Here is a reading task I was doing today with a student. It comes from Cambridge IELTS 8. This series of books is the only source of real IELTS exams available and therefore make a great resource in preparing for the exam.

TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN tasks require that you say whether a statement is:

TRUE = agrees with the text
FALSE = contradicts the text
NOT GIVEN = there is no information about the statement in text

The problem is that if you simply search for keywords you will get these wrong because you will definitely find the keywords but you have to read the passage AND the statement carefully to see if it AGREES or DISAGREES with the passage OR the passage DOES NOT actually give the information that is in the statement.

Here is a simple example. The text is about the creation of the FAA (the Federal Aviation Administration) in the USA. This organization takes care of air safety although you don’t really have to know anything about this before you read the article.

Here is the very first line of the text:

“An accident that occurred in the skies over the Grand Canyon in 1956 resulted in the establishment of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”

Although this is only one line from the text, it is the only line we need to be able to answer the following three questions.

Say which of these statement are TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN:

1. The FAA was created as a result of the introduction of the jet engine.

2. The FAA was formed because of an aircraft accident over the Grand Canyon.

3. The FAA was founded after the crash of a DC3 plane.

Have a go at this, it is not too hard but look carefully at the parallel language that is used.


Scroll down for the answers:









1. The FAA was created as a result of the introduction of the jet engine.

This statement is FALSE because the introduction of a jet engine, although it did occur at about this time, was not responsible for the creation of the FAA. How do we know? Because the text said it was a plane accident over the Grand Canyon (the text describes … an accident that occurred in the skies over…”) that resulted in the creation of the FAA so this statement directly contradicts what is in the text: therefore it is FALSE

2. The FAA was formed because of a aircraft accident over the Grand Canyon.

This statement is TRUE because it directly agrees with what is stated in the text. The words in the text “an accident in the skies over..” indicate that this was a plane crash.

3. The FAA was founded after the crash of a DC3 plane.

This statement is NOT GIVEN. We know that the FAA was created as the result of a plane crash but we do not know what kind of plane it was, it could have been a DC3, there were certainly DC3s still flying at this time but we are not told what kind of plane it was: therefore the statement is NOT GIVEN


I was sent an email by an IELTS candidate recently in which she told me that in the Reading Test she had not written her answers on the answer sheet during the test and when she was told to stop writing she had not written any answers at all on her answer sheet.

This is tragic but it happens. In the Listening Test an extra 10 minutes is given after the recording has finished to transfer answers to the answer sheet BUT this is not the case in the Reading Test.

In the Reading Test candidates MUST write their answers on the answer sheet during the test.

In addition, in both Reading AND Listening the question book will tell you how many words you are allowed to use in the answer.

For example, suppose the reading article was about transport in big cities and the question was:

What causes the biggest transport problem in large cities?

and you answer “the motor car” (because that is what it says in the text) BUT the question tells you to USE ONE WORD, you will be marked wrong even though you essentially have the right information. In this case, the correct answer would be “cars” or “automobiles”.

Be very careful with both these issues in the IELTS exam.


Here is another YES/NO/NOT GIVEN question:

“The recently published report indicates that between 2000 and 2010 the proportion of consumers claiming to be unaware of or unconcerned about green issues fell from 18 to 10 per cent but the number of green spenders among older people and manual workers rose substantially. The newly published report shows that regions such as Scotland have also caught up with the south of England in their environmental concerns. The new report reveals for the first time that the image of green consumerism as associated in the past with more eccentric members of society has virtually disappeared. CEO of the market research firm, Jack London, explains that the innovative ‘green’ product approach to marketing has now become established as a mainstream market. He explained that as far as the average person is concerned environmentalism has not ‘gone off the boil’. In fact, he says, it has now spread across a much wider range of consumer groups, ages and occupations than ever before.”

If the following statement agrees with the claims of the writer mark it YES, if it disagrees mark it NO and if there is no information if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks mark it NOT GIVEN:

Consumer’s green shopping habits have been influenced by the research report’s findings.


The passage refers to the research report many times. It even indicates that it is a new report and refers to it being published, which MIGHT mean that many people have seen it and could have been influenced by its findings. However, this is NOT stated anywhere in the paragraph if this is the case and we are not required to infer, we are simply asked to find what is said in the passage on the issue.

There is NO INFORMATION about consumers having even read the report, let alone having been influenced by it; it is therefore IMPOSSIBLE TO SAY what the writer thinks about this statement and the answer is therefore NOT GIVEN.


Here is another YES/NO/NOT GIVEN question.

“A recent market research report concluded that despite the recession since 2008 and the serious financial pressures, more people than ever want to buy environmentally friendly products and a wave of ‘green consciousness’ has swept through consumerism, taking in people who previously knew nothing about the environment.”

If the following statement agrees with the claims of the writer mark it YES, if it disagrees mark it NO and if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks mark it NOT GIVEN :

Being financially better off has made people more aware of buying green products.


The text says:

“ … despite the recession since 2008 and the serious financial pressures, more people than ever want to buy environmentally friendly products…”

this means that people were not “financially better off” (i.e. wealthier), in fact they were probably poorer than before because of the recession, however, even though they were NOT wealthier they were still concerned with the environment:

“more people than ever want to buy environmentally friendly products…”.

This is a direct contradiction to what is written in the statement which says that because people were wealthier (“being financially better off”) they were more aware of buying green products.

This statement is therefore a NO …. It does not agree with the claims of the writer.

IELTS Reading Test

TRUE/FALSE/DOESN’T SAY and YES/NO/NOT GIVEN questions essentially ask you to do the same thing: they ask you to say TRUE or YES if the statement in the question agrees with the text, say FALSE or NO if it is a direct contradiction to the text (i.e. the text says the OPPOSITE to the question) or say DOESN’T SAY or NOT GIVEN if there is no information about the statement.

Remember, you will read key words in the statement, words which appear in the text, but you need to look VERY CAREFULLY if the text says the same thing as the statement.

In principle not so hard, in practice not easy sometimes.

Here is an example. give a YES/NO/NOT GIVEN answer to the statement below this paragraph:

“Research in Australia has shown that increasing numbers of consumers favor products that are environmentally friendly when shopping. This suggests that politicians who put the profits of big companies ahead of environmental considerations, which they claim are yesterday’s issue, may be seriously misjudging public opinion.”

Question: Is the following statement YES, NO or NOT GIVEN?

Research indicates commercial rather than political trends.


The “trend” referred to is the one related to the environment. Shoppers (consumers) are buying more and more (“increasing numbers of consumers”) environmentally friendly products because they see it as an important issue.
If you wanted to sell something, labeling it “environmentally friendly” would probably boost sales. This is a commercial trend.

The politicians, on the other hand, think the environment is “yesterday’s issue” i.e. they think nobody cares about it anymore. They are clearly wrong as the research showed “increasing numbers of consumers” were buying ‘green’ products.

The trend is therefore commercial (to do with selling things) rather than political because the politicians think nobody is interested anymore.

The statement is a YES – it agrees exactly with the text.


We received a great question from a candidate who wanted to know if the spelling must always be correct in the listening and reading tests. Many people ask this.

The short answer is yes. If they spell the word in the listening test or it appears in writing in the listening test or reading test then the spelling MUST be perfect.

Sometimes the answer sheet will show alternative spellings but those cases usually refer to British or American spelling of words (both are allowed). Most words required as answers are usually simple words that candidates are expected to be able to spell without too much trouble.

The answer sheet is the final judge. If the spelling of the word(s) does not exactly match what is on the answer sheet, it will be marked wrong. This might sound unfair, but it is actually done to make sure the test is administered fairly all over the world.

The IELTS Reading Test: Speed and Vocabulary

Reading is the hardest skill to improve quickly because it depends on reading speed and vocabulary and neither can be improved quickly.

Here are three things to do in relation to the reading test.

  1. On the test day, spend only 20 minutes on each reading task. If you don’t finish all the questions in one section, which is very likely, guess the ones you didn’t get time to do and move on to the next section. Easy strategy: 20 minutes MAXIMUM on each section.
  2. Practice improving your ability to skim quickly through a reading passage but still get from it the main points. Do this by taking a passage that is about 200 words long (about 13cm in the Bangkok Post or Nation, I think) and giving yourself 1 minute to skim through it and try to pick out the main points.
    You will need to skim in the IELTS exam at a speed of about 200 words per minute. This will give you 4 minutes to skim a passage before starting in on the questions.
    Very often, you can read the first and last sentence of a paragraph and have a pretty good idea about what the paragraph is about, without having to read all of it. While this works most of the time, you must be careful that the middle section actually does support what the first and last sentence lead you to believe.
    This needs daily practice. It is time consuming but it isn’t hard. After you have skimmed the passage, you must go back and read it very carefully to check that what you thought it was about was, in fact, correct.
  3. Expanding vocabulary. Some people might find this boring, but it is unbelievably important.
    ‘Google’ the “General Service List” – the 2000 most common words in English. You will know many of these, you should know them all.
    ‘Google’ the “Academic Word List” – this is a list of about 550 words divided into 10 groups of most common to least common. These are words you will likely read in IELTS reading and they are words you should be able to use in your own writing. Some Thai universities are using this list to determine the vocabulary skill of their students in Academic English classes.
    Research shows that readers need to understand almost 95% of the words in a passage to have a good chance of understand clearly what the passage is about. This is way higher than English teachers had believed in the past and has very clear implications for what English learners must do about learning vocabulary.