A major section of Paper 2 Booklet B, worth 15 marks, and a nightmare for many students (and teachers)…the Comprehension Cloze Passage!
As if an entire wall of text isn’t intimidating enough, they go and leave BLANKS for you to fill!
But do not despair…there are actually CLUES embedded in the text! The exam setters cannot give you blanks without ANY clues, because it defeats the purpose of this exercise, which is to test your mastery of the English language, and ALSO your COMPREHENSION skills.
In EVERY compre cloze passage, you WILL find these EIGHT types of clues. And if you learn how to spot them well, you can learn to SCORE higher marks for this difficult section!
Types of Blanks
- Contextual Clues
- Synonyms / Antonyms
- Forward / Backward Referencing
- Global Comprehension / Prior knowledge
- Words that are commonly used together
- Noun phrases e.g. ‘fast food’ ‘short cut’
- Phrasal verbs e.g. ‘to get together’ ‘to look up to’
- Other phrases e.g. ‘black and white’ ‘in and out’
Collocations enable readers to remember and use language in chunks or blocks rather than as single words. It is an important strategy to read the words before and after the blanks as these words can provide clues to finding the correct answer that fits the blank. They also include Phrasal Verbs, Idioms and sayings.
- Catch a cold / the bus / my breath
- Make a difference / a mess / trouble
- Take a chance / a rest / a risk
- Break a promise / a record / the rules
- Had run out of money / time / patience
- Filled with horror / surprise
- kicked the bucket
- pull through / out
- Burst into tears
2. Contextual Clues
Many of the clues in the passage may depend on CONTEXT. Context clues are hints that an author gives to help define a difficult or unusual word. The clue may appear within the same sentence as the word to which it refers, or it may follow in a preceding sentence.
Jack traveled the world in his catamaran. His _______ used both the wind and fuel to sail the oceans.
Answer: Boat / Ship
Why? Because in the context of the sentence, the clues provided are catamaran (a type of boat), wind and sail the oceans!
After taking the ______________, the pupils were told to wait in the hall for their results.
Answer: Exam / Test
Context clues: Pupils, results
- connectors are linking words
- they link ideas using connectors e.g. ‘then’ ‘however’ ‘because’ ‘unlike’
- they give coherence to a paragraph
- Sentences move smoothly and logically from one to another
- Monica is thin ______________ her brother is fat.
- ______________ soft drinks are tasty, water is healthier for you.
- ______________ to the drought, the government is going to start water rationing.
- but / although
- Although / though
4. Synonyms / Antonyms
- Synonyms: words with similar meanings
- Antonyms: words with opposite meanings
- Read words before and after the blank
- Study clues to find out if writer is using synonym or antonym
- Use a suitable synonym or antonym for the blank
- Many people are afraid of snakes. When they see these __________, they cringe in fear.
- The winners were elated while the ________ felt disappointed with the results.
- Father hates ________ music as he comes from a generation that enjoys soft and soothing music.
- Ideas are summarised in a later sentence to reinforce meaning
- Read ideas in earlier sentences in order to understand meaning in the summarised sentence
- Study clues to find out how writer sums up ideas
- Use a suitable word that can summarise earlier ideas
- Balloons were hung up. Streamers were put across the walls. The room was ____________ with the children in mind.
- Some of us are afraid of the dark, others of creepy crawlies or heights. All these people have a ____________ of something.
- People can choose to do a lot of things during their free time, like play sports, listen to music or if you’re good with your hands you can take up a craft. People have different ____________ to keep themselves busy.
- fear / phobia
- Writers use examples to make main ideas which could be a category or group e.g. occupation
- Look out for words that signal a listing e.g. such as, like, example, for instance
- Read the words before and after the blank
- Study the clues to find out if the writer is listing things that belong to a group
- Use a suitable word based on the earlier ideas to group them
- ____________ like the gorilla, elephant and rhinoceros are found in Africa.
- His house was cluttered with old ____________ of all sorts – broken chairs, cupboards, and tables.
- Guns and knives can become dangerous ____________ in the wrong hands.
7. Forward / Backward Referencing
- Answers to blanks can sometimes be found in the previous paragraph or in later paragraphs
- Read the previous and following paragraphs carefully to find the answer
- Forward referencing clues can be found FURTHER on in the passage
- Backward referencing clues can be found EARLIER on in the passage
8. Cumulative and Global Comprehension
Some blanks in a cloze passage can be filled only AFTER you have understood the preceding paragraphs. These blanks test if you have comprehended the passage globally, that is, whether you have understood the main point or the most important idea of the story.
“Hurry!” May and Ah Huat were in a frenzy, running here and there, getting everything ready. They had started their preparations since Grandpa left the house this morning
When Grandpa stepped into the house, he looked around in amazement. The room was beautifully decorated with balloons and on the wall hung a huge banner bearing the words ‘Happy 60th Birthday’ on it.
“____________!” shouted May and Ah Huat loudly as they held presents in their hands.
The student needs to understand that the children were planning a surprise party for their grandpa, hence their secretiveness and grandpa’s reaction.
Common Mistakes to Avoid:
- Filling in the blanks immediately without reading through at least TWICE
- Filling in the blanks based on just the words BEFORE or AFTER the blank
- Filling in the blanks without paying attention to language structure
- Using wrong expressions
- Using wrong tenses
- Using wrong parts of speech
Your answers MUST fit into the sentence GRAMMATICALLY!