Top Tips for IELTS

True False Not given – reading tutorial and practice

Perhaps the question type that gives most pain to most IELTS candidates is the True/False/Not given question type. Here are some pointers to help you improve your IELTS band score with a link to some specific practice on this type of question.

The question types

In fact there are two question types here:

  1. True/False/Not given: fact based
  2. Yes/No/Not given: opinion based

In each case you need to decide if the information in the text agrees with the information in the question. You should note that in the “Yes/No/Not given” questions, you are normally asked to look for the writer’s opinions rather than facts.

Note the key skill

The key skill here is to understand that you are interpreting the text and the question. This means that you need to read very closely and pay attention to what the writer means. Don’t think of it as a skimming question, rather a question where you need to read the text and the question closely and decide what the writer means.

How to get the answers right

True/Yes

There is information in the text that agrees exactly with the statement in the question. Note that you will almost certainly need to look for synonyms here and match meaning and not words.

False/No

There is information in the text that is directly opposite to or contradicts the statement in the question. Again note that you will also need to think about meaning here. You should pay careful attention to “little” words that qualify or change meaning such as: some , all, often, occasionally

Not Given

This is the one that normally causes the most problems. Something is not given if there is no information about it in the text. Do not spend ages looking for Not Given answers because you will waste time.

Guessing intelligently

This is probably the hardest question type. Don’t despair though you have a good chance of guessing correctly. In fact the questions are hard because you have a one in three chance of guessing! Here is my suggestion

  1. if you find information in the text about the statement in the question: guess True or False  but remember to read the whole question and not just match words in it
  2. if you find no information in the text about the statement guess Not Given – don’t waste time. Typically, answer are Not Given when they match just one or two words in the question
  3. if you have no idea, then guess Not Given. You have a one in three chance of being right and you may have no idea because it isn’t there!

Some examples of how the questions work

Macallan is one of the four top selling brands of malt whisky in the world. It is made in barrels made of Spanish oak that have previously been used for sherry because this adds sweetness to its flavour.

True

Macallan is globally successful.

This is true because top selling brands of malt whisky in the world matches globally successful.

False 

Macallan is made in metal containers.

This is false because the text says it us made in barrels of Spanish oak. Because oak is a wood this contradicts the words int he question metal containers. Note that you need to think about meaning

Not Given

Macallan is made in Spain.

There is no information about where it is made. Be careful of the trap of seeing the words Spanish and made  in the text. Usually with Not Given answers you will find some words in the text that match words int he question without matching the meaning of the whole question.

A difficulty – Not Given

The “Not Given” variation is probably what makes this type of question so difficult. How can you deal with this problem? You need to understand that:

  • “Not given” does not mean no words in the question are used in the text. Typically, you will find some of words from the question in the text – they simply don’t answer the whole question
  • You cannot add information that is probably true: you can only use the information given in the text

Some practical tips

  1. Read the whole question. Do NOT focus on key words. Think about the meaning of the question.
  2. Be especially careful with words such as “often” and “some”. They can change the meaning of the question dramatically.
  3. Be careful with questions beginning “The writer says”: here you need to think about the writer’s opinions and not about facts.
  4. The questions will follow the order of the text: if you can’t find answer 12, you know it must be somewhere between 11 and 13.
  5. Do not spend too long on any one question. If the answer is “Not Given”, there may be nothing for you to find.
  6. One possibility is to mark all the “True” answers and all the “False” answers and then guess “Not Given” for the others.

A suggested procedure

Here is my suggested procedure:

  1. Read the instructions carefully and note whether you are being asked to look for facts or opinions.
  2. Look at all the questions and see what topics they ask about. You may note key words here, but only to identify the correct part of the text to read.
  3. Skim the text to identify which paragraphs you need to read more closely. Note that the questions will follow the order of the text and so the answer to question 10 will follow the answer to question 11
  4. Mark on the question paper which paragraphs relate to which question: eg, write 11 against paragraph E
  5. Refocus on the question and read the whole question: be careful with tricky words like “usually”
  6. Underline the words in the text that give you the answer. This helps you concentrate and also allows you to change your mind, if you find a better answer later.

A variation is to mark the “True” answers first as they tend to be the easiest and then go back to the “False” and “Not given” later.

More True False Not Given Practice

This is one type of question that does need practice. Here are some more exercises:

Tennis reading – advice and short reading

Orwell reading - advice and short reading

Clock-watches – advice and short reading

 

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45 Responses to True False Not given – reading tutorial and practice

  1. Adim November 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    Thank you so much. Excellent practice

  2. Djamila November 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    Tahnks a lot for your help.

  3. Elena January 9, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    Dominic. Hi.

    So YES/NO/NOT GIVEN questions are basically asked for an author’s opinion. This type of questions differ from the TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN and i personally think that the first type is more different than the second. This is because when you are looking for facts, you know that there should be a sentence or max two sentences with an answer on that particular question. But with opinion based questions you are looking for the meaning behind this sentences and therefore you are spending more time on them to understand that meaning.

    When i practiced reading questions with facts, I did well, because I understand the pattern – look for the sentence, understand the pharaphrasing and you get the answer. But when I met the opinion based questions I found that most of my answers were NOT GIVEN.

    That was strange.

    Thank you for explaining.

  4. Elena January 9, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    ‘more difficult’ i meant.

  5. abeer August 12, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    does such kind of question has to be in order

    • Dominic Cole August 12, 2011 at 11:00 am #

      Yes, this sort of question does follow the order of the text.

  6. humble August 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    hello mr ialways feel frustrated when i do such kind of questions

  7. humble August 15, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    I want realy to thankyou for every thing you do and did for us but i feel icant progress in reading at all reply me assoon as you can please

    • Dominic Cole August 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

      Reading is tough, no doubt. My best advice is not to practise by doing practice tests. Rather you need to practise reading skills. By this I mean, you should just read a little
      every day for half an our or so. (I’ll be posting links for good places to read online).
      The other part of this is to focus on reading paragraphs when you do practice questions and not complete texts. This way you can focus better.

  8. hhhhh October 4, 2011 at 11:41 am #

    hhhhhhh so easy

  9. jude November 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    Thank you very much, your generally blog as being a great help to me. It is totally different from other I must confess.Your tips to tackle tricky questions are just perfect.

  10. Raja December 10, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Dear Dominic, I have a question, in reading task if you write T, F or NG instead of True, False or Not Given. Would it be considered right or wrong?

    • Dominic Cole December 11, 2011 at 1:05 am #

      It would almost certainly be regarded as a mistake. The people who mark the listening and reading (they’re not examiners) are not really allowed to give you the benefit of the doubt. The answer must be precisely correct.

  11. Ana dimple December 14, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    Hi,

    Ive read your site and it’s very helpful. I think your marvelous. Are you based in UK or US? I live in London and I would like to have a private tutor with you in Reading. I need to pass my exam to be a Nurse here. If private tutor is not possible would you suggest or help me online.

    I need your help badly. please send me an email for feedback if you could. Just to let you know I’ve done this exam already, I’ve got 7 and 8 band score except in Reading, it’s always 6 that’s why am desperate of your help. Hope your kind enough to take my situation seriously.

    Thank you

    • Dominic Cole December 14, 2011 at 4:52 am #

      Actually, I’ve just moved to China from the UK. In January I will be sitting down to produce a fairly complete set of reading materials I hope – though I may not publish them all at once.

      Reading can be tough. Your core English is obviously good judging from your other scores. So the main problem is likely to be with reading skills. There are 2 ways to approach this.

      Firstly, do you read much in English? I don’t mean for IELTS, but English generally. Typically, people who read lots tend to read well. It can be easy to get obsessed by the exam (I understand why), but it really does help for IELTS to work on your general skills too.

      Secondly, you need to work on exam specific skills. My first advice here is to take time out of the equation. Don’t bother trying timed exercises until you are confident you know how to get the answers. I also suggest looking at only a few questions at a time. The general idea is to learn how the questions work first. if nothing else that should improve your confidence and confidence matters. Then, when you are feeling good and see how the questions work, you start trying to do the questions timed and with longer texts. Start with 35 mins for each group of questions and then work you way down to 20 mins. It is only in the exam that you need to get the answers in 20 mins.

      If you only practise in 20 mins, it is very unlikely your skills will improve.

      • ning January 6, 2012 at 2:24 am #

        hi Dominic

        greetings from Beijing, China

        glad to hear about you come down to china! unbelievable!!

        just a short visit?
        or planning to open an IELTS training session/course in here! the class would be full-housed without any doubts.

        anyway, i am so happy to receive such exciting news in a dizzy Friday morning
        ;-)

        cheers

        • Dominic Cole January 6, 2012 at 5:45 am #

          I’m here for the duration, working at a uni in Wuhan – and I’m likely to stay here quite some time. No plans to open an IELTS centre, not least because I am the world’s worst administrator. That said, I am interested in growing my Chinese audience/readership! Any ideas?

  12. DHARMENDRA MALHOTRA April 27, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Reading is tough, no doubt. My best advice is not to practise by doing practice tests. Rather you need to practise reading skills. By this I mean, you should just read a little
    every day for half an our or so. (I’ll be posting links for good places to read online).

    The other part of this is to focus on reading paragraphs when you do practice questions and not complete texts. This way you can focus better.

    =====

    PLEASE SEND US THAT LINK TO WHERE WE CAN READ ONLINE.. PLEASE

    REGARDS

    DHARMENDRA MALHOTRA

  13. pharady leang May 28, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    I have a problem with my reading skill. when i read i don’t understand what does it mean. Because i dont understand the words. so what can i do with it ?

  14. iNDU July 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    It is easier to distinguish the calls of some birds than others
    ? True
    ? False
    ? Not given

    In the birdwatching paragraph, the answer for 8th question should be ‘false’, isn’t it ?

    REFERENCE IS ‘ NO STRAIGHTFORWARD’ MEANS NOT EASY OR DIFFICULT

    • Dominic Cole July 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      “.You will have little difficulty in recognising some of the more distinctive calls – the plaintive “peee-wit” of a lapwing, the gentle”coo-coo” of a wood pigeon, or the mournful “coor-li” of a curlew as it wings its way across a moor.” makes the answer True

  15. alma September 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    dear dominic,

    I really have a difficulty in distinguishing answers between false and not given. can you give tips on how to recognize it? by the way, i got 8 on reading 2yrs ago and i cant believe it, i was expecting a 6 coz it was really difficult i did have a headache afterwards. i dont know if my voracious reading helped or just pure luck. lol..
    i hope you can help me with this one. thank you… keep it up..

  16. Johnson February 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    thank you sir

  17. sharon March 24, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    Hi sir,

    i have appeared for my ielts academic module and i have’nt faired well in the speaking module. instead of writing true,false.not given i have used t, f and n/g…will it affect my score? i am worried coz thats adding up to my misery.

    • Dominic Cole March 25, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Impossible to say as standards do i think vary from one centre to another. I have seen comments from an assessor, however, that say you would be ok.

  18. LuckyAli March 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    Please suggest me some online reading website???,where i can enhance my reading skill.

  19. Lixia April 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Hi Dominic,
    I have visited many websites to source for all the 4 segments on IELTS academic test.

    This is my first attempt on IELTS, my shortcomings include the speed of reading, matching the headings to the True, False and Not Given.

    Do you have any more concise tips to assist me?

    I am a preschooler trainer and currently seeking this certification for further career advancement I hope.

    Appreciate your kind reply. My test is on 27.4.13 and 30.4.13 (speaking).

    Personally, I wish to thank you for your kindness to post your tips and experiences to help many
    IELTS candidates.

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Thank you in advance.

    Lixia

    • Dominic Cole April 18, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

      I do have a few posts on reading speed that you should find on my main reading page – look for “skimming”. Briefly:

      One frequent cause of slow reading is weak vocabulary: the less you understand the longer the process takes. There is no absolute “solution” to this. The problem with academic reading is that there isn’t any easy text – they’re all long and quite complex.

      Idea to consider is to only read parts of the text when you skim. With my weaker classes, I get then to focus on the first sentence or so in each paragraph. The idea is that the main ideas of each para are almost always in the first sentence or so and when you skim, all you are looking for are the main points. This is a particularly useful skill for matching headings types exercises.

      T/F/NG tend to be tough questions – you have a one in three chance of guessing correctly.

  20. Long May 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi Dominic,

    Your website is amazing. I intended to resit the test in June 2013 to have 8.0 band in every band. My previous IELTS result was 9.0 8.0 7.5 and 7.0. I find it hard to have 8.0 in speaking, and would appreciate if you share me some tips.

  21. Neel June 2, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    I have problems with “No” and “Not Given”.
    If my answer is “No” ,the correct answer is “Not Given”.
    It is so hard to understand the difference between these ones.

  22. johan August 15, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    The tip to start with marking TRUE then FALSE then move on to NOT GIVEN is a definite winner! Thank you!

  23. IELTS Mississauga November 5, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    I really appreciate your tips in reading and writing part, thanks for the submission.

  24. hina January 31, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    The study reported here was conducted in the Prince William Hospital in Brisbane, Australia, where, prior to this time, few active steps had been taken to measure, understand or manage the occurrence of absenteeism.

    Question

    Prince Willium Hosptal has been trying to reduce absenteeism amonst nurses for many years.

    Yes
    No
    NG
    what is the answer and why
    as per book say it is N but why?

    please help me in understanding the face\t.

    • Dominic Cole March 2, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      The answer is No because we have information about PWH reducing absenteeism: “few active steps had been taken to measure, understand or manage the occurrence of absenteeism”.

      • Morshed March 8, 2014 at 4:47 am #

        How it comes to:No. its really difficult to understand.

  25. bond_bhai March 17, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    Hi Dominic,
    There was this question which one of my friends got in his IELTS exam –
    The paragraph said :
    Cots and High Chairs will be provided on request. Please inform us in advance.

    The question was:
    Accessories for children is available on request.

    I argued its Not Given, where he said its True since high chairs are mentioned in the paragraph. Which is correct in this case?

    • Dominic Cole March 17, 2014 at 7:58 am #

      I’m going for true – that’s without having read the passage of course. A cot and a high chair could be described as being accessories for children.

  26. Juliana Bosslet March 28, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    Hi Dominic.
    This blog is fantastic! I used only your blog to prepare for my ielts test and managed to score an overall 8.5. I highly recommend it to anyone willing to succeed in ielts.
    Thank you for keeping it for free.

    Juliana.

    • Dominic Cole March 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

      Wow. Overall 8.5 is something special. Big well done.

  27. Aref Sohal March 29, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi DC i was surfing web for EOR and found your site in regards to views. I am really frustrarted i have appeared for IELTS 3 times ealier in India and for the 4th time in London i was weak in wirting and speaking but got desired numbers in Listenig and Reading every time i attempted, but, this time i got L 8.5, R 7, W 6, S 7, what should i do i m really helpless and hopeless now. I was thinking for an EOR with a covering letter, will it be helpfull.
    your concerns will be highly appreciable.Thanks.

  28. Aref Sohal March 29, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    I want 7 in each.

  29. Allan April 23, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    Hi Dominic,

    I have a question because I’m confused with example above. I was thinking shouldn’t the answer be “false” instead of “not given” since the writer believes that these is something that women should or “need” to do rather than what women often do which is contradictory to what the opinion of the writer is, which makes me think that the answer should be false. Thank you.

    • Dominic Cole April 23, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Hi

      I’ve just re-read this lesson and decided I don’t like it all! I need to find much clearer examples as you do you indeed have a point. I’ll repost the lesson in the next couple of days.

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