The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test (Sixth Edition) Book Review

The Official Guide to the TOEFL TestNobody makes a practice question like the people who make the test, right? There are hundreds of places you can find practice TOEFL questions, and hundreds of them will be poorly made. There’s a much smaller number—only a handful, really—of places you can look for well made practice, Magoosh TOEFL being one of them, if I do say so. But there’s only one place you can get official practice, and that’s from ETS books such as The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test, Sixth Edition.

So, in a way, this review is over before it begins. This book has the most accurate-to-the-test practice questions, period. (And at the time of this writing, it’s among the few books that reflects the newer 2019 changes to the TOEFL!) Well, that accuracy is the main attraction, but to be honest, the Official Guide is stronger in some areas than others. Let’s break down the most important part of any TOEFL prep book and see how good the Official Guide really is:

Report Card

Authenticity of practice material: A+

Amount of practice material: B

Quality of explanations: C+

Skill building material: F

Test strategy and advice: C

Writing style: B

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Included Practice Material

While it may have the best practice TOEFL questions, The Official Guide to the TOEFL offers a middling amount of material, really. There are four full practice tests, which is great. Those alone make about 12 hours of practice material. But outside of those practice tests, the examples are a bit sparse. For some reason, the authors included a good amount of Reading samples; there are six additional passages outside of the practice tests, with additional passage excerpts and individual sample questions. But there is very little Speaking practice, and no audio for any examples outside of the practice tests. Since the Speaking, Listening, and Writing sections all rely heavily on audio recordings, this cripples the material outside of the practice tests.

What’s more, there are no skill-building exercises in the book, such as brainstorming practice, identifying grammar errors, or any of the many other helpful exercises you’ll find in other books. There is a “Writer’s Handbook” at the end, but it simply lists common English mistakes (in an apparently random order) and does not offer any practice exercises for these small lessons. There are also occasional tips listed for effective test-taking, and a lot of information about about how the test works, but no activities to apply this knowledge and build actual skills. The lack of skill-building material is a huge flaw.

The included downloadable software is a great resource. On it, there are four practice tests in a format that’s similar (but not identical) to the real test. But there is one problem: these are the same four tests from the pages of the book. This is a minor complaint, though, since the audio in the software is essential to authentic TOEFL practice. I would recommend taking the tests digital only; the on-page version of the exam is better for review of the test after you take it. Note also that the book includes an answer key and transcripts for all tests, so it’s a good companion to the software. There are answer explanations as well, although those are less useful. I’ll get to that next.


This is one of the most important parts of any test preparation book. If you get a question wrong while practicing, you have to know why you got it wrong. The Official Guide doesn’t really provide this for reading and listening questions.

Yes, there are explanations, but for Reading and Listening, they’re really not helpful. There are no explanations for why wrong answers are actually wrong, only brief descriptions of why the correct answers are correct. And usually, this reads similar to “A is correct because it is the one answer that works.” ETS’s answer explanations for these two sections simply aren’t very insightful!

The best part of the explanations are the Speaking and Writing responses. These are real responses from real test takers! For Speaking, there are a total of 36 of them—one high and one low from each Speaking task on each test, with comments from the grader. Similarly, there are many examples of TOEFL Writing essays; there’s a sample of each score (1-6) of each essay in each practice test, along with grader comments. Again, that’s 36 sample essays with comments. This actually is very helpful. So ETS’s explanations are not all bad.

Test Strategy and Advice

I sometimes think that ETS wants people to believe that there are no strategies for increasing your score on the TOEFL. This would make their test look perfectly designed: if that was true, then the test would only measure your English abilities, rather than your test-taking abilities. That would explain why there is such minimal strategy in the book. Ultimately, though, there is no such thing as an exam that perfectly tests only language skills, with no emphasis on test-taking abilities. Fortunately for us, there are strategies that can help you to improve your TOEFL scores. Only ETS doesn’t really address them.

The only real advice on how to approach specific question types is in the descriptions of each type, and it’s mostly limited to the obvious advice (for example, you’re encouraged to refer to your notes when answering Listening questions). There are no practice exercises for learning these strategies. This is another big issue.

Meanwhile, many TOEFL books have the opposite problem from the Official Guide. That is, they try to convince you that the test is all strategy. It’s not. The most important way to raise your score is simply to get more English experience. So I have to agree with the Official Guide’s writers on this point: you have to practice your English outside of doing bookwork and test practice to get a higher TOEFL score. The book does a good job of stressing this fact.

But it becomes a bit repetitive when you see the same advice for the third time. Yes, reading English language publications is a good way to get practice for TOEFL Reading. Is it a revolutionary thought? Not really. Does it help me to see that advice more than once? I probably already knew it anyway, so no.

Writing Style

The writing is generally clear and concrete, which is great. It’s not especially exciting, but that’s okay. It would be nice if there was less focus on the dry, factual information and more focus on the test taker’s experience, but this is not a huge problem.

It’s great that some of the more difficult vocabulary words in the book are defined in footnotes, but this book does include many descriptions and explanations which are not written for non-native speakers. It would be helpful if those non-practice text sections (such as explanations) were very clear and easy to read. If you are already scoring above 80 on the TOEFL, this shouldn’t be a problem. But for the lower levels of TOEFL takers, the English level of the writing might be too difficult.

The Final Word

The Official Guide to the TOEFL test is the best source for realistic practice tests. It is a great resource for learning the basics of the test and getting some truly authentic practice. I recommend it as an important part of any student’s prep materials. But for skills-building, test strategies, and general advice, you’ll want additional support from other sources. And again, Magoosh TOEFL is a great one-top shop for supplements tot he official material.


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  • Lucas Fink

    Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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118 Responses to The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test (Sixth Edition) Book Review

  1. Amit December 3, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Hi Lucas

    Great review! Keep it up.

    I am starting to prepare for TOEFL. I need help selecting my sources of books for the preparation. I would appreciate if you can advise me which book/books are the best for the purpose.


    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 3, 2013 at 10:09 am #

      Hi Amit,

      Good question! I’m still working through various TOEFL books to write reviews of them all and choose the best, but as of now I’d recommend Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test. Many of the practice questions aren’t—reading especially can be a bit different from the real test—but the skill-building exercises are generally helpful and the there’s a lot of material. If you only need to become familiar with the test, though, the official guide may be the only thing you need.

      • Amit December 5, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

        Dear Lucas

        Thanks a ton for the recommendation.

        I find that the latest edition of the Cambridge Preparation for TOEFL is 4th, published in 2006. In your opinion, is the book still good for conforming to and being useful for the latest test pattern? I am not sure whether the test has witnessed any change in content, ways of testing etc. since 2006.


        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas December 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

          Hi Amit,

          You’re welcome, of course! There’s been no change to the TOEFL since 2006 (standardized tests rarely change), so the Cambridge Preparation is still a valuable resource. Happy studying!


          • Amit December 14, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

            Thanks once again for the clarification Lucas! I appreciate your advice.

      • Mário César February 21, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

        Hi Lucas,
        I just bought the Barron’s book for intensive everyday practice and the Official Guide CD-ROM to do the full tests on the weekends and get familiar with TOEFL structure. Is this a good approach?
        Thank you in advance!

        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas February 24, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

          Well, I don’t have a very high opinion of Barron’s TOEFL iBT. Your general study schedule is a good idea. Taking official, full length practice tests regularly is definitely important, and the Official Guide is a good resource for that. Make sure you’re aware of the problems with Barron’s, though; don’t believe everything in the book. You can still get good practice from it, but trust the official guide on the difficulty and details of the real test.

      • Maria January 24, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

        Dear Lucas,
        I don’t know if you are familiar with the online cambridge preparation for toefl course, if you do know something about it, would you recomend taking that online course for preparation?
        Thanks in advance

        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas January 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm #

          I don’t know of an online course by Cambridge press, nor can I find it online, so I can’t tell you whether I’d recommend it. But you wouldn’t really want an answer from me, anyway—Magoosh is also an online test preparation tool, so I’d be too biased!

      • Paras June 19, 2015 at 10:43 pm #

        Dear Lucas,

        I am preparing for TOEFL and I am using BARRON’S TOEFL iBT book. Is it good for preparation or not? If not then which would you recommend?

  2. ALEXHOU January 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    For me I think the CD attached to the book has one good improvements: they improved the user interface of OG(offical guide), which is quite confusing in the last version. But the method of time-counting is a little different in the Listening section: in OG 4th, there are 60 minutes for the whole listening section. But in TPO there are only 10 minutes for students to answer questions in one section.
    Plus there are some revisions in the Listening section. They removed math from Physical Science section. They also made a more clear explanation towards the Gist-Purpose Questions.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 8, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      Awesome! Thanks for filling in some details on the change between editions. The timer for the listening section in the OG software isn’t like the real test, it’s true. The TPO gives a more accurate test experience.

  3. aleksander January 18, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    Hello Lucas.Really helpful and interesting your analysis.I think that only i few students tend to tell such truths on reviews.

    Anyway, I want a big favor from your side.Can you send me a link to download the entire CD of ETS 4th Edition brcause i have lost them and doing the 4 full tests from the book is a bit annoying.

    Thank you pal!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 18, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

      I’m glad that you’ve like the reviews, Aleksander! I can’t provide a copy of the CD, though, since it’s copyrighted material. To simply copy it and put it online would be piracy. I understand what you mean about using the paper tests, though—it’s definitely different from taking a computer test—so I sympathize! I’m really sorry I can’t be of more help with that.

  4. Julia January 31, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    You said that format of the practice test is very similar to the real test. I would like to know if this is true. Did you talk to anybody who recently took a test? Do you think that integrated writing task is in the same format? usually three very clear points in the reading and three points (agree or opose) in the lecture. Should I expect something different? and what this could be? Thank you so much!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

      Hi Julia,

      Yes, I do know somebody who took the test recently: me. 🙂 That format is true of almost all TOEFL integrated writing tasks, yes. The reading makes three points, and the lecture opposes those three points (usually in a different order). Sometimes–very occasionally–the lecture agrees with the reading, and very, very rarely, there is a cause-effect relationship or something else a little bit different (the reading describes three steps to a phenomenon and the lecture gives a specific example which illustrates those three steps, for example).

      The content of the Official Guide (and anything else from ETS) is the most reliable source for realistic practice. The only important exception in this book is the first practice test, which is older and has one conversation in the listening that’s slightly different from more recent TOEFL tests. Generally, if you see it in the Official Guide, you can expect to see something similar on your test.

      • Julia February 3, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

        Thank you so much! My exam is in 5 days and I am super streesed!

        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas February 3, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

          You’re welcome, and good luck on test day!

  5. Kshitiz March 5, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    Hi !
    Thank You! For Your Awesome Post!
    I have ETS-TOEFL OG 3rd Edition.
    I was wondering if 4th edition is different from 3rd edition?
    Do I need to buy the 4th edition?
    Thank You!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas March 10, 2014 at 11:34 am #

      Good question! There are just a couple of changes between the 3rd and 4th edition:

      1) There’s one more practice test in the 4th edition (this is important to know!).
      2) The CD in the 3rd edition doesn’t work on Macs.
      3) The “writer’s handbook” isn’t in the 3rd edition. (It’s not very helpful anyway.)

      So the 3rd edition is definitely okay to use, although the 4th edition is better because of the extra practice test. When you use both tests in the 3rd edition, if you need more, I recommend the book of 5 Official TOEFLs (with the red cover).

      • Kshitiz March 19, 2014 at 7:47 am #

        Thank You!

      • vinay August 2, 2014 at 6:30 am #

        Can we download the practice test from internet??
        If yes, let me know the links pls..

        Or Cambridge guide tests are enough??

        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas August 11, 2014 at 11:33 am #

          The Cambridge guide is good, but for a practice test that’s close to the real thing, we definitely recommend the official guide. Whether the Cambridge book is “enough” depends entirely on where you start from, what you need, and how much time and energy you can put into your studies. Just remember that while the practice tests may be decent practice, there are some reading and listening questions which have flaws, and you shouldn’t consider the score of the practice test to be what you’ll get on the real thing—official tests are better for that.

          Unfortunately, there are no free official practice tests for download—at least not yet! I do hope ETS releases full practice TOEFLs at some point.

      • Sawsan Fawzy November 12, 2018 at 5:22 am #

        You’re my best TOEFL teacher ever! 🙂

  6. Natasha Rakó March 25, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Hola Lucas!

    What an awesome review and of course your self experience!

    Actually im starting to prepare for Proficiency test.,(later on definetly TOEFL) and i saw in other pages really good reviews about CAMBRIDGE PREPARATION TOEFL fourth edition and decided to study from there wich i think it will help me alot. I would appreciate if you can advise me about how to improve doing essays since is my Achilles heel ?

    Thank you!


    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas March 25, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      Hi, Natasha!

      You’re referring to the CPE when you say “Proficiency Test,” right? I should mention that the CPE is very different from the TOEFL both in structure and content, so a TOEFL book such as Cambridge TOEFL might not be the best choice when preparing for the CPE. I haven’t taught the CPE before, personally (only CAE, FCE, and PET), so I’m afraid I don’t have any recommendations for the CPE, but if you are going to take the TOEFL later, Cambridge TOEFL is a good choice for that. 🙂

      As for improving your essays, there are really two very important things: read a lot and write a lot. Reading is very important to improve your writing—it helps you learn new vocabulary, learn new grammar structures, improve spelling, and reinforce grammar you already know. But if you don’t also write regularly, it’s easier to forget those things you learn while reading. You need to use the things you learn, imitate what you read in your own writing, to make long-term improvement. For the TOEFL, it’s best if you read academic texts. The science and technology sections of advanced English news sources are great, challenging practice.

      And here’s an exercise that’s really helpful for the TOEFL, specifically. After you read an English article, if you can, sit down and write a summary of what you just read. You don’t need to include your opinion or any other information, just a few hundred words of your own—not copying—that explains what you learned from the text. That gives you opportunity to both learn and practice natural English, plus use the types of words and phrases you’ll need on the TOEFL to reference a reading and lecture.

  7. Vivian March 31, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Hello Lucas! I am planning to take TOEFL test this coming May 10. I am weak in English Vocabulary and grammar. What is your best recommendation for a month preparation. I am shopping around, I will start to study tomorrow April 1.( I hope that don’t get fooled of choosing guide book !) . Based on your review,should I get Official Guide to the Toefl Test 4th edition?
    Notice that it is only a month preparation , I would appreciate your advice of the best approach to get the required score. I need Official TOEFL score of at least 550 (paper test), 213 (computer test).

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas March 31, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

      Hi Vivian,

      First, be sure about which test you’re taking! The PBT (paper-based test) is very rare, depending on your country, and the CBT (computer-based test) is gone; most students take the IBT (internet-based test). That score is from 0 to 120, and it’s a very different test from the PBT. If you’re going to take the PBT, don’t buy the official guide! That book is only for the IBT.

      If you’re going to take the IBT, then you might like to follow [the study schedule Kate wrote]( That schedule is one month long and only requires the official guide. 🙂 Then, if you have more time to study or need more material, either the Complete Guide by Bruce Rogers or The Cambridge Guide to the TOEFL are great books for more detailed strategy and skill practice, not just descriptions of the test and practice questions.

      Again, though, those are for the IBT.


  8. Brandon April 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    Hello Lucas,

    what is the best book to prepare for toefl PBT?

    I have learned from Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test: The Paper Test. But it doesn’t help much. Because the practices in that book are easier than the real test. For example, the conversation in Listening Section is much slower, the questions in Structure is easier. I got 600 in practice, but only 430 in real test.

    Would you mind telling me the recommended books that are better for practicing to the TOEFL PBT test?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas April 23, 2014 at 11:25 am #

      Hi Brandon,

      That’s a really good question, and I’m sorry but I don’t have a definite answer! My experience is limited to the iBT, unfortunately, because that test is much more common in the countries where I’ve taught. I do know that the Complete Guide to the iBT is a good book, and Bruce Rogers, the author, has also written a guide to the PBT. That would be the first one I’d look at, but I haven’t actually used it, so I can’t recommend it with any certainty!

      I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. Good luck in your search for PBT materials! If you do find good resources, I’d love to hear what you find, so I can recommend it to students in the future. 🙂


  9. Basil April 29, 2014 at 7:12 am #

    A really great review
    would please kindly address the key differences between the 4th and 3rd editions of this guide, as the only one I can purchase is the third ( I’m in Syria ).
    thanks for your efforts

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas April 29, 2014 at 8:21 am #

      Glad you liked it! That’s a good question about the differences between the 3rd and 4th editions. The user “Kshitiz” asked the same question on this page, so you can find my answer there. 🙂 Happy studying, and good luck!

  10. coprofiker May 9, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Hi Lucas… I am from Middle East and I am getting ready for TOEFL exam. Some people in my immediate vicinity says that current TOEFL exams are in the same level of hardness with Cambridge Preparation. But as far as I could understand from your words Official Guide is the closest source to the real exam. So I reached the conclusion that It is the rightest thing to get ourselves accustomed to the level of Official Guide. If you clarify this point, I will appreciate it…
    Thanks for your articles by the way…

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas May 12, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

      Hi there,

      You’re right that the best source learn about the difficulty level of the test is the official guide (and the book of 5 official practice tests, too). Cambridge is a bit different from the real test. It’s close, but some questions aren’t very well written and on average the reading comprehension is a little bit harder, in my experience. Start with official material, and then if you need to do a lot of studying, preparation, and skill building move on to other, non-official books/lessons. 🙂


  11. sara May 31, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Hi, Lucas…

    About the 2nd edition of the oficial guide of TOEFL?
    Do you believe is it still possible to study with it?
    Aditionally, I´m planning to buy the Cambridge book to complement.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 2, 2014 at 11:30 am #

      The 2nd edition is not quite the same as the later editions, because is doesn’t have practice tests. The practice tests are the most valuable part of the Official Guide, so I don’t really recommend the 2nd edition. Nonetheless, the description of the test in the 2nd edition guide is the same as 3rd and 4th editions. The main difference is just the practice tests.

  12. Niki June 5, 2014 at 4:01 am #

    Hello Lucas!!

    In my first attempt for ibt i secured 24 in speaking but i need 26 . By any means i have to secure 26 in speaking , and other section in need total 89 . Could you please guide me : Which book should i use? what could be the preparation tricks + tips + strategies. ??

    Looking forward for your prompt response.

    Thank You.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

      Hi Niki,

      Well, I’m not sure if I can explain all preparation tips and strategies in just this one comment. 🙂 The most important thing for the speaking task is knowing exactly what your response will be like. It’s much easier to focus on your vocabulary and pronunciation if you are used to the format of the questions and your answers. That means studying each speaking task carefully to know what you need to do and then practicing it again and again.

      As for the best books, I recommend official material, of course, as well as either the Cambridge guide or Bruce Rogers’s Complete Guide. For speaking, the Complete Guide is probably a better choice.

      Good luck in your studies!


  13. A.V.Aravind June 23, 2014 at 2:20 am #

    What is the difference between the Official TOEFL Guide and Official Toefl Ibt Vol.1 W/cd 1st edition…. very confused

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 23, 2014 at 10:53 am #

      Happy to clarify!

      The Official TOEFL Guide (with the blue cover) is mostly a description of the test. It comes with three practice tests at the back of the book. It also comes with a CD-rom that includes those same practice tests to use on the computer. There are a few different editions of this book. The current edition is the fourth edition. Earlier additions have fewer practice tests.

      Official TOEFL iBT Tests (with the red cover) is a book of only practice tests. There is no description of the TOEFL. This book does not include computer-based tests on a CD. Instead, the CD that comes with it only includes audio. There is only one edition of the red book of tests.

  14. meenu June 28, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

    can you please suggest the best book to start learning for toefl? i would like a book with best skill building section…

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas June 30, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      The best skill-building book that I know of is Cambridge Preparation. You need the CDs to make full use, though, and they can be expensive. For a cheaper option, the Complete Guide is pretty good, and you can get the listening material for that book for free online from the publisher’s website.

  15. Anwar August 6, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    Can you please provide a review on the Cliff’s TOEFL?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas August 11, 2014 at 11:40 am #

      Hi Anwar,

      I don’t know Cliff’s, but it looks like the only TOEFL books they have are for the PBT (paper-based test) and the CBT (computer-based test). The CBT doesn’t exist anymore, so no book about that is a good purchase for the current test, the iBT (internet based-test). A book about the PBT would be helpful if you’re going to take the PBT, but most students take the iBT. It depends on where you live, mostly. But assuming you’re going to take the iBT, I don’t recommend one of these older books about the old tests.

  16. Abhishek August 17, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    I have the TOEFL ibt cambridge material, will it be sufficient for my test prep. which is in a week’s time. or do I need to buy any other material.

  17. Kasun August 24, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    Hello Lucas,

    First, your review is impressive. For my iBT TOEFL preparations I bought DELTA’s Key to TOEFL iBT. Is that a good one to work on?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas August 25, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

      Hi Kasun,

      I haven’t used Delta much, to be honest—I’ve only seen a practice test or two of theirs, and it was a few years ago. I plan on reviewing that book, but it might not be for a few months.

      From what I remember and have heard, it is relatively good material (better than Barron’s or Princeton, I imagine), but that could be wrong. I don’t want to mislead you! But I’d love it if you let us know your experience with the book. 🙂

  18. Purvi August 25, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    Hey Lucas,
    i have read almost all reviews i don’t know if have skipped some and asking you the same question again but if i am opting for IBT than books for CBT can really help me in preparing? i mean can i use it as an option to strengthen my preparation?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas August 25, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

      Hi Purvi,

      Books on the CBT might help a little bit, but there are many differences between the tests, so I don’t recommend using just a CBT book to study for the iBT. Here are some of the major differences:

      – no speaking section on the CBT
      – CBT includes a grammar section that’s not on the iBT
      – CBT listenings are very different from (and much shorter than) iBT listening
      – no integrated essay on the CBT
      – CBT reading is shorter and includes some different types of questions

      Basically, no section of the CBT is the same as a section on the iBT, unfortunately. So practice CBT material might be good English practice in general, but if you’re studying for the iBT, you will need some iBT-specific material to teach you that test.

  19. ZOLOO August 27, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    i am wondering that is there any real TOEFL test program. computer checks mistakes and see time ?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas September 2, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

      The CD that comes with the Official guide is close to the real thing, but it’s not exactly the same. Meanwhile, Cambridge Preparation comes with a CD that has 7 practice tests on software that’s more similar to a real test. The best software and material are ETS’s TOEFL practice online tests, but they’re expensive: $45 per test and you can only take the test once.

  20. ANIL Nepal September 1, 2014 at 3:13 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    I am going to take a TOEFL test at the end of this month. I am preparing from Princeton Cracking the TOEFL iBT 2015 . I am o.k. with reading and listening sections. But, had a problem with a wriitng and speaking sections. How can I improve my skills in these sections? Besides, the book I am following is a good choice or should I have to read another one?
    How can I make an effective preparation as I have 3 weeks time to take test?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas September 2, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      Hi Anil,

      Improving writing and speaking involves a lot of practice following specific structures. For both parts, it helps to know the exact structure of your answer before you start. Learn the exact format of each speaking question and the two types of essays, then practice working with those formats.

      It can be very helpful to record your answers when speaking and listen to them again, making notes about what you should do better. Then, repeat the same questions with clearer, fuller answers. The same basic thing can help for essays. After writing a practice essay, return to it a day or two later. Read through and edit your essay. Then try writing the same essay again, from the start, but better.

      There are many other ways to improve, too—these are just a few suggestions! Generally, your goal is to learn the exact format of the test and your answers. Princeton can help a bit, but they don’t have great advice on that. I’d use that book for the “core concepts” section, mostly. If you buy another book, I’d highly recommend the book of Official iBT Tests for extra practice material. Between that and the core concepts part of Princeton, you will have a good amount of material. If you wanted even better strategy advice, you would have to get another, more expensive book (either Cambridge or The Complete Guide by Bruce Rogers). Of course, I also recommend following our blog for study and strategy advice. 🙂

  21. Mina September 3, 2014 at 2:25 am #

    I have had the Barron’s 10th edition(2002-2003) and because I have lost the CD ,I wanted to go for buying the 14th edition along with Audios and Cdies,reading your comments I realised that Barron’s is not taking that much attention compared to what is being regadrded here ,,,are the listening tasks of 14th edition diffrent from 10th ?do you recommend going for the cd of 10th edition or the 14 th edition completely?

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas September 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

      You’ll need a different book, I’m afraid. Barron’s 10th edition is from before the IBT (internet-based test) was released. It is about a different type of TOEFL (the CBT, or computer-based test) that doesn’t exist any more. You won’t be able to study for the IBT with a CBT book.

      So if you want to use Barron’s, you will need to buy a newer edition. I don’t really recommend Barron’s, by the way—but it sounds like you already read my review of their IBT book and know my opinion.

  22. ahmad September 10, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    Hi how i can get the book can anybody help !

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas September 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      You can buy the book online from the official website or from You could probably find it in any very large bookstore with a section for English language books, too! It’s a popular book. 🙂

  23. Gunjan October 3, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    I am an IT Professional. I am targeting for TOFELiBT 2015 and I don’t want to go for any coaching classes. Could you please suggest me some good material for me for step wise preparation of each sections? My English is average.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas October 6, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

      Check out the rest of our book reviews to learn what’s good and bad about each book!

      There are also a couple of comments on that page that you might find helpful. 🙂

  24. jose garcia December 3, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    Hello 1st of all I want to thank you for your website it is really helpfull.

    About the official guide to the toefl test fourth edition I would like to know if for the listening section they have audio track because the book is only text, so how should I supose to do the listening excercices in the book if it is all about text?

    thank you

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 8, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      Don’t worry! The book comes with a CD that has the audio on it. 🙂

      • Chandrashekhar December 9, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

        Hi Lucas,

        Just finished with my GMAT …thanks to Magoosh .. and will need to start preparation for TOEFL soon. Can you please appraise / advice on the below question
        1. One month window – what is the best resource other than OG
        2. Any schedule to follow
        3. Unlike GMAT, does TOEFL tests other abilities other than English ??
        4. Any strategies in general to crack the test….


        • Lucas Fink
          Lucas December 12, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

          I’m glad we helped you with the GMAT, and I’m happy to help a bit with your TOEFL questions!

          1) Official material is the best way to learn the format of the test, which is the best way to improve in a short time. Check out the official book of five practice tests for more official exposure.

          2) We have a one-month schedule using Magoosh TOEFL! Even if you don’t use Magoosh TOEFL, it’s a great place to start to create your own daily schedule using official and other material.

          3) Not exactly. Some skills are very helpful (e.g. note-taking), but the goal of the TOEFL is to test your English communication skills: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

          4) That’s a tough question. There’s no silver bullet to a higher score! For the most part, the TOEFL tests your English ability and exposure. But when studying, the most important thing is that you learn the exact format of the test, see what causes you trouble, and the best ways to answer each type of question.

  25. Ashkan December 25, 2014 at 2:45 am #

    Dear Lucas,

    Good day

    I find the listening section of the official guide very easier than Cambridge and Barron. So I am confused regarding difficulty level of the actual test. Of course, as it name suggests, official guide should be closer to the actual test. May I know you opinion too?

    Thank you

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 30, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

      Of course! The official guide is far closer to the real thing. Official ETS TOEFL IBT tests are the best representation of real test difficult. Barron’s material is very often problematic. Cambridge isn’t perfect either.

  26. Chandrark December 28, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    Right now I am preparing for the TOEFL test. I need your advice about the best book for TOEFL preparation in a month. I am working as well and sparing weekend for the preparation. I wish to achieve score 90. Without preparation I appeared for the test and score 72 is for your reference.

    Thank you in advance.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas December 30, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

      That depends largely on what you most need to work on! Have you read the rest of our book reviews? I think they’ll help choose. Generally, for a short time of studying I recommend focusing on official material to learn the format of the test. Know exactly what speaking question #5 will look like, for example, and what you have to do in your response. Complete all of the official practice ETS’s guide and know exactly why each wrong answer was, in fact, wrong. If you think you will have time to do more than that, then Cambridge or The Complete Guide are both good choices (see my book reviews, linked above).

  27. sweet_heart January 1, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    Hi Lucas,does official guide practice test also provide scores at the end like on GRE Powerprep.

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas January 6, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

      Partially, yes. You can score the reading and listening sections based on number correct—there is a scoring chart at the back of the book. But speaking and writing are ungraded. You can estimate your score by looking at sample essays and the scoring rubric, which explains the features of essays at different scores.

  28. Eegii January 3, 2015 at 7:26 am #

    Hi Lucas!
    I just started prepare for the Toefl test, and my english level is intermediate, And I planned to take the Toefl test on March of 2016, not so soon, I just bought ETS Official guide fourth edition, and just started to use this book and I also read books and listen to audio books and BBC news, and watch movies with subtitle, what else should I do? Could you advice me? And what other book you recomment to me? If I use Cracking the Toefl after I finish Official guide, it will be helpfull for me? or it would be better if i use other books than Cracking the toefl? what do you think about this book? As you know i am unfamilier with the Toefl and it will be my first time to take this test
    Thanks you

  29. Nhu February 5, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

    Can I ask how many vocabulary questions per set in Reading section of TOEFL iBT? in the book “The Official Guide to the New TOEFL iBT”, there are 3-5 passages in Reading section and the number of vocabulary question is about 3 to 5 per set but I have heard that the forth edition of this book has some changes. I’ m so sorry to intrude cause I cannot find the book to have the correct information. Please answer me, it is very meaningful to me!
    Thank you in advance!

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas February 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm #

      Sure! There are very few changes from the 3rd edition to the 4th, actually. The main difference is an additional practice test at the back of the 4th edition. The TOEFL itself has barely changed. There are still 3-5 vocab questions per passage. But nowadays, you won’t see five reading passages. There are 3 or 4. Hope that helps!

  30. marten February 15, 2015 at 7:15 am #

    Hello Lucas

    You said ” It is helpful for students who are unfamiliar with the test but do not expect to need a lot of preparation. If you already know the test, and you need to build your English skills and test-taking skills, this book is not for you ”

    What do you mean by ” unfamiliar with the test” and “If you already know the test ”
    Do you mean the student who did not try the TOEFL test before ? or the student who did not know any information about the test ?
    For the student who does not know anything about the exam or unfamiliar with the TOEFL test and want to achieve a score close to 100(high score) ;can we say that the-official-guide-to-the-TOEFL-test-fourth-edition-book is the perfect choice for him

    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas February 19, 2015 at 10:58 am #

      I’m sorry “unfamiliar with the test” and “already know the test” weren’t very clear ways of categorizing students! I should have been clearer. If you have already studied the test in the past, and you know what the structure and format is, then the official guide is only helpful for practice tests. If you only took the test once, but never studied for it, then the official guide will still have helpful explanations of the test format, because you probably will not remember everything about the format from the one experience.

      Achieving a score of 100, meanwhile, depends on the student, not the book. If a student just started studying English this year, then neither the Official Guide nor any other book is “perfect” and will bring a score of 100. But if you do not know the test at all, then the Official Guide is a very important resource.

  31. Henry Goodman February 21, 2015 at 11:05 am #

    Hi Lucas,

    Thank you for the reviews so far.

    If you had to buy at most 2 books, together with Magoosh TOEFL, and expect a score of at least 95. What would be your choice? Assume you have at most 3 months to master the material and you are fairly good in English.


    • Lucas Fink
      Lucas February 27, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

      First, I should mention that the books don’t decide your score—only you do that. Your score depends heavily on your English experience. If you had just started studying this year, no combination of two books would bring you to a 95, for example. With that in mind, the best books to supplement Magoosh TOEFL are the official book of five practice tests and Cambridge TOEFL, I’d say. That gives you the full range of plenty official material, plenty skill-building practice, and key advice for how to best answer questions.

      • Henry Goodman March 3, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

        Thank you.

  32. Carlos March 7, 2016 at 11:40 pm #

    Hi Lucas, I have a question, do this book still beign useful nowadays?

    • David Recine
      David Recine March 16, 2016 at 12:12 pm #

      I can get this one for you, Lucas! 🙂

      Carlos, the answer is yes— this is still a very useful guide. The 4th edition is still the most current edition of the O.G., and the test has changed very little since this book was put out.

      The only two real changes to the TOEFL since the publishing of the current Official Guide involve the timer and the audio tracks. Contrary to the software that comes with the OG, the TOEFL exam timer only starts ticking down when the questions are made available— the OG CD shows the timer starting during the instructions in some cases. And the audio tracks may now sometimes contain native English accents other than American English. But this is not that common and British, Australian, etc.. accents are not very strong or challenging on the exam. Other than that, the test materials are completely true to the TOEFL in its current format.

  33. Chris March 28, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

    Hi Lukas!
    Could you please recommend a good preparation TOEFL book? I’ll appreciate it.
    Best regards

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 30, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

      I can get this one for you, Lucas. 🙂 In spite of all of its flaws, everyone here at Magoosh TOEFL highly recommends the Official Guide to our students. We also strongly advise students to use the other official TOEFL book from ETS, Official TOEFL iBT Tests. Official materials are must-haves for anyone who is preparing for the TOEFL. And really, no TOEFL book is absolutely perfect. Check out our other book reviews here on the blog for additional TOEFL Guides that may work for you.

  34. Mariusz April 4, 2016 at 6:35 am #

    Hello Lucas,

    Do you happen to know how many hours (45-min. periods) the entire guide covers? I’m about to prepare a group of 4 high school students and I need to know the hours to do my course schedule. What about the other publications in terms of hour coverage?

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 4, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

      I can get this for you, Lucas. Mariusz, that is not an easy question. I’ve personally used this book in a variety of different classes: high school students, university students, adult professionals, anything from one-on-one to a group of 20 plus. Although official TOEFL books make excellent class materials, they are structurally designed for self-study schedules. So there’s not an obvious hour coverage for any of the books. That being said, the best fit I ever found for the Official Guide was a 6-hour-a-week, 4 month class I taught. I hope that helps.

      —David Recine

  35. Murat May 18, 2016 at 1:52 am #

    Hi lucas quick question.. I will be getting into a TOEFL exam in 2017,, but I will start studying now, (2016), should I study those 4 books that you recommend ? because I think one of those 4 books were edition to 2006.. and the others were old version.. so those 4 books that you recommend should I study those books for toefl exam for 2017? thanks I will be waiting for your asnwers..

    4 books that you recommend was ” the official guide ” ” official toefl ibt ” ” the complete guide ” ” cambridge preparation ”

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 21, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

      There have been a number of small changes to the TOEFL in the last 10 years, but these four books are still pretty good— even the earlier editions of the books. And you’re correct that just one of these books comes only in an older version. The “Complete Guide” hasn’t had a new edition since 2006. All the other books do come in newer versions— the most recent “Official Guide” edition is from 2012, Cambridge last updated its TOEFL books in 2014, and “Official TOEFL Tests” was put out in an updated edition just last year…. And a second volume of “Official TOEFL iBT Tests” was released just this year— with all new practice exams/questions!

  36. Pranjul June 11, 2016 at 3:24 am #

    I am starting to prepare for TOEFL. I need help selecting my sources of books for the preparation. I would appreciate if you can advise me which book/books are the best for the purpose.


    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 16, 2016 at 10:22 am #

      Hi Pranjul,

      This is an excellent question! You might find our TOEFL Book Review post very useful. 🙂

  37. Pranjul June 11, 2016 at 3:25 am #

    I am starting to prepare for TOEFL. I need help for selecting my books can you suggest me books


    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 11, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

      Hi Pranjul 🙂

      If you’re looking for a TOEFL book, we have two we usually recommend:

      * The Cambridge Guide
      * The Official Guide to the TOEFL

      With that being said, which book you should buy depends partly on your personal needs. Check out our book reviews for more information!

      Hope this helps 🙂

  38. mohammad June 23, 2016 at 5:27 am #

    Hi Lucas
    My name is mohammad and in civil engineer so i wanna to continue education on phd.first of all pls tell me about what us differences between ieits and toefl?
    Best regards,

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 24, 2016 at 11:17 am #

      Hi Mohammad. Good question! 🙂

      This blog post goes through the differences and has a TOEFL Tuesday video. 🙂 In addition, you want to check very carefully that either exam is accepted. For example, in the US the TOEFL is far more widely accepted than the IELTS, so make sure the test you choose will allow you to do what you want.

  39. shima July 6, 2016 at 11:51 pm #

    I appreciated u to answer me,because unfortunately before i registered at magoosh,i bought this book “oxford preparation course for the Toefl iBT exam”,written by Susan Bates, so I wanna make sure does this book work for me or I should practice by magoosh only?or magoosh with another book??
    thank you

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 7, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

      If you’re following one of our Magoosh TOEFL study schedules, you’ll definitely need to use both Magoosh and official ETS materials– both sources are key to the study plans we offer.

      However, if you’re studying on your own, the only “must have” is a official TOEFL prep materials from ETS, the makers of the test (You can select materials from the official TOEFL prep page). The ETS materials are essential because they’re the most authentic, and will give you the best idea of your abilities on the real exam. (Although if I do say so, Magoosh’s materials go quite well with the ETS stuff.)

      The Oxford Preparation Course for the TOEFL exam can be a good extra book to use along with official TOEFL materials from ETS and Magoosh. The practice questions themselves aren’t all that authentic to the TOEFL exam. But the book is a really excellent resource for skills building exercises and test strategy advice. And the book is both teacher-friendly and student-friendly, so it’s a good resource to use with a tutor, if you choose to hire one. You can read Lucas’s full review of the book on our blog for more information.

  40. Anas Mohammad December 2, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    I have a question I need to buy The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test (Fourth Edition) Book Review or not

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 3, 2016 at 11:57 am #

      If you’re a Magoosh TOEFL subscriber and you’re following one of our Magoosh TOEFL Study Plans, then you definitely need the current edition to the Official Guide to the TOEFL– it’s a key material in our study schedules.

      However, if you’re not following one of our study plans, you don’t absolutely need the TOEFL OG, fourth edition. It is strongly recommended though. And you absolutely should be using some official prep materials from ETS– they are the only materials 100% guaranteed to be like the questions you’ll see on the actual exam. So if you don’t go with the official TOEFL Guide, 4th edition, you should go with one of the other official TOEFL books or practice tests, or with the shorter-but-still-good 3rd edition of the OG. (The easiest ETS prep resource to obtain is of course the free TOEFL Quick Prep service.)

  41. sunshine January 27, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

    Can I ask you something are the third edition and forth edition of practice test’s same , I know in third edition there is 2 practice test rather than 3.Nonetheless I am not sure whether I should buy the last edition or not because I did the tests of the third edition. Please help me, what is your opinion Thank you

    • David Recine
      David Recine January 30, 2017 at 2:42 am #

      The fourth edition has the same two tests you see in the third edition, plus one additional test. Hope this helps!

  42. Eli October 12, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    Actually i will take the exam on December and my English is weak . i want to register for 1 month plan on Magoosh and also use books like long man and Baron .
    but i’m afraid that i cant pass the exam

  43. Maxi September 3, 2018 at 1:24 am #

    Hi Lucas i al Ready belen preparó hoy with your toefl Prep and i would like to have this book as o thank is necesariy where i can find it? I need tonbe send to argentina thank you

  44. David January 29, 2019 at 10:40 am #

    Hi. Does your website offer the explanation on official guide questions?

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 1, 2019 at 8:41 am #

      Hi David,

      At this time, we don’t provide a forum with answers to the TOEFL official guide questions. However, if you are a Premium student, you can send in questions about the TOEFL Official Guide and we are happy to answer them 🙂

  45. Rodrigo Custodio February 27, 2019 at 6:52 am #

    Hi, everyone!

    Nowadays is very difficult to have a computer with a CD driver – my question is: Do you recomend to buy the e-book version of The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test?

    I found this option at the oficial ETS Store.

    • David Recine
      David Recine February 27, 2019 at 8:15 pm #

      I honestly do recommend the eBook version! You get the same software as a download, and you don’t have to worry about the CD drive. 🙂

  46. Julie Liu May 14, 2019 at 7:26 am #

    Dear Magoosh,
    I have question about the The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test book, In our website show that one is Fourth Edition, but when i went to the TOEFL iBT store is show that the book is Fifth Edition, it that affect to use? or i should buy the Fourth Edition one on Amazon?

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 15, 2019 at 7:30 pm #

      Hi Julie!

      The differences between the Fourth and Fifth editions are are very minor. There has not been a major update to the TOEFL IBT exam in years; this means that most official guides, essentially, repeat the information from the previous edition.

      Therefore, both the Fourth and Fifth editions will work, so you can purchase whichever one is easiest for you. 🙂

  47. Mebratu September 9, 2020 at 2:31 pm #

    Dear/ Madam magoosh,

    I want to register the magoosh online TOEFL test preparation. I am planning to take test end December. Do you think the magoosh online test preparation is enough? If I went to by the book which book do you recommend? 4th edition or 5th edition of The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test book.

    Thank you,


    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 13, 2020 at 8:13 am #

      Hi Mebratu,

      I’ve forwarded this message on to our team of tutors. They can provide a more in-depth explanation to help you get started 🙂

  48. Mahya November 18, 2020 at 11:15 pm #

    Hi dear lucas,
    can i buy 5th edition for that schedule?

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 15, 2021 at 12:43 pm #

      Hi Mahya, yes the 5th edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL will work well in this schedule!

  49. Lia July 24, 2021 at 1:12 am #

    Hi! I don’t really see where the accompanying downloadable software is. Could you please tell me where I can find it? I do not have the time to buy the ebook version of the book from Amazon. Also, where are the Practice sets? Where do I “complete Reading Practice Set 2 on TOEFL Reading Practice PDF”? I cannot find them. I need these resources in order to complete all the tasks. Thanks!

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 29, 2021 at 9:42 am #

      Hi Lia!

      The online content that comes with your book should be available online using a unique access code from your book. I’d suggest looking in your book for information on this, or asking the retailer where you bought the book.

      Also, this may be the practice PDF you’re looking for. If you’re following a Magoosh study plan, check to see if the resources you need for it are discussed within the plan itself. I hope this helps! 🙂

  50. marco July 26, 2021 at 10:28 am #

    Hello, Dear Lucas:

    Please I would like to know If the new version of the official guide to the toefl ibt has the same 4 authentic practice tests than the previous edition?

    • Magoosh Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 29, 2021 at 9:31 am #

      Hi Marco!

      We believe the new 6th edition of the Official Guide to the TOEFL test has new practice tests (different from those in the book’s previous edition). However, note that the downloadable software it includes uses the same four tests that you’ll find in the pages of the book. I hope this helps! Happy studying. 🙂

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