Cloze deletions often create frustrations in non-technical mnemonic texts

Trouble with Cloze deletion prompts was a common theme from feedback to How to write good prompts. My sense is that people found themselves frequently forgetting the answers to these questions, but in a way which felt less well-justified than for Q/A prompts. The problems here go beyond the problems with self-authored cloze prompts (Cloze deletion prompts seem to produce less understanding than question-answer pairs in spaced repetition memory systems): they’re specific to authoring prompts in the Mnemonic medium.

Many people felt that what they were forgetting was my wording—rather than some well-defined exogenous piece of knowledge (Mnemonic medium readers sometimes feel impeded by authors’ wording choices). That’s probably true in some sense. Cloze deletions may require readers to additionally remember what the question is asking of them to a greater degree: see Spaced repetition memory prompts should unambiguously produce a specific answer for more discussion of this issue. This means cloze prompts usually fail the Expert response heuristic, after Issa Rice.

Soren Bjornstad:

Now some thoughts (and questions, if you have time) on cloze deletions. I seem to be having particular trouble with the cloze deletions in the Orbit items in the article so far (grain of salt: I have only done in-text and one review session so far, and I don’t have actual objective statistics on my performance on the cards). Hypothesis: maybe other people’s prompts transfer particularly poorly on cloze deletions when used with vaguer, more conceptual knowledge like this article, since they rely more on the author’s phrasing, and the exact words I use will differ more from the exact words you use than our representations of concepts? Questions subjectively seem to trigger less linguistic processing than cloze deletions, at least for me – the process of answering a question is more like “mentally represent the question, find the right link”, while the cloze deletion is more like “find the right words to put in the sentence”.

This feels like an accurate assessment to me. And an update on the results of a month or so of reviewing: I’ve picked up on many of them, but the ones I’m continuing to have trouble with all fall in this category.

Issa Rice:

I often like to pick out quotes or phrases I like while reading. It helps that I am the one who is picking the phrases that resonate with me. I’ve also tended towards passive review over time on these kinds of cards (re-reading a quote I like brings me joy, but being forced to recall the exact phrasing is often not fun, unless it’s a phrase I’d like to get better at using in my own writing).

Last updated 2023-07-13.