What makes a good quiz? (Part 1)

I first began quizzing in earnest a few years back in 2010, and, since then, have been to a variety of quizzes–some good, some bad, some (a very few, thank the gods) ugly. What really makes a quiz good or bad, however? It’s still difficult to say exactly what makes a quiz likeable. I say “likeable” because I have been to a few quizzes which weren’t really good, but found myself actually enjoying the performance. And, on the flip side, I’ve attended quizzes which were technically good but I didn’t like all that much. (Okay, THAT’S probably because I didn’t win them. 😜) But, anyway, there are a few things essential for a good quiz. (Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to be an authority on quizzing. I’m just a poor harmless quizzer. 😇) This post tells the story from the quizzer’s POV.

1. The QM: That’s a no-brainer. The QM is the boss of the quiz. All of us are at his mercy throughout the quiz, which is good if you have a good QM but not so good if you have a bad one. Pray that you get a good one, because the bad ones are gonna make your day miserable as hell. (I exaggerate.) But, seriously, you’re best off going to a quiz in which you’ve an idea of what the QM is like or have at least heard of. The more famous QMs are likely to have more experience both as a quizzer and a QM. However, that doesn’t mean you SHOULDN’T attend quizzes by QMs you don’t know! Feel free to experiment.
2. The questions: If there are a sufficient number of teams, it’s customary to include a preliminary round (I prefer that term to “elimination”) to decide the top scorers who enter the finals.
2a. Prelims: preferably a mixture of both easy and difficult questions with a slight emphasis on current affairs. It’s no fun if the questions are too easy for words and all the teams score close to full marks and teams miss the finals by a hair-breadth of one mark or less. (That’s happened to us quite a few times.) On the other hand, they shouldn’t be so tough that they intimidate the teams either. One role the prelims play is to give the teams an idea of what they’ll be up against in the finals. For this reason, it’s preferable that both the prelims and the finals have the same type of questions (similar topics, I mean).
2b. Finals: There are usually about 6 teams in the finals, although the actual number may range from anywhere between 2 and 10. The questions are divided into rounds in most cases, with each round featuring a slightly different set of rules or questions. Apart from the usual “dry” rounds, other types of rounds include:
a. Connect: a set of clues leading to a particular thing
b. Clue rounds: identifying something within 3 clues
c. Audiovisual rounds: self-explanatory.
d. Buzzer rounds: questions on the buzzer
There is no hard and fast rule that all quizzes be organised in this way, however, and plenty of quizzes are completely different.
Another common feature of the finals is the “bounce and pounce”. While the “bounce” refers to the passing of questions to other teams, the “pounce” refers to buzzering and writing down the answer before the bounce has begun. Depending on the QM, the finals may involve a combination of bounce and pounce, or either one. Variations of the bounce and pounce may also be employed (although it is most effective to use a combination of bounce and pounce).
3. The participants and audience: While this is not actually a really relevant factor, it’s still helpful if you know what your co-participants are like. It’s a disadvantage, of course, if they’re all know-it-alls who seem to be able to answer anything and everything under the sun (aside: most Kochi quizzers seem to fall under this category. 😋) However, every Goliath has his weaknesses, and as a wannabe David it’s up to you to find and exploit those weaknesses. As for the audience, well, it’s always a plus if you can get their support.
4. Miscellaneous technical equipment: There is a lot of technology involved in any quiz. And I’m not kidding. As times change, quizzing evolves, and so does the technology employed. PowerPoint presentations, projectors, laser pointers, microphones. Oh, and most important of all: buzzers. For godsake better check your buzzers (or ask for a buzzer check) well before the quiz starts, or else, trust me, you’ll be in deep trouble if it malfunctions. A major malfunctioning is likely to be fixed if you report it even during the quiz, but minor problems–such as slight delays–are likely to both affect your performance and not be fixed or even noticed, and that will be the beginning of the end for you. To misquote Keats:

A buzzer of beauty is a joy forever.
~The Quizzer’s Endymion

And that, my friend, is all you need to know.

(Post dedicated to the entire team at Quiz Kerala and all my fellow quizzers.)


4 thoughts on “What makes a good quiz? (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Quizzically Challenged

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