┃Reading time: 8 minutes


The first task on the Reading and Use of English paper is the ‘multiple choice cloze’. That’s a fancy name, but what does it mean? A cloze is another name for a gap fill. In this part of the exam they give you a text, usually a couple of paragraphs long, with eight gaps in it. For each of these gaps, you have a choice of four options: A, B, C or D. These words might have similar meanings, but only one of them will fit correctly in the gap.



As with every text on the Reading and Use of English paper, it’s important to become familiar with the text you’ve been given. Check whether it has a title – they usually do. A quick glance at that can give you important information on the subject. Next, read through the text to get a general idea of what it’s about. On this first reading, try to ignore the gaps. You can’t work out what’s missing until you’ve read the rest of the text and tried to figure out what’s going on.



Once you’ve got a decent understanding of the text, you can start trying to work out what goes in the gaps. But – and this is important! – as you go through the gaps one by one, try and work out what should go in the gap BEFORE you look at the multiple choice options. Why do I say this? Well, if you look at the options straight away, you might be swayed (= influenced) before you’ve properly thought about the meaning of the sentence. Instead, try to predict not just the meaning of the word you need, but also the part of speech. Then, (hopefully!) you can use the options to confirm your suspicions.



You probably realise by now that the reading (and listening) papers of the Advanced exam are full of distractors: answers that, while wrong, are designed to confuse you and trick you!

In the listening exam, for example, the speaker might ‘trick’ you by using a word that features in one of the possible answers. In Reading and Use of English Part 1, however, distractors crop up (= occur) when two, three or all four of the multiple choice options have very similar meanings. Your job is to work out the nuances – slight differences in meanings – between the words and choose the right one.

Let’s look at an example. Read the extract below from a text discussing workplace dangers, and look at the four possible answers:


Asbestos still kills over 40,000 people a year. There are no regulations at present requiring owners to record the __________ of asbestos, meaning that builders and firefighters have no way of anticipating the problem.

A attendance        B presence          C company           D residence


Taken out of context, options A and B have very similar meanings.

Indeed, if we think about school, every morning the teacher ‘takes attendance’ (=checks which students are there and which are not), with students in lots of schools answering ‘present’ to confirm their attendance. We can probably rule out answers C and D as neither seem to fit here, but how do we choose between A and B? Well, we only use ‘attendance’ to talk about people being present at something, whereas we can use ‘presence to talk about someone or something being there. So, the answer must be B.

Time for you to have a go. Look at the sentences below. For each sentence, try to fill in the gap with the answer that has the correct meaning (answers at the end of the post):


1. The Blackbird, a two man reconnaissance aircraft, served the United States for 25 years until the Cold War __________ in 1990.

A frosted              B froze                 C thawed             D liquidised         

2. Modern buildings boast contemporary aesthetics while encouraging us to live more responsibly by using __________ resources.

A shorter              B greater              C grander             D fewer

3. Research has shown that 500,000 drivers will hit the road this Christmas regardless of how much alcohol they have __________.

A purchased         B consumed         C employed          D squandered


Takeaway: Improve your awareness of subtle differences in meaning by reading extensively. While you can often work out the meaning of new words from the context, it can also be useful to look up new words in a good monolingual dictionary to learn about any nuances in their meaning.



We’ve talked a lot so far about choosing the word that has the right meaning, but meaning isn’t the only thing that matters.Take a look at this example sentence, from a text about innovations in flight technology:


A new high-speed jet aircraft has smashed all records by reaching seven times the __________ of sound – fast enough to get from London to Sydney in two hours.

pace                ratio                 scale               speed


Options A and D have exactly the same meaning. Both pace and speed refer to how fast (or slow) something happens. However, only option D, ‘speed’ collocates with ‘of sound’.

English native speakers know instinctively that we use this expression. If English isn’t your first language you won’t naturally be aware of these collocations and you’ll need to learn them.

Look at the sentences below. In each case, the correct answer must collocate with the word that has been highlighted in bold. Can you select the right answers? (Answers at the end of the post)


1. In 1998, whale watching trips were available in 87 countries, with over 9 million participants generating a(n) __________ of over 1 billion dollars.

A  receipt             B  income            C  means             D  bill

2. The volume of raw __________ for making banana paper around the world on plantations is vast and largely unutilised.

A  materials          B  tools                C  cloth                 fabric

3. Most of us used to go to the dentist every six months. True, we might not have relished the __________ but at least in the past it didn’t mean taking out a second mortgage to pay for any treatment.

A  ideal                B  prospect          C  opinion            D  view



Takeaway: Even though you’re under time pressure in the exam, always read through the completed text one more time before moving on to the next part, and check that you haven’t made any mistakes with collocations.



While we’re talking about making sure that your answer fits in the sentence, it’s important to mention how vital it is to look carefully at what comes directly before and after each gap. Make sure that the option you choose fits any prepositions that might precede or follow it. Let me show you what I mean.

Read this short extract from a text about the effects of stress on eating habits:

‘Stress causes people to __________ for unhealthy high-fat and high-sugar snacks in preference to healthier food choices,’ says research Dr Daryl O’Connor of the University of Leeds.

choose             select              design             D opt

While options A and B might have the right meaning, neither of them can be followed by the preposition ‘for’. It is only option D which a) has the correct meaning for the sentence; and b) goes with the preposition ‘for’. So, take care with dependent prepositions. If you don’t pay enough attention you could easily make silly mistakes and drop marks that could make the difference between a pass and a fail!

Try to complete these sentences, which all feature dependent prepositions (highlighted in bold). Can you select the right answers? (Answers at the end of the post)

1. While women who work long hours tend to indulge in unhealthy behaviour, it seems long hours have no such __________ on men.

contact             clash               conflict             D impact


2. Because of financial pressures, the current dental system makes only minimal __________ for preventative work…

permission       limitation          existence          allowance

3. The term ‘banana paper’ is used to __________ to a paper made from the bark of the banana tree.

refer                concern           C name               D direct


Takeaway: If you feel like you need more help with this, download our list of nouns, adjectives and verbs along with their dependent prepositions for Advanced level English. Test yourself to see how well you know them. Good luck!


Now, it’s over to you!

What do you find most difficult in part 1 – collocations? prepositions? Maybe not understanding all the options? What tips and advice do you have for your fellow test-takers?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below! 🙂


‘Meaning’ answers: 1.C, 2.D, 3.B

‘Collocation’ answers: 1.B, 2.A, 3.B

‘Preposition’ answers: 1.D, 2.D, 3.A