Checking Quiz Questions

Every quiz question needs to be checked, whether the question is for use in our Friday Quiz, our quiz nights or in a question pack we’ve written for an app. Checking quiz questions is about more than just checking the facts (although that is, of course, massively important). This post is mostly about multiple choice quiz questions, and pub quiz night questions, but we have a guest post coming up in the coming weeks from Rob Linham about writing and editing University Challenge-style questions.

1. Factual Accuracy

Getting your facts right is, of course, essential. There is no excuse for not checking facts these days. You can check several facts in several sources in less than a minute if you are quick. Wikipedia is often good enough for checking facts (we’ve written about this before…). You should check facts even if you think, or know, that you know them already. Occasionally you will find an extra bit of information that you weren’t aware of that might influence how you write the question, and very often you will be reminded of other pieces of information that will either help you to make the current question more interesting or give you ideas for future questions.

2. No Ambiguity

Think about your question – could it be misunderstood, or interpreted in another way? Is there some fact of wording that you could include to avoid the misunderstanding. The question has to point unambiguously to the intended answer. There are ways around this if you are struggling – you can put in an extra clue, such as a year, that removes the possibility of another answer being valid.

3. Alternative Answers

Are there any alternative answers? If so, add them to the answers so that if anybody puts them then they can be rewarded for their knowledge. Or you can bring alternative answers into the question to avoid confusion. For example:

“Name the last 4 cities not in Europe or the USA to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games. And don’t write down Moscow – in 1980 they wouldn’t have said they were in Europe, but you could argue it both ways, so Moscow isn’t allowed.”

And thus, a potential source of argument is eliminated.

4. Perfect Spelling and Punctuation

This is less important in questions for a pub quiz master to read out than it is for questions which are to be published on a website or in a game or app. However, it isn’t that difficult to check spelling, and you  may as well get it right. Spelling and punctuation are designed to help a reader know what is going on, and the question writer should try and help the question master!

Here is a big secret tip that nobody I’ve shown it to in the past has known about:

Use Google Docs to check spelling rather than/as well as Microsoft’s spell-checker. Don’t believe me? Try doing a spell-check on this in Microsoft Word:

I was at a dinner party in Cluj, Romania, with Ileana Douglas and Shia LaBoeuf and we were talking about blogs featuring The Wire character Wee-Bay Brice (played by Hassan Jonson) on Tumblr.

Microsoft doesn’t know Cluj, thinks Ileana is correct, thinks LaBoeuf should become Labour, is happy with Wee-Bay and wants Tumblr to become Tumbler.

Paste the same text into Google Docs and it underlines the words that it has issues with, and suggests corrections as follows: Ileana>Illeana (because that is the correct spelling of her name), LaBoeuf >LaBeouf (which is correct – who knew?), Wee-Bay>Wee-Bey (because that is correct), Jonson>Johnson (because that is correct).

In other words, quiz question writers of the world, Google Docs spell check is your friend. Of course it isn’t perfect, but for quiz questions which are typically very heavily loaded with proper names, then it is a great tool for picking up typos even in proper names.

….Since this post is getting a bit long, I’ll postpone the rest for another day, on which I will give you my thoughts on checking quiz questions for: Good Readability, Difficulty, Suitabaility, Context, Format and anything else that comes to mind.

Do you have any tips and tricks for checking quiz questions?

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