Subscribe to the Oldie and get a free cartoon book

Subscribe

What makes a great question?

Features |


The British love a good quiz but, without certain ingredients, the magic won’t happen, says Mark Mason, the man with all the answers

If pub quizzing were an Olympic sport, Britain would be a shoo-in for the gold.  There’s nothing we like more than a few pints, a piece of paper and a pencil, and someone asking us for the name of Henry VIII’s third wife* (see below for answers). I’ve been studying the craft of the question writer as I travelled the country for a book about quizzes. Not just in pubs – I attended charity quizzes, Radio 4 quizzes, even the House of Commons press gallery quiz (you do not know the meaning of the word ‘competitive’ until you have seen a bunch of political journalists trying to beat each other). What did I learn about devising the perfect question? There are many different approaches, but a crucial first step is to avoid dull questions that are simply a test of knowledge and nothing else. Ones like: ‘What’s the capital of...


I’m afraid this isn’t one of our six free articles available in full, which are set out in the first two rows of the ‘Magazine’ page.
Please click here to find them.

To buy a digital version of this issue for just £1.99, click here