English studying and school vocabulary

Here are some useful words and phrases to talk about studying and school in English.

Studying for exams

take an exam / sit an exam = do an exam
“I’m taking an exam in accountancy next week.”

pass an exam = get a good enough mark to succeed
“I hope I’ll pass the Maths exam.”

get a good / high mark = do well in the exam
“He got a good mark in Spanish.”

get a bad / low mark = do badly in the exam
“He got a low mark in Statistics.”

pass with flying colours = pass with high marks
“Congratulations! You passed with flying colours!”

scrape a pass = only just pass
“She scraped a pass in Biology, but it was enough to get her in to University.”

fail an exam = not pass :((
“He failed all his exams because he didn’t study hard enough.”

Before the exam

How do you prepare for an exam? Do you plan regular revision times, or do it all last-minute?

take extra lessons / have private tuition / private coaching = pay for a personal teacher to help you with the subject
“She’s going to take extra lessons in French to help her pass the exam.”

revise = go over everything you’ve studied
“Tonight I’m going to revise the Cold War, then it’s the EU tomorrow night.”

swot up = an informal synonym for “revise”
“She’s swotting up for her test tomorrow.”

cram = try and force as much information into your head as possible
“I’ve got to cram for next week’s test.”

learn by heart / memorise = try to remember facts etc, without necessarily understanding them
“I need to learn the French irregular verbs by heart.”

During the exam

cheat / copy / use a crib sheet = use dishonest methods to try and pass the exam, such as copying someone else, or hiding notes so you can read them during the exam

What sort of student are you?

stellar = a star performer
hard-working = someone who tries
straight A = a student who always gets top marks
plodder = someone who works consistently, but isn’t particularly brilliant
mediocre = not bad, average
abysmal = terrible

British schools

In Britain, pupils wear a school uniform. As well as a particular skirt or pair of trousers, with a specific shirt and jumper, they also have a school PE kit (clothes that they wear to play sports at school).

Most children go to state-run primary and secondary schools. Schools are mostly mixed (girls and boys sit in the same classes), although there are some single-sex schools (schools for girls or boys only) and a few schools are private, where parents pay school fees.

Schools try to have clear rules for acceptable behaviour. For example, pupils (school children) have to show respect to their teachers. Often they have to stand up when their teacher comes into the classroom and say “Good morning”. If pupils break the rules, they can expect to be sent to the headmaster or headmistress, or to do detention, when they stay behind after the other pupils go home.

Most schools have lessons in the morning and in the afternoon. Pupils can go home for lunch, or have their lunch in school. Some have a packed lunch (where they bring lunch from home, such as sandwiches, fruit etc) and some eat what the school prepares. These “school dinners” vary in quality, and there has recently been a lot of media interest in providing healthy school dinners for pupils.

Pupils can expect to get homework for most subjects, and there are regular tests to check progress. At the end of each of the three school terms, teachers give each pupil a report. Schools also have a parents’ evening each year, when the parents can meet the teachers to discuss their child’s progress.

School isn’t just lessons and homework though. Most schools arrange a sports day once a year, as well as school trips to places of interest.