IELTS Reading- True, False, Not Given Tips and Strategy

‘True, False, Not Given’ questions requires you to identify if information in a text is true or not.

You will be given a number of factual statements and you have to check in the text if it they are true or not.

This is probably the most difficult question on the reading paper.

This post will:

  • look at example questions
  • discuss common problems
  • define ‘True’, ‘False’ and ‘Not Given’
  • give you tips and advice
  • provide you with a strategy to use on exam day


In this article when I refer to ‘statements’ I am talking about the questions, not the text in the main reading article.

Example Question

This sample is taken from ielts.org and more sample reading questions can be viewed here.

IELTS reading true false not given example

As you can see above, you will be given a number of factual statements and asked to look at the text and decide if the statement is true, false or not given.

Common Problems

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.

Now lets look at solving these common problems.

What do TRUE, FALSE and NOT GIVEN mean? 

The most important thing to remember is what the words ‘true’, ‘false’ and ‘not given’ actually mean and therefore what IELTS wants you to write.

  • If the text agrees with or confirms the information in the statement, the answer is TRUE
  • If the text contradicts or is the opposite to the information in the statement, the answer is FALSE
  • If there is no information or it is impossible to know, the answer is NOT GIVEN

True means that the meaning is the same. It is just similar then is is FALSE. Remember that we are dealing with factual information so there is no room to say it is similar or nearly the same. 

Lots of students have argued with me during practice and said the statement is true because it ‘kind of’ means the same. There is no ‘kind of’ with these questions, only facts.

Very important- Just because an answer is NOT GIVEN does not mean there are no words in the statements that match words in the text. This is something that confuses people, if words match then it must be TRUE or FALSE, right? Not really. This is not a good way to think about these questions because there probably will be matching words for NOT GIVEN answers, they just don’t have enough information to answer the question as a whole.

Top 10 Tips

  1. Ignore anything you already know about the topic and don’t make assumptions. Base your answers on the text only.
  2. Identify any words that qualify the statement, for example some, all, mainly, often, always and occasionally. These words are there to test if you have read the whole statement because they can change the meaning. For example, ‘Coca-Cola has always made its drinks in the U.S.A.’ has a different meaning from ‘Coca-Cola has mainly made its drinks in the U.S.A.’
  3. Be careful when you see verbs that qualify statements, such as suggest, claim, believe and know. For example, ‘The man claimed he was a British citizen,’ and ‘The man is a British citizen’ 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 and 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 opinion. TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN questions deal with facts.

Strategy 

This is my suggested strategy. There are many different strategies and you should use the one you feel comfortable with. You can also adapt this strategy to what suits you.

  1. Always read the instructions carefully and make sure you know if it is a TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN or YES/NO/NOT GIVEN question.
  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’.

I hope you found this useful. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments below or on the Facebook page.

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7 Comments

  1. mirza ehteshamulla baig says

    I am preparing for GT exam.I want to take coaching from you.

  2. Tuan says

    Dear Mr.Pell,
    Thank you for this useful article, but I have a question.
    “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.” You mean there will be at least one “true”, one “fasle” and one “not given” in this type of questions. Howerver, I have do some test with only True and False answer, that are Test 3 and Test 4 in IELTS reading actual test 2007 – 2011, the name of these passages are “Learning by examples” and “The Ant and the Mandarin”
    Could you check that and confirm me.
    Thank you in advance

    1. Christopher Pell says

      Thanks for your comment. Can you confirm which books/sources these came from?

  3. Robin says

    Dear Mr. Pell,
    Is this all right if I write (on real ielts answer sheet) TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN or YES/NO/NOT GIVEN in small latter? Can I just write T/F/NG or Y/N/NG ? I want to know correct method.
    Please reply.
    Robin

  4. Noha Faisal says

    Hi Mr,
    Thanks for this remarkable work and effort , it’s highly very helpful and useful 🙂
    I have 2 questions to ask if you don’t mind. Firstly , is this type of question must be read before or after reading the text ?
    Secondly , there is no enough time to read the whole passage , that may be the most confusing part of the difficulty in answering the types of questions
    can you help please ?!
    Thanks !!
    Regards,

  5. Bishal Tuladhar says

    I had tried a lot of techniques and strategies for this type of question but it didn’t work out as I expected. Let’s hope that the above strategies will help me.

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