I have been taking IELTS mock exams recently on a website. (The tests are probably taken from Cambridge textbooks).

So I have 2 points I may disagree with in the Reading section.

I had to choose whether certain statements TRUE, FALSE or NOT GIVEN

Question 19 statement says China has more citrus pests than any other country in the world.


And in the text it goes like this:

Citrus fruits evolved in the Far East and the Chinese discovered the delights of their flesh early on. As the ancestral home of oranges, lemons and pomelos, China also has the greatest diversity of citrus pests. And the trees that produce the sweetest fruits, the mandarins - or kan - attract a host of plant-eating insects, from black ants and sap-sucking mealy bugs to leaf-devouring caterpil­lars. With so many enemies, fruit growers clearly had to have some way of pro­tecting their orchards.

While the authors of this website say that the correct answer should be TRUE, and referring to the sentence in bold in the quote as a proof.

My position of understanding is as follows:

Statement 1: China has more citrus pests than any other country in the world.

Statement 2: China also has the greatest DIVERSITY of citrus pests.

Two statements don't carry same meaning for following reasons:

Let's say, China has the greatest DIVERSITY of citrus pests, like 10 TYPES of citrus pests. Assume 10 is the highest number of DIVERSITY in the world. But, there is one citrus pest of each type in China. How many pests we will have in total? 10!

On the other hand, let's say England has only one TYPE of citrus pests. England has a hundred of citrus pests of ONE TYPE only.

On diversity levels, China has greater number of pests than England has, sure. But when it comes to overall amount of citrus pests, regardless of their diversity, England has it more than China.

So the problem is: Q19 says "China has more citrus pests than any other country in the world." NOT MORE DIVERSE

As long as I understand, the answer should be NOT GIVEN.

WHat should the correct answer be -- TRUE, FALSE, or NOT GIVEN?

  • 1
    Disagree. You have to use some common sense in tests like this. More pests can refer to the total number of individuals, but it can also mean more types of pest. Many sentences are ambiguous if you approach them like Dr Spock, and the ability to resolve that kind of ambiguity is an aspect of the reading skillset they are testing here.
    – user339660
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 8:22
  • 1
    @Minty I would upvote if you expanded and transferred your comment into an answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 11:32
  • 6
    If this test is supposed to test one's ability to read carefully (in manner one does when studying, say, a textbook in a scientific discipline), rather than one's ability to guess what somebody may have had in mind (but did not actually say), then the OP is perfectly right: the diversity of pests is only a matter of how many species of pests there are, and not of the total number of pests. Admittedly the words host and many in the following sentences do imply that the number of pests is high, but they do not imply that it is higher than in any other country.
    – jsw29
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 17:22
  • 1
    @jsw29 The source of the reading test appears to be from IELTS online tests.com and it says: Real IELTS Listening and IELTS Reading tests based on actual IELTS tests and *following the Cambridge IELTS book format. Again, not supported by Cambridge. As a resource and for practice purposes this is probably fine, it's free and it helps candidates to prepare but it is not the original Cambridge material, so it's likely there will be errors.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 8:12
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA, does this mean that you agree with the OP, after all? Your first comment seems to imply the opposite.
    – jsw29
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


Tests which require a "true / false / not given" answer should not be ambiguous, nor should they require students to make assumptions...

If the examiners wanted to know what students could "infer" from the given text, they would not have asked for a "true / false / not given" answer.

A person's ability to differentiate between "most diverse" & "most numerous" is a credit to their understanding of the language & to their intelligence...

Teachers who put ambiguous questions in "yes / no" type tests are either ignorant or sadistic.

Regarding the question quoted by Isakov-U, the correct answer would be (/ should be) "not given".

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