While it seems fairly straightforward, this task type usually gives people a lot of problems. Take a look below at the top problems our learners face and how to avoid them.

1. What does Not Given really mean?

This is the biggest problem most students face. They aren’t sure what to look for, or what not to look for. Another issue is that most students aren’t used to answering this type of question. 

Finally, because it looks difficult and confusing, most students spend way too much time trying to decide whether a question is not given or false, this leads to losing valuable time on other parts of the test.

Solution

It’s all about matching the meaning. If you can find the meaning of the question somewhere in the passage, then the answer is most likely going to true or false. 

If you aren’t able to find the meaning of the statement in the passage, or if the meanings don’t match, then the answer is probably not-given. Also, be careful of keywords, remember they are a guide, not the solution. While an answer is not given, it still may contain some of the keywords.

Pro Tip

If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for in the passage, or you have no idea what the answer could be, then the answer is most likely not given. Try not to waste too much time on any one question. Remember, you only have about 90 seconds per question.

2. Use Keywords as a guide, not the answer

Many students rely heavily on keywords in order to find the answers in the IELTs reading test. And while this is a very good strategy, it is slightly different for T/F/NG. 

We must make sure we understand the meaning of what is being asked as well.

Solution

Make sure you understand exactly what the statement is asking. It’s the meaning we are trying to match and not the keywords. Use the keywords as clues to help you find the right area, but once you get there, analyse the meaning.

3. Not understanding the meaning behind True / False / Not Given

It may seem self-evident, like reading the instructions before each task, but it’s also important that you have a good understanding of the exact meaning of True, False and Not Given before you attempt to answer the questions.

Solution

Make sure you review the exact meaning of each answer type.

  • True: The information in the reading passage will agree and confirm with the information found in the statement.
  • False: The information found in the reading passage will directly contradict or be the opposite of the information found in the statement.
  • Not Given: There is no information related to the information in the statement found anywhere in the question.

Pro Tip: There is no middle ground in these answers. Either the answer is 100% true, 100% false, or 100% not given. There is no ‘kind of true’ or ‘kind of false’

4. Not being prepared for synonyms

As discussed earlier, underlining keywords is very important, but just as important is thinking about and expecting synonyms for those keywords in the passage you’re reading. 

Solution: 

As you practice before the exam, make a list of the common keywords and their synonyms you come across. Study this list to continually expand your vocabulary. But most importantly, just keep an open mind. You must be aware that you won’t find the exact keywords in the passage and work on your ability to understand the meaning of words from context.

5. Students don’t know where to look in the reading passage

 Students who do not practice their pre-reading and during-reading strategies often find themselves frantically jumping around the reading passage hoping that they will find the answer. But like all things, there’ss a better way.

Solution:

The answers for this type of task will run in the same order as the reading passage. This means that the answer to question #2 will come after question #1. Following question #2 will be the answer to question #3.

If you find that you have answered #2 and then you find the answer to #4, this means that the answer to #3 is somewhere in the middle. Don’t jump around, follow the text.

6. Using Existing Knowledge

You might feel lucky if you get a reading passage on a topic that you already know about but be careful.

Solution:

Leave your knowledge and assumptions at the door. This isn’t the place to assert your knowledge. All the answers will ONLY be found in the reading. Remember that and don’t answer a question based on what you think the answer should be.

7. Not paying attention to qualifying words

As you already know, the IELTS reading test is not easy. Making it even harder is that the statements will often use qualifying words as a basis for choosing the correct answer. 

What do we mean by this? 

The focus for answering these questions is based on the meaning and not the keywords. And by changing the qualifying words in a statement, we can change the entire meaning. Take a look at the example below.

T/F/NG Question: All species of marsupial became extinct on the island over a 20-year period.

What’s in the passage: Over the past 20 years, the majority of marsupial species became extinct on the island due to the destructive forces of human presence.

As you can hopefully see, all and majority do not have the same meaning. That would mean that this answer is false.

Solution

Make sure you are studying qualifying words and verbs before you take the IELTS exam. Make sure you’re on the lookout for them in the statements. Treat them like keywords, but with a focus on meaning.

Qualifying Words Example
Adverbs of quantity all, everyone, none, some, a few, many
Adverbs of frequency always, never, sometimes, often, occassionally, rarely
Adverbs that mean ''one and no more'' purely, solely, only, unique, mainly
Ordinal numbers first, last, second, third...
Time-order adjectives newest, latest, most recent, oldest

8. Thinking the answer doesn’t exists

No matter what, there will always be one answer. Never leave an answer blank.