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How to Use the Cloze Test (Cloze Deletion Test) to Score Readability

A Cloze Test (also called the "cloze deletion test") is an exercise, test, or assessment consisting of a portion of text with certain words removed (cloze text), where the teacher asks the participant to restore the missing words. Cloze tests require students to understand context and vocabulary to identify the correct words that belong in the deleted passages of a text.


A language teacher may give the following passage to students:

"Today, I went to the ________ and bought some bread and peanut butter. I knew it was going to rain, but I forgot to take my ________, and got wet on the way."

The teacher instructs the students to fill in the blanks with words that they think best fits the passage. Both context in language and content terms are essential in most cloze tests. The first blank is preceded by "the"; therefore, a noun, an adjective or an adverb must follow. However, a conjunction follows the blank; the sentence would not be grammatically correct if anything other than a noun were in the blank. The words "bread and peanut butter" are important for deciding which noun to put in the blank; "supermarket" is a possible answer; depending on the student, however, the first blank could either be store, supermarket, shop or market, while umbrella or raincoat fit the second.

The Development of the Cloze Test

Research indicates that teachers at many elementary schools require their students to read books and materials that they often struggle to read. This condition is largely based on the graded system which assumes that all children learn all things at virtually the same time. It seems imperative that teachers choose materials which match the students' reading skills.

To accomplish this, the first task is to determine the appropriateness of reading materials for various students. To some extent, the standardized achievement tests offered at least once a school year in most school systems, provide such information. However, the results of such tests do not provide a reliable index of reading success in various materials.

The reasons for this are:

1) Achievement tests are based on limited samples; they cannot predict achievement accurately in specific materials which draw on varied concepts, sentence patterns, etc.

2) Achievement tests are most reliable in the middle ranges of achievement. They often mislead in measuring the achievement of those in the lower reading ranges.

Because standardized tests cannot accurately determine the suitability of given reading materials, many reading authorities suggest informal tests of the involved materials. The best test of reading skill relies on the student's ability or inability to read the given material.

Thus, if a sixth grade teacher wishes to find out which students can read and comprehend the sixth grade geography text, the teacher must:

1. Direct each student to read a specified portion of the text.
2. Direct the student to demonstrate some degree of understanding. A student can do this by answering questions about the selection.

This method of testing materials is generally called "informal reading inventory testing." In most instances the label is equated with the task of finding pupils' reading levels by asking them to read a series of increasingly difficult selections (followed by comprehension questions).

Students in the earlier stages of reading development read the various materials both orally and silently, while higher level students read silently before answering the questions.

Although potentially valuable, "informal reading inventory testing" involves many qualitative decisions on the part of the teacher, such as:

1) Oral Reading
  • Mute are oral reading errors?
  • What are the maximum number of oral reading errors that can be permitted?
  • How fluent should the oral reading be?
  • How do you determine fluency?
2) Silent Reading
  • What is a reasonable amount of time to read the given selection?
3) Comprehension
  • What are the most important elements that the student should remember about the selection?
  • To what extent are the questions relevant to the main elements of the selection?
The quality of judgments in the above depends upon very sophisticated judgments. In fact, the judgments can be so sophisticated that reading experts suggest that teachers may make completely inappropriate judgments if they use the prevailing error marking systems.

At this point the question many teachers ask is, "If teachers cannot depend upon achievement tests or their own observations to determine the suitability of reading materials for different children, what, then can they use?'"

We have two very different ways. Several diagnostic reading test authors have developed tests that can more accurately predict the proper instructional level of texts, and others have presented data to indicate that their special instruments will predict more accurately than achievement tests. Another way has been seen in the "cloze technique" procedure as developed by John Bormuth (1967).

In the "Cloze Test Procedure," the teacher instructs students to restore omitted words (usually every fifth word) in a reading passage. Based on reviewing students' restored words from the text passages, the teacher can determine a more accurate level of comprehension.

Because the the Botel Readability Formula and Spache Readability Formula (as well as other formulas) suffer from the same limitations as achievement tests, it appears that their usefulness to determine the appropriateness of reading material is limited.

The Cloze Test is different. Devoid of such restraints and geared to the exact material, the Cloze Test Procedure adds more value to determine the readability of any selected text for any student.

Wilson L. Taylor introduced the term "cloze procedure" in 1953 and thoroughly researched the value of closure tasks as predictors of reading comprehension. Basic to the procedure is the idea of closure wherein the reader must use the surrounding context to restore omitted words. Comprehension of the total unit and its available parts (including the emerging cloze write-ins) is essential to the task.

To use the Cloze Test Procedure to score material, follow this protocol:

1. Omit every 5th word, replacing it with a blank space for the student to write in the answer.

2. Instruct students to write only one word in each blank and to try to fill in every blank.

3. Guessing is encouraged.

4. Advise students that you will not count misspellings as errors.


1. In most instances, the exact word must be restored.

2. Misspellings are counted as correct when the response is deemed correct in a meaning sense.

Validating the effectiveness of the Cloze Test as a measure of readability and comprehension is interesting because of: (1) the ways in which reading comprehension is scored; and (2) the almost universal finding of high correlations between cloze and other prediction instruments.

Initially Taylor (1953) compared cloze score rankings of passages of varying difficulty with readability rankings of the same passages by two common readability formulas, Dale-Chall and Flesch formulas. The passages were similarly rank ordered by each technique. The Cloze Test scored the readability of very difficult text passages more accurately than the Dale-Chall and Flesch formulas.


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