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IELTS Reading: True, False, Not Given Questions

True, False, Not Given questions come up regularly in the IELTS Reading test.

Many students fear this type of question and I’ll explain why in a minute. However, if you learn the tips and practice the strategy on this page, you’ll soon improve your skill at answering them.

Explanation

For True/False/Not Given questions, you will be given a set of statements and a text. Your task is to decide which of the following applies to the information in each statement:

  • it agrees with the information in the text – TRUE (T)

  • it disagrees with it or contradicts it – FALSE (F)

  • it is not mentioned in the text – NOT GIVEN (NG)

Here’s a set of sample instructions & questions from a real past IELTS Reading test paper for illustration.


So, you need to do two things:

1) Understand the information in the statements.

2) Decide if it is True, False or Not Given according to the text.



The big challenge

The challenge with a T/F/NG type question is that for some statements, the NOT GIVEN ones, you will be searching for information that’s not there.

This is the first reason why some people fear it.

It’s very easy to waste a huge amount of time going over and over the text to check that you haven’t missed the information.

The second challenge is the unfamiliarity of this type of question. Most people will have looked for TRUE & FALSE statements in a text back in their school days but may have no experience of NG statements.

Hence, it’s extra important to have a strategy that gives you the confidence to make your decision and move swiftly on.



Difference between True/False/Not Given & Yes/No/Not Given questions

Some students get confused between True/False/Not Given questions and Yes/No/Not Given questions so I’ll quickly explain the difference.

It’s all about the type of information contained in the text.

True/False/Not Given – the text will contain factual information about a topic.

Yes/No/Not Given – the text will contain the opinions, views or beliefs of the writer or other people who are mentioned.



8 Top tips


1) The answers appear in the same order in the text as the order of the statements.

2) You don’t need to read the whole text. First, you will scan for keywords and then you’ll read in detail the section in which they're located for the answer.

3) There will be at least one of each answer type – True, False, Not Given. So, if you don’t have at least one of each when you’ve completed the question, you’ve made a mistake.

4) Watch out for distractors. Be aware that the test setters love to use ‘distractors’ to really test you. A prime example is qualifying words such as:

every a few

all always

some often

most occasionally

These single words can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

E.g. Tiantian often meets up with her friends after work.

Tiantian occasionally meets up with her friends after work.

In T/F/NG questions, the meaning of the statement must be an exact match with the information in the text to be TRUE.

5) Also be on the lookout for qualifying words that express possibility or doubt such as:

seem claim

suggest possibly

believe probably

Again, they can totally alter the meaning of a statement.

E.g. Scientists now claim that several different species of humans evolved on the earth.

Scientists now know that several different species of humans evolved on the earth.

6) The statements won’t be a word-for-word match to the information in the text. They will contain synonyms and paraphrasing. It’s the meaning that you are trying to match.

7) The test is not an assessment of your knowledge of the topic but only of your ability to read and understand the specific information in the text. So, if you happen to know from your own knowledge that a particular statement is correct, i.e. TRUE, but this is not stated in the text, your answer must be NOT GIVEN.

8) Remember that at least one answer will be NG. This means that you will be searching for information that is not there.

As already mentioned, it’s easy to waste time searching and searching for the information you’re never going to find because it isn’t there. Use the strategy I’m about to show you to quickly come to a decision about each statement and move on.

The Strategy

# 1 Read the instructions carefully. Double-check whether it is a TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN or a YES/NO/NOT GIVEN question.


# 2 Read the statements and try to understand the meaning of each. Do this before reading the text.


# 3 Think about possible synonyms that might appear in the text and note any qualifying words in the statements such as all, some, always, and often. This will make your brain alert for them when you scan the text.


# 4 Underline keywords. You won’t necessarily find the exact words in the text due to the extensive use of synonyms and paraphrasing in T/F/NG questions but enough will be present to make doing this worthwhile.


# 5 Re-read statement 1 and scan the first paragraph, maybe two, for the keywords or synonyms of them. Scanning will locate where the answer is but a detailed reading of this section of the text is now needed to decide if the specific information you’re looking for is TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN.


# 6 Make your decision. Remember to consider these three things:

  • To be TRUE, the information must exactly match even if the words are different.

  • Look carefully for qualifying words that might change the meaning.

  • If you are struggling to find the answer it’s probably because it isn’t there, i.e. it’s NOT GIVEN.

# 7 Repeat this process for the remaining questions.


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