An affordable alternative to expensive grinds

Tech review: Irish e-learning start-up SimpleStudy aims to be a kind of DuoLingo for exam students

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The school year may just be starting, but it won’t be long before exam season comes around again. With that comes pressure for many students – pressure to get the best grades, to study hard and to keep up with their class.

For a long time, the only extra help available to students was through grinds – private lessons to focus on the exam topics, helping students to achieve better grades. But these aren’t cheap and even before the cost-of-living crisis, they would have been out of the reach of many Irish families.

As you might expect, tech has come up with a solution of sorts. Irish e-learning start-up SimpleStudy doesn’t set itself up as a replacement for grinds, but it is aiming to be a kind of DuoLingo for exam students. That means offering an easy-to-follow platform that you can dip in and out of when needed, brushing up on exam questions, looking at past papers and studying revision notes from students for different topics.

The company and the platform was created by a team in west Cork, so it is Irish-made and -managed, although it is aiming to move farther afield next year.


For now, the plan is to bring the resources and study tools that are usually reserved for private schools and tutors to a wider student population, through a more affordable e-learning platform. At €8 a month, or €50 for the year if you pay up front, for a range of exam subjects, it certainly fits the affordability promise.

A limited free version is available, but you can test out the premium service for five days before signing up to a subscription if you are unsure whether SimpleStudy is for you.

It covers both Junior and Leaving Cert courses; you choose which when you sign up and then choose the various subjects that you want to study.

Once you have set your chosen courses, you have access to all the material through a single subscription. You can find all the resources you need in the student dashboard. That includes exam questions from past papers – something we used to have to carry around in bags if you wanted to study – sample essays and revision notes where available.

The platform has compiled plenty of practice questions, and users can build their own exam papers using the papers from previous exam years. It has more than 30 years of past exam questions on its system, along with the available marking schemes and answers, so you know where you are going wrong – and getting it right.

The revision material is easy to follow and helps point you in the right direction if you are struggling

The timed questions are also a handy way to practice your exam skills, giving you an idea of how you will fare answering similar questions on the day. The built-in timer will start the count down as soon as you activate it.

Checking out this platform reminded me of how much I’ve forgotten about some subjects – I’ve never consciously used binomial expansions or surds equations since I left school – but the revision material is easy to follow and helps point you in the right direction if you are struggling.

There are some caveats, of course. It doesn’t cover all subjects on the curriculum, and some subjects included will have more resources than others. But new elements are being added all the time, and students can request a topic to be added. If there is enough demand, SimpleStudy will develop the resources for it.


SimpleStudy has a good range of topics available for students from the outset, but you can request material to be added if it is not yet available on the platform. The best thing is to check out the five-day trial before committing to a monthly subscription to see if the service fits your needs.

The timed questions are helpful, giving students the chance to practise under less pressurised exam conditions, and the marking scheme will help give you an idea of your progress.

While this is a subscription service, it also takes into account access for schools, including Deis schools, and for students who may not be available to afford the subscription. If there are any financial issues, you can contact SimpleStudy directly.


The only access is currently through an internet browser. That makes sense if you are doing the exam questions and sample texts, but if you want to access revision notes or do a quick bit of study, an app would help ease that path. You can access it through your phone’s mobile browser, but part of the appeal of DuoLingo is the app interface that you can access on the move.

Some subjects are a little light on notes and there are only a few quizzes currently available but that may improve as the platform develops further. There are currently a few hundred paying subscribers on SimpleStudy, but the company is targeting a significant increase by the first quarter of next year,

Everything else

SimpleStudy also offers access for teachers, so the resources can be used in the classroom.


A good tool for students who want to brush up on their exam skills in a less pressurised environment – and a significantly cheaper one than private tuition – though it will be of more use for some subjects more than others at the moment.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist