A cram school, informally called crammer and colloquially also referred to as test-prep or exam factory, is a specialized school that trains its students to meet particular goals, most commonly to pass the entrance examinations of high schools or universities. The English name is derived from the slang term "cramming", meaning to study hard or to study a large amount of material in a short period of time.
Cram schools may specialise in a particular subject or subjects, or may be aligned with particular schools. Special cram schools that prepare students to re-take failed entrance examinations are also common. As the name suggests, the aim of a cram school is generally to impart as much information to its students as possible in the shortest period of time. The goal is to enable the students to obtain a required grade in particular examinations, or to satisfy other entrance requirements such as language skill (e.g.: IELTS). Cram schools are sometimes criticised, along with the countries in which they are prevalent, for a focus on rote learning and a lack of training in critical thinking and analysis.
Cram schools are referred to largely as "coaching colleges", they are used primarily to achieve the necessary results for the entrance exam for selective schools in New South Wales. They are also used extensively in mathematics courses for the Higher School Certificate and other high school leavers exams.
In Bangladesh, Cram Schools are known as "Coaching Centers" and to some extent 'Tutorials'. Most cram schools provide help for admission tests of public universities and medical colleges, and public examinations like SSC, and, HSC. There are also some variants which have entered the market of ever increasing help seekers. For example, cram schools now also prepare students for language tests like IELTS and TOEFL, aptitude tests like GRE, GMAT, SAT, and so on. In recent years cram schools have also been extended to the tests for government civil services like BCS Examination.
Cram schools are called "Cursinhos" (lit. Little Courses) in Brazil and are attended by students who will be taking a vestibular exam to be admitted into a university.
Cram schools are called "Preuniversitarios" in Chile and are attended by students to revise before taking PSU (University Selection Test) in order to get onto undergraduate studies.
Cram schools (also known as buke) are popular in China due to the importance of standardized exams, such as:
- High school entrance exam (after junior high, at 9th year of school).
- The National Higher Education Entrance Examination, or Gaokao, mandatory for college admission.
- English language exams. Passing the College English Test (CET) band 4 and 6 is sometimes a prerequisite for bachelor's degree, and the certificates are often important to finding employment. The TOEFL and GRE tests from ETS are required for studying abroad in English-speaking countries.
- Entrance exams to domestic graduate program. Over recent years the competition has intensified, partially because many new college graduates fail to find satisfactory jobs and seek post-graduate education instead.
China has a test-driven system. Education departments give entrance examinations to sort students into schools of different levels. Examinations like the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Gaokao) are vital, deciding the academic future of the participants. This education system cultivated the cramming style of teaching. Schools and teachers usually regard grades to be the primary goal. This sometimes leads to teachers imparting exam skills instead of knowledge and inspiration. But as the population of students decreases each year and admission to domestic universities expands, the pressure of the Entrance Exam has been reducing.
About 5% of the French students attend the Classes Préparatoires aux Grandes Écoles (prep school) or CPGE. These two-year programs are meant to prepare undergrad students to the entrance exams of high-profile graduate schools (Grandes écoles) in research, engineering and business — including École Normale Supérieure, HEC Paris, ESSEC, École polytechnique, Arts et Métiers ParisTech, Télécom ParisTech, École des Ponts, Centrale-Supélec, École des Mines or ISAE-SUPAERO.
French prep schools are characterised by heavy workload and high demands. They have produced most of France's scientists, intellectuals, and executives, during the last two centuries.
Students in CPGE have between 36 and 40 hours of class a week, and at least 2 hours and a half of study: the best students can go up to more than 5 every evening after school, as well as a weekly 2-to-4 hours test, and more work during the weekend. Moreover they take what is called "Khôlles" mainly 2 times a week. For the scientific branche; it consists of an hour test where a group of 3 students, each split at one board, is dealing with: a question related to a specific lesson (e.g. a demonstration of a theorem studied during class) and finally an exercice. Everything done during the test must be explained orally to the teacher. For khôlles dealing with languages studied in CPGE (e.g. English) it mainly consists in a 30min test: on the one hand listening to an audio or studying an article from a newspaper then summarizing it, and on the other hand writing an essay dealing with the theme of what was summarized during the first part of the test (=20 min). Everything is then submitted orally to an Englsih teacher (15min).
This is a two-year cursus (or rather a five-term cursus, as the Entrance Exams occurs on the sixth term). If a student could not obtain the school they wanted, they may repeat the second year.
There are three main branches :
- Scientists (see Maths Sup) study mainly maths, physics and chemistry, IT, and Industrial Sciences. They are dubbed "taupin" (from "taupe", a mole) because they don't often see the sun. Sub-branches are : Math-Physics, Physics-Chemistry, and Physics-Industrial sciences. There is also the biology sub-branch, the "agros" (from "agronomie", used here as agricultural science) specialised more in biology and chemistry than in maths/physics.
- Economists (see Prépa HEC) study mainly social sciences, economy, maths and foreign languages. A lot of important French personalities and politicians went through this way. They're divided between those who study more sciences, those who study Law, economy, or technologies.
- Humanities students (see Khâgne) study mainly philosophy, literature, foreign and ancient languages, history. There are again subsections : the social sciences section, and the literature section.
The various curriculums of CPGE are known for their folklore (slang terms, songs and hymns, anecdotes), and often inherited from early 19th-century generations of students.
Φροντιστήρια (from φροντίζω, to take care of) have been a permanent fixture of the Greek educational system for several decades. They are considered the norm for learning foreign languages (English language learning usually starts during the elementary school years) and for having a chance to pass the university entrance examinations. The preparation for the country-wide university entrance examinations practically takes up the two last years of upper high school, and the general view is that the amount of relevant school hours is insufficient for the hard competition, regardless of the teachers' abilities. This leads to overworked students who take state school lessons from 08.15-14.00 at school, go home for lunch, continue for two or three hours in the cramming school and return to prepare the homework both for state school and "frontistirio". In the weekend, the students usually have lessons in the cramming school on Saturday morning and on Sunday morning revision tests, leaving them exhausted and with no free time. Greek students work very hard and also unhired teachers by the state find a way to employment through these private businesses.
These two popular views pave the ground for the abundant number of cram schools, also attended by numerous high school students for general support of their performance.
Cram schools in Hong Kong are called tutorial schools. These cram schools put focus on the major public examinations in Hong Kong, namely HKDSE, and teach students on techniques on answering questions in the examinations. They also provide students tips on which topics may appear on the coming examination (called "question tipping"), and provide students some sample questions that are similar to those that appear in the examinations. Some cram school teachers in Hong Kong have become idolised and attract many students to take their lessons. These teachers are called "King of tutors (補習天王)".
Cram schools in Hong Kong are famous because of the stresses from Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). These cram school teaching includes practicing exam questions and grammar drills. Moreover, they provide model essays for English language exam. However, some schools are not licensed, and few educators have teaching qualifications. Their education is fun and appealing to the students but may be of little use in actually passing exams.
Numerous cram schools—referred to as coaching centers or tutorials in India—have sprung up all over the nation. Like in other countries, these tutorials have become a parallel education system with the aim of getting their clients through various competitive exams to enter prestigious institutions such as the Indian Institute of Science and Indian Institute of Technology . These exams are necessary to get into fields like research, engineering, medicine, law and into India's civil services.
Cram schools in Indonesia are called bimbingan belajar (learning assistance), often shortened into bimbel, and accepts students preparing for National Examinations before passing elementary school, junior high school, high school and college entrance exams. These cram schools teach students with exam simulations and problem-solving tutorials. Usually, these cram schools teach students by past exam questions. Bimbels in Indonesia offer lessons after school hours, weekends or public holidays.
"Grind schools", as they are known in the Republic of Ireland, prepare students for the Leaving Certificate examination. Competition for university places (the "points race") has intensified with recent years: students wishing to study medicine, law or veterinary science in particular must achieve five or six "A" grades to be accepted. Some grind schools, such as The Institute of Education, Ashfield College, Leinster Senior College and Bruce College, teach full-time. Many others offer weekend or night-time classes for students in subjects in which they struggle.
Cram schools, called juku, are special private schools common in Japan that offer lessons conducted after regular school hours, on weekends, and during school vacations.
Although the South Korean educational system has been criticized internationally for its rigorousness, it remains common for South Korean schoolchildren to attend one or more cram schools after their elementary school-day is finished. Some types of institutes include math, science, art, and English. English-language institutes are particularly popular.
Usually, in South Korea, the method of formal education centers on memorization. In a typical school, students stay in one classroom, while teachers travel between the classrooms. The students are taught Korean history, world history, Korean language, math, science, and foreign languages. South Korean students only have midterms and finals. They just have written tests with those subjects. Distinct feature of cramming teaching method in Korea is extra curriculum for tests. After school, generally, most students go to extra tutors, or "Hagwon", to supplement what they learned from the teachers who provide knowledge to the students; students memorize for tests and go to “Hagwon” for high grades.
In Malaysia, it is considered a norm for parents, especially those from the middle and upper class, to send schoolchildren for private tuition. Such services are often provided by tuition centers and/or private tutors. These tutors may be full-time tutors, schoolteachers, retirees, or even senior students. Many concerned parents choose to send their children to different tuition classes or schedules based on the child's entrance examination subjects. Some students may go to tuition for their weaker subjects, while many schoolchildren are increasingly known to attend at least 10 hours of private tuition every week. Correspondingly, the reputation and business of a tuition center often depends on venue, schedule, number of top-scoring clients, and advertising by word of mouth. It is not uncommon for private tutors to offer exclusive pre-examination seminars, to the extent where some tutors entice schoolchildren to attend such seminars with the promise of examination tips, or even supposedly leaked examination questions.
In Pakistan, it has become very common for parents to send their children to such institutions, popularly known as "academies", after school for further private coaching. It has become prevalent in almost all levels of education, from junior classes to colleges and, to a lesser extent, universities. Due to the near-universality of this system, it has become very difficult to compete successfully in almost any level of exams without them, despite the added burden on the students.
In Peru, cram schools, known as "Academias", are institutions which intensively prepare, in about a year, high school graduates to gain admission to either University ("Academia Pre Universitaria"), or Military Schools ("Academia Pre-Militar"). Cram Schools in Peru are not an admission requirement to enter to any Tertiary Institution; however, due to fierce competition, preparation in a cram school allows the candidate to achieve the highest mark possible in the entry exam and so gain entry to their desired Tertiary Institution. Cram Schools are independent of universities, however, of recent a post-high-school, pre-university school has started at some public and private universities in Peru. Under the name of CEntro PREuniversitario (name or acronym of university, for instance CEPREUNI or CEPREPUCP, after Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria or Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, commonly referred to as "the CEPRE" or "the PRE"). Some of these CEPREs offer automatic admission to their university to their students who reach a set level of achievement
In Singapore, it is very common for students in the local education system to be enrolled in cram schools, better known locally as tuition centers. Enrollment in these after-school tuition centers is extremely high, especially for students bound for national exams, such as the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), GCE O Levels, or the GCE A Levels. Students attending tuition centers on a daily basis is not unheard of in Singapore.
Cram schools in Taiwan are called buxiban (補習班 literally "supplementary learning class") and are not necessarily cram schools in the traditional sense. Almost any kind of extracurricular academic lesson could be termed buxiban, such as music, art, math, and science, even if students do not attend these classes specifically in order to pass an examination. It's a traditional belief that parents should send their children to all kinds of cram schools in order to compete against other talented children. Therefore, most children in Taiwan have a schedule packed with all sorts of cram school lessons. But when they study English, often with a "Native Speaker Teacher", they are actually studying at a private language school. Furthermore, since this study is ongoing, they are not "cramming" in the traditional sense of the word, and therefore, these language schools are not cram schools by strict definition.
Taiwan is well known for its cram schools. Nearly all students have some kinds of cram school to improve their skills. The meritocratic culture, which requires some skills testing for passports to college, graduate school, and even government service, is dominant on Taiwan's policy.
Cram schooling in Thailand has become almost mandatory to succeed in high school or in the entrance examinations of universities. Cram schools in Thailand, which are called tutoring institutes, tutoring schools, special tutoring, or special classes for example, are widespread throughout the country. Some of them do not have instructors in class rooms in a traditional sense; students receive their tuition via television network, which can either relay a live session from another branch or replay a pre-recorded session. Parents generally encourage their children to attend these schools and they sometimes can be perceived as pushy. The system of cram school is currently blamed for discouraging pupils from independent studies.
The main reason given by attending students is to increase understanding in their lessons. The secondary reason of junior high school students is to want to know faster techniques whereas the reason of senior ones is to prepare for exam. The most attended subjects are mathematics for juniors and English language for seniors. Average expense per course is about 2,001–3,000 baht.
Those who failed in their first year are called "Deksil". They will spend their whole year to study at home or at cram school for the better chance of going to top universities like Chulalongkorn University, Thammasart University, Kasetsart University, Mahidol University, or King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi.
The "dershane" (plural, dershaneler) system was the Turkish counterpart of cram schools. Turkish dershane system resembled Indian and Japanese systems. Students, typically in week-ends (in many instances, also after the school hours in the weekdays, especially in the last year), were drilled on various aspects of YGS, "Transition to Higher Education Examination" and LYS, "Undergraduate Placement Examination". They were cheaper than private academic schools in the same era.
In 2014, Turkish government enacted a law to forbid any kind of cram schools for students. The law was enforced on September 1, 2015. The law will make all cram schools to "transform into" private schools(they may choose transforming into academic middle schools, academic high schools or vocational schools, transformation into high schools are subsidised by Turkish government). Their study plans will be inspected by Ministry of National Education as they are normal schools. Cram schools are free to disband as well, on September 1, 2015. They are also allowed to transform into single-specialty preparation centers, since September 1, 2016. Supplemental education centers were used as a loophole, and they also were required to disband as of July 1, 2017 except for ones for rehabilitation purposes of disabled students.
Crammers first appeared in Britain after 1855 when the Civil Service Commission created the Administrative class of government employees, selected by examination and interview rather than patronage. Crammers offered to prepare men of 18 to 25 years old, for these examinations, mainly in classics, economics and foreign languages, which would provide entry to civil service or diplomatic careers. Terence Rattigan's 1936 play French Without Tears is set in a language crammer typical of the period. These civil service crammers did not survive the Second World War.
A number of businesses, called "tutoring services" or "test preparation centers", are colloquially known as cram schools. Such supplementary instruction is used in the United States as a way to assist students who have learning disabilities or are struggling academically in a particular subject. They are also used by some GED candidates and by many upperclassmen in high schools to prepare for the SAT, ACT, and/or Advanced Placement exams. Unlike their Asian counterparts, however, these schools tend to stray from rote memorization; in contrast, their curriculums are geared more towards vocabulary drills, problem sets, practicing essay composition, and learning effective test-taking strategies. College graduates and undergraduates near graduation will sometimes attend such classes to prepare for entrance exams necessary for graduate level education (i.e. LSAT, DAT, MCAT, GRE).
Review courses for the CPA examination (e.g., Becker Conviser, part of DeVry University) and the bar examination (e.g., Barbri) are often taken by undergraduate and graduate students in accountancy and law.
- "Academias pre universitarias - Universia".
- Napompech, Kulkanya (2011), "What Factors Influence High School Students in Choosing Cram School in Thailand" (PDF), 2011 International Conference on Business and Economics Research, IACSIT Press, Singapore: IPEDR, 16: 90–95, doi:10.7763/IPEDR, ISSN 2010-4626
- Zimmer, Ben (2 May 2014). "How the Letter "K" Landed a Turkish Columnist in Jail". Slate.
- "TR Act-Level Executive Order Nr.687 §5".
- The requirements for that kind of transition were more stringent than transforming respective cram school into a regular private school. They must have a delimited campus with specified minimum area per pupil, they must have a building used only for this purpose, and only secular education subjects are allowed.