up to scratch: meaning and explanation

If something is up to scratch then it is at the required or acceptable standard.

This expression is usually used negatively, to say that something is not good enough, or does not meet the required standard. e.g. He tries hard, but I’m afraid his results just aren’t up to scratch.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: England (RP)

I’m that your isn’t .

About the sentence

…I’m sorry to say…

The phrase I’m sorry to say… is a useful way of introducing bad news. e.g. I’m sorry to say that your loan application has been turned down.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: Wales

chef decides dish then she won’t the kitchen.

About the sentence


This sentence is an example of a first conditional (If + present, will + verb), which is used to describe real possibilities in the present or future. e.g. If the weather gets better, I’ll go for a run this afternoon.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: Scotland

The very clear won’t put that isn’t .

About the sentence

…the boss has made it clear…

If you make something clear, you clarify something or make certain that something is properly understood. e.g. I would like to make it clear that I thought this deal was a terrible idea from the very start.

…She won’t put up with work…

The phrasal verb to put up with something means to tolerate or accept something. e.g. I don’t know why you put up with this much noise from your neighbours. I’d make a complaint if I were you.

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Can you remember an example of a time when you had to deal with something that just wasn’t up to scratch? What did you do?
  • Has there ever been a time when your work or performance wasn’t up to scratch?

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