The cost of TOEFL prep books can add up, and it’s a waste to buy more books than you need. So what TOEFL books do you need?
Make the official TOEFL books your top priority
The official TOEFL practice books put out by ETS, the company that makes the TOEFL, have both strengths and weaknesses. Lucas points this out in his book reviews of the Official Guide to the TOEFL, Official TOEFL iBT Tests, and Official TOEFL iBT Tests, Volume 2.
But regardless of the weaknesses in these books — namely the poor quality of their answer explanations for TOEFL Reading and Listening — these books are very important. If you’re going to purchase TOEFL books, be sure to purchase these.
The official ETS books are “must haves” on your TOEFL reading list because only these books have practice questions that are guaranteed to be 100% like the ones you see on the exam. ETS alone offers TOEFL practice questions that are made by the very same people who make the test itself. And only “real” TOEFL questions can fully prepare you for the kinds of questions you’ll see on test day.
What TOEFL books do you need, besides the official ones?
Between the official TOEFL books, you get 14 full practice TOEFL tests, as well as a little bit of supplemental material about test structure and test strategy. If you have all three of the books from ETS, you might ask yourself “what other TOEFL books could I possibly need?”
For some test-takers, the answer to that question might be “none.” Some people are able to get their TOEFL performance to where it needs to be just by using the three official TOEFL books from ETS. But many other TOEFL preppers find that they still need more practice and more advice, beyond what ETS offers.
So if ETS isn’t quite enough for you, what other TOEFL books do you need? As you look for an answer to this question, proceed with caution — some of the third-party unofficial TOEFL books are of poor quality. And even the best ones have some practice questions that just aren’t all that “TOEFL-like,” compared to actual ETS practice questions.
Still, if you need more TOEFL books besides the ETS ones, there quite a few unofficial TOEFL guides that can be really useful. The Complete Guide to the TOEFL has a wealth of practice questions of near-ETS quality. Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test is good too. Granted, it has some TOEFL practice questions that are a little “off the mark,” harder or less well-written than the content of the exam itself. But this book is still very useful because it’s full of strategy building exercises and advice that many TOEFL test-takers need before test day.
Beyond these general resources, you may also benefit from TOEFL books for specific test knowledge and skills, such as Collins’ Vocabulary and Grammar for the TOEFL Test. There are also English skills books out there that aren’t designed specifically for TOEFL test-takers, but are very relevant to the exam. C. Neil Linton’s English Grammar Reference is one example of the kind of English book you might need for your TOEFL prep.