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Reading: How to Answer True/False/Not Given Questions

In this article we we will look at how to answer True/False/Not Given and Yes/No/Not Given questions.

  1. 📑 Look at an example

  2. 🎯 Focus on the objective

  3. 🤔 Discuss common problems that students have and how to solve them

  4. Describe the best strategy for answering these questions

  5. ✍️ Do a practice exercise

  6. 💡 Review some general Reading Exam tips

1. 📑 An Example


There is a small difference between “True, false, not given (T/F/NG)” and “Yes, no, not given (Y/N/NG)” questions. The former are questions about ‘factual’ information’ (scientific findings/data, etc) and the latter are questions about the writer’s opinion. Compare the following instructions:

However, the strategy to answer both types of questions is exactly the same.

2. 🎯 The Objective

You need to decide if the text:

  • agrees with / expresses the same idea as the statement. (True / Yes)

  • contradicts the statement. (False / No)

  • doesn’t give you any information about the statement. (Not Given / NG)

3. Common Problems and Solutions

Problems IELTS candidates have with these questions and some solutions to these problems:

The Problem:

The Solution:

😱 Some candidates are not accustomed to or feel intimidated by the ‘Not Given’ option, or don’t understand the difference between ‘NG’ and ‘False/No’.

😎 When an answer is ‘F/N’, the statement is clearly contradicted in the text. When an answer is ‘NG’, there’s really no information about the statement in the text. You need to read the statement very carefully and ask yourself ‘Can I really prove/disprove this with the text?’ If you can’t, then the answer is probably ‘NG’. These questions become quite easy with practice.

🐢 Some candidates spend too long trying to establish if an answer is ‘NG’. Usually because they read in a non-systematic, fragmented way, starting half-way through a paragraph then jumping about.

🤖 If you read systematically, ie. sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, then you will feel more confident in identifying something as ‘NG’. At the end, if you’re still unsure, put ‘NG’, as the statement probably isn’t confirmed or contradicted by the text.

​🏃 Some candidates rely too much on ‘skimming’ and ‘scanning’, rush their reading, don’t really understand the text or the questions, and get the answers wrong. These questions test your comprehension of the meaning of whole phrases and passages of text, not just matching individual words.

🧐 You need to make sure you really understand the text and the questions, not just look at them superficially.

🔢 Some statements, and sections of text contain qualifying words and phrases like ‘some’; ‘all’; ‘most’; ‘mainly’; ‘only’; ‘occasionally’; ‘always’; or ‘possibly’, which significantly effect the meaning of the overall phrase.

For example:

Question:The majority of the statues are in the north of the country.”

Text: “The Greeks built some of these statues in Edessa, which is located in the North.

The answer here would be ‘False’, as ‘the majority’ and ‘some’ are not synonymous.

🕵️ You need to pay special attention to these words and phrases in the questions and in the text.

😕 Some candidates don’t know enough vocabulary, or don’t understand synonyms or paraphrases of words or phrases.

📚 It’s highly important that you build your vocabulary for every section of the IELTS test. The reading test is largely a big vocabulary test. You also need to be sensitive to how things could be reworded in the questions and in the text.

4. The Strategy

The answers to these questions appear in the same order in the text, so you should read the text in order, and you should answer the questions in order too. Answer the questions one at a time.

  1. Carefully read the instructions to establish if it’s a T/F/NG or Y/N/NG question. If you put the wrong letter, your answers will be wrong.

  2. Carefully read the first question. Pay attention to keywords (nouns, verbs, names, places, etc) and to qualifying words (‘some’, ‘always’, ‘mainly’, etc), but it’s important to understand the meaning of the whole phrase.

  3. Find the paragraph in the text which contains the answer.

  4. Read the paragraph carefully to understand exactly what is being stated. Remember, the ideas in the text will likely be expressed with synonyms, rather than using the same words as the questions. Also, be careful with those qualifying expressions! You might need to go look back and forth between the question and the text to check their meanings.

  5. - If the text agrees with / says the same thing as the statement, the answer is True / Yes. - If the text contradicts the statement, the answer is False / No - If the text doesn’t give you any information about the statement, then the answer is Not Given / NG.

  6. If you’re not sure of an answer, make a note of what you think the answer is, the question and the area of the text, so that you can come back and check it later. Don’t waste too long on any one question. Try to keep moving. After rechecking, you should make your best guess. If you’re still really not sure, put ‘NG’, as the information probably isn’t in the text!

5. ✍️ A Practice Exercise

6. 💡 General Reading Exam Tips

Different types of questions will test different reading skills such as your understanding of individual words, understandings of whole sentences in the context of a paragraph, understandings of whole paragraphs in the context of a text, understandings of writer’s opinions, and variations of the above.

While you should use different strategies for different questions, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

  1. Reading every day to improve your reading fluency and comprehension will have a greater effect on your score than learning some exam strategies.

  2. Improving your vocabulary will have a huge effect on your score, more so than learning some exam strategies.

  3. You need to practise answering different types of questions and using different reading strategies so that you know exactly what to do on exam day. Just looking at this article once is not enough - you need to do a lot of practice.

  4. In the exam, always read the instructions to each question very carefully. You might have practised lots of gap-fills which ask you to use TWO WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER, but on exam day, you might be answering a gap-fill which asks for ONE WORD ONLY. If you write two words in that gap on exam day, your answer will be wrong.

  5. Even though there are different strategies for different questions, I would still recommend using the overall reading strategy we discussed in the last class.

i. Read the Title (if there is one)

ii. Read the First Paragraph

iii. Answer Any Questions You Can

iv. Repeat with the Next Paragraph

Try to complete the exam one paragraph and one question at a time. Be systematic and don’t overload your brain with too much confusing information.

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