An article by Russell Whitehead about the Cambridge English B2 Business Vantage (formerly BEC Vantage Business English) exam Reading component Part 4, the lexical cloze task (vocabulary multiple-choice gap-fill task), with tips for preparing candidates and a sample task and explanation.
The task type
This is a gapped text – often called a ‘cloze’ test. In some cloze tests, every, say, tenth word is gapped. However, this is a modified cloze, in which the gaps are made by design. For each gap, candidates are given a choice of four words (or occasionally pairs or groups of words). The choices are basically lexical, although some consideration of grammar, particularly in terms of sentence fit, will also be involved.
The aim is to test candidates’ knowledge of vocabulary, as opposed to reading (which is tested directly in Parts 1-3) or grammar (which is directly tested in Part 5, and, to some extent, in Part 6).
No specific or general business knowledge is required to complete the task. The task carries 15 marks and is well worth working hard at.
Many different types of text are used for this task. For example, candidates may have to read an extract from an article, a piece of internal or external company communication, an advertisement or material from a brochure or company report. In all cases, the meaning and context of the text will be clear and will not require any specialist business knowledge.
The text will be between 200–300 words long. It will be short enough to be worth reading through quickly before starting on the questions. This should help to focus the mind and activate vocabulary knowledge in that area.
The text may contain some vocabulary that might be considered above the direct level of B2 Business Vantage, but these words and phrases will not be directly tested.
The Business English Certificate Vantage assesses English used in the context of business at Level B2 of the CEFR (Common European Framework). Three pass levels are available for this exam:
- Grade A (CEFR Level C1) – 180– 190 marks
- Grade B (CEFR Level B2) – 173– 179 marks
- Grade C (also CEFR Level B2) – 160– 172 marks
Candidates receive a separate score for each skill area (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and their overall score and grade is the average of these individual scores
Candidates who gain 140– 159 marks receive a certificate stating that they have demonstrated ability at CEFR Level B1.
Candidates whose scores are below 139 do not receive a result, CEFR level or certificate.
There are 15 gaps in the text, in addition to the example provided. Each gap has four possible answers offered but only one will be correct. It is not a question of which word is better than the others, but of which word is correct while the others are incorrect.
Various aspects of the candidates’ knowledge of vocabulary are tested. Some are purely lexical, others are lexico-grammatical.
The meaning of individual words:
With this kind of question, the candidate needs to think which word has the right meaning in the context. Grammar is not under consideration. All the words will be the same part of speech, but only one of them will fit correctly into the gap in the particular text.
As part of our luxury package, we …………….. a pick-up service from the airport.
A submit B offer C dispose D forward
The answer is B. The other words are closely related in meaning, but are not correct in this context.
Note that a question could also have been formed by gapping part with choices such as piece, section and so on.
Collocations and phrases:
With this kind of question, the candidate needs to decide which of the words offered will correctly complete a collocation or phrase. The decision cannot be made only by looking at the words themselves. Candidates must look at the words in the text before and after the gap, in order to see what is required to complete this part of the text.
We have gone a step …………….. than the competition and are offering free upgrades to first class.
A further B greater C higher D longer
The answer is A. The other words are all related in meaning, but do not correctly collocate with ‘step’ in the phrase ‘to go a step further’.
Note that this question could also have been formed with gone as the gap, and choices such as taken, put and so on.
With this kind of question, the candidate needs to decide which missing element from the four choices will complete the correct phrasal verb in the context. One or more elements may be gapped, or complete phrasal verbs may be gapped. If the whole phrasal verb is gapped, the question may be considered to be purely lexical. If part of the phrasal verb is gapped, the question may be considered to be lexico-grammatical, as it becomes an issue of matching base verbs and prepositions.
In an aggressive acquisition, Fox.com has been taken ………….. by the Globo Group.
A off B on C through D over
The answer is D. The other choices do complete phrasal verbs, but not the correct one in this case.
Note that the question could also have formed by gapping taken and choices such as made, got and so on.
With this kind of question, the candidate needs to combine lexical and grammatical considerations. It is likely that some or all of the choices will be correct in terms of meaning, but only one of them will fit grammatically. This kind of question frequently tests knowledge of patterns such as verb + preposition + -ing form.
New regulations mean we are …………… to replace a lot of our equipment.
A needed B insisted C required D demanded
The answer is C. The others are related in meaning quite closely, but only require can be used in the passive and followed by to and a base form verb.
With this kind of question, the candidate needs to apply lexico-grammatical knowledge to decide which linking word or phrase is correct in the context. In the case of a linking phrase, either the whole phrase may be gapped, or part of it.
You should always carry some business cards with you …………….. you meet a useful contact.
A unless B even if C provided D in case
The answer is D. The other choices do not enable the sentence to be completed in a correct and meaningful way.
Note that this kind of lexico-grammatical consideration may also appear in Part 5, the open cloze.
Tips for preparing candidates
- Students should be made aware of the different aspects of knowledge tested, as listed in above. Of course, the questions do not announce themselves as being tests of this or that aspect. They do not have little labels. Students need to learn to recognise what sort of question is being asked. Give them practice tasks and get them to identify the different types.
- When you do a practice task, don’t leave the wrong choices just as wrong answers. Get students to work together to write sentences that would use the other choices in a correct context.
- Adapt practice tasks. For example, give students the tasks with the three wrong options but not the correct one. See if they can come up with the correct word or phrase. Or, put all the correct words and choices together into one big ‘word bank’ and get the students to locate and select the correct answers that way.
- Candidates who study vocabulary on an individual-word basis will not be able to get very high marks in this task. Encourage your students to keep effective notes – on paper or electronically – of new vocabulary as they encounter it. In class, never miss an opportunity to draw their attention to useful items, even if you are actually doing a grammar lesson. It is much better if students spend their time and energy learning sentences containing new vocabulary rather than just lists of separate words.
Look at this sample material extract.
Read the advice below about travelling on long-distance flights. Choose the best word to fit each gap from A, B, C or D.
It isn’t better to travel than to arrive
My first experience of flying, as a child, (1)………….. keeping my eyes shut most of the way to stop my fear from taking me over. Millions of kilometres later, I have managed to develop a certain cool approach, at least on the outside, but flying’s still a hard way to spend time.
However, there are things you can do to improve your flight experience. (2)………………., I always set my watch to the time at my destination as soon as I get on the plane. It means I start adjusting to that place on my way there. I divide the time of the flight into two-hour slots, and plan what to do in each one. This scheduling (3)………………. a very calming effect. I usually vary what I do in the slots, trying to make sure I don’t (4)………………… with the same activity twice in a row. I often manage to spend one slot doing something educational and then test myself on that in a later slot (5)………………….. I feel as if I have gained something useful from being stuck in a plane.
But I’m still very glad when we touch down.
1. A contained B involved C consisted D enclosed
2. A Personally B Solely C Individually D Separately
3. A makes B puts C does D has
4. A stop off B go away C end up D come over
5. A so that B due to C such as D in order
Answers to the Sample material extract:
Refer to the Questions section above. Can you match each question in the sample extract to the various types of question?
1. Complementation: only involve can be immediately followed by the -ing form and make sense here.
2. The meaning of individual words: only personally has the correct meaning here.
3. Collocations and phrases: has correctly completes the phrase here with effect. It’s important to get students to read around the gap for clues.
4. Phrasal verbs: only end up has the correct meaning here; the other phrasal verbs are correct in that they exist in this form, but they don’t make sense here.
5. Linkers: so that is the only linker that makes sense here for the whole sentence, providing the correct relationship of cause and effect required.
Cambridge English qualifications for business (BEC)
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B2 Business Vantage: Reading: Part 4