It has been a long time since I wrote about the best TOEFL textbooks on the market. That’s because I generally dislike most of what is available. Generally speaking, TOEFL textbooks are inaccurate and unhelpful. However, this used to be the most popular section of my blog, so I guess it is about time to write something about the topic. Here goes.
Update from 2020: I’ve published a new list. Ignore this one and check out the new one instead!
For an Introduction to the TOEFL
The Official Guide to the TOEFL
The best general overview of the TOEFL is still The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test. This book comes from ETS, who creates the TOEFL week after week. This basic textbook provides the most accurate description of the questions you will get on the test. It also comes with four practice tests that can be accessed via DVD. However, it must be said that the book is sometimes inaccurate, especially when it comes to the writing section of the test. If you buy this book, make sure to read my article about all of the mistakes it contains.
The link above is to the 5th edition. You can save money by getting the 4th edition, but I don’t recommend it. It contains one less test, uses only a CD-ROM and the descriptions of questions are slightly out of date.
Books For Practice TOEFL Tests
The Official Test Collection
The best source of practice tests is The Official iBT Tests Collection Volume 2. This book contains five actual TOEFL tests from the past, delivered on DVD. These are the most accurate practice tests you will find anywhere, though they are pretty old. You can save money by getting the CD-ROM version, which contains the same tests.
The second best source of practice tests is The Official iBT Tests Collection Volume 1. Same as above, but these are even older.
If you are looking for a third-party source of practice tests, check out TST Prep’s collection of 10 practice tests. This is the only third-party I ever recommend to students when it comes to practice tests. You might get a 10% discount if you use the coupon code “goodine10off.”
Books For The TOEFL Writing Section
There is not a single good book about the writing section. Instead of using a book I recommend just reading my free resources.
I also recommend the writing course offered by TST Prep. It uses a series of video lectures to go into more detail than my own stuff provides. Again, save money by using the coupon code “goodine10off.”
Books for the TOEFL Reading Section
House of TOEFL
For the reading section, I recommend Kathy Spratt’s Mastering the Reading Section for the TOEFL iBT. The second edition of this ebook was published in 2019. It will walk you through how to solve each possible question type and explain the “traps” that ETS commonly uses when designed incorrect answers. It contains plenty of original practice readings and questions.
Make sure you don’t get the first edition, which still shows up via some Amazon searches.
Books for Grammar Practice
English Grammar in Use
For grammar practice, I always recommend Raymond Murphy’s English Grammar in Use. It contains clear explanations of grammar points and plenty of practice exercises. If you are working with a teacher, they should be able to quickly tell you what chapters you, specifically, need to focus on. It was updated to a 5th edition in late 2018, but you can save money by getting the 4th edition, which is just as good.
When students need more practice exercises, I usually recommend the supplementary activities textbook that accompanies the main volume (again, the old edition is cheaper).
Practical English Usage
If you are a new TOEFL teacher, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage. This weighty volume will help you answer all of those difficult questions about why you corrected your student’s work in such a way. It really help you get out of the habit of saying “it just sounds more natural” in response to student questions.
If you are a student… don’t get this book for TOEFL prep. It might just be overkill.
Books for TOEFL Vocabulary
1800 TOEFL Essential Vocabulary
Honestly, I generally don’t recommend vocabulary books. Basically, I feel that in the short and medium term learning words might be a waste of your time. You might spend hours and hours studying a book of words, but only encounter one or two of them on the test. Vocabulary acquisition takes a really long time, and you pretty much have to depend on what you already know when you take the test. That said, if you want a bunch of words, I recommend Darakwon’s 1800 TOEFL Essential Vocabulary. And hey… the ebook version only costs two dollars, so it can’t hurt to try.
TOEFL Pocket Vocabulary
Kaplan seems to publish a new bite-sized vocabulary book every few years. The current version appears to be TOEFL Pocket Vocabulary. I haven’t seen this edition, but it is probably just as good as the older ones. It has more words, at least.
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