Studying only with Free TOEFL Materials


The cost of the TOEFL can add up, between test prep materials and ETS’s various fees. Is it possible to save money by using only free TOEFL materials?

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 resource is ETS’s free online full-length practice TOEFL. This is an official test, and unlike ETS’s currently available books, this exam actually matches the format of the new 2019 TOEFL. The only difference is that this test does not have a timer. It does, however, describe the time limits in its instructions.

The new TOEFL Practice Sets that ETS released in 2019 are also useful. Unfortunately, these practice sets, which come in PDF form, do not include any audio. The Listening practice comes with transcripts only, as do the practice sets for TOEFL Integrated Speaking and TOEFL Integrated Writing.

Another useful ETS prep material is TOEFL 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. Admittedly, this will be a full pre-2019 TOEFL. But the differences between the old and new TOEFL are fairly small. Follow Magoosh’s guide to using older TOEFL prep, and Quick Prep will still be quite useful practice for you.

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.

(Note that currently all TOEFL books, whether from ETS or other sources, were written before the 2019 TOEFL changes. Again, consult Magoosh’s guide to using older TOEFL materials!)

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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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