Recently, we talked about books you might need to prepare for the TOEFL. But do you really need any books? In this digital age, there’s a chance you don’t.
Can you do TOEFL prep without buying any of the official TOEFL books?
If you want to go print-free with your TOEFL prep, this is the hardest part. The three official TOEFL books (Official Guide, and Official TOEFL iBT Tests Volume 1 and Volume 2) are full of very valuable material from the people who make the real exam. This material is very hard to replace with web-based TOEFL prep.
Still, there are ways to find official TOEFL prep materials from ETS online. ETS offers a number of free TOEFL resources through its website. The biggest one is TOEFL Quick Prep. Quick Prep is a little bit outdated, reflecting the pre-2019 version of the TOEFL. It’s currently archived outside of the ETS website, but I still strongly recommend it. Why? Because it’s not too different from the current version, and is a perfectly useful, absolutely vast source of authentic TOEFL practice, provided you follow Magoosh’s advice on using older TOEFL prep.
Quick Prep, which features a large set of real TOEFL practice questions, can be supplemented by some material right here at the Magoosh TOEFL Blog. We have a guide to using TOEFL Quick Prep, and we’ve made audio recordings for some of TOEFL Quick Prep’s TOEFL lecture transcripts. (Quick Prep also has audio of its own for half of its TOEFL listening exercises.)
ETS also has some newer free resources that are very useful. Their full-length TOEFL practice test, released in 2019, is a “must have,” especially if you’re trying to prepare for the TOEFL without purchasing any books. This test matches the current version of the TOEFL. It is full-length, and completely authentic except for one detail: no onscreen timer. But the practice test’s instructions do describe the time limits you’ll face on test day.
Finally, ETS offers TOEFL practice sets. The downloadable sets include audio for Listening and the Integrated Speaking and Writing tasks, so they’re great!
Can you do TOEFL prep without buying any third party, “unofficial” TOEFL books?
Getting by without any of the non-ETS TOEFL books gets easier and easier every year. More and more, TOEFL books are going online, as paperless e-books, PDFs or HTML resources. And many of the e-books in this new wave of electronic TOEFL prep materials are free. Of course, some web resources still cost money. Test prep companies like Barron’s and Cambridge offer ebook versions of their TOEFL books, and Magoosh itself sells premium TOEFL practice questions and video lessons in addition to the free materials here on our blog.
But perhaps one of the biggest web-based innovations in paper-free test prep is the forum. Test prep forums — online communities of test takers and teachers who talk to each other on message boards — are a wonderful, free way to get advice, feedback, and guidance during your TOEFL prep. Sometimes the help you get on TOEFL forums can be just as useful as the strategy tips and skill-building activities you’d find in a TOEFL book. (UPDATE: Currently, perhaps the best online TOEFL forum is the TOEFL Advice subreddit.)
In today’s electronic age, you definitely can do TOEFL prep without any books. The real question is whether you should go paperless. Studies show that some students do better with paper resources, rather than tablets or computer screens. If you feel more comfortable with print books, you should probably use some in your TOEFL studies. Additionally, a number of unique and valuable TOEFL resources might be available in hard copy only.
Still, you definitely don’t need books they way you used to. And electronic TOEFL materials — be they ebooks, forums, or premium TOEFL website subscriptions, can be obtained more quickly and cheaply than print versions. Every TOEFL prepper these days should be using at least some paperless materials. And a completely paper-free TOEFL study plan is certainly something to consider.