In the world of test preparation, as with any industry, companies can start to mimic one another, offering similar products that include the same features at certain pricepoints. It’s rare that you’ll find a test prep service that takes an entirely new approach to teaching students how to tackle tests like the ACT, which have notoriously complex scoring systems and content. Doing something innovative while teaching students about something that’s standardized isn’t easy, but it’s exactly what The Olive Book is going for.
The Olive Book is a small and young test prep company that was founded by Virginia Tech architecture professor Michael Ermann. Instead of offering a standard test prep experience, Ermann wanted to tap into an unseen teaching opportunity, using technology to give users visual content that goes above and beyond today’s education norms. His background in architecture helped him create a curriculum that uses high-quality animated videos to convey even the most difficult math and reading concepts. The result is The Olive Book ACT prep course, which aims to provide a unique but effective ACT prep experience through top-of-the-line visual instruction and efficient practice material.
If you compare The Olive Book to other top ACT prep courses, you’ll find that their course still meets a lot of test prep standards set by the bigger companies in the industry, even though they have a unique teaching philosophy. As we see it, The Olive Book sets itself apart through its content, but still stacks up well against even the biggest and baddest courses out there today.
Please note The Olive Book is one of our affiliate brands, and as such we receive a small commission at no cost to you if you choose to purchase this prep course. Only use our links if you find this review helpful.
1. Visual Teaching
The Olive Book is built on a visual foundation—their lessons and explanations are expertly dissected through professional, engaging, information-packed animations. As you progress through your ACT program curriculum, you’ll see videos that unpack geometry and flesh out the nuances of language.
Even if you aren’t a visual learner, you can still benefit from The Olive Book’s easy-to-understand content; each practice question they provide comes with a thorough text explanation, so if you find that their videos just aren’t helping you out—for whatever reason—there’s still plenty of information that you can dive into.
Out of all the prep courses we’ve reviewed, The Olive Book has some of the best deals, as they emphasize providing their products to students and educators with financial need. If you qualify for need-based free lunch at a public school, you can take The Olive Book’s ACT online prep course absolutely FREE (a $390 value)! Educators teaching at Title 1 public schools have the same deal—they get access to The Olive Book FREE, for life, for every student in their classes!
We haven’t seen these sorts of deals with any other prep course we’ve reviewed, so if you believe you fit into any of the qualifications we’ve listed (or, even if you have another way to prove you can’t purchase the course), you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to The Olive Book for a quality ACT prep course, at no cost to you.
3. Multiple Syllabi Options
With The Olive Book, the only ACT prep course option you can buy is a self-paced course. Plenty of companies offer self-paced courses, and they generally give you a standard access period and suggestions for the order in which you should study their content. With The Olive Book, though, your self-paced course comes with several syllabi that can help you tailor your ACT prep experience to a specific schedule; their prep course comes with 1-month, 2-month, 3-month, and 4-month study schedules.
Even so, you still have the opportunity to take on whatever topics you want, whenever you want. The choice is yours, and that’s what makes The Olive Book’s self-paced course plan different from other courses: they provide you with enough flexibility to take on topics at your own pace, but they also provide opportunities for structure that can help you effectively take on their content with a specific deadline in mind.
4. Higher Score Guarantee
Though their company and curriculum are fairly new, The Olive Book believes in their product enough to provide a higher score guarantee. This means that if you’ve taken the ACT before and don’t score higher on a second attempt after completing The Olive Book’s course, you’ll get all your money back—every dime.
Many companies offer similar score improvement guarantees, but The Olive Book takes things a step further by offering a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you finish your Olive Book ACT course and feel that it didn’t provide you with what you needed, you can get your money back, no questions asked. They’re a young company, but they’re certainly confident in their product, which can give buyers great peace of mind.
5. Best-Yield Content Organization
For their online test prep course, The Olive Book organizes their prep content in a unique way; with other online courses, you’ll often take on content that tackles the test section-by-section, starting with easier concepts and moving to more difficult ones. Instead of focusing purely on subject matter and difficulty level, The Olive Book prioritizes best-yield content in their courses.
As you take their ACT prep course, you’ll start by working on concepts that have a specific balance: they’ll be easy to learn but will also translate to the highest score increases at that difficulty level. As The Olive Book puts it, even if you don’t have time to complete 100% of the course’s practice material, you’ll still have learned the most impactful content the course has to offer.
6. Discussion Boards
One of the biggest potential downsides of taking a self-paced course is lacking any 1-on-1 contact with an instructor or your peers. To combat this, the Olive Book includes a great discussion board feature with its ACT prep course, so you’re always only a message away from understanding that awkward problem thanks to thorough, detailed feedback from an ACT expert. Students can leave a post with questions or feedback on any assignment throughout the course, which other students can respond to if they like. When an Olive Book instructor responds (which they always will), the answers they leave are detailed and extensive, so if the video and text explanation of a question doesn’t make sense to you, you can always get an explanation from an instructor, too.
1. Limited Course Material
Their practice material is highly engaging and effective, but as a smaller and younger company, The Olive Book’s online course simply lacks some of the resources you’d find with other prep options. Their prep course only includes one full-length ACT practice test, and the amount of practice questions they provide adds up to about 1,000 questions total. If you take a look at the number of practice tests and questions that other ACT prep courses have—take The Princeton Review’s 3,200 questions and 3+ tests, for example—and you’ll see that The Olive Book doesn’t really compete in this area.
However, The Olive Book’s courses aren’t designed to teach students through high amounts of material—they’re designed to teach students difficult concepts through fewer but more effective materials. You may find yourself wishing you had another practice test or flashcards or a quiz bank with The Olive Book, but when it comes to their lessons and practice questions, less is more.
At $390, buying an ACT course from The Olive Book is a bit of an investment. Other courses include similar access periods for less cash, such as Magoosh’s $99 year-long ACT course. Yet, The Olive Book makes enough guarantees and discounts available to you that they offset that high upfront cost.
If you’re an educator, school administrator, or student that wants valuable test prep but can’t afford it, The Olive Book steps forward by providing you with their courses for free. If you can afford the course but feel that it didn’t meet your satisfaction, you can always request a score-improvement-based or satisfaction-based refund.
Out of all the prep courses we’ve reviewed, The Olive Book has one of the most unique teaching philosophies we’ve seen—the best part is, it’s effective! Through high quality animations and comprehensive course material, The Olive Book’s ACT course provides students and educators with some of the most engaging content out there. Some might be worried by their price or lack of course material, but The Olive Book’s less is more philosophy, guarantees, and need-based discounts will easily put those worries to rest.
Though The Olive Book’s content is comprehensive and unique, you may still feel like it’s not the best course out there for you. If that’s the case, check out our list of the major ACT prep courses out there today, where you’ll surely find a course that can provide everything you need.