Vol. 5. No. 3 R-12 December 2001
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Heinle & Heinle's Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, CBT Edition

Bruce Rogers (2000)
Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle
Pp. xxi + 576
ISBN: 0-8384-0226-7 (paper)
US $ 42.95

Audio tapes or CDs:
ISBN 0-8384-0230-5 ($104.95)
Tapescript and Answer Keys:
ISBN 0-8384-1232-7 ($14.95)

Heinle & Heinle's Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, CBT Edition is the latest version of the Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test series. The book has been revised to reflect the test's new Computer-Based Test (CBT) format. The explanations and exercises are basically the same as in the previous editions of the book. Changes made for the new edition include the insertion of photos into the Preview and Review Tests in the listening section to make it more like the real CBT. New lessons about listening and reading items unique to the CBT have been added as well.

Rogers intends Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test for an audience of intermediate or advanced ESL/EFL students. He suggests that it be used by TOEFL prep classes or by individuals for self-study. Rogers' audience does not seem to be defined as specifically as that of some of the other TOEFL-study texts on the market. A review of Longman Introductory Course for the TOEFL Test (Huntly, 1997) notes that the author of this series provided score ranges identifying the students who would benefit the most from using it. Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, CBT Edition would be best for the reader who starts out with little knowledge of the CBT form of the test. This group would include intermediate ESL students who do not know the TOEFL CBT in any detail, as well as prospective teachers of TOEFL prep courses. However, students whose general knowledge of the TOEFL test is advanced are not going to find Rogers' level of detail useful. These students don't really need to read more text describing what the TOEFL test is like; they need practice tests.

Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test begins with a 15-page introductory section called "Getting Started." Basically, much of this section repeats what is in the ETS TOEFL Bulletin. "Twelve Keys to High Scores" on the TOEFL CBT are also given, but most of these points would be obvious to any test-taker. Among the author's tips are general strategies like "Increase your general knowledge of English" (p. xv) or "Use the process of elimination to make the best guess possible [between multiple choice items]" (p. xviii).

The four "Guides" on the listening, structure, reading and writing sections of the TOEFL CBT form the main body of Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test. All of the "Guides" are organized in the same way. Each of them consists of:

  1. an overview of that particular section of the test, with some description of what it is like
  2. on the real TOEFL, and the basic strategies to use;
  3. a preview test given ostensibly so that students can gain a familiarity early on with the typical questions given in that section;
  4. lessons broken down into various categories, with practice items on each;
  5. review tests on the points brought up in groups of lessons;
  6. mini-lessons at the end of each of the 4 sections.

The last part of the book consists of two complete practice tests with TOEFL-style questions.

"Guide to Listening" (pp. 2-134) is divided into Part A ("Dialogues") and Part B ("Longer Talks"), as the listening section of the real CBT is. Different types of dialogues are categorized in a total of 12 lessons. The level of detail in these lessons is noteworthy. The question types explained in Part A are those on dialogues that involve sound confusion, homonyms, idioms, and words with double meanings. Part A also discusses how to recognize and approach inference questions about dialogues, and dialogue questions that involve agreement and disagreement, as well as dialogues with special verbs. Two review tests are inserted after lesson four and lesson nine. Listening Part B is broken down into three lessons: answering questions about the main idea, details and inferences, and responding to items that involve matching and ordering information. The "Guide to Listening" ends with mini-lessons on idiomatic expressions. These lessons contain some 300 expressions, listed alphabetically, as well as exercises.

The second part, "Guide to Structure" (pp. 136-319), consists of lessons on common grammatical points as preparation for Sentence Completion and Error Identification questions. There are a total of 20 lessons, with 4 review tests, one given after every 5 lessons. Among the topics covered in the lessons are different types of clauses, as well as word forms, word choice, verbs, prepositions, and articles. Mini-lessons provide students with lists of prepositions, and exercises to practice them.

The third part, "Guide to Reading" (pp. 320-455), consists of reading and vocabulary exercises. Nine different kinds of items in the reading section are grouped in lessons, six in all. Lesson thirty-four, for example, covers detail, negative and scanning items. The mini-lessons for section three are on vocabulary building, with around 500 words and their synonyms divided into 17 lists, and practice exercises provided for each group. "Guide to Reading" is extensive, with many different passages provided as practice for answering different question types.

The last part, "Guide to Essay Writing" (pp. 456-503), includes some models for analyzing prompts, and for writing each part of the typical essay: introduction, body and conclusion. The author outlines a process-writing approach: pre-writing, writing, and editing. He suggests the test-taker analyze the prompt, and then pre-write by brainstorming ideas onto paper. Before actually beginning his/her essay, the test-taker should choose a thesis and write a brief outline. The last step is checking one's work after the writing is done. The basic process introduced in the first two lessons is followed by lessons on improving the essay with signal words and sentence variety, and checking and editing the essay.

Overall, Heinle & Heinle's Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, CBT Edition provides detailed information about the TOEFL CBT. Rogers has tried to provide some sensible tips about what it is like to take the CBT. The strength of the book is probably the exercises for listening and structure practice, which proceed in a step-by-step style through short lessons.

However, there are drawbacks. First, the price for the full set of materials seems unreasonable. A CD-ROM, "TOEFL MasteryTM for the CBT," does come with Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test. It contains a tutorial on taking the CBT and practice exercises for all sections of the TOEFL, except writing. But the listening tapes or audio CDs used for practice in the listening parts of the book have to be purchased separately (US$104.95). Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test also does not come with answer keys or tapescript. Customers need to either purchase them as a separate package (US$14.95), or download them for free online at http://toefl.heinle.com, after they get the username and a password from the company's sales representative through a toll-free number. To use everything in Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, the learner has to spend over US$140.

Second, it might have been more helpful for students if they had more practice questions for Part B: conversations, mini-lectures and academic discussions. Part B is short, compared to Part A. The second part of the listening section on the real TOEFL, "Longer Talks," is obviously more difficult than Part A. These listening items are longer, and test-takers are not permitted to take any notes while they listen.

The third point concerns the effectiveness of the writing section. "Guide to Essay Writing" deals briefly with quite a complicated task and a skill area that needs to be improved over an extended time period. Although Rogers has provided models for process writing, the "Guide" does not seem very helpful. Holistic scoring criteria are provided in the writing section; that is the only way someone using "Guide to Essay Writing" independently can see how they might score on the real TOEFL writing section. How much progress is it possible for a student to make using the tips, examples, and self-scoring? Test-takers need some kind of formal instruction including feedback, at least to prepare for the writing section. Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test, then, might be appropriate as supplementary course material.

The criteria for evaluating whether an ESL text is good are one thing. What makes a TOEFL-preparation guide effective is another story. The goal of the former involves improving a student's knowledge of English, and the latter improving test scores. Though it is beyond the scope of this review to address this issue, there is disagreement over whether books like the Heinle & Heinle volume, or the study guides put out by any other publisher, can in fact raise student's scores. In an analysis of TOEFL preparation material, Hamp-Lyons has noted a lack of evidence that TOEFL preparation materials increase test scores (1998). Wadden and Hilke (1999) took an opposite view--while admitting that research into the effectiveness of TOEFL preparation materials needed to be done, they also cited their own research (then in progress) at community colleges in Japan, which suggested that taking even a 20 hour TOEFL-prep course could raise students' scores.

The question of whether the Complete Guide to the TOEFL Test can improve a student's score depends as well on another issue that Wadden and Hilke raise. In their study of commonly used TOEFL study materials, they frequently found that the practice questions in study guides were unlike the questions on the actual TOEFL. Are the items in the Heinle & Heinle volume like the real TOEFL questions? Without access to several versions of the TOEFL test, we can not know this.


Hamp-Lyons, L. (1998). Ethical test preparation practice: The case of the TOEFL. TESOL Quarterly, 32, 2,329-337.

Huntley, H. (1997). [Review of the book Longman Preparation Course for the TOEFL Test by Deborah Phillips]. TESL-EJ, 3, 1 R-6.

Wadden, P., & Hilke, R. (1999). Comments on Liz Hamp-Lyons' "Ethical test preparation practice: The case of the TOEFL." Polemic gone astray: A corrective to recent criticism of TOEFL preparation. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 2, 263-274.

EunYoung Won
Michigan State University

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