The IELTS reading test uses a variety of question types to test reading skills because the way we interact with texts in real life varies. Most takers of the IELTS test will be going on to study overseas in an academic setting so the skills you develop for the reading test will hopefully hold you in good stead for your academic life overseas — skills such as scanning for specific information will come in handy when reading texts at university level. In this article, we will focus on the skills needed to approach one of the most common types of questions: T/F/NG questions. We will look at understanding both the questions themselves and the text you will be reading.
T/F/NG questions account for about a quarter of test questions in terms of how frequently they appear and how many questions you need to answer. With this question type, you need to assess the truth of a statement which summarizes part of the text. However, before you can decide if a statement is true or not you need to be sure that you understand the statement. Let’s look at a few examples:
Have a look at the following statements and identify the key points:
|1) Fishing boats keep records of shark population numbers.|
|2) Shark numbers have been declining since the 1980s.|
|3) Finning is the primary cause of falling shark numbers.|
Remember, the wording in a question will be slightly different to the wording in the text, so an awareness of synonyms and paraphrasing can be helpful in identifying the correct answers.
Now, look at the passage below and see where you can find the answers.
If you had trouble finding the answer to the first question, that’s because it’s not there. The paragraph mentions commercial fisheries, research studies and divers, but there is no explicit mention of boats or fishing vessels, so we can mark the answer as NG – not given. A common problem people find with not given questions is that the information is not in the text and they may spend too much time looking for something when there’s nothing to find. If you’re not totally sure that an answer is not given, but cannot find evidence to support the statement or contradict it, then the likelihood is that it’s an NG answer.
Question 2 had the possible distractor of the “1980s”, but if you read further on in the paragraph, you’ll find that the earliest date mentioned is the 1950s, which makes question 2 F – false. Sometimes, there may be information in the text that may distract you from the correct answer. Taking a few moments to double-check your answer by reading around the area where you located the supporting information will help you to confirm that you have made the right choice.
Q3 should have been quite straightforward. In this case, there are not too many different way to talk about shark finning, so locating the topic in the passage and finding the corresponding information is quite easy.
Obviously, our example is a lot shorter than the text you would normally find in an IELTS exam. So how do you go about locating information in the reading passage? The first thing to remember is that the questions will appear in the same order as the information in the text. This could mean that the answers are scattered throughout the text, or relate to one section of the text only. Working on your skimming skills to get a general idea of the location of different topics will help you to locate information more quickly. Once you have found the topic of your statement, the supporting information could come either before or after it, so it’s important to read the information around the topic just to make sure you have covered all possibilities.
In summary, understanding the statement is a key starting point in being able to successfully answer T/F/NG questions. As you practice in class, or at home, get into the habit of identifying the topic of the statement and the controlling factor you need to verify. Good luck!
By Laura Cooper