Saturday, 18 July 2009

Compiling a Quiz for the Club

By a combination of circumstances too tedious to go into, it turns out that its my turn to compile the quiz for the Rugby club this week even though it will only be a fortnight since my last turn. So I thought that it might be interesting to tell you something about the process I go through when making up a quiz for the club. Of course I often use different methods when I'm doing quizzes for other places, but this seems to work OK for the club. So what is actually involved ?


Yes, theft. Invariably the first question I ask myself when I start gathering the questions is - what good questions have I heard recently that I can steal for my own quiz ? - Its a no brainer really when you think about it. If you hear a question in a quiz, and you think - that's a good one - well, chances are that other people will think so too. Let me give you an example. Years ago I heard this one : -
Villa did it in the FA Cup Final in 1981, and Sunderland did it in 1979 . Who did it in 1980 ?
I'm sue you either know or have worked out that the answer is Brooking. Villa is Ricardo, rather than Aston, and Sunderland is Alan rather than FC , and the thing they did is to score the winning goal in the FA Cup final. Trevor Brooking did it in 1980. Now that's the kind of question you hear, and you just wish you'd asked it. Don't worry - you will - over and over again, probably.


Theft is only ever going to get you a few 'star' questions which will give your quiz that little extra bit of flavour. Most of the questions you're going to have to find for yourself. But where ? More than that , what type of questions ? Which categories. I find it helps to have a template. I've never been a great fan of themed rounds, but its certainly one way of doing it, provided that there are enough rounds within the quiz to give a good spread of categories. If your quiz only has four rounds, and three of those rounds are, for the sake of argument, pop music, then TV, then film, then what you've got is a specialist entertainment quiz. Fair enough - many people like entertainment, but not everyone. But that's just an example. Its just as easy to overdose on sport, or Geography, or any one of a number of subjects. Personally I use a rough template for the club. It works like this. There are 8 rounds of ten questions. In each round I aim for one question each on in the news, History ( inc politics and world events ) , Geography, Culture ( classical music - literature , fine art), Science ( inc Technology , Industry , Economics , Business ) , Natural World, Sport - two questions on Entertainment ( popular culture - TV - Film - Pop Music etc. ) and one question on anything which doesn't fit into any of the other categories. Its not perfect, but then what is ?

Gathering Questions

Out of 80 questions, I'd say that a good 60 or so come out of books. Do you remember your first car, or your first love ? Well, my first quiz 'bible' was The Pear's Quiz Companion. When I first started compiling quizzes 15 years ago, anything up to 50 questions out of 80 would come out of the quiz companion. It had its drawbacks, and there's been much better books written since - Trevor Montague's A to Z of Almost Everything being the best I've ever had. I rarely use the quiz companion any more, though I'll get the odd question out of it for old time's sake now and again.

I don't use The A to Z of Everything on every quiz, but its always very good to fall back on, and its an invaluable source for checking the accuracy of answers to questions from other sources. Like many quizzers I have a very large collection of quiz books, and I'll use between 5 and 10 different ones on any quiz. Certain books are great for the bread and butter questions which will make up the bulk of your quiz - the three 15 to 1 books - 2000 for 2000 etc., and also the 2 Weakest link books are full of this sort of thing. Then you'll want some genuine ' thinking ' questions. The Prince of Wales quiz book is brilliant for this - all the quizzes within it were put together with love and care by genuine quizzers. I find The People's Quiz book good for popular culture and entertainment questions, although not a lot else. And the list goes on - the Perfect quiz book isn't my favourite, but does have themed rounds on specific dates which can come in handy and so on, and so forth.

They don't all come out of books. The in the news questions for example are culled from Newspapers, other quizzes, and also online In the News quizzes.

Then there's a totally different type of question, the 'original' questions which occur to you through something you've just seen, heard or read. you may get anything up to half a dozen of these in each set of 80 questions.

Combining Questions

You know that some questions in a given category are harder than others. Ideally I try to combine questions so that rounds 1 and 2 are relatively easy and high scoring, rounds three and our are tougher, round five is easy again, round six is a snorter, round seven slightly easier, and round 8 is left with the questions you didn't want to ask in any other round, because you never know, you might have a slow night when you only get through 7 rounds anyway. This isn't necessarily so easy to do when I use a connections quiz - like the July quiz of the month, where some of the question combinations are necessitated by the connections.


When I'm in work, I'll take a finished quiz into work and try out the questions in the staff room at lunchtime. my colleagues are non quizzers, so if they can answer 7 or so questions per round then I know that I've probably got the level just right. Nobody ever complains if you produce an easy quiz for the rugby club. However school broke up on Friday, so I'm kind of flying a bit blind this week.

Miscellaneous Observations

Its easy to become too sensitive to criticism. However its also dangerous to become blase and completely ignore feedback from anyone who has never made a quiz for the club themselves. So here's a few tips I try to take heed of myself, based on my observations of the way that people respond to my own quizzes.

* As a rule of thumb, people never complain that the quiz is too easy. If you're in any doubt about whether a question is too hard, then simplify it, or ditch it.

* Don't go making a quiz to appeal to your own interests. Your quiz will go best when there's something for everyone in it.

* I don't think that everyone realises just how important it is to phrase a question clearly, so that it is absolutely clear what you are actually asking. Even if you do take care, you'll still get asked for clarification sometimes. But if you don't take care it can be a very frustrating experience all round.

* You will make mistakes anyway. Some questions you've included in good faith from quiz books, for example, will be wrong. That can't be helped. Making up your own questions, and not checking that your answer is correct can be helped, and its something you really should avoid.

* Aim to write a quiz for the middle ability teams rather than the most or least knowledgable. I know that if the majority of teams are scoring about 60 out of 80, then I've pitched it just about right.

* Listen to constructive criticism. Unadulterated praise is nice, but not exactly helpful. Neither are comments along the lines of "Your quiz was crap ". If people tell you that they liked something or disliked something, then think about it. if its not fair comment - OK, but if it is fair, then use this to help you make your next quiz.

I'll let you know how it goes . Watch this space.

No comments: