Underhanded tricks and fake reviews: how AthenaStudies cons students

Exam training company AthenaStudies gives its student employees entire scripts and roleplaying instructions to use to promote the company without it looking like actual advertising.

UKrant learned of this through PowerPoint presentations made by AthenaStudies that were sent to us after last week’s article about the company’s practices. 

Students who have joined WhatsApp groups on behalf of the company receive these presentations. Based on the scripts, students have to have a ‘conversation’ in the group chat that makes it seem as though they’re spontaneously recommending paid training by AthenaStudies.


It was revealed last week that AthenaStudies has created WhatsApp group chats using the UG logo and names such as ‘UG law year 3’ that look like regular group chats for and by students. But in reality, the groups are moderated by students that work for AthenaStudies. 

Tips on free study materials are removed, as are the students sharing the tips. The moderators then advertise paid training courses, while the group chat participants have no way of knowing that they’re in a commercial environment.


There are several ‘ambassadors’ in these group chats, students from the programme that are being paid with free training courses and/or summaries. They don’t say they’re ambassadors, though; they appear just like regular students.

The PowerPoint presentation shows that it’s their job to advertise the services AthenaStudies provides as inconspicuously as possible.

Several of them were asked to have a conversation about a particular course. One person complains about how hard it is, a second person agrees, and a third one asks: ‘What are you doing to manage it?’


Next, someone suggests exam training and after a few more messages, someone posts a link to AthenaStudies, potentially together with a discount code one of the students just ‘happened’ to get just now.

The entire conversation is fully scripted. Besides that, the ambassadors are also part of a separate group chat with just Athena staff members, which coordinate the conversation so it can go off flawlessly. 


The same presentation details how ambassadors are supposed to deal with messages about competing businesses or complaints.

What should they do when someone advertises their competitor Tentamentrainingen.nl? ‘Potential answer: overwhelm the chat with a lot of unrelated texts to make the original message disappear’, the instructions say.

What if someone in the group chat says that the courses from Tentamentrainingen.nl are ‘better/more professional’ because they are more in depth? ‘Potential answer: you and your fellow ambassadors should emphasise what you love about Athena.’

Ambassadors are also asked to post to Instagram when they’re studying. One slide shows examples of photos they can use. Every photo just so happens to show a summary from AthenaStudies and the company is always tagged.


That UG students have cottoned on to AthenaStudies’ methods is obvious from the responses UKrant received after last week’s article. They’re annoyed by the manipulative way the company is trying to make money and doubt the quality of the services it provides. 

Some ‘normal students’ in the group chats took matters into their own hands, starting a new chat of their own. Like the group chat mentioned in last week’s article: ‘BDK jaar 1 22/23’ – one student created a new group chat called ‘BDK 1 22/23 zonder Athena’. Of the 508 students in the original Athena group, 190 have now switched to the new one.

The UG is still deciding whether to take action against AthenaStudies. In spite of several attempts by UKrant, AthenaStudies was unavailable for comment.

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