Sometimes, you can only do so much studying on your own.
Sometimes, you need guidance.
Sometimes, you just want to rely on an expert!
We can all use a little help when getting ready for an important event, and taking the TOEFL is no exception.
There are a lot of reasons you may have for wanting to take a TOEFL preparation course.
Maybe you don’t have enough self-discipline to study at home on your own (hey, most of us don’t!).
Maybe you learn better in a group environment and benefit from the support of your peers.
Maybe you want an instructor’s feedback and face-to-face interaction.
Or maybe you just need to get ready for the TOEFL, fast.
No matter what your reasons are for deciding to take a TOEFL course, there are many great options available to you, both offline and online.
Let’s take a look at all of them!
Finding the Best TOEFL Course for You: 7 Smart Options to Explore
Offline TOEFL Courses
Offline courses will be most helpful if you like studying in a group and enjoy personal interaction with an instructor and other students. These TOEFL courses tend to cost the most, but deliver a lot of value. Here are a few different kinds of offline courses that may work for you.
1. A group course at a language school
When you first started learning English, group language classes were probably the first thing you signed up for. So why not consider the same strategy for TOEFL preparation?
Most major language schools offer TOEFL courses that are specifically designed to prepare you for the test, typically in 3-4 months. The great advantage to these courses is that you will have a knowledgeable instructor available to you during every class. This will be someone who knows the ins and outs of the TOEFL—guaranteed! A course like this is also a great option if you are a social person who wants to practice speaking a lot.
Usually, the level of English required for these courses is intermediate to advanced. The courses are targeted at mastering the TOEFL format and honing (perfecting) your writing, speaking and listening skills.
A possible disadvantage to TOEFL preparation courses is that they may be expensive. They also may be hard to find if you live in a small town or rural area.
Because TOEFL takers live all over the world, it just isn’t possible to recommend a course for each city and area of the globe. However, well-respected, international language schools tend to be your best bet.
- EducationFirst is a reputed (well-known and respected) foreign languages school with many locations worldwide.
- Sol Schools International is a well-known international network of schools teaching English and many other languages.
- International House is another worldwide language-teaching organization specializing in English and Spanish.
- Hansa, located in Toronto, Canada, is one of the best-established English language schools.
2. Private lessons at a language school
You want the undivided attention of an instructor. You are willing to pay a possibly high fee. Does this sound like you? Then private lessons can be a great way for you to prepare for the TOEFL.
With private lessons, you will get a lot of assistance improving your essay writing skills and receive individual feedback on speaking and grammar. Your instructor will focus on your work and language skills alone. Because of this, a one-hour lesson may pack in just as much learning and benefit as a three-hour group course. Private TOEFL classes are great for really short, intensive preparation periods (think 3-4 weeks before the test).
Finding a private TOEFL tutor at a language school may be as simple as finding a language school with a TOEFL course: Almost every school that offers TOEFL classes will be willing to provide one-on-one instruction. You should seek a tutor affiliated with (officially connected to) a language school if you want to be absolutely sure of her knowledge and expertise. If you do this, you will also be able to use the school facilities (space and resources) for your lessons.
- Manhattan Elite Prep is a private, for-profit tutoring company that offers TOEFL lessons in the USA and internationally.
- Bilingual Education Institute is an educational organization in Houston, Texas that provides private TOEFL tutoring.
- Canada College of Education is a lower-cost foreign languages college in Toronto, Canada, and offers both TOEFL courses and private lessons for TOEFL preparation.
3. Private lessons with an independent tutor
Less expensive and more flexible, taking private lessons to prepare for the TOEFL may be the right choice for you. It will work if you are willing to invest the time to find a reliable, experienced instructor in your city who knows the TOEFL format well. The benefits are the same as with a school instructor, but you may have a lot more choice when it comes to the price and timing of lessons.
Recommendations for where to find an independent TOEFL tutor:
- University Tutor: Here, you can search worldwide for a wide variety of subjects, including TOEFL. Enter your location and “TOEFL” as the subject.
- Verbling is the best name in online language tutoring, and they have plenty of tutors available who are specialized in teaching students how to master the TOEFL. This is perhaps the fastest, easiest and most affordable way to find an online TOEFL tutor, simply because Verbling has so many tutors registered on their website.
- TOEFL Tutors is dedicated to finding tutors specifically for the TOEFL. You only need to enter your location (so far, USA only).
- Craigslist is a massive resource for local ad listings covering cities worldwide. Start by choosing your location (both city and country). Head to “services” and then “lessons,” where you can type “TOEFL” into the search bar.
4. Self-study books with digital materials
While this is a self-study option, a book course is a completely valid choice for offline studying. It is especially worth considering if you do not have access to a language school or tutor, or if you lack a reliable Internet connection to take a course online (more on those below!).
Following a book-based TOEFL course is also great if you are going away on vacation and want to continue your TOEFL preparation while away.
- “Kaplan TOEFL iBT Premier” 2016-2017 includes practice tests, a CD and online and mobile access to course content.
- “Official Guide to the TOEFL Test with CD-ROM,” 4th Edition is the official TOEFL study course by ETS.
Online TOEFL Courses
An online TOEFL course may suit you better in this day and age. You will have the convenience of studying at home, but still get the advantage of a structured learning process. Plus, you can take online courses for a fraction of the price charged by language schools.
If you have a reliable Internet connection, you may also hire an online tutor and study for TOEFL under their guidance, no matter where you live.
5. The official TOEFL Online Prep Course by ETS
This should be the first option to consider if you are looking for an online TOEFL prep course. Created by the very same organization that administers (gives) and scores the test, this preparation course includes the most up-to-date exercises and the most relevant content. Go straight to the source!
It is a self-study course that requires solid language skills, because it is written completely in English. So if your level is intermediate or below, you may need additional support from other sources.
Another solid option which can help you at any English skill level is BestMyTest. It has timed TOEFL practice exams and will let you get professional scoring and feedback. Plus, there are tons of interactive learning tools like vocabulary exercises and full TOEFL lessons.
6. Online courses offered by language schools or for-profit businesses
There are countless websites offering online TOEFL preparation courses: They differ in price, duration (length), format and content. You have a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing the course that is best for you.
Spend some time researching a course before you commit to payment. Take advantage of a free trial period, if it is available. Take a peek at the course content if possible.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with the business that offers the course if you have any questions.
Trust your intuition (instinct or feelings): If the offer feels like a scam or money grab, go elsewhere. The Internet is a big place!
- Magoosh is definitely one of the best TOEFL preparation courses out there on the internet.
(Note: The Magoosh link below is an affiliate link, which means that we’ll receive compensation if you make a purchase on the Magoosh site. By purchasing through our affiliate link, you are supporting our ability to provide you with free language learning content—so, thank you!)
It’s a complete guide to studying for the TOEFL and improving your score one step at a time. To study with Magoosh for one week, the price is only $39—this is a great option if you’re taking the TOEFL very soon.
The pricing for long-term courses is quite affordable too. Take a look, and see if Magoosh is right for you!
- i-Courses.org is a paid resource offering a full TOEFL prep course for 99 USD (as well as preparation for each TOEFL section separately for around 23-38 USD). The course includes a scored practice test.
- LiveLingua is an online English school offering general and specialized language courses, including private instruction for the TOEFL. Prices start at around 30 USD per hour.
- TestDen is a Canada-based online test prep company offering a TOEFL course from 129 USD. The course includes speaking and writing training and several practice tests.
- English Success Academy offers both self-study and private lesson-based TOEFL courses that target speaking, writing and even good note-taking. Prices start at 67 USD.
7. Online TOEFL tutoring
Last but not least, an independent online tutor may also be a great study option! This option combines the flexibility of hiring a tutor in person with the convenience of studying anywhere you want. It may save you money, too, as online tutoring usually costs less than face-to-face private lessons.
Many experienced English instructors are qualified to assist with TOEFL preparation. You do not need to live in the same city as them to take advantage of their knowledge and expertise. All you need to do is to find them online!
You will need a good Internet connection and common video-chat software (like Skype) to interact with your tutor. You should also have a way to pay your tutor (for example, using PayPal). The rest (the lesson format, TOEFL sections to target, the exercises) is up to you!
Recommendations for where to start searching for an online TOEFL tutor:
- University Tutor, already mentioned above, allows you to search for a private online tutor. Enter “TOEFL” as your subject, choose your location, select “Online” and click “Search Tutors.”
- Care.com provides an opportunity for tutors and teachers to offer their services online. The link will take you to the page dedicated to TOEFL tutoring specifically.
- Wyzant has a page dedicated to TOEFL tutoring, both online and offline. Use their handy search tool to choose your availability for lessons and whether you want to study online or not. You can even select your target hourly price. Then you’ll be able to connect with an English tutor in your local area for TOEFL preparation. Click this link to see who's online near you!
No matter what kind of TOEFL course you end up choosing, remember that it should help you prepare for the test in the way that is most comfortable and convenient for you.
When considering your options, reflect on the advantages, decide if there are any disadvantages and do not be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
TOEFL courses are not cheap, no matter what the format, so it is important that you make an informed decision.
Ultimately, finding the right course means taking the first step towards an excellent TOEFL score!
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