Automatic Generation of Distractors for Fill-in-the-Blank Exercises with Round-Trip Neural Machine Translation

In a fill-in-the-blank exercise, a student is presented with a carrier sentence with one word hidden, and a multiple-choice list that includes the correct answer and several inappropriate options, called distractors. We propose to automatically generate distractors using round-trip neural machine translation: the carrier sentence is translated from English into another (pivot) language and back, and distractors are produced by aligning the original sentence and its round-trip translation. We show that using hundreds of translations for a given sentence allows us to generate a rich set of challenging distractors. Further, using multiple pivot languages produces a diverse set of candidates. The distractors are evaluated against a real corpus of cloze exercises and checked manually for validity. We demonstrate that the proposed method significantly outperforms two strong baselines.

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