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“6 Steps To Choose And Buy A TOEFL Book”Test-takers often ask me, “Which TOEFL books should I buy?” A Test Of English As A Foreign Language preparation guide or PDF that works for the for one person may not work for another, which is why you need to use my 6-step “TOEFL book funnel.”
If you blindly follow recommendations, you’ll waste a lot of your hard-earned money on TOEFL iBT books that sit and gather dust. Be aware—buying preparation material for this exam is not like buying a regular TOEFL study guide. There are some very important, special considerations you need to be aware of.
My “Simple 6-step TOEFL Book Funnel” will ensure you get the right book the first time. It will help you narrow your choices by guiding you through the big decisions first and the small decisions later, just like a funnel narrows from the top to the bottom. At the end of the funnel, you’ll have one TOEFL preparation book that fit your needs perfectly.
And trust me, there are a lot of books to sort through. Searching Amazon for “TOEFL test book” returns 1,362 results —you need a way to narrow this down! My 6 step system to find the best preparation material for your English exam will do exactly that.
- Pick The Right Kind Of TOEFL Book For Your Goals
There are two main types of preparation guides.
- The first type of TOEFL test book has exercises for all parts of the test and usually has several full-length practice exams. It is a general study guide.
- The second type is usually shorter and cheaper, and focuses on one part of the test only (reading, writing, speaking, or listening). It is a subject-specific study guide.
If you have never taken an actual TOEFL iBT practice test, start with the first type. Research published in the American Educational Research Journal has shown that taking practice forms of tests is an excellent way to improve your score.  Plus, the first type of manuals will give you equal preparation for all parts of the test. If you are re-taking the test or if you have already taken full-length practice tests, then you may wish to choose a specialized book to focus on your weaknesses.
To start your search, go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and search for “TOEFL preparation.” If you want a specialized book, add “writing,” “reading,” “speaking,” or “listening” to your search. Create an initial list of 5-10 TOEFL iBT books that look appropriate.
- Restrict Your List To TOEFL Preparation Books With A Software Or Audio Supplement
Check whether there is a CD/DVD supplement for your review book, using Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the publisher’s website. Some books have software supplements with practice tests, some have audio-only supplements, and some have no supplements at all. I strongly recommend you pick a book with a software supplement that has computer-based practice tests, since you already know that taking practice tests is an excellent way to improve your score and get into the U.S. college of your choice. An audio supplement with written practice tests is not as ideal, but may be acceptable if the rest of the book fits your needs.
Make sure to check whether the supplement is included with the book or if it is a separate purchase. I have heard from test-takers who ordered TOEFL books, only to later realize the CDs were not included. Don’t make this mistake.
Cross off any book on your list that does not have a software or audio supplement.
- Narrow Your TOEFL Test Book List By Learning From Others
Now, read reviews of each remaining TOEFL book. These reviews are posted by other test-takers who have actually purchased and used the materials. If any of the books on your list receive consistently low ratings, cross them off your list.
- Investigate Remaining TOEFL iBT Study Guides Using Previews And Online Samples
Now, you should only have a few TOEFL books left. Search for their titles on Amazon and Google Books, and preview their contents. Based on your own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences, decide which book looks best to you. For example, you might really want a book that offers score reports for practice tests. Or, you might just prefer how one book is written. Sometimes, you can also find TOEFL test PDF sample pages on publishers’ websites, which will help you decide.
- Ensure Your Test Of English As A Foreign Language Reference Material Is The Latest Edition
You should now have a TOEFL book finalist in mind. Check the publisher’s official website to make sure you have found the latest edition. This is important, because ETS updates the test frequently. For example, in March 2013, ETS added new English accents to the listening and speaking sections.  You will want the latest editions of your TOEFL books to ensure you are fully prepared.
- Compare New And Used TOEFL Practice Book Prices And Buy!
The final step is to purchase your TOEFL education product… but look for the best deal first. You can look at new and used prices on Amazon and use Google Shopper to find the lowest price for your book. Used TOEFL books are perfectly fine, as long as you get the latest edition with all the materials.
To get started with my TOEFL Book Funnel, go to your favorite online book retailer and search for “TOEFL preparation.” Then follow the 6 easy steps. Don’t wait—do it now so your book arrives as soon as possible.
 Kulik, J. A., Kulik, C. L. C., & Bangert, R. L. (1984). Effects of practice on aptitude and achievement test scores. American Educational Research Journal, 21(2), 435-447.
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