Cram school

Cram school
Taiwanese students studying English in an evening cram school

Cram schools are specialized schools that train their 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 usually specialise in a particular subject or subjects. Cram schools that prepare students for high school and university entrance examinations are also frequently specialised to particular schools, and the staff may have access to previous years' examinations. Special cram schools that prepare students who have failed their entrance examinations (known as rōnin in colloquial Japanese) to take them the following year are also common. Such students may spend up to eighteen hours a day studying to retake their tests. Students who attend regular after-school cram schools may study four hours or more.

As the name suggests, the aim of a cram school is to impart as much information to its students as possible in the shortest period of time. The goal is to enable the students to "parrot," that is, to unthinkingly repeat, information that is deemed necessary for particular examinations. Cram schools are sometimes criticised, along with the countries in which they are prevalent, for the lack of training their students' critical thinking and analysis. However many believe that they are necessary to compensate for the formal education system's inability or unwillingness to address particular individual problems.[citation needed]

By country


Cram schools are called "Cursinhos" (lit. Little Courses) in Brazil and are attended by students who will be taking a vestibular exam.


Cram schools are popular in China due to the importance of standardised exams, such as:

  • High school entrance exam (after junior high, at 9th year of school).
  • The National College Entrance Examination, 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 important in job search. 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 been intensified, partially because many new college graduates fail to find satisfactory jobs and seek post-graduate education instead.


5% of the French students go into classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles (prep school) for two years which prepare to the entrance exams of prestigious schools, like École Normale Supérieure, HEC Paris, École polytechnique or Télécom ParisTech.

Hong Kong

  • Cram schools in Hong Kong are called tutorial schools. These cram schools put focus on the two major public examinations in Hong Kong, namely HKCEE and HKALE, 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)".


  • Like in other Asian countries education plays a very great role in the lives of the young. And given the intense competition that young Indians experience because of the country's huge population, the need for a degree takes on a whole new perspective. Numerous cram schools—referred to as tutorials in India—have sprung up all over the nation. Like elsewhere here too 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 Technology. These exams are necessary to get into not only fields like engineering, medicine and law but also into India's civil services.


  • "Grind schools", (possibly connected with Gradgrind, the headmaster in Dickens's novel Hard Times) 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 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 common in Japan, especially eikaiwa English as a foreign language schools.


  • It is common for Korean school-children to attend one or more institutes after their elementary school-day is finished. Some types of institutes include math, science, art, and English. English-language institutes are particularly popular.


  • 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").[1]

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 in Taiwan are called buxiban (補習班 "tutorial 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.

Cram schools in Taiwan also focus on motivating students to study harder. They prepare many hand-made posters and print motivational messages on study notes.


  • Cram schooling in Thailand has become almost mandatory to succeeding in high school. Cram schools in Thailand are called "Special Tutoring" or "Special Classes". They are widespread throughout Thailand. Mostly cram schools do not contain class rooms in a traditional sense. Students received their tuition via television sets, which can either relay a live session from another location or replaying 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 "dershane" system is the Turkish counterpart of cram schools. Students, typically in week-ends (in many instances, also after the school hours, especially in the last year), are drilled on various aspects of YGS, "Transition to Higher Education Examination" and LYS, "Undergraduate Placement Examination".

United Kingdom

  • 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, mainly in classics, economics and foreign languages, for success in these examinations and 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.

Crammers in England and Wales today are almost entirely concerned with preparing teenagers for A-level and GCSE exams, to improve their examination results and get admission to university. Some are residential; few if any have sports facilities. All are expensive, compared even to prestigious public schools such as Winchester and Eton, which also provide many extra-curricular activities. The English cram school, on the other hand, achieves results through focus on academic work.

United States

  • The phrase "cram school" is considered pejorative in the United States[citation needed], so similar businesses are called "tutoring services" or "test preparation centers." Some well-known businesses of this type are Kaplan and Sylvan Learning. Generally, such supplementary instruction is only[citation needed] 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[2] and by 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 and more towards vocabulary drills, 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, 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.[citation needed]


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