Besides the IELTS-Test, TOEFL is one of the most popular and recognised English certifications world-wide. Mostly, a TOEFL certificate is required when applying for an English study programme. However, also certain jobs require TOEFL as a proof of English proficiency as well as certain countries in order to fulfil immigration or visa criteria.
Even if you English is good (which should be the case when you are reading this article!), it is important to prepare yourself for the TOEFL examination. The test structure is quite different from your everyday’s use of English and it needs some practise to get used to. In my experience, the following test preparation methods are the best to prepare for TOEFL, depending on your English level and the required TOEFL score, of course:
- TOEFL online courses with mock exams graded by an English teacher
- TOEFL massive open online courses (MOOCs)
- TOEFL preparation books
In this article I will elaborate on those test preparation methods.
TOEFL online courses with Teacher Support
One of the most elaborate ways to prepare for an TOEFL exam are online courses with graded practice exams. As the grading is done by an English teacher, these courses are a bit more expensive than other preparation methods. These can however still be a good investment, especially if you are not sure if your English level is already sufficient to reach you required TOEFL score. The TOEFL test is rather expensive (around US$ 250) and this way you can make sure that you reach your required TOEFL score in your first try. That can save you a lot of money and time.
One of the most established and well-known provider of these online courses is the Canadian company TestDEN. For US$129 you get 180 days access to practice material and different interactive training applications. Furthermore, you can complete four full-length TOEFL mock exams that are fully graded by an English teacher. For best results, TestDEN recommends to take this course at least 30 days before your TOEFL examination. They offer a 30 day money back guarantee, so you can try out the course without any risk.
Magoosh is another provider that does not offer graded mock exams but teacher support via email along with a lot of practice material and a +4 points score guarantee.
TOEFL massive online courses (MOOCs)
A relatively new method to prepare for the TOEFL examination are so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). They are similarily structured to courses at the university and are offered by the big MOOC platforms such as Coursera, EdX or Udemy. In contrast to the TestDEN preparation course these courses do not offer graded mock exams.
Udemy offers some TOEFL courses with a great discount. The Express TOEFL iBT Preparation Course is currently the best rated, offering comprehensive video lessons, practice material and mock tests for only US$19.
EdX Offcial ETS TOEFL MOOC (free)
TOEFL provider ETS offers its own, free MOOC on EdX. This course is however just a small introduction into TOEFL, giving a brief overview of the four test parts and explains how to sign up for the TOEFL exam.
TOEFL preparation books
If you prefer a more traditional way for preparation, there are a wide variety of TOEFL preparation books. I will present you a short overview of the books I made good experiences with. More books can be found on Amazon for example.
Personally, I made the best experiences with this book. It contains chapters for each test section (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking). In particular the writing section is very useful to improve the essay writing skills. Furthermore, the book gives access to several mock exams that are similar to the original TOEFL test. Useful: besides full tests that take about four hours to complete, there are also mini tests that can be completed in half the time.
Kaplan TOEFL iBT Premier 2016-2017 (ca. US$26)
Kaplan offers similarily comprehensive practise material for the four test sections. The mock exams are quite difficult which can be frustrating. If you manage, you are however perfectly prepared for the real TOEFL exam. I tested an older version of the book where the mock exams were provided on a CD-ROM. According to Amazon reviews, the new online version of the mock exams is not quite finalised yet and some customers are struggling with technical difficulties.
400 Must Have Words for the TOEFL (ca. US$12)
This compact book is very popular if your English level is quite good and you simply want to refresh your knowledge a bit with useful vocabulary.
Official Guide to the TOEFL Test with CD-ROM (ca. US$23)
ETS, the provider of TOEFL offers an own, official preparation book. It was unfortunately not updated in a while and the three included mock exams are only provided on a CD-ROM. Hence, you should have a CD-ROM drive available when considering this option.