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Although we’ve found hundreds of school idioms and idioms for learning in general, we’ve selected the 12 most commonly used nowadays. Here’s what each means, along with an example that will help you understand it more easily.

1. Learn Something by Heart

English native speakers use this idiom when they have to memorize something so well that they can say it without having to read it.

The teacher told us to learn this long poem by heart.
Police Academy (1984)

2. Put Your Thinking Cap On

If someone uses this idiom about learning, they think hard about something. It’s often used when someone tries to solve a problem.

The whole team should put their thinking cap on and try to figure out how to beat the competition.
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009)

3. Tell Tales Out of School

If someone says that you are telling tales out of school, it means you are simply gossiping or sharing secrets that will probably cause problems for someone else.

You should stop telling tales out of school about Erin if you want to keep her.
The Belstone Fox (1973)

4. Draw a Blank

You can use this idiom when you can’t remember or find something. It’s often used when someone asks you a question, and you can’t think of an answer.

I’m sure I have seen him before. I just can’t remember where. I’m drawing a blank.
The Show (2020)

5. Rack One’s Brain

If someone says they are racking their brain, it means they are struggling to remember or think of something.

She was racking her brain all day trying to think about how to write a good augmentative essay.
Daddy Longlegs (2009)

6. Copycat

This short idiom refers to someone that mimics or copies the actions of another person, and it usually has a negative connotation.

Robert is such a copycat—he always copies my homework.
Wild America (1997)

7. Crack a Book

If someone says you should crack a book, it means you should open up your book and start studying. However, this idiom is more commonly used with a negative.

Although he never cracked a book, he still managed to become a successful businessman.
Lifeguard (1976)

8. Brainstorm

This is a very popular idiom used when a group of people is supposed to give ideas on a particular topic. It’s used in classes, offices, and other places where people are supposed to think of new ideas and solve problems.

Let’s brainstorm ideas for the next science experiment.
The Last Word (2008)

9. You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Although this idiom is related to learning, you won’t likely hear it at school. People use it when they want to point out that someone has their own way of doing something for a long time and that nothing will change no matter what.

I’ve been teaching my grandma to use the computer for a whole month, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
And While We Were Here (2012)

10. Pass with Flying Colors

This idiom is used when you want to say that someone has done something extremely well, such as passing an exam. Although it’s considered a school idiom, you can hear it everywhere.

Congratulations, Tom! You’ve passed the final exam with flying colors.
Into the Forest (2015)

11. Bookworm

This short idiom describes a person who loves reading books.

Wow, you have a huge collection of books. I didn’t know you were a bookworm.
RoboCop (1987)

12. Class Clown

You use this idiom to describe a student that doesn’t pay attention in classes, disrupting them with pranks, jokes, or comments that draw everyone’s attention.

You’re such a class clown, Sam. All you do is make your classmates laugh and interrupt your teacher.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (2011)
EnglishIdioms & expressions