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Strategies to Tackle PSLE English Comprehension Cloze

by | Oct 12, 2022 | 2 comments

PSLE English Comprehension Cloze Strategies – Introduction

Struggling with PSLE English Comprehension Cloze? You are not alone. This is arguably one of the toughest components of the PSLE English exam because you need to read a large chunk of information, process it, and fill in the blanks with precise answers. However, there are intelligent strategies you can use to help you to tackle this portion of the paper. Read on to find out the different clues that you can glean from the passage to help you make informed decisions to fill in the blanks correctly.


PSLE English Comprehension Cloze Strategy #1: Likeness & Differences

One thing that PSLE Comprehension Cloze passages love to test is whether you can identify synonyms and antonyms. Synonyms are words that have very similar meanings, while antonyms are pairs of words that are completely different. For instance, “small” and “tiny” are synonyms as they share the same core meaning. “Small” and “big”, on the other hand, are both antonyms since they are opposites.

Whether the blank is asking for a synonym or antonym depends on the contextual clues. Contextual clues refer to the information before or after the blank which can help you to arrive at logical conclusions on what the correct answer might be.

Consider the following example from PSLE 2020:


a. It is quite common to see someone trail off a conversation to check their phone, or answering a call while making a purchase, impolitely _____ the salesperson serving them.


The answer is “ignoring”. To derive the answer, you will have to make guesses based on the information from the first part of the sentence, “trail off a conversation”.

“To trail off a conversation” means to be completely distracted, and unresponsive. If one is unresponsive, one would ignore the person who is talking to him/her.


PSLE English Comprehension Cloze Strategy #2: Connectors & Conjunctions

Connectors and conjunctions will also be tested in a PSLE Comprehension Cloze passage. Connectors and conjunctions help to mark relationships between events, and make clear the sequence of events in a sentence.

Let us look at some examples of connectors and conjunctions, and how they link ideas together.

  • The word “and” is a conjunction that connects two events together. For example, “Chloe can swim and play tennis.”
  • Another common type of connector is “or” which indicates a choice between two items or events. “Jayden wants to go to either Japan or Korea for the summer holiday.”
  • Connectors like “but” and “while” join two statements that seem to oppose each other to show contrast. For example, “The exam was difficult, but I could answer all the questions.”
  • Connectors also have the ability to indicate cause and effect relationships. For example, the word “because” in “Chloe cried because she fell down” makes clear the reason behind why Chloe cried. Her crying is the result of her falling, and experiencing pain. Recall from our previous discussion on synonyms. “Reason” is synonymous with “result”. They mean the same thing. So if “because” indicates the reason something happened, it also indicates the result (also known as: cause and effect).

To illustrate a less well-known use of connectors, consider the following example from PSLE 2020:


b. After all, we no longer need to remember phone numbers when they are stored in our contact list. _____ do we need to hold details in our head when we can set a reminder in our phone.


The correct answer is “Nor”. We are familiar with how the word “nor” tends to be used with “neither” (e.g neither A nor B). However, in the PSLE example, it is used at the beginning of the sentence to introduce another negative sentence. This is a good example to learn from because it tests your ability to understand the connector “nor”. This reinforces also that “nor” does not always need to be used with “neither”.


PSLE English Comprehension Cloze Strategy #3: Forward & Backward Referencing

One strategy that you definitely need to keep in mind for PSLE Comprehension Cloze is to constantly refer to words before and after the blanks. More often than not, the clues are just around the blanks. To fill in the blanks, you may have to apply what you know about antonyms, synonyms and connectors. Consider the example below from PSLE 2021:


c. Convenience provides all kinds of information and enables us to see things from different points of view, but this convenience may __________ us from forming our own opinions and thinking creatively.


In order to deduce the answer “prevent/stop”, one needs to glean from the words around the blank, such as “but”. This is a connector that suggests that the blank is talking about a negative aspect of convenience. The preposition “from” which occurs after the blank,  forms a phrasal verb with “stop” or “prevent”. If you know phrasal verbs, you will have a better idea of how to answer this question. We will discuss phrasal verbs shortly in Section 5. Stay tuned!


PSLE English Comprehension Cloze Strategy #4: Parts & Whole (Grouping)

Being able to recognise parts and whole can provide you with tools to tackle PSLE Comprehension Cloze passages. Parts and whole describe the relationships between words. For example, a steering wheel, seat belt, motor engine, windscreen and brakes are parts of a whole car. It is crucial to identify contextual words in the passage that name parts of a whole item or object.

Let us try the example below to further explain the part-whole concept.


d. Ipads, tablets, smartphones and laptops are commonly used today. However, fifty years ago, these electronic _______ were not used.


It is clear that the answer is “devices”, which is an umbrella term for “ipads, tablets, and smartphones”.


PSLE English Comprehension Cloze Strategy #5: Fixed Phrases

There are multiple types of fixed phrases that you need to learn in order to have enough tools to tackle the PSLE Comprehension Cloze passage. They include phrasal verbs, idioms and proverbs and collocations. These form a large percentage of the cloze passage answers, so be sure to master them!


5.1 Phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are phrases that contain a verb and a preposition. For instance, a commonly used phrasal verb is “figure out” as used in “Jayden could not figure out how to solve this problem.” Consider another example below from PSLE 2019 vocabulary section:


e. When Irfan moved ___ to Secondary One, it took him some time to get used to the new school routine.


The answer is “up”. Note that the proposition used is specific to this context. Although the phrasal verbs “moved out/over/along” exist, these prepositions are not appropriate in the context of example 5.


5.2 Idioms and Proverbs

Idioms and proverbs are phrases that have idiosyncratic meaning, where the individual parts of the words do not actually contribute to their actual meaning. For instance, when one says “you are the apple of my eye”, one does not refer to the listener as an actual “apple”. The whole phrase means ‘you are my favourite’.  You have to commit these idioms and proverbs to memory as their associated meanings are fixed.


5.3 Collocations

Finally, collocations are words that are often used together as a pair or a group. Examples include “take a break”, “black and white”, “excruciating pain”. Consider the example below:


f. McDonalds, Burger King and MOS Burger are ______ food chains.


The answer is “fast”. We know that the word “fast” is not interchangeable with synonyms like “quick”, “speedy” or “immediate”. Furthermore, notice that we can use what we have learnt from part-whole groupings to help us arrive at the answer too. ‘McDonalds’, ‘Burger King’ and ‘MOS burger’ are all categorised under the label ‘fast food’, suggesting a part-whole meaning relationships between these restaurants and the term ‘fast food’.  This is similar to example d from Section 4.


PSLE English Comprehension Cloze Strategy #6: General Knowledge & Common Sense

Last but not least, in order to answer some of the questions in the PSLE Comprehension Cloze, you will need general knowledge or common sense to deduce the most suitable answers. For example, in the sentence below, it is clear that the blank should be “eye” based on the contextual clues of the sentence. It would be illogical to say that an eye tracker can detect the movements of our nose or mouth!


g. An eye tracker detects the movements of your ____ and converts that into usable data.


PSLE English Comprehension Cloze Strategies – Conclusion

It is apparent that these tips are not meant to be studied separately for your PSLE Comprehension Cloze. As seen from Section 3 on forward and backward referencing, there are indeed many overlaps among all the tips. This is why cloze passage is one of the toughest components. It really tests one’s vocabulary, reasoning abilities, and common sense. Practising cloze passages is important too. The more you practise, the more you learn how to apply your skills in looking for clues in the sentence with your common sense and vocabulary knowledge. This means that in order to do well in cloze passages, you need to read widely because this is how you expand your vocabulary such as collocations and idioms. By reading widely, you will also be more familiar with the topics of the cloze passages. This background knowledge will help because instead of being caught up in understanding the topic as you are doing the cloze passage, you can focus on searching for contextual clues to answer the questions to the best of your abilities.

Although cloze passages are tough, it is not impossible to do well. If you start training now with your teachers’ guidance, you can definitely get better at it. Learning a language is like training a muscle. The more you use the language by reading, writing and speaking, the stronger your language abilities can get.  For those who find cloze passages mundane because of their sheer difficulty, try to motivate yourselves by telling yourselves that you emerge being better at English!

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  1. Nisha Mundra nisha

    I would like to check if any crash course is available on improving comprehension close and open ended comprehension

  2. Cynthia

    P4 English

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