBT Tests Book Review

  1. siddharth diwanji October 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    hi lucas
    awesome reviews btw since the OG explanations are indeed very lacking.

    I have brought toefl OG 4e, toefl official tests vol1(this book) and cambridge’s toefl book . I saw some awesome videos on gmat club .
    i was mesmerized by the explanations of this site notefull.com

    so how would you recommend it?

    since I am still feeling that scaling 100 + is not an easy task at all and one requiring months of preparation especially for the speaking section .

    it would be really great to have an Magoosh toefl product

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas October 2, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

      Hi Siddharth! I’m glad you appreciate (and agree with!) the review. I think the official books together with Cambridge will give you the resources you need. 100 isn’t easy to hit, I know! I haven’t used Notefull yet, so it’s hard for me to say quickly whether it’s worth the money, but it looks pretty good. But some of the advice in their free material is a bit doubtful, such as reading only the first sentence of each paragraph of a reading passage, then moving immediately on to the questions. I’ve seen that strategy work, and I’ve recommended it to specific students before, but it’s not a good technique for everybody–it could be very confusing for some students. So I wonder if there are other issues like that in the advice they give. Maybe I’ll review some online products after I do the major books :-).

      • Arnold December 2, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

        As a student for the exam I think that Notefull is a little bit overrated for what I read in many places. Personally I watched all their videos of the Speaking Section before trying the real practice tests of the guides and after that I realized that the templates for the answers don´t work many times because of the way that the question is presented cannot be answered with this structure… I mean they explain it as the questions are following bit by bit the same pattern, and even though is true that they are repetitive they are not SO identical

        Just my opinion

        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas December 8, 2014 at 11:33 am #

          Thanks for the input. We generally don’t review our direct competitors (online, self-study test prep) because it would be too hard to avoid the biases, but your reaction here might be interesting for some students.

  2. ALEXHOU January 6, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

    This book contains 5 tests. All are authentic but three of them are just from TPO(TOEFL Practise Online): TEST1 as TPO4(They did a little change in Lecture3), TEST2 as TPO5 and TEST3 as TPO6. Only TEST4 and 5 are new. Rumors said that they came from some TOEFL test in 2006. Anyway this is a great book for authentic practice.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

      Thanks for the input, Alex! Considering TOEFL Practice Online tests are $45 each (although, to be fair, those are professionally scored), I’d say that emphasizes the value of this book–I’m glad you agree it’s a great resource!

  3. RUabcd February 3, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    Hi lucas!
    Can you please tell me the good TOEFL book available in the market?
    What is the best way to practice at home? I find speaking section difficult. Please give some tips.
    Thank you!:)

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas February 18, 2014 at 9:38 am #

      Hi there! I don’t yet know what the best TOEFL book on the market is–I haven’t found the perfect book, although I’m looking 🙂 So far, my favorites are these:

      1) The Official Guide and Official TOEFL iBT Tests for authentic practice
      2) Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL test for skill building and test strategy
      3) The Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test for additional practice

      But maybe that will change with future reviews 🙂

      The best way to improve your speaking practice is really to speak as much as possible. Speak to yourself if nobody is around. Watch or listen to lectures or podcasts regularly to practice your listening, but stop the recording often to summarize what you heard using your own words. Do the same with reading–in the middle of an article, stop and summarize it in English, out loud. If you can’t talk out loud, then talk to yourself in your head. Use this list of questions. Read one, and answer it to yourself. Record yourself if you can speak out loud, then listen to the recording—that’s a fantastic way to improve pronunciation and pace.

  4. SHANKY May 21, 2014 at 6:45 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    I would need to take Toefl in next 30-35 days.

    Based on your reviews, I have thought of purchasing Official Guide. I am confused between Cambridge and Complete Guide. Considering the time I have for preparation (2 hrs daily), please suggest which book would be better for me.

    Thanks a lot.

    Best Regards..

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas May 23, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      Between the two, I’d recommend the Cambridge book. 🙂 Even if you don’t buy the listening CDs (which are expensive), the seven practice tests that come on the CD-rom are a fantastic value.

  5. Tanaya June 17, 2014 at 4:20 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    I am solely focused on solving tests for the TOEFL.
    Which book would you recommend for the same?

    Thanks!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 23, 2014 at 10:18 am #

      This is possibly the best book for that, Tanaya! You get the most for your money. 🙂 I also recommend Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL, because their CD-rom has 7 practice tests that look and feel very much like the real thing. Some of the questions aren’t very well written, but it’s still one of the best books on the market.

  6. Gautam June 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    i just want to know are two weeks of preparation enough to secure a score of above 112 on the toefl . i have the barrons book and would want to know if it is necessary for me to but the toefl og .

    thanks

  7. valli August 20, 2014 at 12:10 am #

    Hey!
    I plan to take the toefl exam this october. I aim to score 110 or above. Whats the best way to prepare? Also, what is the best combination of books and online resources I can use to reach my goal?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas August 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

      That’s a big question! The best way to get started is to buy the official guide—that will give you a few practice tests and some clear description of the test so you know what you’re going to be working on and how much work you need. Exactly what books and resources you use depends partly on what you personally need. I generally recommend the Cambridge guide if you’re looking for a book that helps teach supporting skills (e.g. taking notes, structuring an essay, etc.)

  8. Harshal September 26, 2014 at 6:26 am #

    Hello Lucas,

    I got the Barron’s book (latest edition) much before I read this blog. My TOEFL is on 18th of october. I also have a “official guide for new TOEFL by Ets” from a friend who had purchased this long time ago. Though, I am not sure it appears to be the first version of the book. I don’t intend to buy any new books now. Can you please suggest me which sections are better in which book (among the 2)? Also I know 20 days aren’t enough for TOEFL preparations. But people say if you have taken the GRE, it should be of great help. How true is that?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas September 29, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Hi Harshal,

      If you’re using Barron’s and the official guide, you’ll want to focus on the “Academic Skills” section of Barron’s and the practice test material from the official guide. If you have the first edition of the official guide, that means there’s only one practice test. Use the free material to supplement:

      https://www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/prepare/toefl_sampler/
      https://www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/prepare/sample_questions/
      https://www.ets.org/toefl/ibt/prepare/quick_prep/

      If you run out of official material, then use the Barron’s practice material. It’s not very good practice, but it’s better than nothing!

      As for the GRE, it’s really a different test. There are a couple of similarities, but studying for the GRE won’t help you that much for the TOEFL. But the good news is that if you are comfortable with GRE-level reading and writing, then you are probably in good shape to do well on the TOEFL reading and writing. The GRE is more advanced. 🙂

  9. creative user October 5, 2014 at 7:18 am #

    hi lucas,
    i’m preparing myself for toefl and gre . i want you to let me know what are the best and complete materials for these two exams. my english and math are both good.i read all pages in this website but can’t deduce which books together are good and enough supplements for these exams .there are lots of good books but i want manage my time to study the best and helpful books . plz help me to take good decision. my scheduled time for these exams is about 5 months. plz for each section of these two exams introduce the best materials.
    do you think that reading ets official books is urgent?
    thanks in advance

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas October 6, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

      Official books are definitely a top recommendation, yes. Those show you the real difficulty and quality of TOEFL questions. There are no other sources that have questions of the same quality. Check out the rest of my book reviews or at least my response to Arshiya on the main book review page for my opinions on the best books. If you have five months to study and you need to make much improvement, you will want to buy more than just the official guide.

  10. Salem January 7, 2015 at 10:25 am #

    Hello Lucas! Thank you so much for the great feedback you are providing on the books, I have thought of purchasing the Official Guide to the Toefl Test, Official IBT Tests, and the Cambridge Preparation for the Toefl Test

    I have scored 88 on July,2013 for my MBA and I aim to score 100+ To fulfill the minimum requirements for some PhD programs, do you have any tips? And do you believe that the books I plan to purchase are good enough to boost me to that point? Thank you!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 12, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

      I’m glad the reviews have been able to help! Those books are some of your best options, yes. 🙂 If you want a 10+ point increase, it may take a few months of studying and practice, so I think you will be able to use most of the material in Cambridge and in the official books, but that depends on how long you will study for and how much time you will devote to studying each week. Happy studying!

  11. vidya February 23, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    Hi!!

    I have Official Guide to TOEFL iBT ebook. Do you suggest having the hard copy of the book? I have just started preparing for TOEFL and i am confused!! Kindly help

    Thanks 🙂

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas February 27, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

      The ebook should be just fine! It’s identical in content. The only difference is the medium. If you don’t mind reading on a screen instead of a piece of paper, there is no problem with the ebook.

  12. Afshaan July 31, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    Hi Lucas,

    There’s a new version of the book now: Official TOEFL iBT Tests with Audio – Volume 2. Could you let me know if there are any differences between the versions?

    Thanks

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink August 3, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

      That book isn’t released yet, so I can’t say too much about it. 🙂 It will be released later this year; some stores say October, some say December. After it is available, I will review it. But it looks like it is 5 more practice tests, not a new version of this same book. I expect there will be no overlap.

  13. Ruchit August 3, 2015 at 4:44 am #

    Dear Lucas,
    The question in the official ets book are of the same difficulty level as that are asked in the exam???

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink August 3, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

      Yes, they are the best representation you can find. 🙂

  14. Johnny August 30, 2015 at 9:08 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    Do you think that the difficulty of the test in the Cambridge book is harder than those in the official guide? Which do you think provides the most test-like tests?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink September 1, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

      Check out my review of Cambridge for the complete answer, but in short, the material in Cambridge has some questions that aren’t very realistic—students say they’re “too hard,” but really they’re just not well written, with some debatable answers. Official material is almost always the highest quality. 🙂

  15. Vanigh January 31, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    Hello Lucas

    Have you reviewed these 2 latest editions

    Official TOEFL iBT® Tests Volume 1, 2nd Edition
    Official TOEFL iBT® Tests Volume 2

    Would you recommend it

    http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0071848444?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=ox_sc_act_title_2&smid=A3DWYIK6Y9EEQB

  16. Maria July 8, 2016 at 4:17 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    I have been preparing for TOEFL ibt using Testbuilder for TOEFL iBT : Tests that Teach (Macmillan Testbuilders) and I feel quite controversial about the book. Could you write a few words about it?

    Thanks a lot!!

  17. Juan December 4, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

    Hi Lucas,

    Maybe you would like to update this review and say that now this book comes with a DVD -ROM with the 5 tests for practicing with the computer. That’s a very important feature!

    Thank you for your reviews, they have helped me a lot!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 6, 2016 at 10:51 am #

      Thank you for your kind words, and I’m glad you brought this up. We actually have a separate update for the newer edition of Official TOEFL iBT Tests, complete with a TOEFL Tuesday video. 🙂 For the most current information, check out “TOEFL Tuesday: Official TOEFL iBT Tests, 2nd Edition.”


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