Thoughts on Writing Pub Quiz Questions
In February, I was elected onto the Quiz Society exec as the Competitions Convenor. Part of this role is editing the rounds for the fortnightly pub quiz, as well as making my own round, plus a picture round and a bonus round. I’ve seen a lot of pub quiz questions over the past few months, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes a good question.
I went to a quiz fairly recently that asked “In the context of the canned foodstuff, what does Spam stand for?” – the answer given was “Specially Processed American Meat”. However, according to Hormel Foods (the company that makes Spam), the real meaning behind the name is only known by a handful of executives. This meant that there wasn’t really an answer to the question, and so people got frustrated because it wasn’t correct. You can find out a lot of things by just browsing Wikipedia, reading the news and so on.
The vast majority of the people who attend the QuizSoc pub quiz were born in the 90s, so a lot of pop-culture stuff is from then onwards. While we sometimes ask about more iconic acts of earlier decades, a lot of the more obscure ones would be completely impenetrable to the audience. Although some questions can be more challenging, they should still be gettable. For an older audience, some more obscure early 2000s kids stuff probably wouldn’t be suitable. For an audience with a specific hobby (e.g. members of a society), you could write harder questions in that area).
Some questions could be boiled down to the bare facts (Q.“Which English monarch was on the throne in 1543?” A. “Henry VIII”), but if you get a whole round of questions like that, it can get quite dull to listen to. It’s perfectly fine for questions to be a little longer to include extra info in an anecdote.
Or at very least, sentences that make sense. We do a call at the end of each round for people who’ve missed a question, and we can always tell a question is poorly worded if a lot of people ask for it. It should be clear what you’re looking for – whether it’s the name of an author or the name of a chemical element, it should be stated clearly in the question.
Let’s say you’re writing a science round, and you like chemistry. You’ve got 10 questions to fill, so you could write 8 chemistry and one each of physics and biology… except that would get quite boring to play for the non-chemist audience. Typically, for a science round – a couple of biology, a couple of chemistry and a couple of physics, plus a scattering of geology, psychology, astronomy, maths, computer science, recent science news, etc. Same goes for history – different time periods, different countries. And again for Arts and Literature – some music, some painting, some poetry, and so on. Balance is key, and you’ll learn a broader base of things by writing what you don’t know.
(aand, whew! Just in the nick of time before my arbitrary daily challenge deadline – *almost* forgot to post)