Back for Business: David Cosgrave, Exam Performance Institute

Back for Business, Dr David Cosgrave, from Marlfield, Clonmel in Co Tipperary, returned to Ireland from Abu Dhabi in 2020 to set up his business, the Exam Performance Institute, in Clonmel.

David moved to Abu Dhabi with his wife Amy in 2017 after finishing a PhD in Marketing, but the couple always intended to return to start a family.

“We like to travel and wanted to experience another environment and from a financial perspective, there was a lot of opportunity in Abu Dhabi,” David says.

“I set it up with one mission – to teach students at all levels correct exam technique”

“We always planned to come back to Ireland at some point, but Covid speeded up the process. With lockdowns, we preferred to be at home.”

While abroad, David worked as a professor in Abu Dhabi University where he taught Digital Marketing. It was this experience, together with having lectured at universities in Ireland, that prompted David to create the Exam Performance Institute. “I set it up with one mission – to teach students at all levels correct exam technique,” he says.

“I saw a pattern over time that students make the same mistakes in exams year on year. Through my own research and looking at other research, I realised that most students are never actually taught how to take an exam correctly. And the further you go into your education; it’s automatically assumed that you learned how to take an exam at an earlier step.”

David says the typical way students prepare for an exam, by learning off as much as they can and hoping to get it on the page on the day, is not the best way to maximise performance.

His research showed that the problem he observed in Ireland and Abu Dhabi was widespread in other education systems too.

David’s business venture was initially hampered by the fact that the pandemic resulted in the widespread cancellation or alteration of exams. “That was an interesting start, but I had been doing exam coaching prior to setting up the business. It grew organically from helping children of family friends to getting calls from people that I didn’t know,” he says.

While he enjoyed the lifestyle in Abu Dhabi, he is now appreciating the comforts of being home. “It’s nice in the sense that we started our family since we came back. We have a little girl, and both of our families are close enough to where we live, so we have a great support network,” he says.

David found that the Back for Business programme helped him in a number of ways, including accountability, growing his network and the support and advice from fellow participants on similar journeys. “After the difficulties of Covid, it motivated me to make sure that this was the right thing to do – not to walk away without really fulfilling the potential of the business,” he says.

In September 2022, the Exam Performance Institute launched new exam technique courses for several major exams. Exam Performance Institute works with schools, colleges and companies to provide exam technique training to students preparing for exams. It also works closely with student disability services to provide exam technique training for students with additional educational needs.

As well as developing the existing business, David’s future plans include growing an online community for students with additional educational needs.

Are you thinking of coming Back for Business?

This is the sixth year of the Back for Business programme and there are up to 50 places available to support those have returned to Ireland – or are  thinking about it – and have or want to start a business here.

The Back for Business developmental programme, which is funded from the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme, was created to foster and support entrepreneurial activity among emigrants returning to live in Ireland. The call for this year’s applications was launched by Colm Brophy TD, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora. 

Back for Business 6 will run from the end of January to June 2023. There is no charge for those selected to participate and the closing date for applications is Friday January 6th 2023. 

Back for Business is aimed at those who have lived abroad for at least a year and have returned in the last three years or those planning to return in the near future. It addresses challenges that all early-stage entrepreneurs encounter, but also focuses on the additional barriers faced by those who have been living outside Ireland for some years

Participants on last year’s programme increased their combined workforce by 76% and more than doubled (107% ) their turnover during the cycle – despite the restrictions placed on businesses as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Those selected to join Back for Business 6 will take part in round table sessions, focused on goals and milestones, which are facilitated by voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs who have experience of successfully starting and growing a business. 

This year’s Lead Entrepreneurs are: Hannah Wrixon, founder of WrkWrk, formerly known as Get the Shifts; Morgan Browne, CEO of Milner Browne and Enterpryze; Paul Duggan of The Gardiner Group; Seamus Reilly, co-founder and formerly of Critical Healthcare; and Thomas Ennis, founder of the Thomas Ennis Group.

A Back for Business Community is also being formed for previous participants, who will be offered workshops, review round tables and an annual Community Forum.

Those interested in learning more about applying for Back for Business 6 can download a brochure and register their interest in receiving an application form by visiting

Main image at top: David Cosgrave, founder, Exam Performance Institute. Back ground photo by Akshay Chauhan on Unsplash

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