It’s a Hard Nut to Crack Idiom

Idioms for IELTS: Tough Nut to Crack

“It’s a hard nut to crack”  or “it’s a tough nut to crack” is a great expression. This is used in two different situations:

  1. talking about a problem that is difficult to solve
  2. talking about a person who is difficult to understand

tough nut to crack

Model Sentences with Idiom

See the examples below for how this expression can be used:

  1. The problem of turning the failing health system around is a tough nut to crack.
  2. IELTS is a really hard nut to crack. There’s so much to learn and so many challenges to face in the test.
  3. He’s not the most forth-coming of people and can be quite secretive. He’s been described as a tough nut to crack and I’d have to agree.
  4. I can’t find any reasonable solution for the problem. It certainly is a tough nut to crack. I think everyone would agree.
  5. She’s been working here for over 5 years now but still doesn’t really socialise with anyone or even talk to anyone much for that matter. She’s a hard nut to crack.

Can you add any other model sentences with this idiom? Post them in the comments box below.

Note: This expression is an idiom and should not be used in academic writing. However, it’s very good to use it in your IELTS speaking test.

Tip: In sentence 2 above, the words “many challenges to face” are also idiomatic. You don’t have to use actual idioms to use idiomatic language. So, don’t over load your answers with idioms – just use the odd one or two in a natural way.

All the best


IELTS Agree Disagree Essay Sample Answer

For an IELTS agree disagree essay you can either agree with the statement, disagree with the statement or give your opinion which contains a balanced approach to the issues in the statement. However, this does not mean you can discuss both sides impartially – you must give a clear opinion to get a good score in the criterion of Task Response which is 25% of your marks. Another name for an agree disagree essay is an opinion essay or argumentative essay. 

IELTS Opinion Essay Question

The growing number of overweight  people is putting a strain on the health care system in an effort to deal with the health issues involved. Some people think that the best way to deal with this problem is to introduce more physical education lessons in the school curriculum. To what extent do you agree or disagree?

IELTS Agree Disagree Model Essay

Below is a model answer for the above Opinion Essay: Agree/Disagree Essay. 

Owing to the problems which a growing population of overweight people cause for the health care system, some people think that the key to solving these issues is to have more sport and exercise in schools. I completely agree that this is the best way to tackle the issue of deteriorating public health in relation to weight.

Firstly, dealing with the issues surrounding obesity and weight problems is best solved by taking a long term approach and introducing more sport and exercise in schools. This method will ensure that the next generation will be healthier and will not have such health problems. At the moment, the average child in the West does sport possibly twice a week, which is not enough to counteract their otherwise sedentary lifestyle. However, by incorporating more sports classes into the curriculum as well as encouraging extracurricular sports activities, they will undoubtedly become fitter and more active.

Another point to consider is that having more sports lessons for children in schools will probably result in children developing an interest in exercise which might filter through to other members of their family and have a longer lasting effect. In other words, parents with sporty children are more likely to get involved in sport as a way of encouraging their children. By both parents and children being involved, it will ensure that children grow up to incorporate sport into their daily lives. This is certainly a natural and lasting way to improve public health.

In conclusion, to deal with an increasing population of unfit, overweight people, changing the lifestyle of the coming generation by introducing sport in schools is the easiest and most effective method to use.

Download a PDF copy of the model essay below: IELTS Agree Disagree Model Essay


  • Make sure your introduction is not too long. Just paraphrase the essay question and present your opinion.
  • Make sure your opinion is consistent from introduction to conclusion.
  • Each body paragraph presents a reason for your view.
  • Your body paragraphs should explain your views with relevant detail.
  • Never miss the conclusion. Keep it short, but make sure you write it!
  • It is possible to have a partial agreement for this essay where you think sports lessons are a good solution, but there is another more effective solution.

Advanced IELTS Writing Task 2 Lessons

Are you struggling to hit band 7 or above? My Advanced Lessons are the answer to high band score techniques. You can also find a useful “Ideas for IELTS Essay Topics” e-book to help you with ideas and vocabulary.

IELTS Model Essays


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Body Language Vocabulary

Here is a list of body language communication and a free video watch with extra vocabulary. There are many examples of how body language is a form of communication. Body language is used in every country and culture throughout the world.

Why is body language important to understand?

  •  Body language is used to assess people’s characters. It is one of the first ways we assess a stranger’s character.
  • Body language is used to communicate directly with someone when language is not possible.
  • Body language is commonly used and assessed at work and interviews.
  • Body language is an essential part of friendships and relationships.
  • Body language can lead to great misunderstanding between different cultures.

The video tutorial below gives some of the most common examples of body language. More examples are listed under the video.

Body Language Vocabulary: Video Tutorial

A great video to learn some vocabulary for body language communication. A fun video to show that learning vocabulary can be fun!!!

List of Body Language

Below is a list of body language that is common in the west with the common meaning.

Facial Expressions

  • Avoiding eye contact = shy, worried, lying
  • Crinkling nose = disgust
  • Deadpan face (without any expression) = emotionless or hiding feelings
  • Direct eye contact = confidence
  • Eyes staring into the distance = dreamy, not concentrating
  • Pressing lips together (tight lipped) = annoyed, angry
  • Raised eye brows = doubtful, disbelieving
  • Smiling = friendly

Physical Actions

  • Arms behind back, shoulders back = confidence
  • Arms crossed = defensive or insecure but sometimes it means being angry
  • Bowing (bending at the waist) = greeting someone new (in some countries)
  • Biting nails = nervous
  • Blushing (going red in the cheeks) or stammering (speaking with hesitations and repeated letters) = embarrassment
  • Eye rubbing = tired or disbelieving
  • Hands covering gaping mouth = scared
  • Putting arms up with palms facing forward = submission
  • Scratching one’s head = confused
  • Shaking the head = negative, no
  • Shrugging shoulders (moving shoulders up and down) = don’t know, doubt, confused
  • Stroking one’s chin = thinking deeply
  • Nodding head =  agreement, yes
  • Firm handshake = strong and decisive / limp handshake = weak

International Problems with Body Language

Nodding head = In some countries, it means “yes” but in other countries it means “no”. Likewise, a shaking head means “no” in some countries but “yes” in others.

Silence = In the West, this can be negative and be a problem between people. However, in other countries, such as China or Japan, it can be a sign of agreement or femininity.

Personal space = In countries, such as England, people should stand a respectful distance from each other but in other countries, such as Spain, people touch each other when talking. In Japan, the person space is often bigger between people than in England. Respectful space between people changes depending on countries.

Eye Contact = In the West, this is a sign of confidence and is important when listening actively to someone. On the other hand, there are countries where this might be a sign of aggression and confrontation.

Practice Using Body Language Vocabulary

Fill the gaps of these sentences with the suitable words:

1. I had no idea what she was talking about. Then suddenly she asked a question that I couldn’t understand so I just ………….. my shoulders and walked away.

2. My boss always tells tall stories. Yesterday he came to work with another unbelievable story but the only response I could give was to ……….. my eyebrows.

3. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being late. Once I was in a really long meeting at work and by the time we finished I was late to meet my friend. During the meeting, I could feel myself getting impatient and my foot started ……………. on the floor.

4. I can’t stand watching films at the cinema because you can’t relax like you can in private, particularly when watching an action movie full of surprises and shocks. When there is a really sudden unexpected scene, my eyes ………. and my mouth ……… open which I find really embarrassing in public.

5. I remember once I was late for an appointment. When I arrived, which was over 1 hour late, I ………….  deep red and stammered an apology.


  1. shrugged (the answer isn’t “shrugged off” because that means to get rid of – usually a feeling – and does relate to shoulders)
  2. raise
  3. tapping (the answer isn’t stamping because stamping is when you are very angry not impatient)
  4. widen    gapes  (don’t forget the “s”)
  5. blushed

Using vocabulary in IELTS

Q) In what way is body language a form of communication?

A) Well, people use body language to send a message or to indicate something so it is definitely a way to communicate. For example, when people raise their eyebrows, it often means they are incredulous or disbelieving and when they tap their foot on the floor, you know they are impatient. So, using facial expressions and physical actions can communicate things to other people.

Q) Do you think it is possible to misunderstand someone’s body language?

A) Yes, definitely. When someone avoids your eye, it is possible to think that they are avoiding your question and don’t want to talk to you. But really, it might be that they are just shy. So, it’s quite easy to grasp the wrong meaning in people’s actions.

Q) Describe a time you were late for an appointment.

A) I remember, about one month ago, organising to meet someone in the town center at 9pm. Unfortunately, I was delayed because of traffic and didn’t arrive until about 9.30pm. My friend was really mad. She had her arms crossed and was tapping her foot impatiently on the ground. I was so embarrassed and blushed a lot. I stammered my apology but felt really uncomfortable because she was staring at me with angry eyes. Anyway, we sorted out our differences and have been really good friends ever since. (this is an example of part of a talk for speaking part 2 – add details and descriptions)

Main IELTS Pages

Develop your IELTS skills with tips, model answers, lessons, free videos and more.

Recent IELTS Essay Question: International Aid

This essay question was reported on March 21st. Below is the essay question and ideas to help you write about both sides.

Some people think that famous people’s support towards international aids organisations draws attention to problems, while others think that celebrities make the problems less important. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.

Ideas for and against the involvement of famous people’s involvement in aid work:

Support for famous people’s involvement

  • Famous people draw media attention wherever they go which helps to highlight the aid organisation and the problem.
  • Charities or causes can be made more popular by celebrity involvement.
    • Take Princess Diana as an illustration, she championed the problem of land mines and brought enormous international attention to an otherwise forgotten problem.
  • Celebrities are able to bridge the gap between a tragedy that has occurred in a distant place and bring it into people’s sitting rooms, making the problem seem more real and less remote.
  • Famous people’s words often have more reach and more global identity. They are able to influence people in different countries and cultures all over the world.
  • People are more likely to give donations when they are called to action by their favourite actor or football star. Fans follow the work of their favourite stars and like to get involved in whatever they are doing.
  • Famous voices calling people to action have more power and influence than someone the public have never heard of. In other words, a familiar voice is often more trustworthy and more compelling.

Against famous people’s involvement

  • More media attention may be given to the famous person’s involvement than the actual aid organisation and can draw attention away from the problem itself.
  • Celebrity involvement can make the message shallow coming from a famous star who does not directly work with the charity.
  • Using famous people to draw attention to particular global problems helps to promote world inequality which should be avoided.
  • If the famous person’s image is damaged in the media for any particular reason, it could have repercussions on the charity and the problem. This means the charity becomes dependent on the famous person maintaining popularity which cannot always be guaranteed.
  • Some people may be put off the aid organisations if they do not like that particular famous person.
  • People may lose interest in a charity if the famous person stops their involvement.

Please note that these ideas must be adapted so that they connect directly with the issues in the essay question. You should not copy these ideas word for word. Instead you should take these ideas, write them in your own words and apply them to the specific essay question.

All Essay Ideas for Writing Task 2

Punctuation Practice for Writing

Below is an example of a complex sentence which does not have any punctuation. Not only does it lack commas but it also lacks full stops – it’s too long. This is a mistake that many students make. They think that the longer the sentence, the higher the band score – unfortunately this is not true. Check the three questions to help you decide how to punctuate it.

  • How many sentences do you think it should be?
  • Where would you put the full stops?
  • Where would you put the commas?

Write this sentence again using correct punctuation.

Firstly while it is thought that over population can be solved by limiting the number of children people can have it would be better to limit the number of people moving from rural to urban areas which is where the biggest problem lies because many people are moving to cities in search of employment so if the government tried to create more jobs in the countryside the problem would be solved almost instantly.


Firstly, while it is thought that over population can be solved by limiting the number of children people can have, it would be better to limit the number of people moving from rural to urban areas. This is where the biggest problem lies. Many people are moving to cities in search of employment so if the government tried to create more jobs in the countryside, the problem would be solved almost instantly.


  1. After a linker such as “firstly” at the beginning of a sentence we usually use a comma.
  2. When you use the linker “while” or “although” at the start of a sentence, you will need a comma before the clause.
  3. The sentence using “while” is long so it is logical and necessary to have a full stop after it.
  4. The word “this” is used in order to divide the sentences and start a new one. This sentence is not long but it is still considered complex because it uses a “where” clause.
  5. The last sentence has two sentences joined with the linking word “so”. The first part is quite simple, while the second part is a second conditional which requires a comma between clauses.


New Year in Vietnam: IELTS Listening Practice

This is an IELTS listening exercise which I have made for my Vietnamese students about their wonderful New Year’s celebration called Tết. It is a sentence completion practice so you will need to fill in the gaps as you listen. Remember to read the questions before listening to the audio. Answers do come in order.Tet IELTS listening

Tết Holiday (Vietnamese New Year)

Listening Practice

Complete the sentences using no more than three words.

  1. Another name for Tết is ……………….
  2. One typical dish at this time is a soup which is made from ………………..
  3. Lucky money is given to ………….. and …………………
  4. Before Tết, people buy ……….. trees and ………. blossom to adorn their house.
  5. …………  the house is forbidden during Tết.


Tết is celebrated on the same day as Chinese New Year, though exceptions arise due to the one-hour time difference between Hanoi and Beijing. It takes place from the first day of the first month of the Vietnamese calendar (around late January or early February) until at least the third day. Vietnamese people consider Tết to be the first day of spring and the festival is often called spring festival.

Many Vietnamese prepare for Tết by cooking special holiday foods and cleaning the house. These foods include square rice cake, Vietnamese sausage, dried young bamboo soup, sticky rice and boiled chicken. There are a lot of customs practiced during Tết, such as visiting a person’s house on the first day of the new year, ancestral worship, wishing New Year’s greetings and giving lucky money to children and elderly people.

There are certain things to observe during Tết and certain things to avoid. Houses are thoroughly cleaned in preparation for Tết. People buy kumquat trees and peach blossom to decorate their houses. There are dragon or lion dances in the streets. New clothes should be bought for every member of the family. And on New Year’s Eve, the kitchen god, Ong Tao, is welcomed back to the kitchen. On the other hand, somethings must be avoided. Sweeping during Tết is taboo and considered to be unlucky, since it symbolizes sweeping away the luck; that is why they clean before the new year. It is also taboo for anyone who experienced a recent loss of a family member to visit anyone else during Tết.

Note: I made a mistake in the audio in the second sentence. I said Chinese instead of Vietnamese. Sorry to all my Vietnamese students for that. Liz

  1. spring festival
  2. bamboo / young bamboo / dried young bamboo
  3. children elderly people (you need all three words correct for one point)
  4. kumquat peach (both answers needed for one point)
  5. sweeping (no capital letter is needed, see IELTS Exam FAQ page)
  • arises = happens
  • it is often called = it is frequently named
  • ancestral worship = praying to ancestors (past family members)
  • to observe = to follow (this is when relating to celebrations or festivals)
  • sweeping = using a brush to clean the floor
  • luck (noun) / lucky (adjective)
  • taboo = forbidden

Other Vocabulary

square cake

square cake (bánh chưng) = A cake which is made from sticky rice, mung bean and pork wrapped in leaves.


kumquat = A small citrus fruit similar to an orange. Both peel and flesh is eaten.


peach blossom = flowers on a peach tree


Happy New Year to all students in China and Vietnam as well as any others who are currently celebrating Lunar New Year. Wishing you all the best in the year to come. Liz

If you would like me to make a lesson about a festival or part of your culture, please let me know the details by posting a comment in the box below. Regards, Liz.

Essay Ideas: Littering in Cities

Ideas for an opinion essay

Littering in cities is an increasing problem which needs to be dealt with. Some people think that steeper fines is the best way to deal with the problem.

To what extent do you agree?

When you analyse a statement for an opinion essay, it is useful to ask yourself different questions regarding the topic. Think about the questions below and then decide your answer.

Questions for Analysis

  1. What is littering? Answer
    Dropping waste on the ground or in the streets rather than disposing of it correctly by putting it in the bin.
  2. Why do people litter?Answer
    Some litter because they don’t care about the effects and some do it just for convenience.
  3. It is already an offence to throw litter in the streets so why do people continue to do it?Answer
    Most people know it is wrong but they do it because they know they will not be caught.
  4. Would having a bigger fine stop them?Answer
    It is possible that a heavy fine might deter them but only if it is likely they will be caught and the fine imposed.
  5. Is having a bigger fine the best way to stop littering? Answer
    It’s one way to stop people but not everyone agrees that it is the best way.
  6. Are there other ways to stop littering? Answer
    Yes, one way is to put more bins in the streets so that people will use them rather than throw their litter on the floor. Educating children from a young age to dispose of their litter correctly is another way. Some people think that having more police on the streets would be a good deterrent because people will be less likely to attempt to litter the streets.

Now use your ideas and form them into an essay format. That means you should have two or three main ideas which are divided into two or three body paragraphs. After you have your essay ideas planned, check the model  body paragraphs below. Can you write the introduction and conclusion for the model essay below?

Model Body Paragraphs

Body Paragraph A: Having bigger fines is certainly one way to tackle the issue of littering. Increasing the fines will make people take littering more seriously. At present, many people litter the streets because they do not consider this to be a serious offence and for the convenience but by imposing a considerable penalty, people will think twice before they litter.

Body Paragraph B: However, the best way to deal with the problem of littering would be a long-term solution involving educating the younger generation. Littering is common due to the fact that many people are not fully aware of the environmental and health impacts that it has. By raising awareness and building a habit of disposing of waste correctly, this problem can be eradicated in coming generations.

Body Paragraph C: Finally, another possible solution would be to have more litter bins available to the public. The reason being that the majority of people littering the streets do so because there are no bins available to put their waste in and they do not wish to carry their rubbish with them until they find a bin. By having more bins available, it would not only be more convenient for people to dispose of their waste properly but it would also act as a reminder for them to do so.



Collection of Essay Ideas

Common Girl’s Names: Pronunciation

Below is a list of common girl’s name in England with an audio as well so you can hear the pronunciation of the name. It is important to learn common names in English for your IELTS listening test. IELTS frequently ask you to listen for personal information such as a name in section 1. You can also listen to boys’ names or watch a video to practice listening for names.

Mistake: Please notice that there is a mistake with the pronunciation of Scarlett in the audio. The audio actually says “Charlotte”. Sorry about that.

Girls Names



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