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Use multiple cloze tests to remember things

Cloze tests are a brilliant method for revising material and retaining it long term. They’re easy to set up - you have a statement that you want to remember, delete a part of it, and see if you can remember the missing part.

cloze tests in Anki

SRS software”) like Anki makes it very easy to produce cloze test flashcards and revise them systematically. In Anki, highlighting the text and pressing F9 automatically generates a cloze test flashcard. Combine this with ctrl + enter to add the card to your deck, and you can make a lot of revision material very quickly as you read through a text.

Attack from all sides

One big tip for memorising material is to approach it from different angles. This helps understanding as well as retention. The same principle can be applied very easily to cloze tests.

If you’re trying to remember a statement, create multiple cloze tests from it, with different parts missing each time. Even better, go down to a smaller level and delete parts of phrases or even parts of words to focus on.

If you’re trying to remember something like

Under Mao, China went through the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.

then you’d want to make several cloze tests from the same sentence. There’s a lot of information there that should be covered separately. You might want to cloze Mao, China, Cultural Revolution, 1966 and 1976.

However, it doesn’t cost much to go one step further. Cloze out Cultural and Revolution separately, as well as clozing them together as one term. This means you get a range of difficulty in your flashcards, and it makes the whole process more effective. It takes one second to review an extra card, and the repetition will help long term recall.

Then you can have one or two cards such as

Under Mao, China [...] from 1966 to 1976.

and

Under Mao, China went through the Cultural Revolution from [...].

These will be trickier than other cards in the deck, but will strongly reinforce your ability to recall that information quickly on the spot.

Multiple cloze tests for memorising dates

This tactic is particularly good for dates. To remember the date 1966, you could do the following clozes:

  • […]66
  • 19[…]
  • […]966
  • 196[…]
  • […]

Some of these are very easy, but having the range helps you to identify specifically which part of the information you’re struggling to remember. Having some easy cards in a deck is also motivating.

If you can always remember that the Cultural Revolution began in the 1960s, then all of the cloze tests except 196[…] will quickly get pushed back into your review schedule and not take up much time. You can then focus very specifically on memorising that it’s 1966. This will be more effective in the long term.

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