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August 06, 2018


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- Answer: True
- "made out of wood" = " hollowed-out elm logs"
- Words we need to understand: "log" =a part of the trunk or a large branch of a tree that has fallen or been cut off.

- Not given.
- "Roman towns" doesn't mean "built by the Romans"

Not given


search in google images: "hollowed-out elm logs"

true is the answer because hollowed out


Keyword:constructed out of hollowed purely logs, Romans in the UK and ssewer networks.

Not given
Key word: built by and made out of wood


The answer is Not Given ..

REASON: We must match the exact sense of question with the statement given in the passage.
In this question, although its mentioned that sewage networks were built out of wood BUT there is no information if those were built by the Romans in the UK.

Half of the questions agrees with the statement, at the same time, other half contains absolutely new information.

I'm IELTS trainer, and honestly I'm not pro at the language, but I understand that slight difference between 'False' and 'Not Given', its good to mention that mostly students fail at understanding the difference between 'False and 'Not Given' statements.

But I guess, sometimes even 'True' statement confuses the students.

Most of the time my students ask me the same question -- how to distinguish between Correct and incorrect statement.

Most of the time my students ask me the same question -- how to distinguish between Correct and incorrect statement.

And the biggest mistake they do is that they find key words and match their sense rather than matching the meaning of given sentences. This kind of approach does not give 100% result, its merely hit and trial method. Still good to get 5 or 5.5 bands, since there are some easy questions which can be solved easily.
But to score 6+, especially 7 or more, a student must understand the language, not just individual words.

I'm confused. The given information is "Roman towns and garrisons" then will it be considered the same meaning as "built by Romans"?


In this context, 'garrison' means a military outpost. In my view it is reasonable to infer that the sewage system of some of these military encampments would have been purpose built by the Romans themselves.

Why does the passage specify 'Roman' (towns and garrisons)? If it simply means "Roman-held/occupied" (and that the non-Roman towns and garrisons were without sewage networks), then the implication is still that the sewers were of Roman construction.

I would believe the answer is Not Given.

From the original text we could conclude:

1. Roman towns and garrisons in the United Kingdom had complex sewer networks.
2. These sewer networks were sometimes constructed out of hollowed-out elm logs.

The question contained two points of view:

1. Some sewage networks were built by the Romans in the UK
2. Those sewage networks were made out of wood.

By now we could see the second point is correct as the context described 'logs'. But with regards to the first point, it is unclear because we only know the Romans had excellent sewage system, we can't identify the constructor of the system according to the aforesaid information. So this should be 'not given', and in sum, this question should be answered 'not given'



Yes, ‘garrison’ means a military outpost, but does that mean ‘a military outpost built by the Romans in UK’?

That’s what we do the wrong thing – we assume the things which are not given in the passage. Don’t do that because this is comprehension skills test not general knowledge.

Honestly, when I was preparing for IELTS, I also used to do the same mistake given that I’m an MBA, and I read case studies related to various businesses. In this, I had to give answers to the business problems by assuming the situations, this approach worked in MBA but failed miserably in IELTS. Assumption made me loose points in the preparation tests and I was stuck at 6.0 in reading, but my target was 7. Then I started learning the precise different between the words and stopped assuming the situations.

And yes, this helped A LOT. I scored 8.5 in Reading module in IELTS test. In that test, there were 14 T/F/NG, and none of them was incorrect as I know I marked two MCQs wrong.




Not Given

- Answer:
Built/constructed, "made out of wood"/hollowed-
out elm logs"
- Key word table
1. Built-constructed
2. Out of wood-out of hollowed-out elm logs.

@ AZ

I do agree we should not assume things which are not given in the passage. "Does that mean ‘a military outpost built by the Romans in UK’?": this is exactly the right question to ask. It turns on the exact meaning of "Roman" in this context.

The "United Kingdom" is a post-Roman term referring to England, Scotland, Wales,and (Northern) Ireland. The Roman occupation lasted from 46AD till around 400AD but they did not occupy all of the UK, so it would seem that "Roman" in this sentence is there to exclude non-Roman settlements where there was no Roman presence: they presumably are excluded because their sewage systems were not up to Roman standards.

So we are left with two possibilities:
A) that the Romans only occupied towns and fortified positions with pre-existing complex sewer networks; OR
B) that in at least some cases the Romans built complex sewer networks.

Maybe the surrounding sentences or paragraphs would clear this up.

based on Simon's video lessons. elm logs means some kind of wood.

I the past, there were more intricate words in reading passages but recently not. This is my understanding.

made out of wood -hollowed-out elm logs.
elm logs




- some sewage networks = sewer networks sometimes
- built by the Romans = Roman towns*
- in the UK = in the United Kingdom
- made out of wood = constructed out of hollowed-out elm logs

Words you need to understand:

"logs" (or elm) - if you know this word, you know that the sewers WERE made from wood.

*Several people put "not given" because they argue that a "Roman town" might not have been BUILT by Romans. This is an example of "overthinking":

First, I would argue that a Roman town in the UK (between 46 BC and 400 AD) does mean "a town that was originally built by the Romans between those years".

Second, IELTS reading isn't trying to trick you with tiny details like this. This question is simply testing your knowledge of the word "logs" - if you know that logs are made of wood, you'll get the right answer. It's a simple vocabulary test, not a trick.

sometimes and some meaning is different.
please comment

'Overthinking' was exactly the word I thought when I read some of these answers.

'A Roman town' means a town substantially built by the Romans. If it wasn't, then the writer could have used 'A Roman-occupied town'.

Incidentally the Romans were big on sewers. Ancient Romans sewers are still in use today, for example, the 'Cloaca Maxima', built some 2500 years ago still operates under the the city of Rome today.



Ok, may be most of us were over thinking, but this paraphrased statement is a poor attempt.
There should be complete sense. This is related to history and I’m unfamiliar with British history, that’s why it was not wise to assume ‘built by Romans’ and ‘Roman towns’ as same.

If reading is about about matching the key words, not meaning of the sentence then please answer the following question, because it literally confuses….
Statement in passage:

Socrates himself was put on trial on the charge that he believed in strange gods and thereby corrupted the minds of the young people whom he taught. He was sentenced to death.

Question: Socrates corrupted the minds of the young people.


Please do not try to find background information about this. answer it by reading, just like IELTS exam.

because of log which is a thick piece of wood.

Sir, I don't complete my reading in an hour. It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes and I only get 18-20 correct. My level is 5.5 even less than that. I really have less time for November intake so please do recommend me how to improve it. My all parts are good except reading.


For me, the question about Socrates is much more confusing than the Roman sewer question.

The excerpt says that Socrates was "put on trail on the charge". This means that he was "accused" of something. Furthermore, the direct accusation was that he believed in strange gods. A link is then made to the idea of "corrupting the minds of young people whom he taught" (as a result of believing in strange gods). This is all extremely subjective, and therefore way more confusing than the Roman sewers example.

I think it's a bad question. Where did you find it?

Here's my answer anyway:

If the question was "Socrates was accused of corrupting the minds of young people", the answer would be 'true'.

But if the question was "Socrates corrupted the minds of young people", you could answer 'not given' because there is no proof that he actually DID corrupt students' minds.

Please tell me where you found this question.


I agree with Simon.

As a native speaker, 'Roman towns' and 'towns built by Romans' are essentially the same thing. Certainly in the IELTS test, they are synonymous enough.

In your example, the answer is 'not given' but the statement is not natural because it would not say 'the' young people. The text says he was accused of doing this, but it does not say whether he did it or not.

Thank you Simon.

The answer to that question is ‘Not Given’.

This question is from one of the readings that I gave to my students a couple of weeks ago in class.
EVERYBODY answered ‘TRUE’, even I did the same, but when I checked the answers, it was NG. This baffled me completely because I knew, if I failed at clearing the doubt, students would judge me and they would never see me as a capable trainer. Then I searched on the Internet about Socrates and found that there was no evidence about corrupting the minds of young people; he was only accused. I explained this to them, and still some of them were unconvinced because their ‘matching keyword technique’ failed miserably.

I always encourage students to read carefully which includes matching the meaning of whole paraphrased sentence because I have long list of such type questions where the IELTS readings played tricks with students’ minds, they normally fail at finding the right answer.

NOW, after such questions I believe even careful analysis fails, because some readings literally test our GENERAL KNOWLEDGE, but IELTS does not allow us to use the INTERNET in exam, and under exams conditions, it is difficult to get the right answer to these types of questions.

Seriously, I’m feeling like I’m back to square one   :D :D :) :)

If you want, I can email you this reading test; I just checked that there is one more question of the same kind and I had to search it on the Internet before explaining the reason to the class.

Hi Simon

actually there are a lot of IELTS teacher (including my own teacher) who use ielts books other than official cambridge books extensively for practice purposes. i think this is a very prevalent problem. I believe many of my fellow students failed the reading test because of this.


If you are going for Band 7 or above in reading, you can practice on Cambridge Advanced (CAE) materials:






You do NOT need to know anything about Socrates to answer this question. You just need to understand what 'put on trial' means. It means he was accused of something. If he was sentences to death then we can assume he was found guilty, but this is very different to a text saying that he clearly did something.

To answer this question you have to think:

1. Does the text say that Socrates corrupted the minds of young people? No (therefore 'true' is not the correct answer)

2. Does the text say something opposite or very different (ie: Socrates did not corrupt the minds of young people) No (therefore the statement is not false)

3. Does the text not give us enough information to say whether the statement is true or false? Yes (therefore the answer is 'not given')

Nevertheless, I agree that this is not the best or clearest question. There are many 'practice' tests online and the quality of the questions varies considerably.

” You do NOT need to know anything about Socrates to answer this question. You just need to understand what 'put on trial' means. It means he was accused of something. If he was sentences to death then we can assume he was found guilty, but this is very different to a text saying that he clearly did something.”
Your explanation is correct; however, to get the right answer, we must understand the meaning logically that what text says. In other words, this forces us to overthink. In this question we cannot afford to answer by just reading the question and matching the keywords. This question demands attention.

JUST FOR AN EXAMPLE, I DO NOT WISH TO HURT ANYONE’S FEELINGS ---> Questions regarding Socrates do not confuse Greek people as much because he is an integral part of their history. And I guess, they won’t answer ‘NOT GIVEN’, but ‘False’ (as they KNOW THINGS ABOUT SOCRATES) if they read the text under exam pressure because being a Greek would give them confidence that they KNOW THINGS. (this happens when students find reading passages related to their educational field, history etc. sometimes, they write answers without even reading the passage)

Just like that, you are familiar with ‘Romans and UK’ history as you are native. But many non-natives, like me, have never heard about this. I didn’t have any idea that there was some history like this. In these situations, how non-natives can assume things? We can only rely on the text and its meanings.

This reading test isn't available free of cost on the Internet. It’s from one of the paid materials.

My intention is not to go against anybody, I just want to know why IELTS students are encouraged to follow ‘find and match keywords’ technique rather than encouraging them to learn ENGLISH. I have never seen any student who improved his or her score from 5 to 8 by using this technique. They only improved when they focused on language.
Even Cambridge books contain complex language which is difficult for the number of students.

Hi AZ,

Your confusion is understandable, and this is why I blog about such tricky questions. I'll try to explain a bit more.

1. Remember that matching keywords is only the FIRST step in getting the correct answer. We identify keywords in order to LOCATE the answer in the passage. For example, as soon as I find 'Roman towns' and 'sewer networks' in the passage, I know I'm in the right place. In a 2-page passage, this step is very helpful.

2. The second step is to read the relevant part of the passage very carefully. It's not enough to simply match keywords - you must understand what you are reading. In some cases, a basic understanding of the words is not sufficient - you need to fully understand the message that is being communicated.

3. "Overthinking" occurs when you focus too hard on individual keywords rather than the overall meaning of the sentence. So, for example, you start wondering whether the Romans actually built their Roman towns.

4. The Socrates question is tricky and I would argue that it is badly written. I don't think it comes from an official IELTS book. Personally, I only use the official Cambridge IELTS books and my own materials. Questions in the Cambridge books are usually well written, and I can at least explain, defend or change materials that I've written myself. I've stopped trusting other books because of the ambiguous questions that I've often seen in them.

I hope this helps! Remember: the 'keyword technique' is only for locating answers.

Text: Umayyad towns and garrisons on the East Asian littoral around 130AH had complex sewer networks sometimes constructed out of hollowed-out elm logs.

Question: Some sewage networks built by the Umayyads in Eastern Asia were made out of wood.
Text: Manchu towns and garrisons in Sichuan around the end of the Ming period had complex sewer networks sometimes constructed out of hollowed-out elm logs.

Question: Some sewage networks built by the Manchus in China were made out of wood.
AZ, I think the above is what you meant (from a European perspective). It is certainly less familiar. BTW the only technique I use is to look at the first question and read the first couple of paragraphs slowly and carefully once only. Underline the relevant phrase. Then look at the second question, read a bit more. And so on.

sewage networks were made out of wood / Romans / UK/
Roman towns and garrisons in the United Kingdom/ sewer networks/ out of hollowed-out elm logs

What about the word sometimes? Aren't we considering it? Sometimes means not always but the question says were made out from wood.

It's true. Coz hallowed out elm log stands for 'made out of wood' and sewer is 'sewage'

NG , there aren't any evidence to mention Romans built those .

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