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This web page discusses techniques that you may use to answer multiple choice questions in the reading section of the IELTS exam.

Most IELTS multiple choice questions are reasonably straightforward to answer.

Some questions are less straightforward. You will struggle to score 7.0 or higher for the academic reading section if you cannot master the complex multiple choice questions.

The only way to achieve a good band score for the reading section is to read the question carefully and read the options carefully.  

Double negatives

Some multiple choice questions use a so-called 'double negative'.

Examples of negative words include: no, not, no one, can not, will not, does not, never, false, 

A double negative has a positive meaning.
​Example: Not false.
This means: True.

A double negative may exist in the same sentence. 

Example: It is not true that children cannot visit the United Kingdom on a tourist visa.

This means: Children may visit the United Kingdom on a tourist visa.

A double negative may exist in the two sentences that are connected.

Example: Someone told me that children cannot visit the United Kingdom on a tourist visa. I checked this with the British Embassy in Jakarta and learned that this statement is false.

This means: Children may visit the United Kingdom on a tourist visa.

Sometimes a multiple choice question has a negative in the question and a negative response in one or more of the options. You need to bear in mind that two negatives make a positive. You need to read the question and option carefully to determine the correct answer. 

Example multiple choice question.

Which of the following statements is not false?

(Not false = true. You need to select a statement that is true).

(a)   Athens is the capital of China.

(b)   Sydney is the capital of Japan.

(c)  Mexico City is not the capital of Canada. (This negative statement is true)

(d)  Bangkok is not the capital of Thailand. (This negative statement is false)


False flag answers

The reading section requires you to match the key word in the question with the key word in the paragraph where you locate the answer. The key word will normally be a noun, verb or adjective.

Multiple options in the IELTS reading passages are what I term 'false flag' trick answers.

IELTS often inserts a closely matched synonym in the incorrect multiple choice options.

Illustration reading passage:

Antarctica is the coldest continent. Most parts of this landmass are permanently covered in ice. 

Multiple choice question.

Which of the following statements is true?

(A)   Antarctica is the coolest place in the universe.

(B)   The total surface of Antarctica is always frozen.

(C)   Antarctica is the only continent on planet Earth.

(D)  The majority of the surface area of Antarctica is never in a thawed state.


There are three false flag word matches (reading/answer) in this set of multiple choice options:

              Ice and coolest, option (A)

              Ice and frozen, option (B).

              Continent and continent, option (C)


Never select your answer until you have read all four options.

Answer (D) is the correct option.

Note that the words 'frozen' and 'thawed' are opposite words.

Sometimes the key words in the reading passage and the correct answer are opposites.

You need to read the passage, questions and answers carefully.

If you simply match key words without thinking, you will not pass the reading test.