How to answer True/False/Not Given questions.

Demystifying True, False, Not Given reading questions: your step-by-step strategy

As soon as I mention the words ‘true, false and not given’ in one of my IELTS classes, my students look panic stricken! If these reading test questions make you shake like a leaf or quake in your boots too, then read on.

Before we get stuck into the detail, let’s briefly explain what these questions are all about.

What is the difference between True. False and Not Given?

In the True, False, Not Given questions, you’re presented with a series of statements which accompany a reading passage (see 18-20 below). You’re also given the following instructions:

If you find some information in the text that has the same meaning as a statement, your answer should be ‘true’. If some information in the text is talking about exactly the same thing as the statement but part of the meaning is opposite or a little bit different, put ‘false’ as your answer. Finally, if you can’t find any information in the text that talks about the specific information in the statement, your answer should be ‘not given’. Students often confuse ‘false’ and ‘not given’ statements.

Your True, False, Not Given strategy

This is what a set of True, False, Not Given questions might look like:

Read them all – twice. The first time you read them, just try and understand the general meaning of each one. The second time you read them, take a bit more time and underline the keywords in each.

You’re particularly looking for qualifying words (those that make a statement less strong or less general by providing specific information). These could include:

· quantity words/phrases such as all, some, many, the majority/minority of

· frequency words such as always, sometimes, occasionally, never

· verbs such as appear, suggest, claim, believe

Before you see what I underline, why don’t you try this exercise yourself by downloading the questions and text here. Then scroll down on this page and check your answers.

Scroll down to see which words I've underlined.....

keep scrolling down

scroll down a little further

I’ve underlined the following:

Notice how I haven’t underlined the words ‘padanus probe’ in any of these statements. That’s because it’s common to all 3 statements. I’ve focused on some of these qualifying words – appears to be, plenty of, seem to, a number of times - and I’ve also gone for some key verbs and nouns.

It’s important to note at this point that I’m going to answer these questions in order, as I know that the information I need to answer them will appear in the same order in the text. So, the sentence(s) to help me with question 18 will come first, followed by the information needed to answer question 19 and so on.