400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL

McGraw-Hill Education 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL by Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz, Lawrence Zwier

We want to help you score high on the TOEFL

We’ve put all of our proven expertise into McGraw-Hill Education: 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL, 2nd Edition, to make sure you’re fully prepared for this difficult exam. With this updated and expanded guide, you’ll get essential skill-building techniques and strategies created by leading ESL educators. You’ll also get 410 commonly tested words, more than 150 activities and exercises, and a free Language Lab app to help you study. WithMcGraw-Hill Education: 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL, we’ll guide you step by step through the essential vocabulary–and give you the tools you need to improve your score on the TOEFL.

400 Must Have Words For The Toefl
400 Must Have Words For The Toefl

This edition includes:

  • More than 400 important words for the TOEFL, with the addition of a new chapter
  • Example sentences, usage tips, and commonly used parts of speech related to the word
  • A TOEFL-style reading with exercises for each chapter
  • A free Language Lab app with flashcards to aid vocabulary memorization

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Book Review: 400 Must-Have Words for the TOEFL from Magoosh

These are all from just three chapters out of 41 in the book. Some of them are great words, and I recommend that very advanced students who are improving their English vocabulary in general learn words just like these, but they’re simply not TOEFL vocabulary. “Must-Have Words” was the wrong title for this book. Maybe they should have called it “200 Must-Have Words, Plus 100 You Might See and 100 You Don’t Need.” That would have been a bit more accurate, albeit a little long.

Now, it’s possible that all of the words above were on a TOEFL before, but there is a difference between a word that appeared once and a word that is regularly used. Vocabulary that is about an extremely specific topic (e.g. “animism”) can only appear on the test if you are very lucky—or unlucky—and see a text on that exact, specific topic. Words like “deduce,” on the other hand, can appear in many different contexts and so are more useful.

Clearly, a TOEFL vocabulary book that doesn’t focus on TOEFL vocabulary is not perfect. But McGraw-Hills 400 Must-Have Words does try hard to be helpful. Besides just the definitions, there are practice exercises, some of which are in the format of TOEFL reading. In that respect, this book is similar to Collins’ Vocabulary and Grammar for the TOEFL Test. But the exercises don’t compare in quality or in variety.

That’s because Vocabulary and Grammar for the TOEFL Test includes exercises that mimic every part of the TOEFL, whereas 400 Must-Have Words is reading-only. There is no CD, so this book doesn’t have any listening. And because it focuses only on words from texts, there are few conversational words in this book. Keep in mind that TOEFL listening is ⅓ conversations, and you hear informal language before speaking tasks, too.

And even within the reading tasks, this book doesn’t focus on the themes of texts in an actual TOEFL. There are some chapters that are TOEFL-like, such as “Evolution and Migration” and “Ancient Life,” but the many chapters of the book lose that focus completely. “Government Corruption” is not a topic you will see on your test, nor is “Ghosts.” That overly-wide range of topics also means words don’t repeat as often as they should. It’s better to have ten texts on evolution than it is to have one text on evolution and nine on other topics. If the common TOEFL topics are repeated, then words associated with those topics can be repeated, too. And that gives you an opportunity to review words that you previously learned.

Basically, if you learn all the words in this book, it will help you toward a higher TOEFL score, but if you have a choice, this is definitely not the best way to learn real TOEFL vocabulary well.

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