How to describe an unexpected or surprising advancement in someone's learning progress?

For example, in one teacher's class there are some students who were quite lazy in the first semester, but suddenly became extremely enthusiastic in the middle of the second semester. However, this sudden change did not happen with all the students. So, say, Jack is one of such "no-sudden-change" students. However, Jack was not at all a bad student. So, the teacher is writing in Jack's progress report in the end of the second semester:

Although Jack hasn't shown any surprising upsurge in his learning progress as was the case with quite a few other students in this class during this semester, he has nevertheless been quite diligent and active.

I guess the word "upsurge" wouldn't fit in here as, as I perceive, it is usually used in reference to many people (like "upsurge in sales"), rather than to one person.

"Advancement" would probably not work here either as advancement, as far as I understand, implies a more steady process rather than a sudden one.

So, what word would fit in here then?

  • 3
    Hasn’t made any dramatic leaps...
    – Jim
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 5:32
  • If the student has not shown any significant progress, a teacher will write in his report: "Jack has made steady progress" leaving out the "surprising" bit, because there is no surprise. Reports are individual not collective, but maybe this is different in your country. I would; however, rephrase your sample sentence to: "Jack has shown a surprising *upsurge in his learning during this semester and he has also been diligent and active."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 5:39
  • @Mari-LouA - I meant to make the teacher slightly compare Jack to other students. Please, see my edit that I made just now in the teacher's words.
    – brilliant
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 5:43
  • 1
    It's better now, but I still wouldn't compare Jack's progress with the rest of the class in a school report that is addressed to his parents. I'd only focus on the student's progress; strengths and weaknesses. But the sample sentence is clearer, so I suppose I had better shut up. :) EDIT: The term upsurge is NOT idiomatic in this situation.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 5:48
  • 1
    Jack continues to meet expectations in his learning progress.
    – Jim
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 6:00

4 Answers 4


... Jack hasn't shown any unexpected breakthrough in his learning progress ... Or, ... Jack's progress hasn't made an unusually significant advance in his learning progress as was the case ... Or, more formally, ... Jack hasn't achieved the notable large increase in his learning progress ...

  • 1
    I like "breakthrough" as it feels the most idiomatic to steps in learning. (light-bulbs go on etc)
    – Tom22
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 18:00

One way to describe it would be by using "improving by leaps and bounds".

By leaps and bounds (link to Collins dictionary)

  with unexpectedly rapid progess 

E.g. "her condition improved by leaps and bounds"


There has not been a quantum leap in his attainment.

quantum leap

a ... sudden increase, or dramatic advance


  • Wiktionary defines "quantum leap" as an "abrupt, extreme change". It does not specify that the change is positive.
    – Flater
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 13:38
  • @Flater I thought you recognised the authority of Collins? Commented May 12, 2017 at 14:04
  • Fair enough. I based myself on the top Google result for "quantum leap", ignoring the TV show and results pertaining to physics. it's not that I recognize a specific authority (Collins or other), it's that I believe language is a matter of societal agreement and usage. By that principle, the definition on the most referenced page would be the most correct.
    – Flater
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 14:06
  • It seems attractive, and over-prescriptiveness is senseless. But if one adopts the 'the majority must be right' policy wholesale, one is left abandoning one's national treasures to millions of English learners in more populous foreign countries. I don't think site policy here is to grant Wiktionary 'most authoritative' status. It has far less rigorous editorial standards than say Collins, AHD, OED [Wikipedia] Commented May 12, 2017 at 14:23
  • 1
    I'm saying that ELU isn't a free-for-all. There seem to be websites that are. Commented May 12, 2017 at 15:13

While I strongly support Edwin's "quantum leap", I will offer another possibility you could consider. First, I will caution you not to share the paragraph you included in your question with anyone. This type of comparison will not earn you any respect if expressed blatantly in this way. So I will assume that this is an artificially constructed context paragraph, made just for the purpose of getting your idea across here.

Although Jack hasn't shown any big swings in his learning progress [as was the case with quite a few other students in this class during this semester], he has nevertheless been quite diligent and active [and his steady progress has been gratifying to see].

swing (noun)

a change: *He experiences severe mood swings (= sudden changes from one extreme mood to another); the party only needs a five percent swing (= needs five percent of voters to change to supporting it) to win this election.* (Cambridge)

  • Very interesting! And very good suggestions. Thank you!
    – brilliant
    Commented May 21, 2017 at 4:29

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