What is a cloze test?

What is a cloze test?
An important part of the new-format 11+ exam, and a valuable test of your child's ability in English, we explain what cloze procedures involve.

A cloze test (or cloze exercise or procedure) is a task where your child has to fill in the blanks in a passage of text. There are two types of cloze test:

Cloze paragraphs involve a chunk of text with entire words omitted. Your child has to fill each gap with the appropriate word so that the passage makes sense. Usually, a word bank is provided. This is an objective test, where there is only one correct answer for each deleted word.

For example: ‘It was a _____ night. The wind was _____ around the _____ as I stepped out of the _____ and into the _____.’

[Choose from: blowing, stormy, blue, street, rooftops, platform, raining, rooftops, sunshine, grass, county, door, window, street]

Sometimes, your child might be asked to complete a cloze paragraphs test without a word bank. In this case, the answer is subjective: there are a number of possible words that your child could use appropriately.

For example: ‘It was a COLD night. The wind was WHISTLING around the COURTYARD as I stepped out of the CAR and into the DARKNESS.’

Cloze words involve letters being removed from particular words in a passage of text. Your child then needs to fill these in correctly.

For example: ‘Recycling is important because it helps to avoid unn------ry waste and protects the en------ent.’

The missing words are ‘unnecessary’ and ‘environment’.

What skills do cloze exercises test?

Cloze procedures are tests of vocabulary, spelling and an understanding of the English language. 'Cloze paragraphs test a pupil’s ability to understand the meaning of the words in the word bank, and to put them into context,’ explains Kathryn McMahon of 11 Plus Tutoring Academy. ‘They also depend on understanding the subtleties of language, and being able to decipher a complicated piece of text. If a child has a poor vocabulary, they will struggle with both forms of cloze test.’

As well as testing vocabulary and spelling, cloze tests require children to think critically and analytically about a text, and to think about meaning as they are reading. They also involve a sound knowledge of grammar; for example, to complete a sentence such as, ‘Sarah ran _____ across the field,’ your child will need to identify that an adverb (‘slowly’) fills the gap, and not an adjective (‘slow’).

Why might your child take a cloze test?

Cloze tests are sometimes used as a classroom exercise to assess children’s mastery of the English language. Perhaps more importantly, they are also a key part of the new-style CEM (Durham University) 11 plus test that your Year 6 child may take if they are applying for a place at a secondary grammar school. ‘Over the next few years, this test will replace the old style verbal reasoning (VR) 11 plus exam,’ says Kathryn. ‘It is a more robust exam than the old tests, which are narrow in their questioning and unfair for children who haven’t had tuition in the techniques, or who are more mathematically minded.’

Tips for cloze test success

  • Encourage your child to read the whole passage through first to get a sense of what the text is about.
  • For cloze paragraphs, your child should start by filling in the words that they are confident about. ‘By using a process of elimination, they will narrow down the list of words, and can put in those that they are not completely sure about at the end,’ says Kathryn.
  • Remind your child to use their knowledge of grammar and syntax. By identifying whether they need to put a noun, verb, adjective or adverb in a particular blank, they can eliminate a lot of possibilities from the word bank.
  • For cloze words, your child needs to think about whether they have seen the word before and can remember its spelling. ‘If they don’t know the word, and can’t guess it, they should think about any spelling rules that they could apply which would make the word viable,’ says Kathryn.
  • Make sure your child re-reads the whole passage afterwards to check it makes sense.

Practising cloze at home

Try these resources for practising cloze techniques with your child:

  • 11+ Essentials: Cloze Tests Book 1: graded practice papers written by experienced tutors, with an online code that lets you compare your child’s performance with other pupils to identify their areas of strength and weakness.
  • Contemporary Cloze: cloze exercises both with and without word banks, covering popular topics such as mobile phones, bullying and Harry Potter.
  • Create your own cloze exercises: type a passage of text taken from a book that your child is able to read into an online cloze maker to generate your own practice tasks.
  • Cloze exercises are included in TheSchoolRun's 11+ learning Journey, a complete at-home 11+ preparation plan for Year 5 children.