1. How to Find the Relevant Part of the Text
In the IELTS Reading exam, before you can answer the question, you need to find the right part of the text.
First, remember that the questions follow the text. That means that for the first question, you should start looking near the beginning of the text.
Now, let’s do an example.
Imagine that you see this question:
- Zander cannot live in salt water.
Probably, your first thought is, “What’s a zander?” Perfectly reasonable. I had to look it up, too!
However, you know that the zander is something which can (or can’t) live in salt water. What lives in water? Many things, but we know the zander must be some kind of animal or plant which lives in water.
So, look for words in the text related to fish or sea life. You can also look for the word zander, obviously.
Also, the question mentions salt water. Where do you find salt water? In the sea, right? So, look for words like sea, ocean etc.
What’s the opposite of salt water? It’s fresh water. Where do you find fresh water? Mostly in rivers and lakes. If the answer is ‘true’, and zander cannot live in salt water, then they must live in fresh water.
This means you should also look for references to fresh water in the text, so look for words like river or lake.
Let’s do one more example. You see this question:
- Before 1900, there were no zander in the UK.
What should you look for in the text?
Look for dates or time references. The question mentions 1900, so you could look for time expressions like 19th century, 20th century, turn of the century, and so on.
You could also look for references to the UK or parts of the UK. This means you should look for words like Britain, England, Scotland, etc.
Use these techniques to find the section in the text which will let you answer the question.
Okay, so now you’ve found the relevant part of the text. What next for the IELTS Reading Exam?
2. Finding Key Ideas in the Text
Take a look at this extract from a text.
- The zander is a type of fish, thought originally to be from Western Europe. Zander were introduced into the UK in the late 20th century, and now can be found in many rivers and freshwater lakes around the UK. Scientists claim that zander have harmed many native English fish species since their introduction.
Pause the video if you want extra time to read it.
What should you focus on here?
Here are a few things to look for and think about:
First, look for time and date references.
The statement says late 20th century. What does that mean? 1990? Is 2000 late 20th century? When does ‘late’ start? Is 1970 late 20th century?
Secondly, look for expressions of quantity like all, many, some, most, and so on.
Here, the text says many rivers and freshwater lakes. Does that mean all zander live in rivers? Does it tell you whether zander are more common in rivers or lakes?
Thirdly, look for specific details and facts. What do you know for sure after reading this text?
- You know that the zander is a fish, and that there weren’t any zander in the UK before 1950 (because they were introduced). You know that zander live in rivers and freshwater lakes in the UK.
Those are the only facts in the text, so these are the only things you can be sure about. To do well with IELTS true/false/not given questions, you need to separate fact from speculation.
Finally, look for expressions of uncertainty. This is the opposite of the point we just mentioned.
Look for modal verbs like could, might or must. Look for expressions which indicate uncertainty, for example it is thought that… or many experts believe that…
For example, the text says that zander are thought to be from Western Europe. Does that mean they are definitely from Western Europe, or is it uncertain?
The text says that scientists claim that zander have harmed many native English fish species. From this, can you say for sure that zander have damaged English wildlife?
Of course, the exact points you consider depend on the question you’re trying to answer.
However, it’s good practice to think about these different things when you’re preparing for your IELTS reading test. To get a high score, you need really good attention to detail.
3. How to Answer True/False/Not Given Questions
Let’s do a few questions together to practise.
First I’m going to give you the statement which you need to read, then I’ll give you the part of the text where you would find the answer. All you have to do is decide if the statement is true, false, or not given.
Here’s your first statement. Read it and think about what you could be looking for.
- Bananas became popular as soon as they were brought to Europe.
Here is the text:
- After their introduction to Europe bananas were an immediate sensation and became a staple in many people’s diets.
So, what do you think? Is the statement true, false or not given? It’s true.
The text says immediate sensation and the statement says that bananas were popular as soon as they were brought to Europe.
These are exactly the same idea. Even if you don’t know the exact meaning of sensation or staple, you could still could still make a good guess based on:
- The link between as soon as and immediate.
- Many people’s diets. Even if you don’t know what staple means, you can hopefully work out that many people were eating bananas. That allows you to say that bananas were popular.
Let’s do one more. Here’s the statement:
- Capsaicin can irreversibly damage the mouth.
And here’s the relevant sentence from the text.
- Capsaicin, found in chili peppers, causes temporary irritation of the cells in the mouth.
Do you know what capsaicin is? Does it matter? Not really.
Even if you have no idea what capsaicin is, you can still be sure that this one is false.
How can you be sure?
If something is irreversibly damaged, then it’s permanent; the text says it is only temporary irritation. Therefore, it has to be false.
Let’s do another one.
Here’s the statement:
- Bananas can be part of a parrot’s diet.
And here’s the text:
- Parrots must compete with larger animals, such as monkeys, for the available food, and especially fruit. Larger fruits, such as bananas, are mostly consumed by monkeys, who can reach them easily by climbing.
What do you think?
The text doesn’t say that parrots eat bananas, but the statement includes the word can.
Is there anything in the text which tells us that it’s possible for parrots to eat bananas?
No, there isn’t. We know that parrots eat fruit, and that bananas are mostly consumed by monkeys. The text suggests strongly that parrots can eat bananas, but it doesn’t directly say so.
So, the correct answer is ‘not given’.
Be careful with questions like these. It’s natural to read something like this and guess that parrots can eat bananas. It’s reasonable to guess—the text does suggest this.
However, your answers must be based on what the text says or doesn’t say.
4. How to Answer Yes/No/Not Given Questions in IELTS Reading
So, you’ve seen how to answer some true/false/not given questions.
Now we’ll look at some yes/no/not given questions.
Remember, you can approach these in the same way. The only difference is that yes/no/not given questions may also include the writer’s opinions.
Here’s a text. Pause the video to read it if you need extra time.
- Wainwright’s, established in 1863, are now among the leading exporters of glass tankards and other glass products anywhere in the Northern hemisphere. Although not immediately profitable, the company, now based in Chicago, has grown prodigiously into a brand whose elegant receptacles are widely sought after and admired by many.
Alright? Here’s your first statement:
- Wainwright’s success was instantaneous.
Instantaneous has the same meaning as immediate.
We know Wainwright’s brand is now sought after (= well-known and wanted by people), but also that it was not immediately profitable.
The statement says instantaneous success, but our text says Wainwright’s wasn’t immediately profitable.
If a company isn’t profitable, is it a success? No. So, you should choose ‘no.’
Question number two:
- Wainwright’s is one of the leading exporters in North America.
The text tells us Wainwright’s is one of the leading exporters of glass tankards and products in the northern hemisphere, which includes North America.
However, the statement just says leading exporters, while the text says leading exporters of glass tankards and other glass products.
So, we know that Wainwright’s is a leading exporter in one particular area, but we don’t know if it’s one of the biggest exporters overall.
What should we choose in this situation?
The correct answer is ‘not given’. There’s nothing in the text which tells you how Wainwright’s compares to other companies in different sectors.
Question number three:
- Wainwright’s was founded in Chicago.
What is statement asking us?
The text tells us Wainwright’s is based in Chicago now, but does that mean it started in Chicago?
If it is now based in Chicago, that means it was set up somewhere else, otherwise why would the text use the word now?
The answer must be no.
Our last question:
- Many people own Wainwright’s glass products.
Okay, let’s focus on the word own here.
The text tells you the tankards are admired and sought after by many people, which suggests that they are popular products.
We also know that the company is successful, which also strongly suggests that many people buy and own their products.
However, does it say anything about people owning Wainwright’s products?
Remember that ‘suggests’ is not enough. We need something concrete in the text that tells us that many people own Wainwright’s glass products.
There isn’t anything like this in the text, so we should select ‘not given.’
5. Final Tips
Hopefully you are feeling a little more confident answering IELTS Reading true/false/not given and yes/no/not given questions.
Here are just a few more things to remember:
- There will always be at least one true, one false and one not given answer. If you are missing one, one answer has to be wrong. The same is true for yes/no/not given questions: there will always be at least one of each answer.
- If you aren’t sure, or you can’t find an answer, put ‘not given’. You don’t have a lot of time for this exam. Don’t spend all your time looking for an answer that isn’t there.
- Answer all the questions! Never leave blank spaces, even if you’re running out of time or you have no idea. You have a one in three chance of guessing correctly, so always put an answer for every question.
Good luck if you have an IELTS exam coming soon! Remember that Oxford Online English has more Free IELTS Preparations Lessons to help!