Multiple choice tasks are probably the most common task type in IELTS Reading and occur in both the Academic and the General Training papers. In some ways this task type is similar to the Yes/No/Not given task type and you can approach these questions in the same way. Because Multiple Choice questions come up in one form or another in just about every exam, it is crucial that you are familiar with them and have had plenty of practice answering them before the exam.
In this post, we will look at how a multiple choice task might be presented and break down the different types of answer options. By being able to recognise the distractors and the irrelevant answers, you will be better able to choose the appropriate one. We will also discuss some useful tips to help you approach this kind of task.
How the task might be presented:
All the examples below are taking from Cambridge IELTS past papers.
You may be asked for the writer’s opinion, as in question 27 below, or for factual information, as in question 28.
You may have to complete a sentence, as in question 20, or answer a question, as in question 33.
The task may require you to choose more than one option. Compare the following two tasks.
In the example below, for each question you have to choose ONE answer out of FOUR options (A, B, C, D).
In the next example below, you have to choose TWO answers out of more than FIVE options.
- always follow the order of the text
- can refer to anything in the text
- repeat key words or synonyms from the text
Examining the answer options you are given:
The choices of answer may
- contain irrelevant information which is not mentioned at all in the text – Answer is WRONG
- provide information that is the total opposite of information in the text – Answer is WRONG
- contain information from the text but not what you are asked about – Answer is WRONG
- match the information in the text – Answer is CORRECT
For example, read the paragraph below:
The best way to tempt the old to go on working may be to build on such ‘bridge’ jobs: part-time or temporary employment that creates a more gradual transition from full-time work to retirement. Studies have found that, in the United States, nearly half of all men and women who had been in full-time jobs in middle age moved into such ‘bridge’ jobs at the end of their working lives. In general, it is the best-paid and worst-paid who carry on working. There seem to be two very different types of bridge job-holder – those who continue working because they have to and those who continue working because they want to, even though they could afford to retire.
Now look at the answer choices:
3. According to the writer, ‘bridge’ jobs
A) tend to attract people in middle-salary ranges.
B) are better paid than some full-time jobs.
C) originated in the United States.
D) appeal to distinct groups of older workers.
Answer A is wrong because it is the opposite of the information in the text.
Answer B is wrong because it contains information not mentioned in the text.
Answer C is wrong because although it contains information from the text, it does not answer the question.
Answer D is correct because it answers the question and there is evidence in the text.
Tips for the test:
Read the questions first to prepare you for what will come in the reading text.
Underline key words in the questions. Pay attention to things like time phrases and words like but, however, etc.
When reading the text, look for key words, synonyms and paraphrasing.
There may be distractors in questions. Eg.
Eliminate those answer options that are obviously wrong by crossing them out.
Then carefully compare your preferred option with the relevant part of the text. Find proof in the text that the answer is correct.
Find proof that the other answers are not correct. Again – look at key words, time phrases, etc.
Don’t rely on your background knowledge – only use the information in the text.
Don’t panic if you don’t have background knowledge – the answers are all in the text.
If in doubt and you are running out of time, guess the answer (there are no deductions for giving a wrong answer).