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.
we’ll be covering:
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:
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 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.
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.
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:
These single words can completely change the meaning of a
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:
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 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.
# 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, often. This will make your brain alerts 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 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:
Repeat this process for the remaining questions.
Please note that this example is not from a real IELTS Reading test paper. I have created it myself to demonstrate the strategy I’ve just outlined and to give you an opportunity to practice it.
The text in your test will be longer and probably have 5 or 6 statements.
Follow steps 1-7 of the strategy and see if you can work out if each statement is TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN. Then read my notes below which contain the answers.
Download the PDF of this text – Reducing Stress in the Classroom
Download the PDF of these instructions – Reducing Stress in the Classroom - Statements
1) Having read the instructions and tried to understand the meaning of the statements, I now focus in on the first statement.
1. Raising levels of literacy was the main theme of the conference.
The keyword I select to scan for is conference. I’m fairly sure I’ll find this or a synonym because it has an article word in front of it (the) which makes it the subject of the sentence.
I will then need to search the text to see if ‘raising levels of literacy’ really was the main theme of this conference.
I scan the first main paragraph and find ‘conference’ twice. I read both sentences that contain it in detail.
Sir Anthony was speaking at a conference about the need to improve young people's sense of wellbeing. The University of Buckingham's Ultimate Wellbeing in Education Conference examined how to respond to the stresses and anxieties facing young people.
It is very clear that the conference was about the wellbeing of the pupils, not their level of literacy. The answer is therefore FALSE.
2) Next, I read the second statement and decide to scan for words connected to the internet as this is what the statement is about.
2. Online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can have a negative effect on young people’s lives.
I continue scanning from the location of the last answer. Remember, the information will come in order in the text.
I quickly spot the words ‘social media’ which appear twice. I read the two sentences in detail to look for any matching words or phrases. I also see the word ‘teenagers’ which is a synonym of ‘young people’. This is another clue that there is a match of information.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds told the conference that the relentless presence of social media made growing up "more pressurised". He said this could be all-pervasive for teenagers, making them compare their own experiences with the “perfect lives” on social media.
However, I now need to decide if the specific information in the text matches that of the statement.
The wording is very different but the text definitely states that social media, of which Facebook and Twitter are a major part, can have a negative effect on young people’s lives.
So, the statement is TRUE.
3) Moving on to statement 3, I re-read it to ensure I understand the meaning and then choose my keywords, in this case, ‘pets’ and ‘mental health’. I then scan for these.
3. There is evidence that the presence of pets in schools helps kids with mental health issues.
I easily find ‘mental health’ but there is no mention of 'pets' in this part of the text. I do, however, spot the words ‘animals’ and ‘dog’ which might have been used to paraphrase ‘pets’.
I read in detail to get the meaning of the text.
But Sir Anthony suggested another more low-tech approach to reducing anxiety - the soothing presence of animals such as dogs. "The quickest and biggest hit that we can make to improve mental health in our schools and to make them feel safe for children, is to have at least one dog in every single school in the country," said Sir Anthony. "Because children can relate to animals when they are hurt and anxious and sad in a way that they can't always with human beings. It will be a powerfully cost-effective way of helping children feel more secure at schools”, he added.
It seems to match the information in the sentence but there is another very important keyword in the statement that I need to consider – ‘evidence’. This means proof of the idea being suggested.
While the ideas match, there is no direct evidence stated so I mark the answer NOT GIVEN.
You can see why NG answers can be challenging.
4) Moving on to the last statement, I select ‘government minister’ and ‘national scheme’ as my keywords and continue scanning the rest of the text for them. In this case, this means the final paragraph.
4. The government minister may introduce a national scheme promoting wellbeing dogs in schools.
I don’t find either of these phrases in the text so need to think about possible synonyms. Even if I know little about politics, I can guess that the ‘education secretary’ is a ‘government minister’. So that’s a start.
The education secretary said that his visits to schools had certainly shown him how common ‘wellbeing dogs’ were becoming. "This is one of those things that wasn't around when I was at school," said Mr Hinds. "I hadn't really realised the incidence of it until I was education secretary”. He said that he’d been surprised at the idea at first but saw for himself that many children found the experience really uplifting, particularly those that have different ways of expressing themselves and coming out of themselves. He did, however, stated that although the dogs can really help, there were no plans for a "central dog policy".
I scan again looking out for any other
words related to government and politics and in the final sentence I also spot
the word ‘policy’.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand what this word means. All that matters is that you can work out from the context of the sentence that this word is probably relevant and indicates where the answer is located.
I make an educated guess that a ‘central dog policy’ is a match for a ‘national scheme promoting wellbeing dogs in schools’, and re-read the sentence to find my answer.
The sentence states that there are ‘no plans for a central dog policy’, so the answer is FALSE.
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I hope you’ve found this page helpful. You are now ready to practice this strategy with past test papers. Once you get the hang of answering T/F/NG questions, you’ll be able to tackle them with confidence in your IELTS Reading test.
For more sample questions with step-by-step instructions, see the IELTS Reading menu page.