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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
One word three ways 
13th-Sep-2012 12:24 pm

I teach English here in Spain, often to candidates for tests that certify their level of English. These tests can be used on resumes or university applications. One of them is the Cambridge University Certificate of Proficiency in English, designed for those who have achieved an extremely high level of skill, enough to teach at a university or work as a business executive.

This test is 100 years old, and to celebrate, it’s going to be redesigned again, as it has been regularly. One part of the exam will be eliminated, the part that only one of my students enjoys and the rest hate passionately. This part presents three sentences with blanks, and the exact same word can be used in each of the three blanks. Here are some examples. Can you get them right? (Scroll down for the answers.)

The hospital would only give news to Trudy's ....... family and not her friends and distant relatives.
The law will take place with ........ effect.
The patient reported experiencing ........ benefits following the operation and is not expected to need any further treatment.

His employer ....... that he had been ill, and she did not penalize him for having been absent.
She never ....... the things he did for her.
He said that the value of the house had ....... considerably.

When he was in his nineties, the famous writer’s health began to ........
If the potato crop were to ......., it would create many problems for the local people.
Please do not ....... to check the safety precautions for this device.

I thought I had a good solution to the problem, but my plan was ....... by the director, who said it would be too expensive.
In many parts of the country, black clouds completely ....... out the sun and whole towns were cast into darkness.
Enrico had to take a different route home because the main coast road was ....... by a lorry which had overturned.

After lunch, we had a ....... of cards, just to pass the time.
His grandparents had a ....... in Luca’s upbringing, as his parents worked full time.
Mrs. Spencer opened the door and said, “If you lay a ....... on my son, there’ll be trouble.”

I do not ....... with young people staying up until all hours.
How many books does this bag .......?
Ben’s parents ....... shares in several major multinational companies.

A mobile phone is almost an absolute ....... for this job, as you will need to be available at all times.
The summary of his findings is, of ......., very brief, but it gives as much information as is relevant.
There was no ....... for her to give up her job — it was entirely her own choice.

He thought that a few illustrations or anecdotes would add ....... to his report.
The fascinating old market is full of ....... and activity, and is well worth a visit.
You’re looking better today — you’ve got a bit more ....... than you had yesterday.

She couldn’t ....... the pressures of her new job and eventually resigned.
He was unwilling to ....... the goods the two men offered him, as he suspected they were stolen.
It wasn’t very polite of you just to ....... off without saying goodbye to anyone.

Angela gasped as she felt the ....... pain in her knee again.
There is a ....... bend in the road just after the post office, so don’t drive too fast.
The slightly ....... taste of the drink will not appeal to everyone.


1. immediate
2. appreciated
3. fail
4. blocked
5. hand
6. hold
7. necessity
8. color
9. take
10. sharp

— Sue Burke
Also posted at my professional website, http://www.sue.burke.name

13th-Sep-2012 11:44 am (UTC)
Got 'em all, though it was tricky on a couple of them. I usually needed all three sentences. And on a few, I had to wait until my brain supplied something reasonable, trying a few and rejecting them, eg on 9&10. 9 I kept trying "accept" which didn't work with the last sentence. And 10, I was trying "bitter" and "intense" before my brain supplied "sharp."

That would be the sort of quiz in a foreign language that would drive me insane. Interesting puzzle, which my brain would like, but if it didn't know the answer, would drive it crazy trying to figure it out.
13th-Sep-2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
As I said, all but one of my students hates this test. One thing we discovered in class as we explored strategies for the exam is that it is easier to make some three-part questions (with the help of a dictionary) than it is to answer them.
13th-Sep-2012 12:36 pm (UTC)
That's a pretty good test of vocabulary. ;o) I've noted that people withough a good grasp will use a word in weird way (like the writer who kept using 'pilgrimaging' and insisted it was ok because it existed in the on-line dictionary as an intransitive verb) and not realize how odd it sounds.

I noticed there are no questions that use prepositions in the blanks, though. (Since different areas use different prepositions, making more than one answer possible). Very interesting.
13th-Sep-2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Prepositions are in a different part of the test. No English test would be complete without torturing students with them.
13th-Sep-2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
Interesting test! - for #3, I thought it would be "decline," although it sounds a little odd in the 3rd sentence.
13th-Sep-2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
Yes, there are a lot of almost right answers, and the people who design the actual test do a lot of pre-testing to make sure there is only and exactly one right answer.
14th-Sep-2012 03:37 am (UTC)
Very interesting, I couldn't resist. In #3, I inserted decline.
14th-Sep-2012 12:39 pm (UTC)
You get 90%, which is an A. Congratulations. You have an exceptional level of English (according to the test standards).
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