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Idiom

Make the Grade: Origin and Meaning

Meaning
To succeed or to reach the required standard (often used in the negative form – ‘didn’t/failed to make the grade’).
Origin
make the gradeAlthough this idiom is often used to describe academic achievements, the word ‘grade’ does not actually come from grades you get at school. ‘Grade’ in this phrase refers to a gradient or a slope.

The idiom originates from America when railways were being constructed in 1912 to link the east and west coasts. Careful calculations had to be made to ensure that the trains could handle the steep gradients being planned – in other words, they had to ensure that the trains could ‘make the grade’.
Examples
“Did you hear about Steven? He failed to make the grade and didn’t get into law school.”

“I wanted to be a professional footballer when I was younger but I wasn’t good enough and didn’t make the grade.”

Sharon: “How was the dinner party last night?”
Joanna: “We had a really good time but the food didn’t really make the grade.”