The answer to that question is “it depends.” There are only so many really good free materials available out there. Some students find the good free materials to be enough for their prep. But it’s also common for TOEFL preppers to find they need more than just the free stuff to reach their target score. Let’s look at some things you should consider if you’re thinking of going the free route for TOEFL testing materials.
Are the free TOEFL materials of good quality?
The quality of any TOEFL material–free or otherwise–can be measured by its similarity to real materials from ETS. So the first materials you’ll want to look at are the free ones offered through the official TOEFL website.
By far, the absolute best free TOEFL materials from ETS are the Quick Prep ones. in fact, as Lucas explains, it’s possible to put together a complete authentic TOEFL practice test with the materials in Quick Prep.
ETS’s free TOEFL Interactive Sampler software packet is more limited in scope, but the software does allow you to see what the actual testing center computer system looks like. And then there’s one additional free PDF of TOEFL questions. In this free ETS resource, no audio is available for the Listening section or Integrated tasks from Speaking and Writing, but there are transcripts that at least tell you what’s being said in the TOEFL conversations and lectures.
You’ll want to carefully compare any other free TOEFL materials to the real thing. Bear in mind that making truly TOEFL-like practice materials requires careful research and development, so truly authentic free stuff from non-ETS sources is pretty rare.
Still, there are some decent free materials out there. The eBooks, flashcards and other free TOEFL materials here on the Magoosh TOEFL Blog are made by the same team that makes our carefully-researched ETS-like TOEFL practice materials.
Are the available free TOEFL materials really enough for you?
As you plan your budget for the TOEFL and consider the free route for TOEFL practice materials, you should ask yourself if the free materials will really be enough.
For some test-takers, this can be decided very quickly. If you start using the free materials and immediately feel confused or overwhelmed, you’ll likely need more TOEFL practice resources.
Other test-takers realize they want extra materials after they go through all of the free ones and realize they still need more practice. If you think this might happen to you but still really want to save money on the TOEFL, it doesn’t hurt to try all of the free TOEFL materials and see if they’re enough. The worst thing that could happen is that you’ll need to spend a little extra money once you’re done.
Fortunately, there are a lot of very affordably-priced additional materials. Official TOEFL books aren’t that expensive brand-new, and used books can be even cheaper. Magoosh also offers its services at a very low price. And Cambridge TOEFL books–one of Magoosh’s recommended third-party TOEFL sources– can also be affordable… if you buy them used, that is.