True, False or Not Given? That is the question in the IELTS reading!

IELTS reading test is designed to assess your skill in understanding the whole concept of a passage while paying attention to details. It consists of various types of questions, some of which are more challenging than others.

True/False/Not Given is one of the challenging types. That is why I’m writing this article to help you understand this question type and learn the techniques to answer it.

What is the True/False/Not Given question type?

It is also called the “identify information” question type. You have to decide if a given statement agrees with the information contained within a reading passage, contradicts it, or there is insufficient evidence to decide.

It is difficult even for native English speakers because it requires speed reading, skimming, scanning, and logic.

The good news is the questions are in chronological order. This means that you can find relevant information about the first statement in the first part of the passage, and the rest of the statements will follow in the following parts.

How to answer True/False/Not Given questions?

IELTS reading requires your skimming and scanning skills no matter the type of questions, but for the True/False/Not Given question type, you also need your logic to draw a conclusion based on factual information. You also need an expanded vocabulary to recognize synonyms and antonyms.

Skimming the text is the understanding of overall context, while scanning is used to identify specific keywords.

To make it easier for you to understand, I have simplified the steps in answering this type of question below:

1.    Skim the reading passage to get the central concept

You need to know what the reading passage is all about. So read it entirely but quickly to understand the main idea.

2.    Identify keywords in the first question

Read the first statement and underline/highlight the keywords. They can be names, places, values, adjectives or adverbs. Any word or phrase that reveals some details about the main idea is a keyword.

Remember to read one statement at a time, find the answer then move on to the next.

3.    Scan the reading passage to find the keywords

Once you have the keywords from the first question, go back to the beginning of the reading passage and scan the text for those keywords. The critical point is to pay attention to paraphrasing!

The statement might be referring to the meaning, or it might be indicating a value. Therefore, you need to read the related part of the passage to extract the actual meaning and pay attention to subtle details about values. In either case, you are looking for the “same facts”! It might not be a word-by-word repetition, but it should have the same meaning or value.  Be careful not to fall into the trap of “similar”.

There might also be synonyms and antonyms or even adverbs that convey the same or opposite meaning so you should look out for them. Words such as all, majority, some, few, mainly, always, never, occasionally, etc. are often used to change the meaning or value in a sentence.

4.    Read the sentences before and after keywords

If you found the keywords, don’t rush to decide the statement is true. Instead, read the sentences before and after the keyword to make sure information hasn’t changed in the opposite direction, or the logic makes sense.

This example can help you better understand what I mean:

Discovered in the early 1800s and named nicotianine, the oily essence now called nicotine is the main active ingredient of tobacco. Nicotine, however, is only a small component of cigarette smoke, which contains more than 4,700 chemical compounds, including 43 cancer-causing substances. In recent times, scientific research has been providing evidence that years of cigarette smoking vastly increases the risk of developing fatal medical conditions.

In addition to being responsible for more than 85 per cent of lung cancers, smoking is associated with cancers of, amongst others, the mouth, stomach and kidneys, and is thought to cause about 14 per cent of leukaemia and cervical cancers. In 1990, smoking caused more than 84,000 deaths, mainly resulting from such problems as pneumonia, bronchitis and influenza. Smoking, it is believed, is responsible for 30 per cent of all deaths from cancer and clearly represents the most important preventable cause of cancer in countries like the United States today.

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage?
TRUE   if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE   if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN   if there is no information on this

1.    Nicotine is the only component of cigarette smoke.

2.    Thirty per cent of deaths in the United States are caused by smoking-related diseases.

As you can see in the first statement, the word “only” has been used intelligently to make you think it is the exact keyword in the passage, while, the meaning changes entirely by the word “small” as it indicates nicotine is just one of the many components. So the answer is FALSE.

In the second statement, by using your logic and paying attention to underlined keywords, you can see that the statement does not exactly match the facts in the passage. 30% of all deaths “from cancer” are caused by smoking, not “all deaths” and not “from smoking-related diseases”. So the answer is FALSE.

Note 1: Don’t use your personal knowledge about the topic. This is important because you might get confused and answer based on your knowledge if you already know the topic. Rely solely on the reading passage and match the information with the statements. If they agree, it is true, if they contradict, the statement is false, and if there is not enough information, it is not given. This question type is about matching factual information, not about your personal opinion or previous knowledge!

Note 2: Don’t try to answer all questions at once. If one is too difficult to answer, move on. You may find the answer later, and if you don’t, just take a guess. You won’t get a negative mark for wrong answers!

Summary

True/False/Not Given is a question type in IELTS reading to evaluate your skill in comprehending the meaning and identifying details in a given passage. It is often complicated with synonym and opposite words and adjectives and adverbs that covey a similar meaning. Your target is to match the “same facts” in the passage and statements.

Begin by skimming the passage to get the main idea, then go to the first question and underline keywords, go back to the first parts of the passage and find the keywords. Pay attention to synonyms and opposites. Decide if the statement is true or false. If you couldn’t find relevant information, then the answer is not given. The answer to the next question can be found later in the passage.

Be aware that in the paper-based IELTS, you should only write TRUE or FALSE or NOT GIVEN and no other words. Otherwise, you will lose the mark!

Lastly, rely only on the facts given in the passage, not your personal opinion or knowledge about the topic.

To improve your reading skill for the True/False/Not Given question type, you must work on your skimming and scanning skills under test conditions and learn many vocabularies. That is where takeIELTS.net can help you.

Our online IELTS mock tests provide you with an opportunity to assess your IELTS skills before attending the actual IELTS exam. Our test platform is similar to the computer-delivered IELTS environment and is very user-friendly and intuitive. Our IELTS examiners keep you motivated to learn and practice. TakeIELTS.net is the only mock test provider in the world which is certified by the European Association for Education.

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