True, False or Not Given

Reading Time: 3 minutes
True, False or Not given

When we ask IELTS test takers what their least favorite or where they find the answers most challenging in reading comprehension question types are, we often get the answer true, false, or ‘not given’! This blog will pull apart a reading text, focusing on how to make the correct choice and highlighting the reading skills needed to help you find factual information.

True, False, Not given: Locating and identifying specific information

‘True, False, Not Given’ questions require you to identify if information in a text is true or not.This is probably the most difficult question on the reading paper.

Remember that this type of question requires you to locate and identify specific information. This information will be presented in the text as facts. The information in the text follows the order of the questions, so the information you need for the first statement will be found before the information for the second statement.

When you read the statement you have been given, you then have to decide if the information helps you decide if the answer is:

  • TRUE because the statement agrees with the information.
  • FALSE because the statement contradicts the information, or
  • NOT GIVEN because there is no information on this

The biggest mistake is made when…

The biggest problem here is the ‘not given’ option. Most students are not used to answering questions like this, and it causes them lots of problems because they are not sure what to look for. They also spend too much time making sure that it is ‘not given, and this affects the rest of their test.

Students also fail to understand exactly what each statement means and therefore cannot identify if it is true or false. Many focus on keywords instead of understanding what the statement as a whole means.

Another common mistake is identifying keywords in the statements and then trying to find words that exactly match them in the text. You can do this, but more often the words will be synonyms.

Finally, some students fail to understand exactly what true,false, and not given actually mean and get confused.

True, False, or Not Given Strategy

There are many different strategies. You can practice this strategy to gain accuracy.

  1. Always read the instructions carefully and make sure you are clear about whether to write true / false / not given, or yes / no / not given.
  2. Read all the statements carefully, trying to understand what the whole sentence means rather than simply highlighting keywords. Watch out for qualifying words such as some or always. 
  3. Try to think of what synonyms might be in the text. This will help you identify the matching part of the text.
  4. Match the statement with the correct part of the text.
  5. Focus on the statement again, and then carefully read the matching part of the text to establish if it is true or false. Remember, the meaning should exactly match that of the statement if it is true.
  6. Underline the words that give you the answer; this will help you focus, and you can check back later. Again, be careful; there are no qualifying words in the text.
  7. If you can’t find the answer, mark it as ‘not given’ and move on to the next question.
  8. If you are really unsure or can’t find the answer, mark it as ‘not given’.

Here are some helpful hints

  1. Your answer should not be based on what you already know about the topic; don’t make assumptions. Base your answers on the text only.
  2. Identify any determiners in the questions: for example, some, all, mainly, often,always, and occasionally. Because they can change the meaning. For example, ‘She always practices the piano in the evenings’ has a different meaning from ‘She mainly practices the piano in the evenings.’ 
  3. Be careful when you see verbs that qualify statements, such as suggest, claim, believe, and know. For example, ‘She claimed to be a widow’ and ‘She is a widow’ mean two different things.
  4. There will be at least one of all three answers. If you don’t have at least one ‘true’, ‘false, or ‘not given, you have at least one answer wrong.
  5. Don’t skim or scan the text to find the final answer. You will have to read the appropriate part of the text very carefully in order to understand what the author means.
  6. Don’t look for words that exactly match those in the statements. You should also look for synonyms. Remember that you are matching meaning, not words.
  7. If you can’t find the information you are looking for, then it is probably ‘not given’. Don’t waste time looking for something that is not there.
  8. If you have no idea what the answer is, put ‘not given’. You probably have no idea because the answer is not there.
  9. Answers are in the same order they appear in the text. Do not waste time going back. Keep on reading.
  10. Yes/NO/NOT GIVEN questions are slightly different because they deal with yes/no questions. True/False/Not Given questions deal with facts.