Expert Review: Official iBT TOEFL Tests With Audio


Did you come across an Official TOEFL iBT Tests book and are wondering if it can help you with your TOEFL studying? Are you looking for practice tests but aren’t sure if these books are the best resources to use?

In this in-depth review of the Official TOEFL iBT Tests With Audio books, we explain exactly what you get in each of these two books, what they’re best at, what you’ll need to use other resources for, if you should buy them, and how to get the most out of them to help you reach your TOEFL goal score.


What’s the Format of the Official TOEFL iBT Tests Books?

There are two volumes in this series: Official TOEFL iBT Tests With Audio Volume 1 and Official TOEFL iBT Tests With Audio Volume 2.  The second edition is the most current edition of both books. Volume 1 costs about $19 on Amazon, and Volume 2 costs about $24.

Each book contains five complete TOEFL practice tests (tests don’t overlap between the books). Each practice test includes an answer key and scoring rubric, so you can get a rough idea of how well you did on the practice tests.

For Speaking and Writing, you’re given the official scoring rubrics so you can estimate your own scores for those sections. The answer keys for both the Speaking and Writing sections also include advice on what a top score will look like for each question.

Each book also comes with a CD that lets you take all the exams on the computer. The CD also includes audio clips for certain parts of the Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections which you can use even if you’re taking the practice exams on paper. Unfortunately, you can only access the computer-based versions of the test with the CD; they can’t be downloaded online.


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Strengths of the Official TOEFL iBT Tests Books

In this section, we discuss the two biggest strengths of the TOEFL iBT Tests books.


High-Quality Practice Tests

Each of the TOEFL iBT Tests books contains five complete practice TOEFLs, which is more than any other TOEFL prep book currently out there. Additionally, the same people who created these practice tests also write the real TOEFL, so the tests are high-quality as well. Each of the practice TOEFLs in these books follows the format of the actual TOEFL very closely, especially if you take the practice tests on the computer.

The included CD also has audio clips for various Listening, Speaking, and Writing questions. Many TOEFL prep resources, especially the lower-quality online ones, don’t include audio even though being able to hear and understand English is an important part of the exam. You won’t get the same experience just by reading transcripts of conversations you should be listening to, which is another reason the TOEFL iBT Tests books stand out.

By using these books, you’ll have access to multiple practice tests that you can be sure are an accurate representation of the real TOEFL and give you a good idea of what to expect on test day.


Cheapest Way to Get Lots of Official Practice Tests

For each Official TOEFL iBT Tests With Audio book you purchase, you’ll receive five complete practice TOEFLs. Other prep books cost about the same as these, however; they usually only contain 1-2 practice TOEFLs (although they do give more tips on how to answer questions). That means, in terms of practice tests, the Official TOEFL iBT Tests books give you the most for your money. Also, since there aren’t a lot of high-quality, free TOEFL practice tests, available online, you’ll likely need to use prep books for practice tests.

In terms of free official online resources, there’s the TOEFL iBT Sampler, TOEFL iBT Sample Questions, and TOEFL Quick Prep. While these are all useful resources that we recommend you use, none of them contain a complete practice test (just sample questions), and some don’t include audio, so they aren’t as good a resource as the Official TOEFL iBT Tests books

There are also TPO Tests, which are retired TOEFLs you can take and are graded for you. However, these each cost $46, making them much more expensive than the Official TOEFL iBT Tests books. Therefore, the Official TOEFL iBT Tests books give you the best value for your money if you’re looking for good practice TOEFLs.




Weaknesses of the Official TOEFL iBT Tests Books

Below we discuss the two main issues with the TOEFL iBT Tests books.


Limited Answer Explanations

One unfortunate shortcoming of these books is that they don’t have very good answer explanations, and many questions don’t have any answer explanation at all. For all of the Reading and Listening questions (which are multiple choice), the answer keys only have the letter of the correct answer, and there is no answer explanation.

For the Speaking and Writing sections, you’re given rubrics to help you self-grade, and each question has guidelines of key points that a top answer would include. This is a lot better than nothing, and it can help you grade your questions more accurately and get a better understanding of what graders are looking for. However, no sample responses for any questions are given. Sample responses can be very helpful in figuring out what a good response looks like, and many other prep books include them, particularly for Writing responses.

The lack of answer explanations in the Official iBT Tests books can make them less useful for someone trying to understand why they got certain answers wrong, particularly because other TOEFL prep books often include in-depth answer explanations, including the other official TOEFL prep book, the Official Guide to the TOEFL Test.


No Tips or Strategies Given

The Official TOEFL iBT Tests books have great practice tests, but that’s pretty much all they contain. There are a few pages at the beginning of each book that gives a very basic overview of the TOEFL, but there are no explanations of how you should approach different questions or tips for helping you answer tricky questions more easily.

These books have one main purpose–to provide practice TOEFLs– so if you’d like to learn more about the different TOEFL question types or get advice on how to approach different questions, you’ll likely need other resources (check out our suggestions in the “Use Other Resources to Learn About the TOEFL” section). This is especially true if you’ve taken some practice TOEFLs but aren’t happy with your score and aren’t sure how to improve. Many other prep books give very in-depth info on how you can improve your TOEFL test-taking skills that you may find useful.


Are These Books Right for You?

So, should you buy the Official TOEFL iBT Test With Audio books? As mentioned above, these books do one main thing, which is providing practice TOEFLs, and they do it very well. If you’re looking for high-quality, full-length practice tests, these books will give you more than any other prep book out there.

However, there is almost no information on the types of questions you can expect to see on the TOEFL or advice on how to answer those questions. That’s crucial information if you’re just starting your TOEFL prep, and many other prep books go in-depth into that info. If you don’t know anything about the TOEFL, taking a bunch of practice tests over and over may not help you enough because you likely won’t have a great understanding of where you need to improve and how you can do that. Because knowing about the TOEFL and how to approach its questions is so important, you’ll likely need another prep book, in addition to the Official TOEFL iBT Tests books in order to get that information. That way, when you take practice tests, you’ll have a solid understanding of what to expect from the TOEFL and where to make improvements.

Since most prep books already come with 1-2 practice tests of their own, you may not even need the additional practice tests the Official TOEFL iBT Tests books provide, especially if you’re already confident in your English skills and just need to take a test or two to confirm you’ll score well enough on the TOEFL.

However, we do recommend taking at least three practice TOEFLs if you’ll be prepping for the exam (one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end of your studying), and as many as possible should be official TOEFLs. So, if you’re using an unofficial prep book or just one without enough practice tests, the Official TOEFL iBT Tests books can be a great addition to your TOEFL study resources.




How to Get the Most Out of the Official TOEFL iBT Test Books

If you’ve decided to purchase one or both of the Official TOEFL iBT Tests Volume 1 and/or Volume 2 books, read the three tips below on how to get the most out of them.


Take the Practice Tests on the Computer

You can take the practice tests either on paper or on the computer, but we highly recommend taking them on the computer to get a more realistic testing experience. You’ll likely be taking the real TOEFL on the computer, and when you take your practice TOEFLs on the computer as well, you become familiar with the true format of the TOEFL, typing instead of writing your answers, and navigating a computer-based exam. These are all important things to know so you feel more comfortable and confident on test day. Similarly, when a question includes audio, you should always play the audio clip instead of reading the transcript so you get more practice hearing what the TOEFL audio will be like.

Basically, you want your practice TOEFLs to be as close to the real TOEFL as possible so that you’re well-prepared and your practice test results are an accurate estimate of how well you’d do on the real TOEFL. This also means taking each practice test in one sitting and using the correct timing for each section.


Take Your Time When Grading Your Practice Tests

After you take a practice test, your work isn’t done yet. You’ll still need to grade the test and analyze your scores. When grading your Speaking and Writing responses, take time to really read and understand the rubrics, as well as the grading tips provided in the answer sections. Doing this will help you understand what graders are looking for and do a more accurate job of grading your own responses and figuring out where you need to improve.

Also, for each question you answered incorrectly, look over it again and try to figure out why the correct answer is what it is and what you can do to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Doing this can take awhile, but it’s one of the best ways to learn where you need to improve so you can score higher on future TOEFLs.


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Use Other Resources to Learn About the TOEFL

As we mentioned above, these books are great for practice tests, but they don’t give you information about the TOEFL or strategies for answering questions. If you’re looking for that info, you’ll need to use other resources. Other prep books are a great way to learn more about the test, and you can check out our guide to the five best TOEFL prep books to get you started. Unofficial prep books are usually especially good at giving tips and strategies for answering difficult questions.

There are also many TOEFL resources online. Check out our guide to great online TOEFL resources to find more study resources, and you can also read our other guides for everything you need to know about the TOEFL, including how hard it is, the score you should be aiming for, and how to prepare for each section of the test.


Recap: Should You Buy the Official TOEFL iBT Tests?

Overall, the Official TOEFL iBT Tests With Audio Volume 1 and Volume 2 books are a great resource if you’re looking for high-quality practice tests. Each book contains five complete practice tests made by the same people who create the real TOEFL. By taking them, you’ll get a very good understanding of the format and content of the TOEFL. These books are one of the best and cheapest ways to get good practice TOEFLs.

However, these two books contain almost no information on what types of questions you’ll be asked on the TOEFL or the best ways for answering them. Because of that, you’ll likely need to use another prep book or online resources to get that information, especially if you’re just beginning your TOEFL prep and are still learning about the test.

If you do decide to purchase one or both of the TOEFL Official iBT Tests books, be sure to take the practice tests on the computer, take your time when grading and analyzing your answers, and use other prep resources to learn more about the TOEFL.


What’s Next?

Looking for more TOEFL prep books? Check out our guide to the five best TOEFL prep books and get started with your studying!

If you decide not to get these books, you’ll probably need another resource for practice TOEFLs. We’ve gathered information on the highest-quality TOEFL practice tests into one place so you have access to the best study materials.

What score should you be aiming for on the TOEFL? Learn what a good TOEFL score is and how you can figure out what your goal score should be.

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Author: Christine Sarikas

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.