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TOEFL Preparation Book Comparisons and Contrasts
I am very interested in compiling a detailed article comparing and contrasting the style, content, and approach of the most widely used TOEFL Preparation books. I would to seek the help of my fellow TOEFL teachers on this forum.
Could you provide any tidbit of information about any two (or more) TOEFL Prep books you have used and their related materials?
I'll start by mentioning what I know:
ETS Vs. Longman
The ETS Official Guide is less detailed than the Longman Preparation Course. Teaching from the ETS Guide, I often need more examples of the question types to help introduce the idea, so I refer students to the Longman Book for a set of focused examples.
I have found the Longman Book to be a bit impractical in some of the walkthroughs, like the note-taking skills for example. I can't imagine how anyone would have enough time to take notes the way they are introduced in the Longman book.
The Longman Course takes 280 hours, according to the author, and I teach the ETS Guide in 80 hours.
The Longman Course has been around for a while, and seems well edited, while the ETS Guide still contains a lot of typos and mistaken examples in its third printing.
The ETS Guide offers official statistics about TOEFL test takers around the world, listing averages by gender, language, country, and even academic level.
The Longman Course includes many helpful language appendices. My favorite is the cohesion activity, it is very helpful for students.
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Yes, the Longman series has more material than the ETS "Official Guide" (put out by McGraw-Hill). Unfortunately, though, it is also far less accurate. Many parts of the Longman integrated speaking and writing sections do NOT match the actual material on the iBT, which is why I never use that book in coaching students.
My personal favorite is "The Complete Guide to the TOEFL -- iBT Edition" by Bruce Rogers. It has more material than the Longman (800 pages plus 13 audio CDs), and it is very close to the real test material. I also appreciate the format of the book -- the author includes a separate chapter (lesson) on each individual skill. For example, there are six separate speaking chapters (one for each task) and eigh separate reading chapters (to cover the 10 types of reading questions). There are also preview and review tests as well as full tests in the back.
I do occasionally use the Barron's 12th edition and the Delta series. Again, though, both of these books have sections that do NOT match the actual test, so as a teacher you must be aware of this and pick and choose which tasks you include (or omit).
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Thanks Corey and Tino. I am especially concerned with material that doesn't match actual TOEFL questions. I believe that practice should be as similar to the real situation as possible, right from the beginning of the practice. Some books teach students to write their spoken responses, which I find to be frustrating - that someone prepares for a speaking task by writing it out!
Teachers, please add your two cents. Even if its a sentence or two about two books you've used. Thanks again!
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Our Article on TOEFL Books
We posted this article on our blog recently. I hope it helps you:
NOT ALL TOEFL BOOKS ARE CREATED EQUAL
When an individual is picking which TOEFL book is best for his/her self-study or when a teacher is picking which TOEFL book is best for his/her group class, the first thing to remember is that there are basically three types of TOEFL books.
1. exercise books
2. sample test books
3. language skills books
And each of these books is also targeted to a particular English level. At the bottom of Strictly English’s Exercise Page you’ll find a score chart that indicates the level each book targets. So in this blog article we’ll focus on the three above mentioned differences.
Ideally, if you had the time and the budget, you’d work with all three types of books since they each have a valuable purpose to serve.
All three types give an overview of the test and the types of questions you will be asked to answer and tasks you will be asked to perform. And basically, you’ll learn the same thing from any of these books with regard to this basic introductory information.
The Exercise Books (The Longman & the Delta) give you, . . . well . . . , a lot of exercises, or at least more than the other two types of books do. We at Strictly English think these books are indispensable. The more you rehearse the mechanical steps to answering a question type, the more accurate (and over time, the faster) you’ll become. I call this category “Exercise Books”, but to be fair, they do have sample tests as well. In fact, Longman has a large amount of both exercises and tests. Yet, I put it in the exercises category because although it has many “Mini-Tests” on its CD, it only has two full tests.
The books that I’ve categorized as “Sample Test Books” (Cambridge & Barrons) are often woefully deficient in exercises. Now they might reply, “HEY! we have lots of, say, paraphrase questions in our book. They are just not grouped together in a section called PARAPHRASE. Instead they are scattered throughout our sample tests.” I cannot argue against this point, but I don’t think of it as an “exercise” unless it’s in a drill-able format, which (as I stated above) is crucial to acclimating to the mechanical steps needed to answer a question correctly. This is not to say Sample Test Books are useless. They are great! You just want to begin using them AFTER you’ve done an exercise book. Once you’ve mastered the strategies/skills for answering each question type, THEN you can begin to integrate them into each other in a test-like format.
Finally, there are the Language Skills Books. This approach to English learning is fantastic. Arguably it cannot be beat. If Strictly English were a English Language school, we would definitely buy these books and use them in our general English classes. But language learning and TOEFL study are not the same. To learn a language, you need so much more facility than you do to pass the TOEFL. Case in point, I would argue that you can get through 99% of the TOEFL test without really understanding nor using models (the one exception being Task 5 of the Speaking where you have to give advice). So Language Skills Books are a time-sink and are too wide-reaching for TOEFL preparation.
These categories are not rigidly segregated. As I’ve already said, Longman has some full practice tests in them. Also, Cambridge is a Language Skills Book AND a Sample Test Book. Therefore, Strictly English uses only the Sample Tests from the book and ignores the Language Skills part of it.
So if you can’t buy all of them or you don’t have the time to study them all, how do you decide which ones to use? We suggest getting one Exercise Book and one Sample Test Book. For example, Longman & Cambridge or Delta & Barrons. Start there and see how you do. If you have more time, then move onto the pair you didn’t buy at first.
WARNING ONE: Please note that many of these books are out of date. Even the ETS’s 2011 Official Guide to the TOEFL inaccurately portrays the Integrated Essay and the Reading’s Chart Questions (of which not one of our students has reported seeing on a real test). This is because some of the books have not been revised recently. For example, when the Reading section changes on Nov 1, all the books will be describing that section incorrectly. Also, Task 1 of the Speaking changed from requesting a Description to requesting Advice, which non of the books have had a chance to update either. Only a company like Strictly English, which does its own research, can keep you abreast of these changes as they happen.
WARNING TWO: Even very bright students do not often achieve the score they want through self-study alone. This is because these books are purposefully designed as teachers’ aides. They work best when you’re guided through them in a group class or with a private tutor.
i was searching to decide which book is good for preparation toefl since i need to get very high score in speaking and writing what i understood from u Cambridge is not helpful
so i gonna start with longman then barrons then the approach to english learning is it right ? thats almost the combination or the summary of all your post
let me know if there is misunderstanding