What is a true, false, cannot say verbal reasoning question?
One common type of question in a verbal reasoning test is the ‘True, False, Cannot Say’ question.
You will be presented with a statement related to the text and must decide from the information you have available whether the statement is true, false, or you whether cannot say due to a lack of information.
You are not required to have any previous knowledge of the subject matter, just to decide whether you have enough information to answer the question. The statement typically requires you to use your analytical skills to interpret and understand the text accurately.
What do the three possible answers actually mean?
Before you take your test, make sure you’re clear on what the terms ‘true’, ‘false’ and ‘cannot say’ actually mean.
True : the statement is logically and unequivocally correct, based on the precise information given. A true statement can be presented in two ways.
A statement can be true if it repeats information given explicitly in the text. This information could be reworded or displayed in a different format, testing your language and vocabulary skills. Or it could be a summary of information brought together from different parts of the text, testing your analytical skills.
A statement could also be true if you can use the given information to infer the answer. You must be careful not to extrapolate from the text, but take inference only from the information that is explicitly given. If you suspect that something is true but cannot confidently demonstrate how, it probably belongs to the ‘cannot say’ category.
False : the statement cannot possibly be true, based on the precise information given.
A false statement might contradict the text clearly and explicitly, or it might use different words and phrases that you can interpret as a contradiction.
The statement might make assumptions that you infer to be impossible from the information given.
Cannot say : there is not enough information available to be absolutely certain that the statement is true or false. If you cannot confidently show how you have reached your conclusion that the statement is true or false, ‘cannot say’ is the correct answer.
An example true, false, cannot say question decoded
Here is an example of a true, false, cannot say practice question typical of those you might encounter:
Passage of text:
Alternative investments have become increasingly popular in the last decade as investors seek a safe haven from highly volatile equities and the unpredictable property market. During this time, alternative investments such as art and stamps have outperformed traditional Investments by around 60%. High net worth individuals in particular are scrambling to diversify their portfolios in order to mitigate risk and preserve their capital.
While alternative investments can produce higher returns, they have significant downsides. Fakes present a major problem for potential investors as fraudsters flood the market with replicas; this is a particular issue with popular artists such as Picasso, who produced thousands of pieces of art.
Furthermore, art can be expensive to buy and sell, with auctioneers typically taking around 6% of the sale value in fees. Finally, valuable pieces need to be insured and protected. The most valuable artworks are often stored in bank vaults and secure art storage facilities, with the owner rarely getting to enjoy the piece.
Some of the work that Picasso produced has subsequently been proved to be fake.
The passage mentions that there is a danger in buying a fake due to fraudsters flooding the market. However, any work produced by Picasso would, by definition, not be fake. Therefore, the statement contradicts itself, so we can logically conclude that it is false.
A true, false, cannot say question might seem straightforward – but in practice, that’s not always the case. Various factors can come into play as you are analysing and evaluating the text, and an awareness of potential pitfalls can help you avoid making errors.
Extrapolating from the text
As you read through the text, your brain will try to find links, pick out familiar words or content, and jump to conclusions. The success of your answer lies in your ability to remain objective and analyse what is actually there; not what you think is there.
Black and white thinking
It can be easy to view a situation or problem with either/or thinking. That is, looking for the two opposite angles and failing to identify lots of other possibilities.
For example, if you were asked to make a judgement on whether stealing was wrong or right, you would probably answer that stealing is wrong. However, if a homeless mother was stealing food to feed her child, the answer to the same question doesn’t seem quite as clear cut. Keep an open mind as you read the text and the statement to make sure you are considering all options.
Trying to prove yourself right
It can be human nature to make a decision or come to a conclusion then to seek confirmation that you are right. In the case of a true, false, cannot say test, this thinking can lead to incorrect assumptions and extrapolating from the text to prove your own theory.
To answer these questions correctly, you must be sure to take a logical approach to identify facts and important information before forming a conclusion.
Tips for true, false, cannot say questions
As well as those below, check out our full article on tips and tricks for verbal reasoning tests.
1) Identify the facts in the text
As you read through the passage of text, make notes on what you do or do not know. It can be easier to take the facts out of the body of text to see them more clearly. When you come to prove or disprove the statements, you can see the important points without the distraction of additional content.
2) Read the statement first
You might find that reading the question statements first helps you pick out important relevant information the first time you read the passage of text. Though be careful not to hypothesise over possible answers before reading the text, or you may find yourself trying to ‘prove’ your hypothesis instead of considering the facts.
3) Read each sentence in isolation
As you read through the passage, take your time to think about every individual sentence to understand exactly what it says. If you read the passage as a whole, you might fail to spot important details.
4) Practice this type of question
It’s important to prepare effectively. Take timed online practice tests to get used to answering these types of questions before you sit the test. Practice tests usually give you your results with explanations, so you can identify any weak points you need to work on.