Number one for English language teachers

True, False & Not Given questions and academic reading from a point of view

Activities and suggestions to help students deal with true, false & not given questions and academic reading from a point of view, with attached practice reading test.


What follows are tips and strategies for dealing with true/false/not given questions in the reading section of the IELTS test, as well as some advice for helping students when looking at a text which is written from a particular point of view. All information is based on the exercises found in the attached IELTS Practice reading test 1, which includes a reading text from The Guardian Weekly.

Tips for Tackling TrueFalse  and Not Given questions

Exercise 1: Versions 1 & 2

You can do the first true/false /not given exercise in a number of ways depending on the level of your class:

  • Give the students the reading passage and Exercise 1 Version 1 and go through the example.You may want to refresh the students’ memories about the distinction between True/ False/Not Given, or wait until they have done the exercises.
  • Explain to the students that the sentences 1-14 are true as regards the reading passage. Ask them as per the example to decide what happens to the sentences when you add the alternatives (a - d). You can see that in the example, when you add (a) twofold, the sentence is still true, because in the text it says double and so on.
  • Put the students into pairs or groups of three. Ask the students not to read the text, but to locate the information relating to each sentence in the text. Then ask them to decide what happens to the sentence when each alternative is added.
  • How many sentences you ask the students to do will depend on the level of the class. The exercise should generate a lot of discussion and you may find that doing 1-7/10 is enough even for advanced students, but let them see how far they can go.
  • When the students have finished, check their answers.
  • Rather than rushing through the exercise give the students time to absorb the mechanism involved in analyzing.
  • Version 2 of the exercise has fewer alternatives and may be used for a quicker class or lower level.
  • After the above, in order to check that the students have understood, give them exercise 1 version 3 with the sentences and the blank spaces.
  • Ask them as a whole class to add words and phrases and keep the statements true as regards the text. Then ask them to do the same for False and then Not Given.
  • You may choose only some of the statements.
  • You may also do this as a pair group exercise with one group working on True and another on False, and so on.


  • You can give the students the exercise as above with the answers for the first five sentences and have them decide why the answers are correct. You can do a simple role-play where the students become the teacher (after they have prepared their explanations) and you become a student!
  • Then ask them to do the rest of the exercise in pairs/groups and then check their answers.

Exercise 2

Give the students the summary and the text and have them do the exercise one stage at a time. After each stage, check the answers with the students. You may of course wish to do any of the stages in isolation.

Exercise 3

  • This exercise has been described as post-reading vocabulary. One feature of the reading in IELTS that many students find difficult is over-focusing on individual words. IELTS reading exercises generally require a superficial rather than a deep grasp of the text. So focusing on one or two words that are often not necessary for the understanding of the passage, slows students down considerably. 
  • Encourage the students to do exercises 1 and 2 without looking up the meaning of unknown words. Obviously, there is a point with lower level students when this is not practical, but encourage them to go as far as they can.
  • Give the students the exercise and ask them to decide which meanings are correct according to the passage. What is wrong with the other meanings given?  

False  and not given : An explanation

Students generally find this type of exercise in the IELTS rather difficult. One reason is that they are used to doing true and false exercises where the false covers false and not given. Then when they come to do true, false or not given, they cannot make the distinction between the them. It is therefore important that students are able to understand what false means in true, false and not given. There are three types of contradictions:

  1. statements which are the opposite of the original text.
  2. statements which are the opposite of the original text, because they are negative.
  3. statements where the information is not the opposite or negative, but the information in the statement contradicts that given in the text.

Look at the examples below relating to the test:

Example 1:

There are plans to increase slightly the space for displaying art at the Uffizi.

You can see that the statement is false, because a slight increase contradicts an increase of 100%.

Example 2:

From the author’s point of view, the plan to increase the space for displaying art at the Uffizi gallery is not at all ambitious.

You can see that the statement is false, because the negative contradicts the text, which says it is ambitious.

Example 3:

A collection of pictures by Caravaggio now in a small room on the second floor will soon be transferred to larger premises on the first.

You can see that the statement is false, because the text states that the paintings are by Caravaggio and his school not by Caravaggio alone. Note that the statement is contrasting one basic piece of information (by Caravaggio), where the original text contains two (by Caravaggio and his school). Compare this with:

The Palazzo degli Uffizi was designed by Giorgio Vasari, who was an artist.

The statement is checking one piece of information. It is easy for students to become confused here, because the text states that Vasari was an historian and an artist, but the statement here is only asking if he was an artist (not an artist only excluding the idea of his being an historian).

False and not given : Strategy

Read the sentence below then look at some basic ways to help students understand what is being asked.

There are plans to increase slightly the space for displaying art at the Uffizi.

  1. Have the students turn the above statement into a question: Are there plans to increase slightly the space for displaying art at the Uffizi?
  2. Ask the students to tell you which words or phrases qualify the basic information in the statement: There are plans to increase the space for displaying art.
  3. Ask the students to tell you which word or words are most likely to carry the main stress in the statement: slightly. This helps to see what the focus of the statement is.
  4. Ask the students to match the individual pieces of information to the text.
  5. Tell the students they should always look from the statement to the text and not try to analyze from the text to the statement. In true and false exercises, the answer going both ways is the same, but with truefalse and not given you may have a different answer!
  6. Ask the students to do truefalse and not given statements as if they were true or false only. Then ask them to decide whether the ones which are false are contradictions or not given and then ask them to decide what kind of contradictions they are. 

Academic reading from a point of view

Some kind of viewpoint question will always come up in the exam. Here are some top tips to help prepare your students for this.

Example Question:

Do the following statements reflect the views of the writer in the reading passage?


YES if the statement agrees with the writer

NO if the statement contradicts the writer

NOT GIVEN if there is no information about this in the passage

1. The international reputation the British have had for bad food is a thing of the past.

Tip 1: Some kind of viewpoint question will always come up in the exam. The two tasks you are likely to see are around ten questions of this type and/or a single multiple-choice question summarizing the overall opinions of the writer of the text.

Tip 2: As with all task types in the reading, this task could come up with any of the texts. The only exception to this is that this text type can obviously not be used with a purely factual or entirely even-handed text. This task type could also, as always, be combined with any of the other task types within the same text. Try to avoid using a text in class with two unfamiliar task types.

Tip 3: Generally, gauging the viewpoint of the writer of a text is a very challenging task (including for native speakers!). How much time you want to spend on it may depend on how high a  mark your students need and what they are likely to need their English for after the exam.

Tip 4: The good news when doing viewpoint questions is that opinions are more interesting to talk about than facts, making it easy to add an oral dimension to a reading class. Also, for classes that are reluctant to speak, it provides a structure and some language to help them into speaking.

Tip 5: As they are never expected to give their own opinion in the reading paper, tasks that make them guess others’ opinions are more directly of use for the exam (although less likely to lead to heated discussion). One method is for the teacher to tape an interview where a locally or internationally famous person who the students will know well is giving their viewpoint on things. The teacher then prepares statements like the one in the example above on the topic(s) they talk about. Students predict what they think that person’s opinion will be (and which questions they will try and avoid) by marking the statements YES, NO and NOT GIVEN, and then watch/ listen to the interview to check.

Tip 6: Even without knowing who’s giving the opinion, it should be possible to make some kind of guess on what is going to be said with a couple of the statements, e.g. surely no-one thinks the statement about British food is true! Predicting people’s opinions can be a mixed blessing, however, as having a preconceived idea can make you read into something what you expect to see. You will need to decide whether to use this technique or not depending on whether you think your class would find it useful.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Hello Jane,

    Thank you very much for your comment. We have amended the question which should hopefully make things clearer.

    Best wishes and happy teaching,

    The onestopenglish team

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  • I think there is some ambiguity in Question 1 answer - not given.

    It states "large examples" and my students have been uncertain over the right answer as they have taken this to mean a large number of examples rather than the actual size of the paintings. Could this be re-phrased?

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