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Best TOEFL iBT Books, Test and Strategy Review 2017

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Best TOEFL iBT Books, Test and Strategy Review 2017 [#permalink] New post 29 Mar 2017, 01:07
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Test of English as a Foreign Language


TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language - in other words, it is English Language Proficiency test that all US Business Schools require International applicants to take. The new Internet Based Test or TOEFL iBT is scored from 0 to 120 but schools do not look at it from a scoring standpoint but rather Pass/Fail. Many schools will set a certain minimum that applicants must get. If you are a native speaker or have been educated at a Western College that used English as the main language of instruction, there is a good chance that TOEFL requirement will be waived. US Residents and graduates of US colleges do not need to take TOEFL.

TOEFL iBT at glance


The TOEFL iBT test measures your ability to use and understand English at the university level. And it evaluates how well you combine your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills to perform academic tasks.

Who needs the TOEFL test?

  • Students planning to study at a higher education institution
  • English-language learning program admissions and exit
  • Scholarship and certification candidates
  • English-language learners who want to track their progress
  • Students and workers applying for visas

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The Official Guide to the TOEFL® Test, Fourth Edition



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ETS, the company behind the TOEFL iBT Test (also the GRE and formerly the GMAT), has always published regularly its Official Guide. Because of this, the guide is highly reliable, making it one of the most essential and best TOEFL books on the market.This guide is your first must-stop whether you wanna to prepare at your best for the TOEFL exam. Not only that, it contains “real” questions, giving students an accurate sense of the level of difficulty and what is actually the test. It is fairly close to the test you are going to sustain.

The book guides you in a pretty extensive manner throughout the test, which means after introducing the format of the exam itself: the four sections that test you on what are the essential skills to communicating in an English environment, then the book goes explaining each of these aforementioned 4 sections. Each of these chapters explains the format of that section, the areas you’ll be tested on, and the question types you’ll see. Strategies for preparing for that section and several practice sets are also included at the end of each chapter.

Most importantly: the book contains three complete test via computer format for simulating the real experience of the test day, along with answer explanations. This is really positive. However, the negative side is that the explanations say why the answers are right but not why the other choices are wrong. This is a huge downside because to achieve the best score you can, the student must have also the reason why a question is wrong, for increasing and taking an in-depth sense of the questions, what is tested, indeed a better understanding ofthe test as whole. Probably the best explanation part is the examples of high - and low - level speaking responses.

Another important aspect is the strategy provided. The sense you have going across the book is that almost there is no strategy to overcome the test. This is a bit misleading. One one hand, there is a strategy for improving your score in every section of the test. On the other hand, other non-official books, even though they are really good for helping in your preparation, rely too heavy on strategy; this is wrong because the most important way to rise your score is simply to get more English experience. You have to practice your English outside of doing bookwork and test practice to get a higher TOEFL score. The book does a good job of addressing this fact.


Official TOEFL iBT® Tests Volume 1 (2nd edition) & 2


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As soon as you have exhausted the OG and you do wanna more practice, authentic material, tough passages and unbelievably 10 (ten) tests straight from the authors of the TOEFL, well, with these two books you are satisfied. They are also in ebook edition on the official ETS Toefl store for the fairly cheap sum of $25 bucks a piece. Moreover, the books come along two DVDs software that simulate exactly the real test into the test center. Of course, they are not face value.You do not have a trace of a strategy, even though the OG does have as well; the OG barely scratches the surface under this light. In these two books you have only and solely the tests and the official answer but not the official explanations.

Quote:
For the Reading and Listening sections, Answer Keys are provided. For the Speaking and Writing sections, there is no single correct answer for each question. The Answers section has descriptions of what you need to do to get a high score. You can also evaluate your responses using the scoring rubrics pro-vided in Appendix A. In the Speaking section, if you have recorded your responses on a recording device, you can compare them with the descriptions in the Answers section and with the rubrics.


This quote is definitively a plus of these practice Official Guides.In particular, in the appendix A there are the Speaking and Writing Score Rubrics which show you with clear examples how you can deliver high-level response in both sections (probably the most challenging of the four, see my strategy guidance below).These are the best books to get if you want access to a lot of practice tests. Practice tests are one of the best ways to prepare for the TOEFL, so you’ll want to be sure to take several of them during your preparation.

Cambridge Preparation for the TOEFL Test


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This is, without doubt, my favorite book for the test suddenly after the OGs.Not only the book provides you with seven full-length tests on the included CD, but also they’re even more similar to the real TOEFL software than is the software on the Official Guide CD. Moreover, it provides the students with one of the best tools for English skill-building: paraphrasing, note taking, vocabulary, pronunciation. The negative side is probably that the material is slightly harder than you really need to achieve the best score during the exam. Of course, this is not a huge downside. Indeed, it might be only a good thing in the mid-long distance TOEFL race, improving and make more robust your fundamentals.

The Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test


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The same considerations made for the Cambridge book could be done for this as well: tons of material, easy-to-read explanations of strategy, step-by-step training exercises, and audio included (online, for free.)The book have been released quite a while ago but it aged very well. On one hand because is really well written, on the other hand because the format of the test didn't change so much since then.

Venerable mention are the following books:





TOEFL iBT Strategy for the highest score


Before to get in to an in-depth strategy review for the test, it is mandatory to figure out some premise:

1) You should not get confused by the millions of strategy guidelines to overcome the speaking section rather how to write the best independent task. Yes, it is important to have a clear-cut strategy and being well prepared for the test day but you do not need a high level blueprint such as for the GMAT or GRE.

2) The consequence of point one leads us probably to what is the pivotal premise we are talking about: to score well on the TOEFL what is king, is your level of English skills as whole, in general. If you have a poor vocabulary or do not really understand what are you asking for when you read the prompt for your essay, then the most sophisticated staretgy will not save you to score poorly.People that are able to read, grasp the meaning of reading such as The New Yorker or The Smithsonian rather than The Economist have not so may difficulties to score good on the test. However, there is a glitch: as I mentioned earlier, people score good but I didnt say they score well. This is because:
  • The Toefl is a test to measure your skills in an Academic environment, for academic English proficiency. Built by ETS for US Business School entrances. As it turns out, most of the people are not used to such stage level.
  • Even native speaker have deadlocks during the test simply because the test measures your skills in a short amount of time, in a framework that is NOT your natural or daily reading or speaking routine. I.E., the first indipendent speaking task asks you to give an opinion on a familiar topic. Prepare in 15 seconds and responce in 45 seconds. Frankly speaking: this is ridiculous, simply because almost nobody wake up in the morning and talk in that way. But the problem is that you must deliver such kind of response. The majority of the BS want at the very least 25 in the speaking section. Not only that, considering that we communicate via words and speeches,it is important scoring well in the speaking section, that to give you just an example.In conclusion, overcoming the TOEFL test is not only a question of strategy or the richness of your vocabulary but is an amalgam of several factors. Your English level skills and strategy must be appropriate for the purpose.
  • Do not get disorient from video or blog's articles that suggest you: prepare for the TOEFL in seven days, high top level score. Bang. NO. This is misleading, most of the students need to study hard AND smart. Here we do have some stats about:

    • The average score for all test-takers is 80 points (R 20, S 19,7, L 20.2, W 30.3)
    • The average score for students applying to a high school is 71 points (16.9/16.9/19/18.7)
    • The average score for students applying to a two year college is 73 points (18.0/17.6/18.7/18.7)
    • The average score for students applying for undergraduate studies is 78 points (19.1/19/20/19.9)
    • The average score for students applying to graduate school is 84 points (21.4/20.8/20.7/21)
    • The average score for people applying for a professional license is 82 points (20.3/20.4/20.8/20.4)


As you conclude, the TOEFL standards for an high score are quite stringent.




Reading Section


Before to start practice a lot for the test you must be aware what you are face off during. It is really important to stick out the following

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Probably the most important advice I might give you for this section of the test is to stay focus on at your best. The arguments are arcane, abstruce, convoluted, twisted in to the form. Do not get lost, do not rush throughtout the passage. One one hand an handfull strategy is to read the first and the last sentence of each paragraph for having a general sense of it but you risk to lose the grasp as whole and to have hard time tackling important questions such as: summarize the passage via key points at the end of the questions lot. You should find the best approach that works for you. For me, for instance, works to read the entire passage but not to skim it. Of course, this strategy is good for those people that have a good reading and understanding of English in general and in particular of scince or humanity passage. ( I admit that I am a voracious reader).

Deepening: look at my post Best resources to tackle each section of the TOEFL iBT for a thoroughly strategy.




Listening Section



In the second section of the test, we certainly split our strategy in two branches for delivering the best answers and gaing the best score; generally the conversation took in place in a library, classroom, inside the professor's office or similar scenarios:

1) In a more general way, your skills are sphaped by your habit to listening music, see movies, or every kind of instructional video or not in English. For instance: I really do love horology and all is what related to watches; The Urban Gentry is one of the most popular watch-channel on youtube, but aside this, the guy speaks with an high-level of English with a little british accent due to his origin. Well, this is an example how to improve both your vocabulary and your comprehension. Of course, if your main interest is cooking rather than every kind of possible argument: history, art, nature this is a way to go.
2) Specifically, improving your Listening score is also a matter to know how is the test, what are the types of questions you will answer, the way to take notes and so forth.

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Deepening: look at my post Best resources to tackle each section of the TOEFL iBT for a thoroughly strategy.



Speaking Section


Every student has his/her weakness or strengths: someone is more comfortable with the writing section and struggle with listening or reading is facile like drink a glass of water but speaking is a nightmare worst than Freddy Kruger.
Nonetheless, in my personal opinion the speaking section is the most challenging among the four. You can write a good essay memorizing a template, you could fail a question during the reading section but understand the whole lot, you might grasp the gist of a conversation but speaking is a completely different thing. We do not communicate on a daily basis writing a romance, we do not listen 100% what the world says us regularly,we do not read what for us is a waste of time. However, whether we wanna be at the center of our society, in the middle of a more or less vast community we must speak: coherently, cogently, if any we need to speak specifically about the argument we face out.

As a matter of fact, your speaking performance and consequently your score is the result of your confidence, fluency, of your preparation to deliver exactly what the prompt are asking for, in the allotted time frame.

Almost all the TOEFL websites dedicated for your preparation or the best youtube channels, that explain you how to tackle the speaking part ot the others, address in a very efficient way to cope with the 6 questions using template to deliver your answer. This is a good strategy as long as you are confident in your speaking. However, this approach has a flaw. Look at the following template
Quote:
Main point
“A time when I…”
“In my opinion…”
“I would advise my friend to…”
“I think that…”
Transition
“I feel this way for two reasons.”
“This was ------- for two main reasons.”
“I would make this suggestion for two main reasons.”
First reason
“First…” + “To be more specific…”
Second reason
“Second…” + “For example…”


Quite straighforward and useful. This is a possible prompt and answer to the very first task: the indipendent task in which you must talk about a personal experience. You could address a pure experience or a three reasons one or an opinion or an advice.

Quote:
A friend of yours is having frequent disagreements with his parents. What advice would you give your friend about resolving this problem? Include details and examples to support your explanation


Quote:
I would advise my friend to join a public speaking club on campus. I would suggest this for two main reasons. First of all, this would give him a chance to talk in front of others without feeling much pressure. To be more specific, he won’t be graded on the quality of his presentations, so he can practice this way without worrying that mistakes will affect his academic record. Secondly, other members of the club will likely have experienced some of the same anxieties that he is currently feeling, and will be able to offer relevant advice and suggestions. For example, when I was in such an organization during my freshman year I was given a lot of really appropriate tips. As a result, I excelled when presenting in my actual classes
Source: toeflresources

The underlined words are made to create compound sentences and the bold part because of trasnsitional phrases.

Until now all is fine, which is great. Where is the flaw have we pointed out before ??

Well, if you will have during the exam a slightly shift in the prompt or for some reason you get stuck during your speaking, following the template in a hardcore-way, without being flexible, you could end up getting lost and jeopardizing your speaking performance.
It is not mandatory to follow this template; as long as you are fluent, you are consistent delivering your response, you will not have so many pause in your speach such as: muh ah or repeating so often the same words, you are understandable and a good pronunciation, the you will be great as well for the higest score.

Considering this prompt

Quote:
What do you think your life will look like after retirement? Use reasons and details to support your response.


Response to this prompt

Quote:
I don't see myself as a person who will ever fully retire. I like to keep busy, and I have trouble relaxing. If I want to spend a few hours reading or listening to music I usually schedule it into my date book. I find that if I don't force myself to relax from time to time I always find some sort of project or work to do. Though I may not want to hold a paying job in the medical field when I am older, I will probably volunteer in a third world country rather than retire. I'm lucky that I've found work that I am interested in. If I grow tired of my job I may feel differently when the time comes.



As you can see, this answer was graded as an high-level response. And it does not follow the template above.
You do have possible templates for every of the 6 questions during your speaking section. Use them but do not stress to much on these. Use them as a guidance or one of your tools in your arsenal to crack the section and achieve the best score.

What we are mentioning til now is also corroborate by the Official TOEFL iBT® Tests Volume 2 that is the latter realesed by ETS and should be the most update version and the closest material to the real test.

Look at this prompt extracted by the OG

Quote:
Talk about an important experience that you recently had. Describe what happened and explain why it was important to you.


The response in mp3 can be downloaded here.

This is how the grader descibes the response given and scored as high-level response.

Quote:
This is a fully developed response to the question. She describes her experience study-ing abroad in Spain and gives a few examples of the importance of the experience (learning a new language, new culture, and so on.); she also gives a longer explanation to describe the experience of living alone for the first time. Although she doesn't provide a lot of sup-port for the importance of the event, she does mention several things such as learning a new language and living in a different culture for which the importance is implicit. She doesn't sound like a native English speaker, and there are occasional mispronunciations, but her speech is clear throughout and she uses correct, precise language and vocabulary to describe the topic.
.

No template. No a schematic approach. Only a good answer in terms of cogency, fluency and pronunciation. That's all.


Deepening: look at my post Best resources to tackle each section of the TOEFL iBT for a thoroughly strategy and see the ETS speaking rubric as attach at the bottom.



Writing Section


During the writing section of the TOEFL, you must cope with two kinds of essays:

  • an independent essay - which takes three types of form: Agree/Disagree Type; Three Choices Type; Preference Type.
  • an integrated essay - In this section you will first read a short article about an academic topic and after that you will listen to a lecture on the same topic. You mission is to describe how the lecture opposes the reading. You may only listen to the lecture once, but you can look at the article while you are writing your essay.

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For the indipendent essay you should know that the essay ETS ask you to write is barely a draft of an essay in an academic environment. Nothing of Shakespeariang reminiscence. Moroever, we can talk about TEOFL essay, GMAT AWA or even GRE argument Essay: they are the same, no matter what. If you wanna take a look an in-depth analysis how to structure your essay see GRECLUB Guide to AWA - The clear-cut. Now we will get into an official indipendent essay from OG graded the most: 5 points.

Quote:
Do you agree or disagree with the follow-ing statement? Technology has made children less creative than they were in the past. Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.


The well organized essay, as response

Quote:
Technology is today part of the everyday life; we are surrounded it by it and can't live without it. But despite all the good things that derive from technology, I strongly agree that there are some ways that technology causes children to think less.

For one thing, there is almost no infor-mation that cannot be found on the internet. When it comes to reading, many high school students agree to refer to "notes" sites instead of reading a complete book assigned by their teachers. These sites usually map out the important stories, passages, and characters for the student. This destroys creativity by not allowing the student to understand the story on his or her own and discover the true per-sonal meanings of the assignment. An activity such as reading is suppose to question one's intellect and challenge one's thinking but with these sites available, kids now rely on the infor-mation given and fail to appreciate and grow that is the purpose of reading many books.

During other activities encountered in school, such as projects, children now tend to rely on the internet to come up with ideas. I have observed this many times. When a creative assignment is given by the teacher, instead of brainstorming ideas together, children just hop on a computer and search for ideas on the internet. It's one thing to use the Internet as a tool as oppose to using it inces-santly and not letting your imagination and creativity take charge.

Other forms of technology such as video games and TV has a great impact on using up time that used to be devoted to imagina-tion and creative activities. Before TV and computer, children invented their world just on their own using their fantasy when build-ing things with blocks or being outdoors in the nature. They used simple things for con-structing adventures and had great ideas for new games together or alone. This means they learn to be creative and also self-determined and self-conscious. Nowaday, how can they learn these skills when passively watching TV or doing what the computer says?

In summary, there is a lot about technol-ogy that takes away from chances for children to be creative and develop creative skills.


As you can see: first of all you do have a hook: an interesting sentence that describes the topic of the essay without stating your main point.
Then the first paragraph in which you state what the prompt says and counteract it with specific reasons and a possible example. A second paragraph with the same structure. A conclusion with a restatement of what you have just explained.

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For the integrated essay the way to attack it is different.Considering this passage from OG

Quote:
Archaeologists have recently found a fossil of a 150-million-year-old mam-mal known as Repenomomus robustus (R. robustus). Interestingly, the mammal's stomach contained the remains of a psittacosaur dinosaur. Some researchers have therefore suggested that R. robustus was an active hunter of dinosaurs. However, a closer analysis has made the hypothesis that R. robustus was an active hunter unlikely. It was probably Just a scavenger that sometimes fed on dinosaur eggs containing unhatched dinosaurs.
First, R. robustus, like most mammals living 150 million years ago, was small—only about the size of a domestic cat. It was much smaller than psittacosaurs, which were almost two meters tall when full grown. Given this size difference, it is unlikely that R. robustus would have been able to successfully hunt psittacosaurs or similar dinosaurs.
Second, the legs of R. robustus appear much more suited for scavenging than hunting: they were short and positioned somewhat to the side rather than directly underneath the animal. These features suggest that R. robustus did not chase after prey. Psittacosaurs—the type of dinosaur found in the stomach of R. robustus—were fast moving. It is unlikely that they would have been caught by such short-legged animals.
Third, the dinosaur bones inside the stomach of the R. robustus provide no evidence to support the idea that the dinosaur had been actively hunted. When an animal has been hunted and eaten by another animal, there are usually teeth marks on the bones of the animal that was eaten. But the bones of the psittaco-saur inside the R. robustus stomach do not have teeth marks. This suggests that R. robustus found an unguarded dinosaur nest with eggs and simply swallowed an egg with the small psittacosaur still inside the eggshell.


Here is the audio of the lecture by a professor download

Your goal in a nutshell is this. Always is the same during the test

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You have to spot point one in your reading and counteract this point based on what the professor says in the audio: he/she talks about the same topic actually weakening what the reading states. The same for point two and so forth. This is the way you must go, your strategy to tackle the integrated essay.

This is a possible answer graded the highest score by ETS.

Quote:
The lecture completely refutes the reading passage. The professor use the following points to indicate that R. robustus could have been actively hunting baby psittacosaur and similar sized baby dinosaurs.
First, although R. robustus was small, it was much bigger than baby psittacosaurs dinosaur, more than twice in size. This means R. robustus was big enough to hunt baby psittacosaurs.
Second, even though R. robustus had short legs and they were positioned somewhat to the side, these features are not sufficient indications that R. robustus could not run as fast enough to be successful predator. The professor pointed out that Tasmanian Devil, a morden-day successful predator whose legs share similar "disadvantages", can run as fast as 50 KM/H and is an active and very success-ful hunter today. So its possible R. robustus could run just as fast and therefore be as suc-cessful in hunting.
Last but not the least, lack of teeth marks on the dinosaur bones is not enough evidence to support conclusion that the dinosaur was not actively hunted. Studies of fossil records show that though R. robustus had powerful jaws but also, it did not use its back-teeth for chewing because its back teeth had no wear and tear. So we can also guess that R. robustus could had swallowed the baby dinosaur whole and therefore not leaving any teeth marks.


It is quite clear how the student attacks the lecture point by point.First, the lecture says this but the professor says that. Back and fourth, in a sort of checks and balances. During the task it is extremely important to jot down some notes to have track of the points made in the reading part and the counterpoints of the lecture.The good news is that you always have the passage on the left of your screen.

A possible template.

Quote:
Paragraph 1: Introduction
Main idea of the listening: In the lecture, the speaker discusses...

Main idea of the reading:However, in the reading, the writer...

Paragraph 2: First Shared Topic
An idea from the listening: The lecturer / speaker says that … + extra information(try to write 2 or 3 sentences)

An idea from the reading:The author / writer states that … + extra information(try to write 1 or 2 sentences; this can be difficult because sometimesthe information in the reading is very short; maybe you can combineideas from different parts of the reading)

Paragraph 3: Second Shared Topic
An idea from the listening: The lecturer / speaker also says that … + extra information(try to write 2 or 3 sentences)

An idea from the reading: The author / writer states that … + extra information(try to write 1 or 2 sentences; this can be difficult because sometimesthe information in the reading is very short; maybe you can combineideas from different parts of the reading)

Paragraph 4: Conclusion


Deepening: look at my post Best resources to tackle each section of the TOEFL iBT for a thoroughly strategy and see the ETS speaking rubric as attach at the bottom.


Tips


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Further Resouces



Disclaimer: the material shared in this guide is owned by ETS®, in primis and secundis the books from which the same material is extracted are owned by me.It is shared only for educational purpose.
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Best TOEFL iBT Books, Test and Strategy Review 2017   [#permalink] 29 Mar 2017, 01:07
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