Reading Strategies for IELTS

IELTS test designers often give True/False/Not given questions in the reading test to check your understanding and to make your life difficult. The good news is that the steps outlined below will help in answering these question types more quickly and accurately.

Before we begin, it’s important to note that there are two types of this kind of question.

Type 1: TRUE / FALSE / NOT GIVEN

This type of question is usually easier to answer because it checks the accuracy of factual information such as a measurement, quantity, or a specific concept in the text.

Type 2: YES / NO / NOT GIVEN

These types of questions are trickier to answer as they focus on checking the accuracy of information relating to the opinion and attitude of the writer.

Be sure to mark the answer sheet True or False/ Yes or No/ Not given as required by the question. Don’t put T if the question asks for Y.

The main thing to keep in mind is regardless of whether you are answering Type 1 or Type 2 questions, the tips below provide strategies for both.

Strategies

Step 1: Read the questions first

This can be said for most IELTS questions – read the questions/statements first! Not the text. Time is an important consideration in the test. Reading the questions first gives you a clear idea of what information you need to look for and how much of the text you need to read. To give yourself the best chance of answering correctly you should also highlight key words in the questions.

Signpost Words

Signpost words allow you to scan the text quickly and find the information required to answer the question. Ideally, these words should be ones that stand out in the text and can be easily spotted when scanning. Think nouns! Especially concrete nouns such as names of people, places, and organisations, acronyms, and dates, all of which contain capital letters and/or numbers that make them easy to see.

Avoid highlighting nouns if they are part of the title or topic as they are likely to appear frequently in the text which isn’t of much help to you. Also avoid highlighting too many keywords in each question as you will give yourself more words than necessary to search for.

The statements below are taken from a text about dung beetles (lovely!) called the ‘Remarkable Beetle’. As you can see, the key nouns to search for in statement 1 are the names of two types of fly. In the second statement we have a quantity of a noun and an acronym (should be very easy to find!) Notice I have not highlighted dung beetle in statement 2 as this is the topic of the text and so will probably appear too often to help me.

‘Modifying’ words

These are details in the statements that can be changed to make them different to what appears in the text. (This is usually where IELTS are sneaky and try to trick you into answering incorrectly.) Think adjectives, adverbials, quantifiers and anything else that can change the nouns or actions mentioned in a statement.

Above you can see, I have now circled ‘easier to control’ in statement 1. If the information relating to this statement is different in the text e.g. bush flies are more difficult / the same to control, the answer is FALSE. If there is nothing about how easy they are to control then it is NOT GIVEN.

Again, four thousand needs to be the same in the text – it may be written differently but the quantity must be the same, not higher or lower. Lastly, be careful of the adverb ‘initially’. The information in the text must be the same, although the words are different.

Step 2: Follow the order of the questions/statements

The information in the text is always organised in the same order as the statements. For example, the information relating to statement 1 will occur in the text before statement 2, the information relating to statement 2 will occur before statement 3 and so on. Knowing this can help you locate the information you need while scanning the text.

Step 3: Scan for information

Find all of the necessary information in the text before you start answering questions/statements. Using signpost words, scan for the corresponding information in the text. When you think you’ve located the correct paragraph for a statement, number it and continue to scan for the next one. If you can’t find a statement in the text, use the location of the previous and following statement to reduce the area you need to search. For example, statement 2 will be between statement 1 and 3. If you still can’t find the information in this area, then there is a high chance that it’s NOT GIVEN.


Step 4: Same meaning, different words

Go through each statement and focus on the ‘modifying’ words. Check the text to ensure that the information matches. Be careful because it is highly likely that the text will be worded differently from the questions, but the meaning must be the same. By completing step 3, you should have a good idea which statements are NOT GIVEN, so check the rest to identify if they are TRUE / FALSE or YES /NO. If there is enough time, reread the ones that you suspect are NOT GIVEN, just to double check.

Happy testing!


By Alex Abdellah

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