IELTS TFNG Practice: History of Clocks

True False Not Given questions are very common questions in IELTS reading and are also one of the most difficult. You must read the statement in each question and decide if the information can be found in the passage (true), if the information is contrary to what is written in the passage (false) or if the statement cannot be found (not given) in the passage. Answers can be written as either a full word (True False Not Given) or a letter, for example T/F/NG.

This practice exercise is slightly easier than in the academic test and is similar to GT passage 3. But it will still provide you all with good practice. Download the free PDF of this passage: IELTS Reading Practice The History of Clocks

The History of Clocks

The movement of the sun through the sky makes possible a simple estimate of time, from the length and position of a shadow cast by a vertical stick. If marks are made where the sun’s shadow falls, the time of day can be recorded in a consistent manner. The result is the sundial. An Egyptian example survives from about 800 BC, but the principle may have been familiar to astronomers a few centuries before. However it is difficult to measure time precisely on a sundial, because the sun’s path through the sky changes with the seasons. Earlier attempts at precision in time-keeping rely on a different principle.

The water clock, known from a Greek word as the clepsydra, attempts to measure time by the amount of water which drips from a tank. This would be a reliable form of clock if the flow of water could be perfectly controlled. In practice it cannot. The clepsydra has an honourable history from perhaps 1400 BC in Egypt, through Greece and Rome and the Arab civlizations and China, and even up to the 16th century in Europe. But it is more of a toy than a timepiece.

The hourglass, using sand on the same principle, has an even longer career. It is a standard feature on 18th-century pulpits in Britain, ensuring a sermon of sufficient length. In a reduced form it can still be found timing an egg.

Questions 1-5

Decide if the following questions are true, false or not given. TFNG answers usually come in order but in this passage, it is not the case. So, please pay attention to this.

True = the statement matches the information in the passage

False = the statement contradicts the information in the passage

Not Given = the information is not found in the passage

  1. Sundials are able to provide accurate time using the sun’s paths through the skies.
  2. The existing Egyptian sundial was entirely new at that time.
  3. Water clocks provide a more reliable method of telling the time than sundials.
  4. The water clock is older than the sundial.
  5. Water clocks make good toys.
  6. Hourglasses work using sand to measure time.
  7. Hourglasses were found in Britain earlier than the 18th century.
  8. Hourglasses are no longer used by modern people.


Click below to reveal the answers and vocabulary

  1. False
  2. False
  3. Not Given
  4. True.
    1. Message from Liz: I have a lot of students writing to me because they don’t understand this answer. 1400BC, which is the date for the water clock, is older than 800BC. These dates are BC, not AD. If you don’t understand dates which are BC, please see this page: Understanding AD and BC dates
  5. Not Given (this is a difficult question. Although it does compare the water clock to a toy, it does not give information about the water clock being a good toy)
  6. True
  7. Not Given
  8. False

(passage from here)

All reading exercises on have been written by myself to help you prepare for your IELTS test for free.   


  • consistent = regular
  • principle = theory / notion
  • attempts = endeavors
  • it is more of a toy = it is not used in a functional manner
  • time piece = clock
  • sermon = lecture / oration / reading
  • a reduced form = a simplification of something



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  1. Hi Liz, I have a question about the 4th question.
    I answered it as a N.G , because the passage says that the sundial had been used by the astronomers few centuries before 800 BC, and we don’t know how many are these centuries. So it could be before 1400 BC !!
    am I right ?

  2. jyothi mathew says:

    Hi Liz,

    I’m Jyothi Mathew, I’m glad to inform you that I’m able to get almost all correct on your reading practice exercises, as reading is my weakest module. I have a question, can I use a highlighter pen for the real exam for reading, because when I do skimming I like to highlight important words with colours. This is because, even if I have underlined with a pencil ,something which I might search later while scanning, I feel sometimes that I’m blind.
    thanking you

  3. Hey Liz,

    I am a bit confused, while answering q2 because, as per ur video tip, these types of questions always appear in chronological order of the passage, whereas here the answer to q2 lies in the lines above to that of q1. Can u please explain.

  4. Really helpful blog thank you Liz. I didn’t realize it was BC I was just looking to the numbers and comparing them thank u for reminding

  5. Hi, liz. I’m a student from China. and I’m so confused about the Q4 and it’s not about time. the article says that that special kind of Sundial which is from Egyptian is suvived from 800BC, but it only means that one right? There may be other Sundials which have longer history outside Egypt.
    And thank you for your free courses, it really helps a lot.

  6. Hello Liz,
    I just want to hug you.
    For the first time in my life to get all the true and false correct😍
    I am super happy and speechless to express my gratitude.

  7. how question 7 is not given while in passage it is mentioned that hourglasses is part of 18 century and was present in 18th century

    • Because the passage does not state it is “earlier than the 18th century”. There is no information given about it being earlier.

  8. hi liz, i got confused in question no. 2 that why it is false? cox in my observation there is no information about the new or old existence of Egyptian sundial

    • Because this information contradicts that it was completely new: “the principle may have been familiar to astronomers a few centuries before”

      • Yes, I agree with Liz. Even my answer was NG, but after reading it again it make sense.
        Thank you Liz, I finally understood the T,NG, F concepts.

        One more can you explain why false is the answer for on the last question. Is it because of the word “still”.

        Also, may I ask if you have those sample reading materials with select/choose the correct words then fill the missing words. This is the most difficult section for me and I am having hard time to figure out. Any techniques you can advice?

        • For the last question, the word “still” means it continues to be used. This is the opposite meaning to the question: “Hourglasses are no longer used by modern people.”

  9. Madiha Asad says:

    Hello liz
    I’m still confused about Q4…even though I’ve read the comments regarding this
    The sundial was invented in 800 BC while the water clock was invented in 1400 BC so doesn’t that make the sundial older than the water clock as it came first? Could you also tell me the meaning of the abbreviation of AD , i know BC means Before Christ

    Kindly help 🙂 thanks

    • AD means ” After Death” referring to Jesus. BC means Before Christ. The BC dates count backwards. So, 800BC means 800 years before Jesus was born and 1400Bc means 1400 years before Jesus was born. So, 1400BC is older than 800BC.

      • Madiha Asad says:

        Thank u
        Got it cleared now

      • AD is not after death!!!
        it anno Domini literally means year of the Lord and used in the context of ‘After the Jesus Christ was born’.
        Moreover, if it meant ‘After Death” than what is the period of Christ called???
        Though, your videos are very helpful but Please do not teach wrong things

        • These are not “wrong things”. I avoid religious meanings and have put down the understanding which is used by the majority of the UK.

  10. If someone don’t understand d ans 4
    Check d link below..

  11. hi mam….your kindful works are really appreciated…..i too made mistakes on question 4….although i m happy as i made 7 correct out of 8 in compared to the previous t/f/n where i hot only 4 right out of 9 ….
    …..thanks alot ….would you please upload some more reading questions for us….

  12. jassy sharma says:

    mam i had my ielts exam on 30 august and i have written true,false and not given in short form that is T,F,N.G.Is that correct?

  13. Hello Liz,

    I really appreciate your effort for putting all this material on web. I is very helpful. I have one doubt in question 4 of this chapter. How is it true? As per me it is NG Kindly help

    Thanks Raman

    • Hi, I’ve had a lot of students getting stuck with this answer. So, I’ve put an explanation with a useful link into the answer key. Take a look at the answer key again.

  14. Susanna Michael says:


    I am a little confused with the below question:

    ‘The water clock is older than the sundial’

    The answer is given as ‘True’. In the passage it is given that an Egyptian example for the sundial survives from the 800 BC but astronomers must have know about it a few centuries before. But its not given how many centuries before they might have known about it. About the water clock it is mentioned that it has an honourable history perhaps form 1400 BC. So is it possible to say that the answer is ‘True’

  15. dear Liz…

    I’m really worried about the reading session… having very poor score in reading…
    please help me out.. i’m worried. its like a nightmare

  16. Hi Liz,
    which one of the following is correct?
    Several iced cake or several iced cakes?
    All homes had no oven or all homes had no ovens?
    Different types of shop or different types of shops?

  17. mana chhantyal says:

    1.False 2.Not given 3.Not given 4.False 5.True 6.True 7.false 8.false

  18. I got this perfect 7/7.

  19. hey liz,
    can u provide me TFNG writing passage more?

  20. Hi Liz,

    Hope you are doing good..

    I’m so thankful to u.. You are doing wonderful job.
    My target is overall 7 band in IELTS academic. I already had 6 attempts, but in every attempt I have got 6.5 band. However I hope this time I will achieve my goal with your help..

    Thanks again..

  21. Catalina Castano says:

    Hi Liz !

    First at all, I want to congratulate you for this amazing and helpful website. I really like it and appreciate all the effort that you put on this.

    I tried to see the answers of this and other reading exercises but they don’t come out when I select the option. Could you please help me with this ?

    Thanks a lot !

    • False
      Not Given
      Not Given (this is a difficult question. Although it does compare the water clock to a toy, it does not give information about the water clock being a good toy)
      Not Given

      Above are the answers for this exercise. I’m not sure what to do about the others. The function is working on my laptop. Can you try again and let me know if you still have a problem?

  22. hello Liz! Could u please explain why in 1st question the answer is False. I understood the question as “Sundials are able to provide accurate time”. In the passage it is like “it is difficult to measure time precisely..”. But it doesnt mean that they are not able it just means that its difficult!

    • The key is “a simple estimate of time” – this is an estimate and not completely accurate.
      All the best

  23. Arman Farid Ahmed says:

    Dear Liz,
    why answer for q#2 is false?

  24. I am happy to find you Liz as a great teacher

  25. How long time should we spend on these tests?

    • These are not practice tests, they are just IELTS reading exercises to develop skills. So, take as long as you need. To build up speed, do a free practice test online which you can find on my Useful Website Page (see right hand column).

  26. I feel true,false,not given very tough.And the headings but sometimes in some topic I get all answers right whereas in some topic every answer becomes wrong.Thus,I m too much worried.

  27. Hi Liz,
    I would like to thank you very much, you have no idea how much you have helped me in my
    IELTS preparation.

    In Q4,

    I really can’t understand how come is the watercock is older than sundial, not The other way around??
    In the text it says regarding the (sundial) ” Egyptian example survives from 800 BC, “but the principals have been familiar a few centuries before.!” While the (watercock), it says
    “from 1400 BC.”!

    Please can you clarify it to me?

    Thank you Liz again

    • 1400BC is older than 800BC.

      • Hi Liz,

        I do understand 1400BC is older than 800BC, but in the passage it refers to the sundial as having “principals familiar a few centuries before”. Wouldn’t that made the age of the sundial a more ambiguous, i.e: it doesn’t specify how many centuries earlier than 800BC, so possibly it is older than 1400BC?
        Or did I misunderstood the meaning of principals, i.e: it doesn’t mean sundials existed few centuries before?

        Thank you, CT

        • “a few centuries before” doesn’t usually apply to six centuries. If they wanted to imply that it is more than six centuries old, then the words “a few” wouldn’t have been used.
          All the best

    • Arman Farid Ahmed says:

      Dear Liz,
      Thank you very much for your helpful lesson.Madam,why answer 2 is False ?can you explain it for me?

  28. Maricel batucan says:

    Hi Liz, why #1 answer is true

  29. Maricel batucan says:

    Hi Liz,
    Please do explain why #1 answer is true

  30. mohamed ahmed besha says:

    my lovely mom , liz
    in Q8 , in the passage it wasn’t mentioned that the hourglasses is used by modern people , i understood from passage that it is stilled used now by we don’t know it uses by modern people or older people.
    really i couldn’t find words to thank you .

  31. Hi Liz,

    How the answer for Q2 is false?Could you pls explain?

    Thank you

    • See this sentence “An Egyptian example survives from about 800 BC, but the principle may have been familiar to astronomers a few centuries before.”. It shows it was not entirely new and the principles had been known before.
      All the best

      • Thank you Liz for the quick reply

      • Hay Mam…could u plz help me
        Cue card topics about a friend who is fluent in foreign language…
        Plz give me tips about the topics.

        • For this talk, you can talk about:

          who your friend is
          what language they speak
          how they learned the language
          how often they speak it
          what they use the language for
          what your friend is like (character and appearance)
          what advice your friend would give to someone who wants to learn a language
          what experience you have learning a language

          You can add any extra information you want.
          All the best

      • Hi Liz,

        Regarding question 2, it didn’t say the principles “had” been known before, it said that “the principles may have been”.
        Even if it was known before, the subject in the text is “principles” (which is theoretical and intangible) whereas the question asks about a different subject (a physical one since it had been found and continues to exist) and that is the sundial itself. Thus, although there may be a possibility that the principles did actually exist centuries before, we don’t have any clue about whether the existing sundial was new or not. So I think it should be NG, don’t you agree?

  32. hi Liz ,
    Thank you so much .. I got 7 For reading……….it only because of your valuable reading tips

  33. Hi Liz,
    Does note-taking count as two separate words or just one? I’m confused because of the hyphen. Also use no more than three words and/or a number means I can use a maximum of three words and one number – is that correct.?

  34. I am bit confused about the article of IELTS Academic and General Training. In both section, its the same type of article or different? And, which section above article relate to?

    • This is probably more difficult than GT reading passage 3. You should get the IELTS Cambridge Test books and do the real practice tests to understand the GT level of passage.
      All the best

  35. listening answer script..could I write “21TH AUGUST” insted of “21th August” ?
    Plz infrom me i am confused about this..

  36. Thans alot…….

  37. I am going to take my ielts on this saturday and I still have problems at Reading in False, True and Not Given.

  38. Hi Liz, I got a wrong answer in Q4. I’m a bit confused because my answer is NG because literally, the passage did not talked about waterclock being older than the sundial. But if you will read the passage, the thought is there. Is that how we answer TFNG question? Thanks Liz.

    • The information is there: An Egyptian example survives from about 800 BC, and also The clepsydra has an honourable history from perhaps 1400 BC in Egypt
      All the best

  39. Thaks for your lesson..I’m a little bit confused in listening section..If I write all answers in BLOCK LETTER in my answer script then it’ll correct or wrong?
    And what I’ll write if date come like (18TH APRIL) Is it correct? Plz confirm me what will be better for me?

  40. Hi Liz
    Could you explain why Q8 is False?

  41. Hari Prasad Regmi says:

    How to develop my reading skill for IELTS Test?

  42. Dear Madam

    Please confirm that , is it possible to write or mark on question paper in reading section for example some important word or sentences mark as under line?.

    Thanks & Regards

    • You should write on the question paper for listening, reading and writing. You need to underline key words, make notes, plan paraphrasing etc.
      All the best

  43. Hi Liz,

    Thank you for your wonderful website.
    I need to practice reading for Academic module, since I always run out of time on both real test and practicing at home, but I have enough time while practicing your reading tests and I’m wondering if these online practice tests are at the level of General or Academic module? Please advise.

    Thank you in advance

    • Most of the reading practice lessons are at the level of academic reading or some are just below. However, all will help you develop your skills for each type of question. However, you should also practice from the IELTS Cambridge test books 1 to 10. 10 is the most recent.
      All the best

      • Thank you for your precious respond.
        I’ve done all Cambridge practice books 1-10 + some other practices (several times). I’m also reading some articles related to IELTS in order to improve my reading speed, but unfortunately I still run out of time and I’m wondering how can I read between the lines and do my reading test without running out of time?

        BTW, I think the real reading test is slightly easier than the one in Cambridge books, but I still have problem with time.

        I really appreciate your help.

        • Are you skim reading the passage before you tackle the questions? If so, how long does it take you? Skim reading should never take more than about 2 mins.

          • I only skim the first sentence of each paragraph before reading questions, which takes 2 mins.

            • You should run your eyes over all sentences but pay particular attention to the first sentences. You should also underline names, dates, technical words, and repeated information.

  44. Hellow Liz,
    plz send me some useful web address for listening.

  45. Yen Duong says:

    Hello Liz,

    There is confusion regarding Q1. I thougt the answer would be NG instead of F because I couldn’t see ‘provide accurate time’ opposite to ‘a simple estimate of time’. Can you explain it to me. Thanks Liz.


    • You need to paraphrase the words (accurate = precise). “However it is difficult to measure time precisely on a sundial”

  46. Hi Liz,
    I have seen your all information but i m still in confusion how to improve reading skill. i feel very hard while practicing Yes/No, Not given and True False not given. i would be very greatful if you suggest me appropriately.

    • Please see my video lesson for TFNG questions, I can’t really add much more than what is on the video.
      All the best

    • Hi Liz! Quick question pls. I need to know if the academic and general has the same equivalent of band score frow raw score for example I got 30/40 is it same band score for both training? I saw academic has a higher score than general. Explain pls! Thanks!

      • You will find the band scores listed on the main page for each section on this blog. Take a look because the scores for GT reading are not the same as academic reading.
        All the best

  47. Mohanpraveen says:

    Hi Elizabeth

    I want to Improve my writing skills,can you suggest some ideas regarding this.I am feeling more difficulty in writing task 2,I cant judge myself whether it is correct or not.Please help me.

    • Please work through all my links on the writing task 2 page of this blog for tips. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything which I can email to you except what is on this blog.
      All the best

  48. Hi,

    What about missing/ adding articles in listening answers? sometimes it happens, I wrote the article or missed it. would it be an incorrect answer where we add article (a, an, the) and it fits the answers’ words limit?

    • Visit my listening page and you will see the top 25 essential listening tips – your answer is there.
      All the best

  49. I got everything too. My major challenges are speaking and writing. Any suggestions for me?

    • Take a look at my speaking and writing pages for tips and useful video lessons. Make sure you complete the practice speaking test and then review the model answers.
      All the best

  50. Hi Liz
    I have an enquiry about Q N 7 why is it NG. I think it should be False as it is said that hourglasses were found in the 18th century not in earlier. So why is it NG? Plz clarify me

    • It gives an example of the hourglass being used in British churches but does not give any information about whether that was the first ever hourglass in Britain or not.
      All the best

  51. Hi Liz
    Q1 isn’t clear for me.I did NG because couldn’t find in the passage that Egyptian was the earliest. it’s only says that Egyptian example survived from 800 bc,not that it was the earliest known example?..

    • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I agree it is unclear. I’ve altered it.
      All the best

  52. Mohammad Hassan says:

    Hi Liz,

    I need an advice that 3 weeks before I submitted my GT IELTS transcript to IDP to recheck my writing score which was only 5.5 but my other score were perfect and I believe that score will be change.

    Could you tell me is it possible to change the writing band score after recheck. Actually, I have no idea about this. And I am nervous because it is related with my immigration process.

    Mohammad Hassan

    • Your score is highly unlikely to change with a second remark. If your score didn’t change the first time you got a remark then it is usually recommended to take the test again.
      All the best

  53. Hi Liz.. I’m so much weak in reading task…speacially fill up the cambridge 8 test2 reading questions both 22 & 39 can’t realize..why choose these ans..could u plz explain me…

  54. Farzana says:

    Hello Liz
    Thank you for all you have done for us. I have a question. I want to write all my answers in capital letters as I am very used to do that. There are some questions (both in listening and reading module) for which I just have to write down the question numbers (such as a, b, c or Roman numbers) not the words. My question is …as I am using all capital letters what should I do in this situation if the numbers of the questions are in small letters? I have to write as a,b,c (as like the question paper) or A, B, C (as I am using capital letters for all the rest of the questions) ? Thanks in advance.

  55. Good lesson. keep up your good work.

  56. Hi Liz!
    I am worried about the reading session,due to the time boundation I am unable to focus on questions. Moreover I can’t do skimming and while reading the passage I always go out of time. Please help me how to overcome this issue. Waiting for quick response.
    Thanks a lot for helping all of us. You are precious,stay blessed always.

    • Skimming is not about reading the passage to understand the content. Skimming to a quick glance over the passage to get the general content and takes no more than 2 mins. If you are taking more than 2 mins, it is because you are trying to understand key points instead of just skimming over it. Look up the word “skim” online to learn more about the actual meaning of it. I’m sure if you skim properly, you won’t run out of time.
      All the best

  57. javid if there is no any adjective it means NG?

    • i can’t say it works any time. I faced some questions and did this. If you want to be sure then select lots of answers( related to NG) and observe this trick 🙂

  58. hi madam liz thankx i got 4 answers correct but im not geeting Q4 and 8 ?

    • For question 4, it clearly states that the sundial is about 800 BC but the water clock is 1400 BC. This means the water clock is older. For question 8, your answer is in this sentence “In a reduced form it can still be found timing an egg”.
      All the best

      • But the passage says “..but the principal is very much familiar with astronomers very much early” so we cannot be sure what came earlier. I think ans should be NG

      • Hi Liz,
        Relating to question 4,.. It says sundial is about 800Bc while water clock is 1400BC.
        I believe 800BC is older than 1400BC. Because they are actually years the time piece was introduced and not the age of the time piece. Thus 800Bc comes before 1400BC.
        Please correct me if am wrong.

  59. Thanks Liz for every explaination for mine and others and by reading other reply it will also help to clear some queries . Thanks again .

  60. thanks liz for your lessons and videos

  61. Please give some reading samples about health related topics…

  62. Teshome Kebede Dheressa says:

    A very good exercise for my preparation.
    Thanks a lot!!

  63. Hi Liz , thanks for lesson and video on this topic . My problem is that I always mix false/No and NG , here in comment Javid written that ( if I cannot find adjective it means it is Not Given ) please I have a request that can you plz comment on this statement .

    • It isn’t a tip that I know about but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Many students have valuable tips which are not known to me. I suggest you decide for yourself if you think it is a useful tip to follow or not.
      All the best

  64. Thank you for your practice lesson liz.
    Well, I’m a bit confused in no. 4 . Sundial survives from about 800 BC and Water clock has history from 1400 BC . So how is this statement true? Can you please clear me?

  65. 1.T

  66. Thanks for lesson. i got 8/8. the 5th was a little tricky i hesitate to choose “Not Given” . I could’t find any adjective for description, so i decided to choose ” Not Given”.
    By the way,when i can’t find any adjective, i always choose Not given and it works pretty well 🙂

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