Back to School | Common Expressions in English

As we enter the academic year, many students are returning to school for another year of learning. If you’re an English student, you’re probably already attending English classes, following Instagram pages, and watching YouTube videos and TikToks from your favorite English teachers. As we return to our studies, get ready to see a lot of phrases and abbreviations related to going back to school. We’ve made a list of all our favorites: 


Phrasal Verbs and Idioms

back to school english expressions

1. Hit the books

To “hit the books” is to begin studying in an enthusiastic and determined way. If you hit the books, you will improve your English skills in no time!

“I didn’t try much last year, but I’m going to hit the books this year and get amazing grades”. 

“Maria’s grades are really poor, I think it’s time for her to hit the books”


2. Pass with flying colors 

To “pass with flying colors” is to get a near-perfect result (almost 100%). We promise you that at Everywhere English, we will help you to pass your next exam with flying colors!

“I was so worried about the exam, but in the end, I passed with flying colors!”

“I got 57% in the exam, so I didn’t fail it, but I didn’t exactly pass it with flying colors”


3. To pull the finger out

To “pull the finger out” is a very informal way to talk about taking action (particularly if someone is being lazy!). Don’t worry, you won’t hear our teachers saying this to you!

“I can’t believe how bad Rebecca’s grades are- I think she needs to pull the finger out”. 

“My mum told me I need to pull the finger out and start studying more often”. 


4. To put your head down

“To put your head down” is to begin working in a quiet, determined way. If you put your head down and study English every day, you’ll surprise everyone with your amazing progress.

“I’m going to put my head down and hit the books this year in order to pass my exams”. 

“Did you see that Stephen passed his exams with flying colors? He really put his head down this year”. 

5. To learn (off) by heart

To learn something “by heart” or “off by heart”  is to learn or study something so much that you can memorize it without looking at your notes. For example, we might ask you to learn a couple of fixed expressions “by heart” in order to improve your fluency.

“I learned the lines to all the Twilight moves off by heart– my friends think I’m so annoying”. 

“Do you know the notes for today’s exam off by heart? I spent all night studying and I still don’t know what I’m talking about!” 


6. Pull an all-nighter

To “pull an all-nighter” is to stay up all night. We often use it to talk about studying. 

“I had to pull an all-nighter last night to study for today’s test- I didn’t know anything!”.

“It’s better to stay on top of your work all year rather than pulling an all-nighter the night before the exam”. 


7. To Cram

Similar to pulling an all-nighter, “to cram” for an exam means to study a lot of information in a very short time (particularly if you haven’t studied up to that point!)

“I think I might get a good result in the exam- I spent all this week cramming the information from the past few months!”

“It’s important to do your homework every day in order to avoid a cram session before the exam”. 


8. To know something inside out

To “know something inside out” is to have learned information extremely well, having studied and memorized it multiple times.

“Aren’t you worried about the exam tomorrow?” “Not really, I know the notes inside out”. 

“Of course, Liam got 100% in his writing exam; he knew the topics inside out!”


9. To Catch up (on)

To “catch up” on work is to revise work that you have missed, for example, due to illness, absence, or any other reason. You “catch up” to be at the same level as the other students.

“I missed a whole week because I was sick with the flu! I need to put my head down and catch up on all the material”. 

“Don’t worry about missing yesterday’s class, you’ll catch up quickly!” 


10. Fall behind (on)

To “fall behind”, or “fall behind on” something is basically the opposite of catching up. If you fall behind on your work, it means that you are not staying up to date with the information, and your amount of tasks is getting larger and larger. 

“I think I might have to take some extra English classes this month- I’ve really fallen behind!” 

“It’s true that she’s falling behind on her studies this year, but she can catch up quickly if she starts to work hard!”


11. Go over

To “go over” information is to revise and repeat it. Sometimes this means that you, as a student, are going over your notes, but it can also refer to the teacher, who might go over some difficult concepts to check to understand.

“Good morning, class! Today, let’s start by going over the grammatical structures we looked at yesterday”. 

“I feel confident for the speaking exam- I just have to go over my notes beforehand and I should be fine!”


12. Hand in 

To “hand in” something is to submit it. For example, we hand in assignments, projects, essays, etc. We often see this phrasal verb associated with the word “deadline”, which is the specific date chosen by which you need to complete a certain task.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to hand in my essay on time- I’m making such slow progress!”

“Mrs. Brown said that the deadline to hand in the essay is next Tuesday at 3 o’clock.” 


13. Drop out vs Dropout

To “drop out” means to abandon, or stop, your studies, and is usually used with the prepositions “out of”. The noun version, “dropout” refers to a person who has dropped out of their studies.

“I’m really not enjoying my science degree- I think I might drop out”.

“Did you hear about Elisa? She dropped out of college before Christmas!”

“It’s really unfair that everyone calls me a dropout when really, I just couldn’t afford the university fees!” 



Lots of teachers and born-and-bred parents will use abbreviations and not think twice about it! Here are some of the most common ones to help you catch up with the lingo:

english lingo cool student

1. B2S

B2S is a common abbreviation for “Back 2 School”! This is commonly seen in advertisements for school supplies, uniforms, new academic courses, etc. 

“Check out our new B2S stationary- 50% off!”

“I love my new backpack- I got it in the B2S section of the department store”


2. C.A.

C.A. is the abbreviation for a mode of assessment (how students are graded). C.A. stands for Continuous Assessment and means that students do not have to do exams, but will be consistently assessed through project work and assignments, leading to an “average” grade (the sum of their total grades)

“It’s great that they grade us through C.A.– I hate exams!”

“Luckily, I was able to get 90% overall as a result of C.A.


3. Dept. 

Dept. is short for “Department”, and is often seen in universities. For example, referring to departments of science, art, medicine, etc. Remember: This is an abbreviation that we only use in writing. When speaking, we use the full word.

“For all queries related to project work, please contact the Dept. of Art”

“The Dept. of Admissions has now closed for summer. We will return at the end of August”.



TBA/TBC stands for To Be Announced, and To Be Continued. These abbreviations are frequently associated with deadlines that have not been decided on yet. This is another one we only abbreviate in writing. 

“Grades will be determined by an end-of-year project. The date is TBA”.

“When is the deadline for the assignment?” “I’m not sure, it’s TBC”. 


Bonus! Back to School Slang Expressions

1. IDK

A very informal slang expression, IDK is an abbreviation for “I don’t know”. You probably shouldn’t use this when talking to your teacher!. We mainly use it when communicating via social media.

“What kind of topic do we have to talk about in the oral exam?” “IDK, hopefully, something easy!”

“When do we get the results from our written assignment?” “IDK, the teacher didn’t say”. 



Another slang expression, CBB or CBA stands for “Couldn’t be bothered”, or an even ruder version,  “Couldn’t be assed/arsed”! It basically means that you are too tired/uninterested, and you can’t find the energy or motivation to do something. Definitely don’t use this one in class!

“Do you want to get started on our group project this evening?” “To be honest, CBA”. 

“Why aren’t you studying for tomorrow’s exam?” “CBB”. 


So, which of these B2S expressions did you already know? And which were completely new to you? Make sure to challenge yourself to use some of these expressions in your next English conversation!


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