Seeing as a large number of schoolchildren in the UK are currently in the midst of external exams – whether that’s GCSEs, AS levels or A2s – a blog post covering idioms about exams seemed to be the obvious contender for the next in my series.
As you would expect, most of the sayings in this list are focused around effort, success or failure.
For those of you like me who are interested in the etymology behind the idioms, I’ve also included some links to more information.
English idioms about exams: studying and results
Ace a test = obtain a very high score or an excellent result
Bone up on = study hard, usually in preparation for a test
Burn the candle at both ends = stay up late into the night and then get up early next day to carry on working
Burn the midnight oil = work late into the night
Come up trumps (or turn up trumps) = unexpectedly produce just what’s needed at the last moment
Dead cert = something that’s certain to happen or be achieved
Draw a blank = fail in attempts to remember something
Hit the books = begin to study hard
In a brown study = daydreaming or deeply contemplative
In the bag = virtually guaranteed; success assured (derived from the ‘game bags’ used to collect small game on hunting trips)
Keep your nose to the grindstone = apply yourself conscientiously to your work
Knuckle down = focus on a project or a task
Learn something off by heart = learn something in such a way that you can say it from memory
Make a pig’s ear of = botch something up; make a complete mess of something
Make the grade = be satisfactory and of an expected level
Moment of truth = critical or decisive time when you find out if your efforts have succeeded (i.e. results day)
On course for = likely to achieve something
Pass with flying colours = do very well in a test or exam
Rise to the occasion = manage to do something successfully in difficult circumstances
Sail through = succeed in doing something without difficulty.
Study animal = someone who studies hard (the opposite of a party animal)
If you enjoyed this collection of idioms about exams, you might also be interested in my post on school idioms.
Over to you
As usual, I learnt a couple of new idioms while putting this list together. I certainly hadn’t heard of “in a brown study” or a “study animal” before.
How about you? Any phrases here that were new to you? Or any idioms about exams that you think should be added to the list?
(students image courtesy of Ambro via Freedigitalphotos.net)