This article will focus on giving advice and exercises to help you improve in the area of True/False/Not Given and Yes/No/Not given. This is an area that most candidates and students find difficult, so don’t worry if you do. This article will talk you through different strategies, tips, and tricks and show you exactly what, and what not, to do.
The first question most people ask is ‘Is there any difference between the two question types’. In terms of the text, the answer is Yes – T/F/NG questions are based on the text, whereas Y/N/NG focus on the author’s opinion. In terms of how you answer the question, then there is no difference at all, the strategies you use in one, you will use in the other. But remember, read the question and see if you have to say Yes or True, No or False, or not given – write True instead of yes and the answer will be marked wrong!
In this task type, you will be given a list of facts. You then have to look at the text and decide if the facts given and true, false or not given. If the fact you are given is clearly in the reading, it is True/Yes. If the reading says the opposite of the fact, it is False or No. If it is not true or false and you can find no information that answers the question, it is Not Given. On the surface, this looks easy enough, but it causes real problems for candidates.
Let me give you an example, taken from IELTS Express. The reading article is focussing on studying in different English Speaking countries. The last paragraph is about studying in Canada and contains the lines:
Studies conducted by the United Nations have repeatedly found Canada to be among the top three places in the world to live in.
The T/F/NG statement says: Canada has the top three universities in the world.
Most people will read the statement, locate the paragraph on Canada, find the relevant sentence from the keywords in the statement and come to the conclusion that the question is false, as it is not in the top three universities that is mentioned but the fact that it is one of the top three places to live in. Now here we can introduce a good strategy to help you with these questions. You need to change the statement to a question – Does Canada have the top three universities in the world? Can you definitely answer yes or no or do you just not know? Well here, we can’t answer the question about Canada having the top three universities, as there is no information, so the answer is not given.
Let’s look at another example. Below is an extract about how music can affect us, as human beings.
Dr. Adrian North, a music psychologist at Leicester University, surveyed Staffordshire teenagers last year about what kind of music they listen to and why. “The findings were almost too stereotypical to be true,” says Dr. North. “While the girls listen to influence their mood, boys use music as a way to impress their friends. Boys seem to like rock and rap because it shows how cool, trendy and macho they are. Boys use music as a badge of identity; it’s a way of telling people who you are.”
The Y/N/NG statement says: According to the survey carried out by Dr. North, girls don’t like rock or rap music.
So here, most candidates will agree with the statement as it is boys and not girls that are mentioned as liking rock music. But actually, if you put the statement into a question: ‘Do girls like rock or rap music?’ we can’t answer because there is no information given about what girls like or don’t like in the text.
The other problem with these task types if they are deliberately written to be confusing! There are traps put in there, to make it difficult. You need to be able to recognise these traps and not fall into them!
So let’s look at an example:
Text: All that is necessary for the future of the project has been done.
Statement: No stone was left unturned to protect the future project.
Most candidates will match the keywords and find the paraphrased link between all that was necessary and no stone was left unturned, they will see that there is mention of a future project and decide that the sentence is true. But this is a trap, as the statement refers to the future project and not the future of the project.
Text: What surprised the government was the rapidity with which their fortunes were reversed.
Statement: The government was shocked by the reversal of their fortunes.
Again, candidates will see the synonym ‘shocked’ replacing ‘surprised’ and see the grammar link between ‘reversed’ and ‘reversal’ and think the statement agrees with the text. Again, this is a trap as it was not the reversal of fortunes that shocked the government, but it was the actual speed that was the surprising thing.
Finally, with these task types, there is another area to focus on and that is the identification of the keywords in the statement. However, in this task type, the keywords are not what you would usually identify as keywords in other questions. T/F/NG and Y/N/NG statement keywords are often those that can subtly change the meaning of the sentence.
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