This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cloze Shaves and Horrors

Many students and parents find it baffling when it comes to Cloze Comprehension Passages. Quite a fair amount of marks is lost in this section, making it one of the most “worrisome” sections in English Paper 2. So what does a student need to do, in order to minimize loss of marks?

Cloze Passages test the student’s vocabulary, as well as his/her comprehension. Most teachers advise students to read the passage in full, before attempting to answer the questions. This gives the students an idea what the “theme” of the passage is about.

Hence, if the “theme” of the passage is about “hospital”, we can expect words like “nurses”, "doctors", or perhaps, “patients”, “ward”, “wheelchair” and “emergency” to be used.

However, not all passages have clear themes. This may present problems to students who lack a strong vocabulary. The trick is to look at the background and context of the passage. That is why it is important to read the passage in full, before attempting to answer.

Below, is a sample passage. Try it out. This passage has been written such that the opening paragraph gives the reader the “background”. Do not expect this kind of help in actual exams.

In real exams, the blanks start in the very first paragraph. This sample is just to help readers to see the link between the answers and the “background theme”. Hence, a full first paragraph without blanks is given below.

Sample Passage
Jake continued his trek in the mountainous forest. He considered himself lucky to be alive. Just days ago, he lost his co-pilot in a horrific crash, when their light aircraft malfunctioned in mid-air. Jake thought he saw death in the face, when their plane came hurtling down. Miraculously, he sustained only a deep gash on his forehead. But he knew the co-pilot was dead when he saw his body pinned under a heap of twisted metal, motionless.

Jake has been _______ (1) in the forest for about a week. He has crossed many streams, but there appears to be no village or settlements around for miles. He knew he was lost and had to find help fast. As he approached a river, he noticed a very tall tree. Jake climbed the tree to _______ (2) for signs of human life or activity. There was none.


Suggested Answers:

- wandering (highly recommended)
- walking, staying, living, sleeping (unacceptable)

Why “wandering” is preferred – The passage indicates that Jake was on the move. Words like “trek” and “crossed many streams” suggest that Jake was not stationary. Hence, answers that indicate non-movement like “staying” will be considered unacceptable.

Living” suggests that Jake has made the forest as his place of residence, while “sleeping” is out of context, because the theme is about Jake’s survival and his concerted effort to seek help.

Walking” too, is unacceptable because “walking” infers “moving to a place in a purposeful manner, with a specific destination in mind”. Example – “I walk to school.” Jake has no specific destination, other than to seek help. Furthermore, “has been walking” may infer Jake has been walking non-stop, for one week.

Wandering” gives the reader the idea that the person is lost and has covered a wide area, without any specific destination. Example – “We saw the little lost girl wandering in the city.”

- look (highly recommended)
- search (acceptable)
- find (unacceptable)

Why “look” is preferred – “Look” suggests a small area. Example – “I have dropped my pen. I need to look for it under the table.”

Search” suggests a much wider area. Example – “Rescue workers searched for survivors from the capsized ship.”

Although the passage appears to tell readers that the area is wide (forest), “look” is preferred, because Jake climbed a tree, restricting his mobility and thus reducing the area. Hence, “look for signs” is preferred over “search”.

However, “search” is also acceptable because contextually, Jake was searching for signs of human life even before he climbed the tree, and continued to do so when he climbed that tree.

Find” is unacceptable because, (1) you need to lose something, before you can “find” it. Example: “Help me find my pen”; or (2) you make what you wish to find an “objective or mission”. Example – “I need to find the truth.”

Furthermore, “find for” is an unacceptable expression. You “find something”, not “find for something”.

The above article was published in Excel!, a publication of Excel Eduservice in April 2006.
Publication Permit No: MICA (P) 135/03/2006
All Rights reserved


Anonymous said...

my teacher recommends me to find contextual clues when i do it really necessary?

Excel Eduservice said...

Yes, it would help a lot if you do.

Anonymous said...

for question 1 can i put lost as an answer even if it is not highly recommended?

Anonymous said...

For this section,

my sa2 , i scored 5 / 15 , but your method is metioned by my teacher and she says that it is 65 % relaible.

Anonymous said...

for q2 can i put 'check'?