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.

Step 1: Read the question first and underline key information

The first thing to do before looking at the text, is to look at your set of True, False, Not given questions. In this example, there are three statements.  


  1. Marie Curie’s husband was a joint winner of both Marie’s Nobel Prizes. 

  2. Marie became interested in science when she was a child.  

  3. Marie was able to attend the Sorbonne because of her sister’s financial contribution. 


Scan each statement and underline or highlight the key words in each, focusing on the key information that is given to you. Key words refer to words that are important to the meaning of the text. They can be simple facts; names, places or figures, or they can be words that will help you understand the focus of the question, nouns, verbs, adjectives and so on. 

For example, in the first statement, you can see that Marie’s husband was a joint winner of both Marie’s Nobel Prizes. So, underline and highlight the most important information that helps you look for the answer. We have done this for each statement:  


  1. Marie Curie’s husband was a joint winner of both Marie’s Nobel Prizes

  2. Marie became interested in science when she was a child.  

  3. Marie was able to attend the Sorbonne because of her sister’s financial contribution


Step 2: Scan the text for key words

When you have highlighted your key words and information, then look at the text and scan quickly to find the same words, or words with similar meaning (synonyms). For example, as you read statement 1, you should be thinking of words that would help you find if Marie’s husband was a joint winner of her two Nobel Prizes, remember that ‘both’ means two.  

For statement 1, think of these words and synonyms: husband, Mr Curie, both, one, two, second, twice, with her husband, without her husband, on her own, by herself.  

Look at the text and find words that relate to this statement. You will see the word ‘sole', this means ‘only’ and describes Marie as the only person involved in winning her second Nobel Prize.  


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.


Statement 1: Read carefully and decide on your answer

"Marie Curie’s husband was a joint winner of both Marie’s Nobel Prizes."

When you have highlighted your key words and information in the text, you will then be able to decide whether the information in the text agrees or contradicts what is in the statement by reading these highlighted sentences carefully.  

Look to see if Pierre Curie was a joint winner of both of Marie’s prizes. 


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.


We can see the following facts: 

  • Marie 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 

  • She was then sole winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.  

The answer is FALSE as Pierre Curie was a joint winner with one of her Nobel Prizes (1903), she was a 'sole' winner for the other (1911) - the 'only' winner.  

Statement 2: Read carefully and decide on your answer

"Marie became interested in science when she was a child."

When we search the text for the key words underlined in the question, we are looking for information that tells us that she loved science (interested) from an early age (a child). So, the focus here is to see if Marie Curie was actually interested in the subject of science when she was a child.  

For statement 2, think of these words and synonyms: interested in science, subject of science, science classes, school science, child, childhood, at school, young girl. 

Look at the text and find words that relate to this statement. 


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...


We can see the following facts: 

  • as a child she had a great memory 

  • at 16 she won a gold medal for her secondary education 

These are the only facts related to her childhood, there is no mention of science, or her interest in this subject when she was a child, so because there is no information, the answer must be NOT GIVEN

You cannot assume that she was always interested in science as she won Nobel prizes for science. You must not use knowledge that you already have to answer this type of question, you can only use the information given to you in the text. 

Statement 3: Read carefully and decide on your answer

"Marie was able to attend the Sorbonne because of her sister’s financial contribution." 

When we search the text to find the reason why Marie was able to attend the Sorbonne, we are looking for key words related to this. An important key word here is ‘because’ as a reason will follow this conjunction. 

For statement 3, think of these words and synonyms:  money, afford, expensive, Sorbonne, university, sister, father, husband, education, finance, financial, paid, payment, contribution, contribute, give, help. 

Look at the text and find words that relate to this statement. 


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...


We can see the following facts: 

  • Her father lost his savings through bad investment 

  • She then had to take work as a teacher 

  • She was able to finance (pay for) 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 

We read that Marie could attend the Sorbonne because her sister paid for her education. When we scan the text, we read that her father lost his money (savings) so Marie worked as a teacher. We see a key word 'finance' and see that Marie helped her sister with her medical studies. We then read that her sister would later help Marie to get an education. This was a promise, or in other words, an understanding.  

Reference words can also help with finding key information, for example, ‘this’ in 'this promise', refers to the promise to pay for Marie's education.  

So, Marie went to the Sorbonne because Bronia paid for it. The answer is TRUE

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’.  

A quick look at True, False, Not given

True, False, Not Given is a tricky question in IELTS Reading. Let's take a closer look at a sample question and answer to learn how to answer this question type.

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