How to set quiz questions

Here are some tips for setting questions for table quizzes, pub quizzes and the like.

Question Sources

Possible sources for questions include:

  • The Quiz Questions section of this site
  • Quiz books
  • Quiz games, such as Trivial Pursuit, QuizUp
  • Quiz websites, such as Sporcle or JetPunk
  • Quiz question websites, such as quiz4free1001 Quiz Questions, or just search for “quiz questions”
  • Make up your own questions, using encyclopedias (e.g. Wikipedia), reference books, newspaper websites (for topical questions), etc.
  • Ask a friend who is into quizzes to come up with some questions
  • Pay for questions – there are a number of companies offering questions for a fee, just search for “buy quiz questions” or similar. The IQO also provide this service – see ur Quiz Hosting page for details

Try to use a mix of sources. Be wary of taking all your questions from one book/website, as a contestant may be familiar with it.

Remember, old quiz books/games might contain out-of-date answers. Check answers against a reliable up-to-date source.

Variety of Questions/Formats

Have themed rounds of questions, to differentiate one round from the next, for example:

  • Sport / Entertainment / People / Science & Nature / Geography / History / Arts  & Literature / etc. Themes can be quite loose. For example, if the theme is “Sport” it does not have to all pure sport questions (which can be a turn-off for people who are not into sport). You could ask for example a question about the spouse of a famous sportsperson, e.g. Victoria Beckham.
  • Picture round – name the famous person / logo / cartoon character / movie
  • ‘Dingbats’ round – e.g. GR 12″ AVE = One foot in the grave
  • Music/audio round – e.g. name the song / song played backwards / band / composer / person speaking
  • Speed rounds – e.g. teams have 2 minutes to write down as many, say, countries beginning with “C” as they can think of

Have a mix of difficulty levels. It can be tricky to get the difficulty level right, so for each round have a mix or harder, easier and middling questions. This will ensure there’s something for everyone.

Don’t make questions overly obscure. Even for hard questions, choose questions that all teams can at least have a guess at a right answer.

Make questions more fun/easier by including one or more clues in the question. For example, instead of asking “Who wrote ‘Little Women’”, ask “Which author, whose middle name is a month of the year, wrote ‘Little Women’” (Answer: Louisa May Alcott)

Include some topical questions based on recent news / current affairs, including events on the day of the quiz.

Use a variety of question formats, for example:

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Multi-point questions – Give 1 point for each part of the answer, for example: Name the last 3 FIFA World Cup (soccer) winning teams (in any order)
    Teams can give up to 3 answers, 1 point per correct answer, plus bonus 4th point if you get all three right. Another variation on this is for Q1 in a round to have one answer for one point, Q2 has two answers for two points, and so on.

Accuracy of Questions and Answers

Be clear about what is being asked, for example:

  • level of detail required in answer
  • if asking WHERE something happened, do you require the city or country?
  • if asking WHEN something happened, do you require the day, month or year?
  • is first name required or is surname alone sufficient?
  • are you asking for the actor’s or character’s name?
  • etc.

Make sure answers are correct, particularly if you got the question/answer from a less than reliable source (e.g. a random website or out-of-date quiz book). Get another person to check the questions/answers for correctness against one or more up-to-date reliable sources (e.g. online encyclopedia)

Make sure there is only ONE correct answer. For example, don’t ask “What is the capital of South Africa?” as it has three capitals.

Note down any likely wrong answers. If there are answers that are definitely NOT right (but likely to be given), then include these answers – and why they are wrong – on the answer sheet for your MC, so they can deal with queries & objections.

Make sure quizmaster/MC knows how to pronounce foreign words, etc. in questions and answers. If words are hard to pronounce, include a pronounciation guide for the quiz master.

Don’t ask trick questions, or questions that deceive or deliberately mislead. You’ll just annoy people. That said, if a question does have a trick to it, warn people that they need to answer carefully.