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Date: Jan 28 2008

Topic: Idioms and Slang

Author: dignified


A for effort

- recognize that someone tries hard to do something even though they may not be successful

The students received an A for effort for their work on the class project.

above average

- better or higher than average

The boy received above average marks in all subjects except history.

as easy as ABC

- very easy

Learning how to use a computer was as easy as ABC for the children.

back to basics

- an approach in education which uses traditional ideas or methods that have been successful in the past

The teacher believed that back to basics was important in her classroom and the parents were happy with the results.

below average

- worse or lower than average

Most members of the class were below average in the math test.


- someone who reads a lot

My sister is a bookworm and is always reading a book.

brainstorm something

- try to develop an idea or think of new ideas

The students got into groups to brainstorm ideas for the school play.

call the roll

- call the names of students on a roll and usually expect them to answer if they are there

Every morning before the class started the teacher called the roll.

cap and gown

- the special cap called a mortarboard and the robe that is worn during academic ceremonies such as graduation

All of the students wore a cap and gown to the graduation ceremony.

catch up to (someone or something)

- move fast or work hard to reach someone or something that is ahead of you

After my illness I had to study very hard to catch up to the rest of the class.


- someone who copies the work of another

The children called the girl a copycat when they discovered that she had copied part of the test from another student.

count noses

- count the number of people

The teacher stopped to count noses several times during the field trip.

cover a lot of ground

- complete a lot of material in a class or course

We covered a lot of ground during the first month of the science class.

cow college

- a school where farming/agriculture is studied

My cousin plans to go to a cow college when he finishes high school.

crack a book

- open a book to study (usually used in the negative)

I did very well in the course even though I didn't crack a book until the last week of classes.

crank out a paper

- write out a paper in a mechanical way

I had to crank out a paper almost every week to pass the course.

cut class

- not go to class

I decided to cut class in order to study for my geography test.

draw a blank

- get no response from someone when you ask them a question

The teacher drew a blank when she asked about the boy's plans for the weekend.

drop out of school

- stop attending school

My friend dropped out of school when he was seventeen and began to drive a truck.

eager beaver

- someone who works very hard and is very enthusiastic

The young girl was an eager beaver and always came to class before the other students.

fill in the blanks

- supply the missing words or information on a test or other exercise

We had to fill in the blanks for most of the questions on the test.

flunk out

- fail a course or fail out of school

The boy was very smart but he always flunked out of his language class.

from the old school

- having ideas that were popular in the past but which are no longer popular or common

My grandmother was from the old school and always made her children make their own lunches and walk to school.

get credit for (a course)

- receive official recognition and credits after passing a course

I was able to get credit for the course even though I had taken a similar course before.

get through (a course or set of material)

- finish (a course or set of material)

The boy was a very good student and quickly got through every course that he started.

goof off

- waste time

My sister spent most of the week goofing off and was not prepared for her test.

have one's nose in a book

- be reading a book

The boy loves to read and always has his nose in a book.

higher education

- education after graduating from high school - usually college or university

The government has recently invested a lot of money in higher education.

hit the books

- begin to study hard

After playing all weekend I had to hit the books on Sunday evening.

honor roll

- a list of people/students with exceptional achievements

My neighbor was on the honor roll during his last year in high school.

in pen

- written or signed with a pen

The teacher asked the students to make sure that they wrote the essay in pen.

in pencil

- written or signed with a pencil

I wrote the test in pencil so that I could erase my mistakes easily.

Ivy League

- a small group of older and famous eastern United States colleges and universities such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton

Several of the company executives had gone to an Ivy League school.

know one's ABCs

- know the alphabet or the most basic things about something

The students worked hard and had a good teacher and soon everyone knew their ABCs very well.

learn by heart

- memorize something so you can repeat it without thinking

The children learned all of the songs by heart for the school play.

learn by rote

- learn or memorize something without thinking about it

We learned many verbs by rote in the foreign language class.

live in an ivory tower

- not be aware of the realities of everyday life

The university professors lived in an ivory tower and had no idea what was going on around them.

make the grade

- be satisfactory and of an expected level

My final assignment didn't make the grade and I was forced to do it again.

meet the requirements (for something)

- fulfill the requirements (for something)

The young woman was unable to meet the requirements to enter medical school.

off campus

- at a different location than the grounds of a college or university

Most of the students went to a restaurant off campus when they had the chance.

old boy network

- the situation where people (usually men) who went to the same school help each other get good jobs

It was an old law firm and being part of an old boy network was necessary to get a job there.

on campus

- located on the grounds of a college or university

There was a small bank on campus which many of the students used.

pass with flying colors

- pass something easily and with a high score

I was able to pass the science test with flying colors.

play hooky

- not go to school when you should

The boys played hooky and went to the video game center for the afternoon.

publish or perish

- university professors often have to publish books or articles in journals or they will not be successful in their jobs at the university

As a university professor his father wrote many scientific papers. He was forced to publish or perish.

put one's thinking cap on

- start thinking in a serious manner

The boys put on their thinking caps and tried to think of a new name for the school newspaper.

read out loud

- read something so that other people can hear you

The students each had a chance to read out loud from the book of poems.

read to oneself

- read without saying anything so that other people cannot hear you

I spent the morning in the library reading to myself.

read through something

- read all of something

I read through the test briefly before I started to answer any questions.

school of hard knocks

- the ordinary experience of learning from work and daily life

She left school early and began to learn about life in the school of hard knocks.

school of thought

- a particular way or a philosophy of thinking about something

There are many schools of thought related to the different ways to learn a foreign language.


- in the lower grades of school children bring something interesting to show to the rest of the class

The little girl brought in a turtle shell from her holiday to show-and-tell at school.

show of hands

- raise hands in a classroom or other group to vote or see what people think about something

After a show of hands the class voted to go on a field trip the next week.

(in) single file

- stand in a line with one person behind the other

The students lined up in single file before they entered the auditorium.

take attendance

- record the names of persons who are attending school or something similar

After our teacher took attendance we began to do our math lesson.

take the roll

- call the names of students in an attendance book and expect them to answer if they are there

The teacher took the roll and then we started the lesson.

teach one's grandmother to suck eggs

- try to tell or teach someone who knows more than you do how to do something

Teaching some of the children how to use a computer is like teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. Many of them know more than I do.

teach someone a lesson

- do something to someone in order to punish them for their bad behavior

My friend was always late so I taught her a lesson and left our meeting place before she had arrived.

teacher's pet

- the teacher's favorite student

My sister was always the teacher's pet when she was in the first grade at school.

the three R's

- the three basic skills for a basic education - reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic

My father studied in a small country school where they studied the three R's and almost nothing else.


- the relations (often bad) between a town and its people and the university and university students who are located in that town

There were town-and-gown conflicts every year around graduation time when many parties were held for the new graduates.

university of life

- learning from daily life and work rather than going to university

My grandfather began to work on the family farm when he was fourteen and learned everything from the university of life.

work one's way through college

- work at a job to help pay for your college or university expenses

My brother worked his way through college at the local supermarket.



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United States

[url=http://www.englishbaby.com/lessons/4415/member_submitted/education_and_school_idioms]Thank you for sharing![/url]

12:54 PM Dec 06 2017 |



Hi. Thank you for this nice list of idioms! This is very helpful. In fact, i use some of them most of the time and some, i’m not very familiar with. However, some people dont understand the meaning of these idioms and sometimes, it is taken literally and out of context so I really have to explain that what i’m saying is just an idiom and shouldn’t be taken literally.

Do you think as time passes by, these idioms will be forgotten?? Because some of these idioms are pretty rare. And can the meaning of these idioms be changed through time? Overall, this post is very informative and useful!

07:47 AM Oct 15 2015 |



A very informative post for me. I dont actually use all of this on a daily basis but it is nice to have a list of idioms that i can recall.  The idioms are well used from the first world countries and its perpetually used everyday based on my experience living in the states. Expressions like “youre the apple of my eye” “Actions speak louder than words” are the mainstream idioms that i can remember but this list doesn’t have those common figuratives which makes this worth reading to enhance more linguistic knowledge. 

07:34 AM Oct 15 2015 |



United States

Nice cool LOL.

02:25 PM May 20 2015 |



Iran, Islamic Republic Of

nice :)

04:47 PM Apr 18 2015 |

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