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.

As all these questions refer to a ‘padanus probe’ the name of a tool – I am going to start by scanning the text for these words. As soon as I find the first mention of it, I will to read that part of the text carefully, looking for sentences with a similar meaning to statement 18.

Why not do this yourself first? Go back to the question paper and try and find the correct place in the text to answer number 18. We’ve identified this below.

I’ve underlined the sentence I need to give me the answer to number 18 and I’ve circled the specific words that helped to give me the answer……..which is obviously……..

(don’t scroll down if you want to work it out for yourself first)……

ANSWER - True!

How did I get this answer?

I know this answer is true because the key parts of the statement were all found with the same meaning in the text. I asked myself two important questions before I decided on my answer:

· Is this sentence talking about the construction of the padanus probe? ANSWER: Yes – but the text uses the synonym ‘manufacture’

· Does the text say there’s a fixed pattern for its manufacture? ANSWER: Yes – but instead of the words ‘fixed pattern’ it uses the paraphrase ‘standard design’

Now it’s your turn!

If you want to have a go at questions 19-20, you can do this now. You’ll find the answers at the bottom of this blog post. When you’ve answered the questions and checked your answers, don’t just move on if you get any answers wrong. Take the time to try and understand where you went wrong. Did you misunderstand a word? Did you miss an important qualifying word that changed the meaning completely? This is a good habit to get into when you’re practising any reading and listening questions at home.

Scroll down for the answers....

Answers to questions 18-20

18. True

19. True

20. False