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How to Answer True, False, Not Given Questions in IELTS Reading

The IELTS Reading Module has 40 questions that come in a variety of formats.  As the reading section can include between 1500 to 2500 words, learning techniques on how to answer each of these question types quickly will help ensure that you get top marks in this module. Keep reading for more and review your Magoosh IELTS prep to practice refining these skills!

In previous posts, we looked at how to answer sentence completion questions and matching headings questions.  Today, we are going to find out how to answer true/false/not given questions.

True/False/Not Given Question Format

The screenshot below is an example of a true/false/not given question from the British Council’s Academic Reading Practice Test 1.

These questions are stated as a list of facts.  You have to look at the text and decide if the facts are true, false or not given.  Simply put:

  • If the fact that you are given matches the reading, then it is TRUE.
  • If the fact that you are given contradicts the information in the reading in some way, then it is FALSE.
  • If the fact that you are given is not mentioned in the reading, then it is NOT GIVEN.

Example IELTS Reading Questions

Source: British Council Academic Reading Practice Test 1


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Answering Techniques

  • The questions generally follow the order of the text. So start with question 1. Read the fact slowly to make sure that you fully understand what it says.

Example:  Read question 1. Question 1) Chronobiology is the study of how living things have evolved over time.

  • Then turn the statement into a question.

Example: Is chronobiology the study of how living things have evolved over time?

Example: In this reading passage, I scanned for the noun chronobiology and found this text: “Chronobiology might sound a little futuristic – like something from a science fiction novel, perhaps – but it’s actually a field of study that concerns one of the oldest processes life on this planet has ever known: short-term rhythms of time and their effect on flora and fauna.”

  • When you think you have found the answer, read the text carefully to determine if you think it is true/false/or not given. If the answer to the question you formed is ‘yes’, then it is true.  If your answer is ‘no’, then it is false.  If you can’t answer the question, then the answer is not given.

Example: The reading passage uses the words ‘short-term rhythms of time’, whilst the question fact says ‘how living things have evolved over time’. Evolving ‘over-time’ refers to something that happens long-term. So this fact is FALSE.

  • Questions will probably use synonyms rather than the words in the text. 

Example: Question 2 states the fact: “The rise and fall of sea levels affects how sea creatures behave.”  The reading passage says: “Marine life, for example, is influenced by tidal patterns.” Sea creatures is used instead of marine life. Also, the rise and fall of sea levels is used instead of tidal patterns.  So this fact is TRUE.

  • Look out for words that qualify the sentence or make the sentence restrictive in some way, for example adjectives like ‘only’, ‘little’, ‘all’, ‘some’, ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘sometimes’ etc.,  as some questions will alter just that one word in the statement. 

Example: Question 4) states the fact. ‘Circadian rhythms identify how we do different things on different days.’ The reading passage says: ‘When it comes to humans, chronobiologists are interested in what is known as the circadian rhythm. This is the complete cycle our bodies are naturally geared to undergo within the passage of a twenty-four hour day.” Here different days and twenty-four hour days become qualify statements.  We can easily see that this fact then is FALSE.

  • If you find you are spending a long time looking for the answer to one question, then probably the information is not given, and that will be your answer.

Example: Question 3 states the fact: ‘Most animals are active during the daytime.’ The reading passage says: ‘Animals tend to be active or inactive depending on the position of the sun or moon. Numerous creatures, humans included, are largely diurnal – that is, they like to come out during the hours of sunlight. Nocturnal animals, such as bats and possums, prefer to forage by night. A third group are known as crepuscular: they thrive in the low-light of dawn and dusk and remain inactive at other hours.’ Although the passage talks about when animals are active, it does not mention when most animals are active.  So this answer is NOT GIVEN.

Hopefully now that you know how some of the questions are stated and the techniques that you can use to find the right answer, you will whizz through the Reading Module.

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7 Responses to How to Answer True, False, Not Given Questions in IELTS Reading

  1. Danar February 3, 2017 at 10:26 am #

    Hi Magoosh,

    Q3 is seems very confusing to me. Look it says “largely” which can be a synonym for “most”. Can’t be?

    Numerous creatures, humans included, are LARGELY diurnal – that is, they like to come out during the hours of sunlight.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 6, 2017 at 6:18 am #

      You’re right that “largely” and “most” can’t be exact synonyms, because they’re different parts of speech. However, “largely” and “mostly” are both adjectives, and can be direct synonyms. And to say “most animals are” and “numerous creatures… are largely…” means basically the same thing, even though the grammar of these phrases differs a little. Does this make sense?

  2. Qasim August 22, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

    Valuable tips because they illustrate how to tackle different types of reading coomprehention in a practical methods.thank you very much

  3. Myra January 22, 2018 at 1:18 am #

    ok im very confused about question 3 and its answer. I know it has been pointed out by another person as well but I don’t understand the response still. For me the line‘Most animals are active during the daytime.’ is same as saying ‘Numerous creatures, humans included, are largely diurnal’. The second line pretty much says that numerous creatures, including humans or(most creatures), are largely or(mostly) diurnal or(active during daytime).
    So, I dont understand how the answer to ques 3 can be NOT GIVEN. It should be TRUE.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 22, 2018 at 9:42 am #

      Hi Myra,

      This is a tricky question, and a great example of why it’s important not to make inferences on these passages. We must make our decision based ONLY on the information provided in the passage. In this case, it’s important to understand the difference between “numerous” and “most.” “Numerous” means that there is a large number of something, which is rather subjective and not compared to anything.When we talk about “most,” on the other hand, we are saying that of ALL the animals, MOST (the greatest number) of them are active in the daytime. “Most” compares a number of something to the entire amount, which means that we would need to know how many animals there are in total and how many fall into each category.

      Let’s think this through logically. This article says that there are numerous (a great number) of animals who are active in the daytime, but it also provides some examples of animals that are active at night or at dawn/dusk. How do we know the proportion of animals that falls into each category. For example, there are trillions of insects in the world, and many of them are active at night–do the “numerous” daytime animals outnumber them?

      It’s important to be precise in language here. Even though we know that “numerous” creatures are active during the day, this does not mean that “most” creatures are active. There is a difference, and this passage does not provide any information on how many animals there are in total and how many animals are in each category. For this reason, we don’t know if ‘most’ animals are active during the daytime, so this answer must be “not given.”

      • George February 21, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

        Hi,
        This questions is actually very confusing for me. My answer was False since numerous
        doesn’t equate to majority of creatures(animal). I did not choose Not given since there was in fact information about day time activity(diurnal) of some(nemerous) creatures.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 23, 2018 at 11:38 am #

          Hi George,

          This is a very difficult question, but it’s a good learning opportunity! You are right that the activity level is mentioned in passage, but do we have the information we need to answer this question? In order to determine if “most animals are active during the daytime,” we need to know two things: how many animals there are IN TOTAL, and how many animals are active IN THE DAYTIME. The passage does not provide us with this information at all. As I mentioned above, the fact that numerous animals are active in the daytime does NOT mean that most animals are active.

          The term “not given” doesn’t mean that there is absolutely no information related to the statement in the passage. The passage gives us some information on animal activity, but it does not give us the specific information we need to determine if this statement is true or false. We can’t say that it’s true or false because we don’t know the actual percentage of animals that are active in the daytime. The information we need to evaluate this specific sentence does not appear in the passage, so the answer must be “not given.” Does that make sense? Please let me know if you are still confused by it 🙂


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