Snake’s feet and burning eyebrows

The weird and wonderful world of Chinese idioms

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

If your eyebrows are on fire (火烧眉毛), don’t worry. It just means you are in a hurry. Just what is it about Chinese language idioms that are so weird? Certainly one could argue that all idioms are in fact meant to be a bit strange even within a native language, but there is something slightly mysterious when idioms are translated into another language – and this is not least when translating Chinese language idioms into English language ones.

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Rebels, bullies and resistance

The human instinct to support the underdog

As Ukraine faces its darkest hour, the world watches in horror from the sidelines hoping for a quick resolution. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, barely three years in the job, has proved to be more than able to manage, and above all, lead his country through this Russian invasion.

As of writing this article, against all the odds and at great human cost, it looks like the Ukrainian military – and its courageous people – have prevailed, as Russian troops pull back from the north and the west of the country to concentrate on the ‘special operation’ in the south east. Vladimir Putin has vastly underestimated the resolve of his smaller neighbour and its allies, despite the EU and NATO being disunited, and deeply naive about potential geopolitical threats in recent years.

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The Shop

This is the opening chapter from Seb Duncan’s novella Headcase: A Post-truth ghost story.
Fright Night by James Stave
This is the opening chapter from Seb Duncan’s novella Novák.

The warrens of tourist shops on Nerudova Street were starting to open for the day. Svetlana yawned as she pulled up the heavy metal shutter covering her small gift shop. She was proud of the business she had built up. It was considered the go-to destination for all things ghoulish and kitsch in the city; Trump and Putin masks jostled for space with gorilla suits and naughty nurse outfits. Everything one would need for a stag or hen weekend was there.

The horror masks were the real draw though, and they took pride of place in a long horizontal line above the front desk of the shop that faced onto the street.

However, something was different this morning. Svetlana couldn’t exactly place it. An almost imperceptible change. Air pressure? temperature? something. She looked up and shook her head. Probably too many Becherovkas last night. Hangovers were becoming more and more intolerable, and she put the feeling of unease down to the fact she had drunk far too much the previous night. She wiped a bead of sweat from her brow and decided to press on with her day.

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The future of IELTS in the land of Brexit …

The International English Language Testing System or IELTS for short, is the pre-eminent English exam for non-native speakers looking to emigrate to the UK, Canada or Australia. This is called The General IELTS exam. The Academic form of the IELTS exam is accepted for non-native speakers for university entry and further career advancement globally, including the US.

This site was created as a guide for English Language learners following the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum that took place on June 23rd 2016.

By a small majority, the country voted to leave the European Union and this decision will have major ramifications for the future of both European citizens planning to move to Britain and citizens that are already living here.

What impact will the decision have on European citizens’ English language requirements? Will there be more stringent testing? Will the IELTS band score 7 be changed in the light of Brexit? There has been talk of a new test being implemented similar to the Life In The UK test used for spouse visas.

The NMC has acknowledged  that the Band score 7 or higher is far too high for some healthcare professionals to get. With this in mind, the writing part has been lowered to 6.5 as long as the remaining parts reach a Band score 7.

Use the contact details on this site for any inquiries about IELTS exam preparation. We are here to help, so feel free to ask any questions you have about the IELTS exam.

Are you a nurse looking for a tutor to pass the IELTS exam?

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Causes and Solutions IELTS Writing Task 2 question

Some IELTS Writing Task 2 questions require you to think of the reason for something as well as coming up with solutions for it.

These questions are called Causes and Solution questions. They are also a type of two part question.

Here is an example of one.

Causes/Problem and Solution
Example: Crime rates tend to be higher in cities than in smaller towns. Explain some possible reasons for this problem and suggest some solutions.

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For a real model answer that would get a Band 7 score in this Writing Task 2 question, just email

Short IELTS writing questions – The Stinger

Most IELTS Writing Tasks 2 essay questions ask you to discuss an opinion or a topic. In a lot of cases the question will give you a context to help you answer the question.
An example of a standard Agree or Disagree question is shown below.

Some people think that scientists experimenting with animals in a laboratory is the only way we can guarantee new products will be safe for human use. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this opinion?

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Answering the wrong IELTS essay question

The IELTS Task 2 writing question can be very challenging. Not only is it a test of your grammar and vocabulary, it also tests your ability to analyze and answer the RIGHT question.

Students can sometimes write well on a topic but get a low score. This is usually because they are answering the WRONG question within the topic presented to them.

This is a real example from an essay a student gave me before we started his course.

Using a computer can have more negative effects than positive effects on your children. Do you agree or disagree?

2nd para
Some people believe that it is antisocial to be seen using your computer every day by your children. It is thought that this attitude can rub off on children and for them to copy a parent’s actions as they grow up.
Can you spot the mistake?

Critical Thinking for Essay Writing

Many students ask me how to write an essay. They say “I don’t know what to write!!!” or “I know what to write but it doesn’t come out the way I mean to!!!.”

A key part of how to improve these skills is called critical thinking. Critical thinking, according to The Oxford Dictionary is “The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.”

The ability to assess and make a balanced judgement AND write about it clearly is a key life skill and an important element when tackling an essay question such as the Task 2 IELTS essay question.

I can help you to think of ideas for your essay and how to organise those ideas into a coherent piece of writing.

See the courses section within this website or email

Do you need  help with brainstorming when you are writing an IELTS essay? Visit the courses page for all the tips you need

How to write an IELTS Task 2 essay. Planning is everything.

The IELTS Task 2 essay is a 250 word discursive writing test.

As well as testing your level of English, it assesses your general knowledge and ability to clearly argue, discuss and express an opinion about a given topic.

Examiners will give high scores to a well argued and above all, well organized essay. If your essay is well organized your point of view will be clearer. If your point of view is clearer it will get  higher band score.

I emphasize the importance of planning when writing a Task 2 IELTS essay and it works! Whether it’s a case of raising your score if you have already taken the exam, or if you are taking the test for the first time.

For help with writing your IELTS Task 2 essay or to get a higher band score for the writing test overall email

For tips on how to improve Cohesion and Coherence in your IELTS essay visit the courses page here