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A closer look at True, False, Not given

When we ask test takers what their least favourite reading comprehension question type is, we often get the answer, ‘true’, ‘false’, ‘not given’! This blog will pull apart a reading text focusing on how to make the correct choice, highlighting the reading skills needed to help you find factual information.  

True, False, Not given: Locating and identifying specific information

Remember that this type of question requires you to locate and identify specific information. This information will be presented in the text as facts. The information in the text follows the order of the questions, so the information you need for the first statement will be found before the information for the second statement.  

When you read the statement you have been given, you then have to decide if the information helps you to decide if an answer is: 

  • TRUE because the statement agrees with the information 

  • FALSE because the statement contradicts the information, or,  

  • NOT GIVEN because there is no information on this 

So how do you answer this type of question? 

We will use the following extract from a Part 1 text about the scientist Marie Curie.  

The life and work of Marie Curie

Marie Curie is probably the most famous woman scientist who has ever lived. Born Maria Sklodowska in Poland in 1867, she is famous for her work on radioactivity, and was twice a winner of the Nobel Prize. With her husband, Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel, she was awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics, and was then sole winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

From childhood, Marie was remarkable for her prodigious memory, and at the age of 16 won a gold medal on completion of her secondary education. Because her father lost his savings through bad investment, she then had to take work as a teacher. From her earnings she was able to finance her sister Bronia's medical studies in Paris, on the understanding that Bronia would, in turn, later help her to get an education.

In 1891 this promise was fulfilled and Marie went to Paris and began to study at the Sorbonne (the University of Paris). She often worked far into the night and lived on little more than bread and butter and tea. She came first in the examination in the physical sciences in 1893, and in 1894 was placed second in the examination in mathematical sciences. It was not until the spring of that year that she was introduced to Pierre Curie.

Adapted with permission from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2007 by Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

So, if you want to get better at this question type, remember to practise reading exercises and to make sure you understand why the choice is True, False or Not given. Learn how to highlight key words that will help you understand the text and the question statements. Hopefully these blog tips will make you feel more confident about answering ‘true’, ‘false’ and ‘not given’.