How to Practice For The TOEFL

Class in the MIT Sloan School of Management - Ethan Baron photo

Class in the MIT Sloan School of Management – Ethan Baron photo

Once you’ve committed yourself to passing the Test on English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), it’s important to practice in the right way. The correct practice all comes down to using the right materials. Good TOEFL practice includes a mix of both official and unofficial TOEFL content.

Official TOEFL practice materials

The official TOEFL website has a special section just for official prep materials. For a quick start, access the appropriately named TOEFL Quick Prep question sets and audio tracks. These official materials are free, instantly available via browser, and don’t require downloading or special software. Another readily available official resource is the TOEFL Interactive Sampler, a free software application that replicates the basic look and feel of the actual TOEFL iBT, with some practice questions.

ETS has two reasonably priced TOEFL books you’ll want to check out as well. The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test comes with three full practice tests and authentic test software. And then there’s Official TOEFL iBT Tests with Audio. This book is more like Quick Prep — text and audio are combined for fast and easy use, without any special software. The book includes five practice tests, and like the Official Guide, the Interactive Sampler, and Quick Prep, Official TOEFL iBT Tests includes answer explanations and other support materials.

Unofficial TOEFL  practice materials

To practice for the TOEFL, you’ll also want to use some unofficial TOEFL materials. Major academic publishing companies like Kaplan, Cambridge, McGraw-Hill, Barron’s, and others put out print books, CDs, and vocabulary flashcards for the exams. These kinds of third-party supplements are very useful in TOEFL practice, but should be chosen carefully. Be sure to check out reviews of these various products and choose ones that are well-rated by test-takers and test prep experts.

You should also seek out unofficial TOEFL materials on the web. These days, there are more TOEFL Internet resources than ever. You can even find free TOEFL e-books; is an especially big source of e-books that provide third-party TOEFL advice, support, and even extensive practice question sets to help you practice for the TOEFL.

Web-based resources are particularly useful when it comes to practicing the Independent Speaking and Writing tasks. There are very few Independent tasks in actual practice exams — just two per Speaking section and one per Writing section. Fortunately, many websites feature much longer lists of these Independent questions, complete with supplemental advice on how to practice for the TOEFL Independent tasks.

A special note on TOEFL Reading practice

TOEFL Reading practice requires a special blend of official TOEFL materials, unofficial TOEFL materials, and educational articles that aren’t specifically created for TOEFL prep. This blend is important, because the best way to improve your English reading skills is to simply read a lot. To study for the TOEFL Reading Section, read as much as possible. But make sure you read materials that are test appropriate, matching the TOEFL Reading Section in terms of structure, vocabulary level, and academic tone. Here again the Internet is useful, offering many web-based guides to materials for TOEFL Reading practice.


David Recine is a GMAT and TOEFL expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA TESOL from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been tutoring and teaching ESL since 2007.

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