The 8 Best TOEFL Exercises to Prepare You for the Exam


Are you taking the TOEFL but aren’t sure how to prepare? There are lots of TOEFL exercises you could do, but it can be hard to know which ones are the best and will help you get the score you want on test day. In this guide, we go over the eight best TOEFL exercises that you should absolutely make part of your study plan.

For each of these practice exercises for the TOEFL, we also explain how to get the most out of it and the top resources you should be using in order to make your study plan as effective as it can be. Follow this guide, and you’ll be well prepared for every skill you need to ace the TOEFL.


The 8 Best TOEFL Exercises

There are many kinds of practice exercises for the TOEFL, depending on which skill(s) you’re trying to improve and how you learn best. Below are the eight best types of TOEFL exercises. Together they cover all the skills you’ll need to ace the exam. For each TOEFL test exercise, we explain how to get the most out of it and what the best resources are to use.


#1: Read Prep Books

If you’re not sure where to start with your TOEFL exercises or you want to brush up on some content before answering practice questions, a TOEFL prep book is the best place to start. A high-quality TOEFL prep book will explain each of the main skills you’ll be tested on, what the questions will look like, and how to answer them more easily.

They’ll also include lots of practice questions and often several full-length exams. Prep books are usually a great combination of practice questions and content review, and they can help you with every section of the test.


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How to Get the Most Out of It

  • Focus on the areas you need to improve the most on. If you feel pretty solid with your English skills but struggle the most with say, speaking, then you should spend the most time on the Speaking portions of your prep book.
  • Make use of the practice questions. Prep books are a great source of practice exercises for the TOEFL, so use them!
  • Choose the prep book that best suits your needs. Some TOEFL books are written for people looking for a perfect score, some for people who need to do a lot of review, some for people who only want more practice questions, etc. Below we give a quick overview of the best TOEFL prep books so you can get a sense of which one to use, but for a more in-depth look, check out our guide to the five best TOEFL prep books.


The Best Resources to Use

The Official Guide to the TOEFL Test: As its title suggests, this is an official TOEFL prep book with high-quality problems and practice tests as well as a good explanation of the TOEFL’s format. It doesn’t give many tips for answering questions though.

Official TOEFL iBT Tests Volume 1 and Volume 2: These two books are also official sources, and each has five complete practice TOEFLs but almost no strategies for how to answer questions. Great for practice tests, but not much else.

Princeton Review’s Cracking the TOEFL iBT: Even though it’s an unofficial source, this book does a great job breaking down TOEFL topics so they’re easier to understand. It’s a good book for people who need to do a lot of content review or who aren’t completely confident with their English skills yet.

Kaplan’s TOEFL iBT Premier: This is a great prep book for more advanced students since it goes over a lot of high-level information and has lots of strategies on how to get a top score.


#2: Take Complete Practice Tests

No matter how strong your English skills currently are, how much you want to improve, and which areas you want to improve in, everyone studying for the TOEFL should take some full-length practice tests. Complete practice TOEFLs are the best TOEFL test exercise to get a sense for what the actual exam will be like, how you handle taking such a long test, how well you’re doing, and where you need to improve.


How to Get the Most Out of It

  • Take at least two practice tests, one right when you begin studying for the TOEFL to see how well you’d currently score on the test and where you need to make improvements, and another test close to the end of your studying to see how much you’ve progressed and which areas you still need to strengthen. If you have time, we recommend taking one or more additional practice tests in the middle of your studying to keep checking how well you’re doing and make sure you’re on the right track.
  • When you take a practice TOEFL, it’s important to take it under realistic testing conditions to ensure your score is as accurate as possible. This means taking the exam in a quiet room, all in one sitting, and with the correct timing.
  • As many of your practice tests as possible should be official sources since you can be sure these are a good representation of the real TOEFL. Below we give examples of high-quality practice tests to use.


The Best Resources to Use

TOEFL Prep Books: Prep books are probably your best resource for complete practice TOEFLs. Check out the best resources to use in the previous section for advice on which ones to use. For complete practice tests, we especially recommend the Official Guide to the TOEFL Test and  Official TOEFL iBT Tests Volume 1 and 2.

TOEFL Practice Online (TPO) Tests: These official practice tests have exactly the same format, content, and layout as the real TOEFL. However, they cost about $46 per test, which is quite pricey. I’d only recommend them if you really want to know what the real TOEFL experience will be like before exam day. Otherwise, the other resources are a better option

TOEFL iBT Course: This unofficial site has two complete TOEFLs you can purchase for $10. It’s a good resource if you don’t have a prep book and need access to more practice TOEFLs.




#3: Answer Specific Question Types or Problem Sets

For more targeted practice for certain areas of the test, you should answer practice questions on specific TOEFL topics. For example, if you’re struggling with the Listening section, answer problem sets of Listening questions in order to get more experience with the questions and learn where you’re making mistakes. You should be answering practice questions throughout your TOEFL studying.


How to Get the Most Out of It

  • Each time you go through a problem set, go back over every question you answered incorrectly and figure out what you did wrong and why the correct answer is what it is. This may sound tedious, but it’s the best way to prevent yourself from repeating the same mistakes.


The Best Resources to Use

TOEFL iBT Sampler: A free and official program you can download that has practice questions for each section of the test. It has strong answer explanations and sample answers for the Speaking and Writing sections. It’s the best resource to use since it’s the only free resource that mimics the layout and format of the real TOEFL.

TOEFL iBT Sample Questions: This PDF is another free and official TOEFL exercise source with practice questions for each exam section. It doesn’t include audio recordings though, so it’s not the best resource for Listening questions.

TOEFL iBT Quick Prep: The final free and official TOEFL resource contains several PDFs and audio files that make up about two complete TOEFLs.

TOEFL Speaking: An unofficial source with numerous speaking prompts on a variety of Speaking topics. You can record your responses and read comments to see how others responded.

Exam English: These TOEFL free exercises include four quizzes each for Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Vocabulary. It’s not the highest-quality resource, but it’s good for quick practice.


#4: Study Flashcards

Flashcards are a great way to memorize new information, and on the TOEFL, they’re the best way to learn important vocab words. Vocabulary is tested on all sections of the TOEFL, especially Reading, and if you don’t have a strong vocabulary you’ll likely struggle to understand questions and their answer choices. Flashcards are a more interesting and faster way to learn new words than just reading them off a list.


How to Get the Most Out of It

  • We recommend using the waterfall method when studying your flashcards and when using this TOEFL test exercise. The waterfall method involves making different piles of flashcards depending on how easily you learned the definition of the word. It makes you focus more on the words you struggle the most with so you learn them faster. Learn more about the waterfall method here, under “The best way to use your TOEFL flashcards.”


The Best Resources to Use

327 TOEFL Flashcards (coming soon): We’ve created flashcards for the 327 words you need to know for the TOEFL. Each flashcards includes the description and a sample sentence.

TOEFL English Vocabulary Cards App: This Android app lets you study 600 TOEFL vocab words from your phone.

Barron’s 500 TOEFL Vocab Flashcards: You can also purchase a physical set of 500 flashcards from Barron’s. These aren’t free, but each card includes a lot of information like part of speech, synonyms, a sample sentence, and more.


#5: Read Articles

TOEFL Reading practice exercises are important since you’ll need to do quite a bit of reading on the TOEFL. There’s obviously the Reading section, with several passages to analyze, and some Speaking and Writing tasks require you to read and think critically about passages as well.

Reading regularly will help you strengthen your critical reading skills and understand the main points and minor details of these passages more easily. TOEFL Reading passages come from university-level academic texts and passages, so these are the types of articles you should be focusing on during your reading.


How to Get the Most Out of It

  • Read actively. It can be tempting to just drag your eyes across the page, but you’re not going to learn much doing this during your TOEFL reading exercises. To read actively, stop every few paragraphs and think about what you’ve just read. What points is the author trying to make in the passage? How is she supporting those statements? Are there any words you aren’t sure of? Really think about what you’re reading during this TOEFL exercise in order to gain the reading skills you need for the test.
  • Use a variety of sources and subjects for your reading materials. The TOEFL passages will come from numerous sources, so make sure your practice reading materials do too. Even if you love reading novels and hate science, be sure to include some scientific articles so you’re prepared for that style of writing on the exam. At minimum, your reading materials should include science, literature, and history texts written at a university level.


The Best Resources to Use

University textbooks: Introductory university-level books are a great resource. Textbooks with the words “Introduction” or “Beginning” in the title (such as “Introduction to Russian History” or “Beginning Chemistry”) are usually a good choice.

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PubMed: A great source for scientific abstracts so you can get a better feel for science-related articles.

Nature: Another source for science articles.

The Economist: Economics and social science-related articles.




#6: Listen to Podcasts

Think practicing your listening skills means listening to recordings of boring lectures for hours on end? Think again! Listening to podcasts is a great TOEFL exercise to strengthen your listening skills and learn about a topic that you find interesting at the same time.


How to Get the Most Out of It

  • Listen to a variety of English accents. Speakers on the TOEFL may be from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, so you should aim to listen to each of these accents so you are familiar with how they sound before the exam.
  • You should also take some notes while you listen. On the TOEFL, you’ll only hear audio clips once, so it’s important to be able to take notes on key information so you remember it when you get to the questions. Start practicing this skill now by taking quick notes during these TOEFL Listening exercises.


The Best Resources to Use

BBC’s The English We Speak: This British podcast is specifically designed to help listeners improve their English skills.

Breaking News English: This is another podcast designed for English learners, and it focuses on current events around the world.

TED Talks: There are over 2000 videos on this site, covering a wide variety of topics. Each lasts 10-20 minutes.

Other Sources: There’s a huge number of podcasts out there, on almost every subject you can think of. Try Googling “podcast + [topic you’re interested in]” to see what you find. You may also consider clips from news stations for additional Listening practice.


#7: Write in English

Many English learners, even if they speak and understand the language fluently, still make frequent mistakes while writing in English. The best way to prevent this is to write regularly in order to strengthen this skill. Writing in English could mean answering TOEFL Writing prompts, keeping a diary in English, having an English-speaking pen pal, or any other way you can think of that gets you writing in English. Also, there are many TOEFL exercises online to help you with this.


How to Get the Most Out of It

  • Try to have someone critique your writing. You probably won’t be able to have every piece you write checked over, but for any practice Writing responses you complete, it’s helpful if someone with strong English skills looks it over so they can point out any errors you made.
  • Alternate between TOEFL Writing prompts and free writes. You should definitely practice TOEFL Writing prompts in order to become comfortable with them, but don’t feel like that’s the only writing practice you can do. Free writing, on whatever topic you’d like, is also helpful writing practice, especially if you’re interested in the topic you’re writing about.


The Best Resources to Use

English Club: This site contains six Writing tasks, including two TOEFL Integrated Writing exercises, that you can answer. It’s an unofficial source but still high quality.

Lang-8: This free site lets you write short passages in the language you’re learning, and native speakers will make corrections for you so you can see which mistakes you’re making.

Good Luck TOEFL: This unofficial site has several hundred sample Writing prompts for TOEFL. Some of these TOEFL free exercises are easier to answer than those you’ll see on the TOEFL, but it’s still good practice if you’re not sure what to write about.




#8: Join a Speaking Club

The Speaking section is often the most intimidating section of the TOEFL; you’ll need to speak clearly and fluently for a set amount of time on a specified topic in order to get a high score. The more Speaking practice you have, the more confident you’ll be on this section, so one of the TOEFL exercises you do should absolutely involve speaking.

You can join an in-person speaking club where you’ll talk face-to-face, or you can join one of the ever-growing numbers of online speaking groups/lessons for English learners. Online groups are often easier if you have a busy schedule and/or aren’t in an area where you can easily find other people to practice your English skills.


How to Get the Most Out of It

  • Record yourself when you speak. It may feel a bit weird to record what you say and listen back to it, but this is a great way to critique your speaking skills.Are you speaking at a good pace? Do you take a lot of pauses? Are you speaking loudly enough to be heard? Are there any words you need to improve your pronunciation of? Make improvements wherever you can to improve your Speaking score on test day.
  • Expand on your answers. While it may feel like a relief to respond to a question with a one-word answer then sit back while the other person speaks, this isn’t how the TOEFL will go. During the exam, you’ll need to speak for 45-60 straight with minimal pauses. So, to get better at this, make sure to elaborate at least some of your answers and try to speak for up to a minute.


The Best Resources to Use

Meetup: Meetup is a site that allows people to create groups on topics that interest them. Many areas have a group for people looking to practice their English, and if there isn’t one by you, you can start your own.

Italki: On italki, you can either pay a tutor to speak English with you and critique you, or you can partner with another language learner and critique each other for free.

Verbalplanet and Live Lingua: These are two other sites where you can pay a tutor to help you improve your English skills.


Summary: The Best TOEFL Exercises

There are many ways to study for the TOEFL, and you should use a variety of practice exercises for the TOEFL in order to be prepared for the exam. There are TOEFL free exercises and TOEFL paid exercises, official sources and unofficial sources, TOEFL exercises online, and those in books. You should make use of each of these during your studying.

The eight TOEFL exercises we recommend are

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    • Reading prep books
    • Taking complete practice tests
    • Answering problem sets
    • Studying flashcards
    • Reading articles
    • Listening to podcasts
    • Writing in English
    • Joining an English speaking club

If you participate in each of these TOEFL exercises, take steps to get the most out of them, and use the best resources, you’ll be well-prepared for the TOEFL and whatever you see on test day.


What’s Next?

Looking for more TOEFL practice? Check out our guide on the 18 best online TOEFL practice tests and get studying!

Want to learn more about TOEFL scoring? Read our in-depth guides to learn what a good TOEFL score is and what the TOEFL score range means for you.

Do you know how to send your TOEFL scores to schools? Learn the six steps to sending your TOEFL scores by reading our guide.

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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.