“How should I study for the TOEFL test?”
It’s a common question. A related question is, “who should I ask for advice?” There are plenty of people who scored well on the TOEFL, but what if different people have different ideas about how to study?
We tried to get around that problem by researching as many blog posts as possible to find the most popular TOEFL study resources: books, practice tests and websites. Below are the results of that research.
The official guide book for the TOEFL from ETS was used by almost 1/3 of the test takers we sampled. However, the Barron’s TOEFL book appeared to be even more popular, if you combine the versions with and without the audio CDs. Other popular choices include the books from Cambridge, Princeton Review, Delta and Thomson.
30% – ETS Official Guide to the TOEFL Test With CD-ROM
27% – Barron’s TOEFL IBT
15% – Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test (Book & CD-ROM)
12% – Princeton Review’s Cracking the TOEFL iBT with Audio CD
10% – Barron’s TOEFL IBT w/CD-ROM and 2 Audio CDs
7% – Delta’s Key To The TOEFL IBT: Advanced Skill Practice
5% – Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test: iBT Edition by Bruce Rogers
2% – Barron’s How to Prepare for the Toefl Test
2% – English Grammar in Use with Answers and CD-ROM
2% – McGraw-Hill Education 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL
2% – Nova Press books
2% – Hackers TOEFL Speaking with 2CDs
(percentages in this post are rounded)
The other question to ask our data is… how many people used a book to study? Within our sample size of 40, over 1/2 of TOEFL test takers used one book, over 1/4 used multiple books, and only 1/5 didn’t use any book.
52% – used only one book.
28% – used multiple books.
20% – didn’t use any books.
note: several, but not all, TOEFL books include CDs. Some are for audio, others include practice tests. Make sure to examine the product descriptions to know exactly what you are getting.
Why wait until the actual test to see how well you retained the information? Take practice tests beforehand, see where you stand, then work to strengthen your weak points.
40% of the test takers used one of the TOEFL practice tests listed below. Of the people who used a practice test, almost 1/3 of them used more than one. One person used 5 different practice tests (and scored 111 on TOEFL).
27% – Kaplan TOEFL iBT Premier with 4 Practice Tests
12% – Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL iBT Test
10% – ETS TOEFL iBT Test Sample Questions
7% – ETS TOEFL iBT Complete Practice Test
2% – Express to the TOEFL iBT Test
2% – 4tests.com/toefl
Books are great, but they cost money so you can only use so many of them. Luckily, there are many helpful websites for learning English, and many are free. Below are 2 dozen resources mentioned by the TOEFL bloggers.
10% – TestDen.com
10% – “Watching YouTube videos” (general)
7% – NoteFull TOEFL Speaking YouTube channel
7% – NoteFull TOEFL Writing YouTube channel
7% – NoteFull.com
5% – Eng1on1.com speaking section
5% – ETS TOEFL official site
5% – ETS TOEFLtv YouTube channel
5% – YouTube: Speak English with Steve Ford
2% – Happy Schools GRE Verbal Word List
2% – TOEFLessays.com
2% – TOEFLgoanywhere.org
2% – engvid.com
2% – goodlucktoefl.com
2% – eslhome.com/esl/listen/#nonauthentic
2% – esl-lab.com
2% – cdlponline.org
2% – lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/fwalters/toeflwrite.html
2% – ielts-simon.com
2% – stuff.co.uk/toefl.htm
2% – english-test.net Listening Practice
2% – YouTube: ouliogroove’s listening playlist
2% – Barron’s GRE Wordlist
2% – NoteFull ESL Power Course ($)
Other Study Tools
A common theme in the blog posts was, “don’t try to narrow-mindedly cram for this like any old test.” Some of the study tools mentioned by the TOEFL bloggers were general ideas and not specific products or websites. These ideas are more about immersing yourself in the language whenever possible: reading, writing, listening and speaking.
12% – Reading English-language newspapers/books
10% – Watching English TV shows/movies
2% – Listening to English radio stations
2% – Maintaining a blog
2% – Skype speaking partner
2% – Speed reading
TOEFL Blog Posts
Below are the 40 blog posts where people share their TOEFL experiences, sorted by the highest self-reported scores.
Within these posts, you’ll find tips on everything from long-term preparation to short-term cramming to test day strategies.
- 118 – TOEFL: References and Review Strategies (francinekier.wordpress.com)
- 118 – My TOEFL Experience (beatthegmat.com)
- 117 – My TOEFL Experience (pungshalene.blogspot.com)
- 116 – TOEFL Preparation for the LAZY people (happyschools.com)
- 115 – How I Got a Pretty Decent Score at the TOEFL Test (mkoerner.de)
- 114 – TOEFL Study Tips – I Scored 114 in TOEFL iBT (happyschools.com)
- 114 – TOEFL Tips by Shipra Sharma (careerintransit.wordpress.com)
- 114 – How to Score 114 in TOEFL iBT Without Preparation (happyschools.com)
- 113 – Taking the TOEFL Test (theworldneedsmoredreamers.net)
- 111 – TOEFL Preparation and Exam Experience: Got 111 in TOELF (msinus.com)
- 109 – My TOEFL Experience (urch.com)
- 109 – Taking the TOEFL test (studyingatuppsala.blogspot.com)
- 108 – My TOEFL Experience (ksdestiny.wordpress.com)
- 108 – My Experience of TOEFL iBT Exam (janamdave.wordpress.com)
- 106 – More Details About My TOEFL Experience (torontomba.blogspot.com)
- 105 – TOEFL: My Experience & Test Day Tips (engineering-study-india-to-usa.blogspot.com)
- 102 – How to score more than 100 in TOEFL iBT in a week (carnalmind.wordpress.com)
- 100 – TOEFL iBT Score – 100 (happyschools.com)
- 95 – Warning: Use These 4 TOEFL iBT Strategies at Your Own Risk (happyschools.com)
- 94 – iBT TOEFL. My Personal Experience (utteredthoughts.wordpress.com)
- 94 – 10 TOEFL Test Taking Strategies (happyschools.com)
- 90 – TOEFL Prep Tips to Score 90+ (happyschools.com)
- 85 – I Took TOEFL iBT (en-blog.ventzana.com)
- 45 – Practice 1 (zulayla-toeflexsperiences.blogspot.com)
- ? – Tips on Self Guided TOEFL Preparation (roshinippoulose.blogspot.com)
- ? – Resources (toeflbyonwind.tumblr.com)
- ? – TOEFL IBT (suci11.wordpress.com)
- ? – Glance at My GRE TOEFL Experience (sushilmagar.blogspot.com)
- ? – My TOEFL Experience (longtuanpham.wordpress.com)
- ? – TOEFL Study Plan and Tips (happyschools.com)
- ? – TOEFL: Tips and Tricks (blog.darshshah.org)
- ? – Passing the TOEFL-iBT: Tips and Other Chitchats (toeflibter.blogspot.com)
- ? – English Language Certificate (studyinuk.universiablogs.net)
- ? – Preparing for GRE and TOEFL (iampleasant.com)
- ? – My TOELF Experience (blog.eurye.com)
- ? – Start of TOEFL Journey (dailyanewtopic.wordpress.com)
- ? – TOEFL Preparation (sites.google.com)
- ? – TOEFL iBT Preparation Tips (razzita.blogspot.com)
- ? – TOEFL Preps (tranquilstorm.wordpress.com)
What Do You Think?
Are you getting ready to take the TOEFL? What are the best study methods you have used so far?
Have you taken the TOEFL? Add your advice and help future test takers know to study for it.