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The Best TOEFL Books of 2015

The Best Practice Tests

In every standardized test, it’s the same story: the official practice material is the best material. Nobody else makes practice exactly like the company who makes the real test. In this case, that’s ETS.

First Place: The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test

The Official Guide to the TOEFL TestThere are three good things about the Official Guide:

1. It has the most truthful description of what you see on the TOEFL iBT

2. The practice sets at the ends of the chapters

3. The three practice tests on CD (and in the back of the book)
But none of it is perfect, oddly. The description of the test comes with almost no strategy or advice. For example, there is nothing about skipping a text in the reading section or looking at the first question before you start reading. Also, there aren’t very many practice sets for some question types, such as speaking. And one of the practice tests in the back is old and imperfect, from just after ETS had started making iBT, before they made small adjustments to the format. Even the CD is imperfect—the software is not exactly the same as software you’ll use on test day, although it is similar.

But there is still no better way to get realistic practice tests for a low price, and especially to get them on the computer, like a real TOEFL iBT.

 

Online TOEFL Preparation

Second Place: Official TOEFL IBT Tests

Official TOEFL iBT Tests Cover ImageIf you finish the tests in the Official Guide, the next best source for cheap, authentic practice tests is this book. But keep in mind they’re paper-only: the CD in the back just has mp3 audio so you can listen on a computer or an mp3 CD player. You can’t actually answer the questions on the computer. So if you want to mimic a real TOEFL iBT, you have to be a bit creative. Use an audio recording website, for example, and write your essays in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. That’s not ideal, I know, but the quality of the questions in these tests is so high, it’s still one of best resources you can buy.

The Best Skill-Building

Note: When I say “skill-building,” I am referring to exercises that focus on skills like note-taking, paraphrasing, searching for specific information in a large text, or planning an essay. There are many skills involved in the TOEFL that are not really discussed in the official material, but are extremely important if you need a large score improvement.

First Place: Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test

Cambridge TOEFL Test Cover ImageThis is an old favorite of mine. Cambridge has two major advantages:

1. There are seven full-length tests on the included CD, and they’re even more similar to the real TOEFL software than is the software on the Official Guide CD.

2. In the book itself, there are hundreds of pages of skill-building materials.
No other book focuses on TOEFL-specific skills like Cambridge does. Take, for example, the process of writing a full essay paragraph. First, you need a main point. Cambridge has an exercise for that. Then, you need an explanation of that point, preferably with specific details. Cambridge has an exercise for that, too. Then, you need a transition into another detail. There’s an exercise for that, of course. If the Complete Guide is “step-by-step,” Cambridge is “step-by-step-by-step.” The skills you need for the TOEFL are broken down incredibly thoroughly.

There are two clear flaws, though:

1. Some practice material is too difficult, and not well written.

2. In order to use half of the skill-building, you need to buy the set of 8 CDs. The book alone does not give you listening exercises, other than what’s on the seven practice tests.

 

Second Place: The Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test (iBT edition)

512UHK4jUiL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_For a student who is studying for over a month and needs some more substantial practice, the Complete Guide is the fastest way to get more high-quality practice material and good skill-building material. It’s not cheap, and it can be a little hard to find, but this book has almost everything a good self-study book should have: loads of material, easy-to-read explanations of strategy, step-by-step training exercises, and audio included (online, for free.) The biggest problem is that there are no answers in the book—you have to buy a separate answer book for that.

The Best Vocabulary and Grammar

Vocabulary and Grammar for the TOEFL Test

Vocabulary and Grammar for the TOEFL Test Cover

This book is only good for vocabulary and grammar, but that’s all it is supposed to be good for! And for that, it is the best resource, because it not only has appropriate words and grammar, but also has practice exercises that mimic every part of the real TOEFL.

Best Classroom Book (for Teachers)

Oxford Preparation Course for the TOEFL iBT Exam

Oxford Preparation Course for the TOEFL iBT Exam CoverI’ve taught classes with a number of the books on this list; I even used the Official Guide as the primary textbook in one (my first class—a mistake I did not repeat, seeing as that book has zilch in terms of classroom exercises). And no other book I’ve used was particularly good for classes except Oxford.

Granted, there are flaws aplenty, here. For instance, the topics of the texts and lectures are too often removed from the academic focus of authentic TOEFL material. They’re often topical or controversial, and those are two adjectives that just don’t describe the actual iBT. But that weakness in material is just the flipside of a very important coin: the material in this book can spark conversation, one of the English teacher’s best friends. If you want to get your students talking and studying the TOEFL at the same time, this is your best bet. And hey, you can always supplement with official material (Official TOEFL IBT Tests!) to get that real-thing feeling.

Magoosh’s Free eBooks

I’d be crazy not to mention the free eBooks that we created for the sole purpose of helping you ace the TOEFL. Written by the Magoosh TOEFL experts that you know from this blog (myself included), these eBooks contain all the basic information and helpful resources that you’ll need to begin your prep.

On their own, or as a supplement to the recommended books above, these TOEFL eBooks will help you make the most of your prep. Read them online, or print them out to study on the go. Click the images below to see the Magoosh Guide to the TOEFL iBT and Magoosh TOEFL Vocabulary Comics eBooks.

TOEFL_iBT_cover-ebook-1a TOEFL Vocabulary Comics
And if you like our free eBooks, don’t forget to check out our comprehensive TOEFL materials. 🙂

52 Responses to The Best TOEFL Books of 2015

  1. Euge July 23, 2015 at 3:49 am #

    Thanks for the advice. Very useful article!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink July 28, 2015 at 4:15 pm #

      You’re welcome!

  2. Cesar August 10, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    Thank you so much man, very helpful!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink August 11, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

      You’re welcome!

  3. Zeeshan August 31, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    HI…
    would you please give up some reviews regarding IVY TOEFL reading 15 practice test and its listening test book as well…

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink September 1, 2015 at 2:55 pm #

      Thanks for the recommendation! We’re not actively working on more book reviews at the moment, but I’ll keep it in mind for the future. 🙂

  4. Paul September 5, 2015 at 6:50 am #

    Hi, I just bought the cambridge toelf book with online practice tests and I’m currently having a problem finding those online tests. There is an activation code in the book, but I can not find where to put that code in and get the practice tests. (The instruction from the book said that I have to go to http://toelf.cambridge.org which is somehow not available.)So .. Do you know any ways to get those online tests?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink September 5, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

      It looks like you might have a typo in that URL, which is why it wasn’t working. It’s TOEFL, not TOELF. So the correct site is TOEFL.cambridge.org. 🙂 If you are still having trouble, I’d recommend emailing cambridge support at cstechsupport@cambridge.org

      You do need a current operating system for those online tests, by the way. If your operating system is too old, you may need to either upgrade or exchange for the CD-rom version instead. Good luck with this!

      • Paul September 5, 2015 at 5:25 pm #

        That was a very silly mistake !! haha ,
        I already got the tests . Thank you so much !!!

  5. Sherry September 20, 2015 at 5:29 am #

    Hi,thanks for the advice…BTW i have already bought ” The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test”second edition…is there a big difference between 2th edition and 4th?should I buy the latest edition?

    • David Recine
      David Recine September 21, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

      In terms of how the test is described, the second edition is pretty much the same as the third and fourth. However, the second edition doesn’t have any practice exam— and these really are the most valuable part of the book. I would definitely recommend an upgrade. The fourth edition even has software that gives you a feel for what the iBT will look like on test day.

    • David Recine
      David Recine September 21, 2015 at 9:05 pm #

      In terms of how the test is described, the second edition is pretty much the same as the third and fourth. However, the second edition doesn’t have any practice exams— and these really are the most valuable part of the book. I would definitely recommend an upgrade. The fourth edition has three practice exams, and even has software that gives you a feel for what the iBT will look like on test day.

  6. AC September 30, 2015 at 1:10 am #

    Hi,

    Thanks for the article, quite helpful.

    Do you have any opinion on the Baron’s TOEFL ibt 14th edition book ?

    Regards

  7. Shuvo October 8, 2015 at 3:12 am #

    very useful article.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas Fink October 12, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

      Glad you liked it. 🙂

  8. Tania Hunt February 28, 2016 at 6:30 pm #

    Hi Lucas,

    Thanks a lot for the reviews, really helpful.

    I have a book which is not mentioned here, called ‘Delta’s Key to the Next Generation TOEFL® Test’ Is there any advise you can give me about it in terms of skills development and practicality.

    Looking forward to your comments! 🙂

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 1, 2016 at 9:06 pm #

      Hi Tania. Lucas has actually reviewed Delta’s TOEFL guide here. Long story short, Magoosh doesn’t recommend this as a top TOEFL resource. You can read more details in Lucas’s review.

  9. Ashmita March 10, 2016 at 9:04 am #

    What’s the difference between 4th and 3rd edition ? If I choose to study 3rd edition then 4th one , what will I miss ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 4, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

      The biggest difference between the third edition and the fourth edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL Test is the amount of practice material. The 3rd edition of the OG only has two practice exams, while the fourth edition has three. So the extra practice exam is what you’ll be missing out on. I recommend getting the 4th edition if at all possible. The practice exams are really the most valuable part of the book.

  10. lilian April 3, 2016 at 2:11 am #

    Hello,
    Iam a little confused because the speaking section in the cambrige tests does not look very similar to what i see in the official guide .it doesnt focus on discussing the reading point by point …it is just different..can you please tell me which type should i expect in the real test ?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 4, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

      The real and official materials TOEFL reading structure the ETS materials are the ones you’ll see on the exam. In fact, you can always trust the official ETS materials over any third-party resources.

  11. Divyendra April 9, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    Hi Team, Thanks for the review. I am currently doing my prep using Cambridge TOEFL book. I was wondering how similar are the questions in Cambridge(In the Minitest sections and Practice tests) when compared to the real test. Because getting attuned to similar type of questions is something I am highly looking for. Your advice would be highly valued. Thanks

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 11, 2016 at 8:11 am #

      Although the Cambridge book isn’t perfect, Magoosh does recommend this book as a good supplement to the official materials from ETS. Lucas has done a full review of Cambridge here, including a description of the differences and similarities between Cambridge practice materials and the real test.

  12. shree May 7, 2016 at 1:01 pm #

    How about ETS’s TOEFL iBT ® Quick Prep books?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 9, 2016 at 11:20 am #

      Those are great too! This post really focuses on books that are available in print form. But if you include eBooks, TOEFL Quick Prep offers one of the best practice test ebooks. The quality is comparable to our first and second place books from ETS on this list. There are some downsides though. Quick Prep really only has enough material for one full practice test (with a little bit of stuff left over for extra practice). And there’s no audio for Quick Prep Volumes 1 or 2– just transcripts for the content that test-takers would normally listen to.

  13. Enver May 17, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

    Which book do you think will be best for people who already took TOEFL but they want to improve their score?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 21, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

      If you already took the test and want to improve your score, any of these books are pretty good for TOEFL retake practice. And as always, the most authentic practice material— the stuff that will prepare you for test day as best as possible— will be the official books from ETS. Just make sure you include some practice materials you haven’t used before. Materials that are new-to-you are always important. Re-doing tasks you did before in Speaking and Writing is a good learning experience as well.

  14. Mohsen May 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

    Hi
    Please help me to find a good book for the speaking section .
    Thanks

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 24, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

      Currently, there really aren’t any good books out there that are just for the Speaking section. There are a few book collections of sample Speaking questions and answers out there, from unofficial non-ETS publishers. But really,t he material is no different– in terms of quantity or quality– form stuff you can find on the Web for free. I’d recommend simply going with the Speaking material in the official ETS books, and in the other books recommended in this post.

  15. Sly Man June 5, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

    Thanks for your help .
    What about LONGMAN iBT ? Not mentioned at all !

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 6, 2016 at 11:10 am #

      Longman iBT has some pretty good strategy advice, and it definitely offers a large quantity of practice test materials. But while this book is a good resource in some respects, it is only so-so when it comes to actual authenticity of test materials. And TOEFL-like test materials is a very important feature of any TOEFL resource— perhaps the most important feature really! So because of this shortcoming, Pearson-Longman’s TOEFL iBT book didn’t quite make the cut for best book of the year. Still, like I said, the resource is good in many ways. You can read a full review here: http://magoosh.com/toefl/2015/book-review-longman-preparation-course-for-the-toefl-ibt-test/

  16. Mariano August 22, 2016 at 12:08 am #

    Hi magoosh! And
    what do you mean about KAPLAN IBT?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 22, 2016 at 10:57 am #

      Lucas has checked out Kaplan’s iBT book. He reports that the book is strong in test strategy and advice, but not as good in other areas. See his full review of Kaplan TOEFL iBT.

  17. ELSA August 30, 2016 at 7:42 am #

    Hi I would like to know if the Longman preparation course for TOEFL works. I bought that big book recently and I’m using it now…… Thank you~

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 5, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

      The Longman TOEFL prep book is pretty strong when it comes to test strategy and skills building, but not the strongest when it comes to authentic, TOEFL-like practice questions. Lucas did a full review of Longman TOEFL last year, here on the blog.

  18. Saeed September 10, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    Dear Magoosh Test Expert,
    I took an IELTS exam 3 years ago and I got a 7 in reading, 7 in speaking, 6.5 in listening and 6 in writing. Now, I am going to prep for TOEFL examination in 2 month and I want to got overall score near 100. I have read most of the article in your site about different books and material but since i don not have much time to study some books please help me with a best material that is suitable for my purpose. From tis site I understand that Cambridge plus TPO and official TOEFL IBT test could be a good solution. By the way, Please help me to choose a good resource and could be able to use of this short time perfectly to achieve my goal.
    Many thanks

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 13, 2016 at 11:15 am #

      Well, it certainly sounds like you’re off to a good start with your IELTS score. ETS itself officially equates a 7 on the IELTS with the 94-101 range on TOEFL iBT. This means that your Reading and Speaking skills may already be sufficient, and you have just a little ways to go in Listening and Writing.

      Cambridge is a pretty good third-party book, but I recommend giving the official TOEFL books more importance. In fact, I’d say that the books are better than TPO. TOEFL Practice Online has the same level of quality as the official TOEFL books, but is much more expensive. You simply get a lot less material for your dollar with TPO.(See Lucas’s TPO review for more information.) You can still get the same genuine mateiral and the same test simulation software by going with Official TOEFL iBT Tests (both volumes) and the TOEFL OG book.

      Cambridge definitely is a good supplement to those books, although Cambridge is better for strategy advice and skills building activities. Cambridge’s actual TOEFL tests are a little hit or miss– some content is very similar to the real exam, while other content is noticeably different. Ultimately, I would advise relying on the three official TOEFL books as much as possible, turning to a reputable third party publisher like Cambridge only when necessary.

  19. Renan September 29, 2016 at 12:05 am #

    Dear Magoosh,
    I purchase the Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test Book with Online Practice Tests. I have been trying to get into the Cambridge Website but I haven’t been able to get access to the online tests. Do you experience the same problem? Can you help me, please?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 29, 2016 at 1:07 am #

      Hi Renan,

      You should reach out to Cambridge Prep as soon as possible! They should be able to help. 🙂

  20. Arif October 5, 2016 at 4:39 am #

    Hi Magoosh,
    I would like to know some 2016 books. Especially, Kaplan TOEFL iBT Premier 2016-2017 with 4 Practice Tests and Cracking the TOEFL iBT with Audio CD 2016 Edition (or 2016-2017 edition, I don’t know what’s the difference between them).
    Thanks a lot.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 5, 2016 at 8:03 pm #

      Historically, Magoosh hasn’t recommended Kaplan TOEFL or Princeton Review’s “Cracking the TOEFL” series, because these companies have a pretty poor past track record in TOEFL Prep. As a result, it’s hard to say whether Lucas will actually choose to review the current editions… but we will have reviews on new 2016-2017 TOEFL books soon, either from those publishers or other ones. In the meanwhile, you can read Lucas’s reviews on earlier editions of Kaplan TOEFL and Cracking the TOEFL iBT.

  21. Shubham October 12, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    Hello , I am planning to take a one month Toefl plan from magoosh. With this I would buy official guide from ets. Do i need any more material to ace the toefl?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 15, 2016 at 11:22 am #

      Hi Shubham,

      There are always more resources to acquire, but if you have the Official Guide from ETS and Magoosh, you should be in good shape to do well. A lot of good TOEFL practice comes from authentic listening and reading materials, too, which can be found freely. 🙂

  22. saadou November 13, 2016 at 3:58 am #

    I want to know about ‘Express to the TOEFL iBT® Test with CD-ROM ‘ i have just bought it and i dont know if its tests are similar and as hard as the real toefl test exams

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 13, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

      I honestly hadn’t heard of this one before, but it looks like it’s been around for quite a while! I’m not sure if we’ll review this book, as it’s older and doesn’t have much buzz. Still, it is from a major publisher (Pearson!), and I’m certainly intrigued. I’ll talk to Lucas and see if he knows anything about it.

  23. Mortaza Mandegar November 23, 2016 at 12:14 am #

    Dear Magoosh Experts,

    I have used Barron’s TOEFL ibt 13th Edition and as well as Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL test. The reading passages in Barron toefl is much more easier than that of Cambridge preparation. I could get an average of 24 from reading section of Barron and Official Guide to TOEFL ibt. However, I can only get 20 from Cambridge reading tests. It’s really disappointing to me.

    I don’t know which are more authentic and similar to the real test. And I feel that Cambridge reading tests are very difficult. For example, most of the questions do not refer the reader to the exact paragraph. Additionally, Vocabulary and reference questions are very difficult.
    Please help me understand which of the above mentioned resources are similar to the real test.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 23, 2016 at 11:57 am #

      In my own experience, both of these books miss the mark compared to real TOEFL Reading sections. Barron’s TOEFL Reading is a bit easier than the real exam, and Cambridge TOEFL Reading is somewhat harder than what you’d see on test day.

      To get a real feel for the actual difficulty of the TOEFL, go through official materials from ETS. You can get quite a few actual TOEFL Reading passages that have appeared on recent TOEFL exams. For free instant access to this kind of real TOEFL Reading, use ETS’s TOEFL Quick Prep. The Official TOEFL Guide and Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 also contain similarly authentic materials. Compare these kinds of real ETS materials to Barron’s and Cambridge, and you’ll get an accurate feel for which book is more like the real exam. Although again, as I mentioned, neither book has perfectly TOEFL-like Reading passages and questions.

  24. Charles December 14, 2016 at 7:59 am #

    Hi Magoosh, I’m planning to take the TOEFL Paper-Based Test, so I would like to know which books do you recommend?.

    Thanks

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 16, 2016 at 8:13 am #

      The best book for TOEFL PBT is probably The Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, PBT Edition. I’m not very familiar with this book, but I can tell you that it’s the exact same author and publisher as The Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, iBT Edition. The iBT edition is quite good; (see Lucas’s review of this TOEFL book), so the PBT version is probably excellent as well.

      I’m honestly not sure about the other PBT books on the market, but “Complete Guide” is a great place to start.

  25. keivan January 12, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

    hi magoosh, can u tell me when lucas fink review the best toefl books of 2016 please?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 13, 2017 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Keivan,

      No current timeline on that, but I’ve sent a request to the blogging team to add this to the list. 🙂


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