IELTS Reading: Strategies for True/False/Not Given and Yes/No/Not Given

Make sure you’ve read the general strategies for answering the reading section. For the true/false/not given or yes/no/not given type questions, the strategies are similar:

  • skim questions
  • identify keywords
  • scan
  • read carefully
  • choose answer carefully

With this type of question it’s important to clearly understand the different  choices. Most people are clear about identifying whether a statement is TRUE or YES. If the statement agrees with the information or reflects the views of the writer, then it is True or Yes.

The difficulty is between False/No and Not Given. Here’s the difference:

NO if the statement clearly CONTRADICTS (is the OPPOSITE of) the claims of the writer.

NOT GIVEN  if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this. You may find some information in the passage around the ideas of the statement – but there are no specific words that either clearly reflect or contradict the writer’s views on this idea in the passage.

FALSE if the statement clearly CONTRADICTS (is the OPPOSITE of) the information

NOT GIVEN if there is no CLEAR specific information about the statement that neither agrees nor contradicts the information in the statement.

So here are the Techniques for answering T/F/NG and Y/N/NG:

  1. Read each statement carefully and look for key words in each statement that you can scan for in the passage. Prepare to look for similar words or expressions to those key words (they most likely won’t be the exact same words).
  2. Take note of  comparisons ( is like, more… than, less… than, bigger, etc) or qualifying expressions (a lot, many, little, not, most, some, much, slightly, never, sometimes, often, etc.)
  3. Once you have located the right sentences about the statement – READ CAREFULLY and compare it to the statement.
  4. If you can clearly see the statement reflects what’s written in the passage, choose TRUE.
  5. If you’re unsure – check to see if it says the opposite. If it’s not clear to be the opposite, you can guess Not Given.

For example, in the following Y/N/NG statement you see:

“The destruction of land for food and firewood is linked to desertification.” (From IELTS TestBuilder 2)

Key words I identify: destruction of land, firewood, desertification

Actual sentences in the corresponding passage that I found by scanning for my key words or similar words:

Transport systems including roads within and between cities need to be constructed or upgraded to create motorways; green fields are turned into airports; virgin forest is stripped to provide food and firewood. In poorer regions, this newly exposed land becomes desert, completing the cycle of destruction.

I had  scanned the reading passage and found “firewood” and “destruction”. I also scanned “desert”, which is part of the word “desertification”, which means “making land that was once fertile with vegetation into a desert”.  If you didn’t know this vocabulary word, you could try to guess the connection between “desert” and “desertification” since the statement is about destruction of land.

After locating these sentences, I read carefully around the words to match the statement to the information in the passage.

As you can see, from the passage, it says that forest is stripped for food and firewood and then becomes desert. It also mentions ” completing the cycle”. Different parts of a cycle are all linked to each other. Therefore, I see the statement clearly reflects the claims of the writer as its written in these sentences. So the answer is YES.

Here’s another example of a T/F/NG question from “The History of Salt”:

“The first tax on salt was imposed by a Chinese Emperor.”

Key words I identified: first tax, Chinese Emperor

When I scanned for these words I found:

In 2200 BC, the Chinese Emperor Hsia Yu levied one of the first known taxes. He taxed Salt.

Reading carefully, take note of the difference between “THE first tax” as in the statement, and “one of the first known taxes” as in the passage. “One of the first known” is NOT the same as “the (absolute) first.” Therefore the answer is FALSE.

** See more examples for Yes/No/Not Given questions.


I'm an English teacher specializing in IELTS preparation - especially writing and reading. If you have any questions, please ask! You can also sign up for weekly tips and lessons for IELTS and English!

Posted in IELTS Reading, Reading, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,
18 comments on “IELTS Reading: Strategies for True/False/Not Given and Yes/No/Not Given
  1. Sarik says:

    Hi! Is it correct to write Y,N or NG instead of the complete words (I mean YES, NO or NOT GIVEN which takes longer) in the answer script?

    • Pearl says:

      Hi Sarik,

      Sorry for the long delay in my reply! I think it’s probably best to write the words out (YES, NO, or NOT GIVEN) because that’s what is written in the directions. Better to be safe – esp. when you pay all that money to take the test.

      Good luck!


    • Harminder kaur says:

      It is better to write Yes, No, Not given.

  2. tbessi says:

    I have only 1h and 3 passages?

    1- I don’t agree with read carefully, you joking me? yes
    2- I am 40 years Old, What is the method to skim any thing? Nada!

    What is the purpose of this exam (I.E.L.T.S) same thing with TOEFL?

    • Pearl says:


      Yes, 60 minutes to complete 40 questions to 3 passages/texts.

      1 – Not joking and you may laugh, but many mistakes are made because students miss an important word. I’m stressing about reading carefully within the small area of the text that gives you the answer to a specific question. You do not need to read the whole entire text/passage carefully – not enough time.

      2 – Age has nothing to do with this. I’m sure you have skimmed (rather than read very carefully) pamphlets, letters, notices, etc. deciding whether to throw them in the trash or to keep. Read the first sentence of each paragraph quickly – you don’t necessarily have to read the whole complete sentence – just try to get the main idea of the passage and each paragraph. The main purpose of this is to just give an overall understanding of the passage, the main idea(s) and maybe the organization of the text.

      IELTS is now being used in more countries and more institutions. So depending on where you are and what school or organization you are applying to, check which test they require.

  3. Pearl says:

    You’re almost there! You just need to bump up your writing. You’ve gotten a 6 in your speaking before, so you can do it again. Let me know if you want to get your essays corrected w/ feedback. Good luck with your studies.

  4. yoosh says:

    In your second example regarding taxes on salt, shouldn’t be the answer NOT GIVEN since it is not clear whether this is THE first tax on salt or not? Nothing in the passage suggests that the statement is completely wrong or right. For all we know, this COULD be the first tax on salt.

    • Pearl says:

      Good point. But your answer should be based on what the writer claims in the passage. The writer does NOT state that the first tax was salt. The writer states that it is ONE of the first known taxes, which makes the statement FALSE.

      We answer NOT GIVEN when you cannot know what the writer is thinking or when they do not address the information in the passage. So for this example, you cannot say the information is NOT GIVEN because the writer does indeed write about salt tax and that it, along with other known items, could be the first tax. There is specific information there – that it is one of the first (rather than the first).

      Confusing, I know.

  5. manjil says:

    in my practice i always get 16 and 17 !!!!
    what question shold i focus the most to get at least 23

  6. Allan says:

    Hi Pearl,
    I have a question if in the article it says:

    There may be little room for further development in residential accommodation of the Waterside.

    but in the question,

    There is a little room for further development in residential accommodation of the Waterside.

    So the article says that it may which means that it may or may not be little room for further development while the question states that there is a little room. The way I understand it is the two statements are not opposing since it may or may not be little room which doesn’t answer a yes or no, therefore the correct answer for this is not given. Am I right? Thanks.

  7. D.T.S says:

    Hi. Yes you’re right “the frist tax” is different than “one of the frist” but when you read following two sentences together “levied one of the first known taxes. He taxed Salt.” it clearly means that may be there was taxes for other things already but for sure it was the frist on salt. For me it would be True.Please instruct me.

  8. Wasim says:


    I recently appeared for IELTS GT test. It was my first take. My score was R 5.5, L 6, S 7, W 7.5.

    Perhaps, I am unable to understand what went wrong with Listening, and Reading scores? After exam, I was very much sure that in these modules i will certainly get 7 band? Moreover, I am unable to recall any unusual happening in these modules except i did lot of rubbing, and rewriting just to make better presentation of the answers. That’s all.

    Likewise, I had practised all the tests’ of cambridge books (all 9 books), and my average score remained in Reading 6.5, and Listening 7.

    Importantly, I just practised only one essay, and one letter for writing, and for speaking i have not practised at all. As you can see, I have got rather good score in these two modules.

    Please guide me. What might gone wrong? and what area I should focused for my retake on 19th July, 2014. I am seriously clue less.



    • Pearl says:

      Hi Wasim,

      Thanks for your message. I can’t know for sure why your scores were below what you were expecting. The only thing I can say is that if you were rubbing out answers and rewriting them, you may have somehow copied the wrong answers in the wrong space on your answer sheet perhaps? For example, if you skip a question on the test but don’t follow accordingly on your answer sheet, the following answers will also be wrong as they don’t correspond to the correct question number.

      Also, for the listening, if your spelling is incorrect, you do not receive a correct mark for that answer.

      You may want to test yourself again with new material. Maybe you chose too often the “distractor” answer that is always present in these tests. These are answers that look like they are the correct answer, but aren’t when you think more deeply about it.

      To focus on your next test, I would be more mindful of the different strategies for each type of question and do more practice tests.Also, try to immerse yourself in listening and reading more English to broaden your vocabulary recognition and awareness of a variety of topics. Listen/watch news reports or TV shows, read newspapers/blogs.

      Sorry I can’t be more specific. Hope that helps a little bit. Good luck with your studies!

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