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IELTS Reading Exam Tips - True/False/Not Given Question Type

Madison Oster August 13th, 2018

In your IELTS preparation, you’ll need to practice a total of 11 IELTS reading question types. In this article, we’ll look at the “Identify Information” (also known as “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN”) IELTS reading question type in detail and provide you IELTS reading exam tips on how you can successfully answer it.

"TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN" Question Type Introduction

A lot of people also call this question type “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN”, because in this question type, you will see a lot of statements about factual information and your job is to figure out if the statement (fact) is true, false, or not given according to the reading passage. Simply put:

  • If the fact matches the reading, then it is TRUE.
  • If the fact contradicts the information in the reading in some way, then it is FALSE.
  • If the fact is not mentioned or cannot be inferred in the reading, then it is NOT GIVEN.

This question type is one of the most difficult question types on the IELTS reading test because you need to spend time finding the correlating information in the reading passage.  This tests your speed reading skills. In addition, you need to have strong logic in order to answer correctly. Even many native English speakers find this question type challenging because they cannot logically distinguish between “FALSE” and "NOT GIVEN".  But don’t worry! We will help you in this post. This post will guide you in:

  1. Identifying 3 common problems students make answering “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN” questions
  2. Learning IELTS reading exam tips & strategies for successfully answering a “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN” question

3 common problems answering “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN” questions

In general, there are 3 common problems students have when answering “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN” questions.

Common problem 1

A common mistake students make is if the statement is similar to the information in the text, they think the answer is “FALSE”. This is wrong. “True” means that the meaning is the same. If it is just similar, then it is “FALSE”. Remember we are dealing with factual information, so there is no room for saying similar is true. The most common way IELTS examiners try to trick you is by adding qualifying words such as mainly, all, often, some, occasionally, and always. These words can completely change the meaning of a sentence. You need to be aware of them. Here is a typical example.

The majority of the earth’s glaciers are located near the poles. The reason glaciers are generally formed in high alpine regions is that they require cold temperatures throughout the year. In these areas where there is little opportunity for summer ablation (loss of mass), snow changes to compacted fim and then crystallized ice. During periods in which melting and evaporation exceed the amount of snowfall, glaciers will retreat rather than progress. While glaciers rely heavily on snowfall, other climatic conditions including freezing rain, avalanches, and wind, contribute to their growth. One year of below average precipitation can stunt the growth of a glacier tremendously. With the rare exception of surging glaciers, a common glacier flows about 10 inches per day in the summer and 5 inches per day in the winter. The fastest glacial surge on record occurred in 1953, when the Kutiah Glacier in Pakistan grew more than 12 kilometers in three months.

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet, write

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. All glaciers exist near the north and south poles of the earth.  __________
2. ...

The statement “All glaciers exist near the north and south poles of the earth.” is FALSE because the sentence in the text is “The majority of the earth’s glaciers are located near the poles.

You also need to be very careful about some small details. Here is an example.

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 percent of lung cancers, smoking is associated with cancers of, amongst others, the mouth, stomach and kidneys, and is thought to cause about 14 percent of leukemia 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 percent 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? In boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet, write

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

The statement is “Thirty percent of deaths in the United States are caused by smoking-related diseases”. The correlating reading passage is: “Smoking, it is believed, is responsible for 30 percent of all deaths from cancer.

A lot of students might have quickly answered this question as a TRUE because the ignore the words “deaths from cancer”. However, the correct answer is FALSE as only 30 percent of deaths from cancer in the United States are caused by smoking-related diseases. Some students might have answered this question as “NOT GIVEN” because. However, logically,  if smoking accounts for 30% of deaths from cancer, then it is responsible for less than 30% of total deaths from all diseases. So the answer is FALSE.

Common problem 2

The second scenario where people often go wrong is when the statement does not look like the information in the text at all, but the answer is still “TRUE”. This is either because

  1. the statement paraphrases sentences from the text or
  2. the information in the statement is not explicitly stated on the texts. (You have to further infer a deeper meaning from texts)

In either case, you have to completely understand the text and use your logic in order to give the correct answer. Here is an example. In this example, the statement is implied information from the highlighted text. The answer is “TRUE”.

Noise usually means unwanted sounds which interfere with genuine information. Information theory generalises this idea via theorems that capture the effects of noise with mathematical precision. In particular, noise sets a limit on the rate at which information can pass along communication channels while remaining error-free. This rate depends on the relative strengths of the signal and noise travelling down the communication channel, and on its capacity (its ‘bandwidth’). The resulting limit, given in units of bits per second, is the absolute maximum rate of error-free communication given signal strength and noise level. The trick is to find ways of packaging up - ‘coding’ - information to cope with the ravages of noise, while staying within the information-carrying capacity - ‘bandwidth’ - of the communication system being used.

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet, write

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. The amount of information that can be sent in a given time period is determined with reference to the signal strength and noise level.  __________
2. ...

Here is another example. In this example, the statement is a paraphrase of highlighted texts. The answer is “TRUE”.

Most savannas probably experience mild fires frequently and major burns every two years or so. Many savanna and dry-forest plant species are called pyrophytes, meaning they are adapted in various ways to withstand occasional burning. Frequent fire is a factor to which rain forest species seem unable to adapt, although ancient charcoal remains from Amazon forest soils dating prior to the arrival of humans suggest that moist forests also occasionally burn. Experiments suggest that if fire did not occur in savannas in the Americas, species composition would change significantly. When burning occurs, it prevents competition among plant species from progressing to the point where some species exclude others, reducing the overall diversity of the ecosystem. But in experimental areas protected from fire, a few perennial grass species eventually come to dominate, outcompeting all others. Evidence from other studies suggests that exclusion of fire results in markedly decreased plant-species richness, often with an increase in tree density. There is generally little doubt that fire is a significant factor in maintaining savanna, certainly in most regions.

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet, write

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. Rainforest species appear unable to adapt to frequent fires, but evidence from the past suggests that rainforests sometimes do burn.  __________
2. ...

Common problem 3

A lot of students think if words match then it must be TRUE or FALSE. Not really! If the answer is NOT GIVEN, it means they don’t have enough information to answer the question as a whole. Also, many students confuse NOT GIVEN with FALSE because they assume too much.

Here is a great example. The highlighted sentences show why the answer is “NOT GIVEN”.

Chilies originate in South America and have been eaten for at least 9,500 years. Organised cultivation began around 5,400 BC. Christopher Columbus was the first European to encounter chilies, when he landed on the island of Hispaniola in 1492. He thought it was a type of pepper and called it the “red pepper”, a name still used today. After their introduction to Europe they were an immediate sensation and were quickly incorporated into the diet. From there they spread to Africa, India and East Asia.

The reason for the chili’s “hotness” lies in a chemical called Capsaisin. Capsaisin causes temporary irritation to the trigeminal cells, which are the pain receptors in the mouth, nose and throat. After the pain messages are transmitted to the brain, endorphins, natural pain killers, are released and these not only kill the pain but give the chili eater a short lived natural high. Other side effects include: an increased heart rate, a running nose and increased salivation and sweating, which can have a cooling effect in hot climates.

The reason for the presence of Capsaisin is thought to be to deter animals from eating the fruit. Only mammals feel the burning effects; birds feel nothing. As birds are a better method of distributing the seeds, which pass intact through their guts, Capsaisin would seem to be a result of natural selection.

The smaller chilies tend to be the hottest. This may reflect the fact that they tend to grow closer to the ground and are therefore more vulnerable to animals. The heat of a chili is measured on the Scoville scale. The hottest types such as the Habenero and the Scotch Bonnet rate between 100,000 and 300,000, the world famous Tabasco sauceÒ rates at 15,000 to 30,000, about the same as the Thai prik khee nu, while the popular Jalapeno is between 5,000 and 15,000. Powdered chili is 500 to 1,000 and the mild capsicins and paprikas can range between 100 and 0.

Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 1–5 on your answer sheet, write

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. All large chilies grow high off the ground __________
2. ...

From the highlighted sentence, we know that since small chilies tend to grow closer to the ground, we can then infer that many of the large ones are higher off the ground. However, the statements says 'all large chilies grow high off the ground'. We are not given any information to say all of them grow high off the ground, so the answer is NOT GIVEN. Many students might choose to answer “FALSE” because they assume too much.

IELTS Reading Exam Tips & Strategies: How to Answer “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN” Questions

Now that you’re aware of the common mistakes made answering “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN” questions, it’s time to teach you some IELTS reading tips & strategies for successfully answering a “TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN” question.

  1. The questions generally follow the order of the text. So start with statement 1. Read the statement carefully until you fully understand its meaning.
  2. Next, skim and scan the reading passage to find the correlating information. Here, be aware that question statements probably paraphrase or use synonyms rather than the exact same words in the text. When you find where the information is located, use your pencil to mark down the statement number. This is to help you avoid searching for the same places for other question statements.
  3. When you think you have found the answer, read the text carefully to determine if you think it is TRUE, FALSE, or NOT GIVEN.  This is the most difficult part. To increase answer success rate, study our tips on avoiding three common problems answering this question type and practice as many as you can.
  4. If you can’t find the information you are looking for, then the information is probably not given, and that will be your answer. Don’t waste time looking for something that is not there.

Using this strategy, you’re certain to find answers efficiently, saving yourself precious time ensuring you answer every question before time runs out.

 

 
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