School Vocabulary about Success

brainstormIt is natural to want to do your very best. Unfortunately, complicated expressions can sometimes get in the way. Lucky for you, we are here with this set of school vocabulary about success so that you can concentrate more on your studies than idioms!

to put someone’s thinking cap on – a figurative expression used to describe someone who is thinking very hard

  • Okay, team, the new advertising slogan is due next week and we are absolutely nowhere. Let’s put our thinking caps on and get this done!

to brainstorm – to deliberately think of new or unusual ideas, typically with a group

  • The first step in effective planning is to brainstorm for ideas.

to turn (something) around – to recover from a poor position

  • Don’t lose hope, boys, we can still turn this thing around!

Note: The verb rally has a similar meaning.

to pull off – to succeed when it seemed unlikely

  • Although our team was behind in the first half they rallied and pulled off a last-minute victory.

an A for effort – to receive recognition for one’s participation more than one’s skill

  • Well, Denise, you didn’t win but you did finish the race, so you get an A for effort.

Note: Participation trophies (or “a trophy for participating”) are another way to reward people for finishing what they start.

to make the grade – to earn a high score (often by a wide margin)

  • If you study hard you have nothing to worry about – you’ll make the grade without a problem.

to pass with flying colors – to make an extremely high (or perfect) score

  • Congratulations, you passed your driver’s test with flying colors.

cap and gown – the unique clothing that is traditionally worn by people during their graduation ceremonies.

Don’t Forget: Regular visits to our school vocabulary homepage can help improve English mastery!

Improvements in the Panamanian Educational System

panamaWith 4% of all global trade passing through its canal, The Republic of Panama boasts the two busiest ports in the world as well as one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas. Despite this, only recently have long-standing issues with both quality and access begun to effect improvements in the Panamanian educational system.

Traditional Panamanian education comprises three stages (primary, secondary and tertiary) and schooling is free through the secondary level. Then the system splits into an academic track and a vocational track, with more students choosing the latter. Public education is non-profit, serving 87% enrolled students. Rising enrollment reflects increased demands for skilled labor, but quality problems linger and have resulted in a mismatch between educational offerings and market needs. Rural and urban areas show wide divisions in access and delivery of education services, adding to inequality. Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations also suffer discrimination, high poverty and low political representation, further reinforcing barriers to their educational achievement. In recognition of these problems, in recent years the following efforts have been undertaken:

  • In 2010, in a new evaluation process was set up for universities by the fledgling National Council for University Evaluation and Accreditation of Panama (CONEAUPA). The changes emphasized skills training, curriculum unification and quarterly terms during the academic year. They also established a nation-wide team to update curricula.
  • The government has increased student financial support, quadrupling grants from 2009 to 2013; thus pushing demand for university places in a wider range of study areas. However, areas such as health sciences and export and logistics still face under-enrollment. Panama plans to establish a national, PISA-aligned assessment system to measure learning outcomes.
  • The 2014 program “Panamá Bilingüe” aims to implement a fully-bilingual education system in twelve years, improving English skills among both teacher and student populations, and sending on average 2,000 teachers yearly to immersion programs in the US, the UK, Canada and Barbados.


Through these efforts and several bilateral agreements with countries like France, Jamaica, Morocco, Trinidad and Tobago and Singapore, Panama envisions becoming an international education hub in the Americas and has set special migration regimes for educational establishmentsin order to attract foreign students, academics and researchers.

Idioms in Depth: English Pig Idioms

pigA number of English pig idioms exist in no small part due to their colorful characters. As a result, these expressions are as varied as the creatures themselves but if you pay close attention you will be able to mind your p(ig)s and q’s!

As fat as a pig – fat, obese, or otherwise overweight

  • Henry VIII was as fat as a pig but had six wives in his lifetime – it’s cleary very good to be the king!

To (be like) cast(ing) pearls before swine – the squander or otherwise waste resources on an unappreciative person

* Going the extra mile for Jamie would be like casting pearls before swine – he won’t notice, much less appreciate it.

Note: This expression is variously rendered as a verb or a comparison (as above).

To go hog-wild – to behave in a savage or uncivilized way

  • Spring Break is a time when many college students go hog-wild while on vacation.

To go whole hog – to do everything possibility or to indulge in every luxury

  • We need secure this contract so we plan to go whole hog in our proposal.


  • Since this is our only vacation this year we plan to go whole hog and try everything!

Note: The second definition has a meaning similar to another hog idiom: to live high on the hog. Both invoke the idea of extravagant indulgence.

In a pig`s eye – never

  • You want me to apologize for something I didn’t do? In a pig’s eye!

Note: The small size of a pig’s eye explains both the origin of this idiom and its meaning.

Piggy bank – a small container that (primarily) children use to hold money

  • My daughter heard that I needed to buy a new car so she brought me her piggy bank. It couldn’t have had more than a few dollars but it was absolutely adorable!

Note: Not all vessels that hold money are piggy banks; the stereotypical form is made of clay and shaped like its namesake.

(To Ride) piggyback– to be transported on someone’s back and shoulders.

  • When I was a little boy there was nothing I liked more than riding piggyback on my father`s shoulders.

If you haven’t had enough of our idioms series you can always find more on our dedicated idioms homepage.

Speak English Like an Australian: Common Australian Idioms

australiaIdioms are unique, fixed expressions that are natural for native speakers  but devilishly difficult to translate from one culture to another. In fact, in English many idioms are often unique to a country and following list of Common Australian Idioms should give you some insight into some of the most common idioms used Down Under.

To talk the legs off an iron pot
Someone who talks a lot or excessively.

  • My grandpa can talk the legs of an iron pot.

Note: ‘Talk the legs off an iron chair’ is also used and means that same thing.

To pull somone’s leg
To trick or to fool someone.

  • I don’t believe what you are saying. You’re pulling my leg!

Note: this is also a way of saying to someone that they are joking.

Piece of cake
Something that is easy to do.

  • That maths test was a piece of cake.

To spit the dummy
To throw a tantrum and lose one’s temper. Often accompanied with an outburst of anger. The phrase to ‘have a hissy fit’ is similar.

To feel under the weather
To say that someone is tired, weak, sick or unwell.

  • I am feeling under the weather. I cannot be bothered going to the gym to workout today.

To hit the nail on the head
To get something right or to do something very effectively and efficiently.

To speak of the devil
This phrase is said when someone appears just after you have been talking or speaking about the same person.

To hit the road
To leave, depart or to begin a journey.

  • We will be waking up early tomorrow, as we need to hit the road before sunrise.

Note: In Australia, it is common to say this as you depart on a journey, adventure or road trip.

Beat around the bush
When someone is talking and doesn’t get straight to the point.

  • Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you want!

Note: The opposite expression is ‘to cut to the chase.’

Visit our Different Englishes page for extra practice!

Getting Comfy – Relaxing With Phrasal Verbs

relaxingLife moves fast, and it feels like every day is shorter than the last. Sometimes, we just have to stop ourselves and relax. So pull up a chair and get comfy (comfortable) because that’s what today’s phrasal verbs are all about!

Kick back/ – to relax

  • Man, when I get to the beach,I don’t want to do anything at all. I just want to kick back, open a beer, and get a tan.

Note: Unlike other phrasal verbs that can be combined into a compound noun with a related meaning, when “kick” and “back” are put together (as kickback), it refers to money paid to a politician in exchange for a favor, i.e. a form of corruption. See the example below:

  • The mayor is accused of taking kickbacks from construction companies that received government contracts over the last three years.

Settle in/ – to become comfortable in new surroundings

  • It took me a while to settle in when I started living at my girlfriend’s apartment. I wasn’t used to sharing my room.

Hang out/ – to spend time relaxing (and/or socializing with friends)

  • We were just hanging out at my buddy’s house when the cops came out of nowhere and arrested my friend for stealing a car.

Note: This phrasal verb is, like all of the verbs in today’s blog entry, very informal. It is often used in invitations between friends who later decide on what to do. It can be combined to form the noun “hangout” which usually refers to a place where people go to “hang out.”

Chill out/ – to relax or become calm, reduce tension

  • I’m losing my mind. I am so worried about this English test that I can’t sleep! I need to chill out.

Note: This phrasal verb is often used as a command, where it’s meaning is similar to “calm down,” as in the following example:

  • Ok, everyone needs to just chill. The pizza guy is just a little bit late. I know you’re hungry but it’s not the end of the world!

Feeling relaxed now? Great! It’s the perfect time to take a look at our main phrasal verbs page and get some more practice!