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November 23, 2011

The Cloze Test for Reading Comprehension

Filed under: Content,Usability — admin @ 10:23 pm

A colleague mentioned the Cloze test today, something I had not heard of before. In a nutshell it’s a method by which you can assess the suitability of copy for particular digital environments.

Jakob Nielsen has a useful overview of the technique:

  1. Replace every Nth word in the text with blanks. A typical test uses N = 6, but you can make the test easier by using a higher N value.
  2. Ask your test participants to read the modified text and fill in the blanks with their best guesses as to the missing words. Each person should work alone.
  3. The score is the percentage of correctly guessed words. Because you’re testing comprehension rather than spelling skills, synonyms and misspellings are allowed.

If users get 60% or more right on average, you can assume the text is reasonably comprehensible for the specified user profile employed to recruit test participants.

Of particular interest to me was the difference in meaning between ‘readability’ and ‘comprehension’ regarding the copy being tested.

Here is an example of the technique. (I scored 100% but had to remind myself that it simply meant the copy being used was comprehendible, rather than indicating that I was a literary genius.)

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