QUESTION-SETTING GUIDELINES


Updated Tuesday 19 November 2019

 

Every team will set the questions for at least one week’s league matches.  Most teams will also have to

to produce a question paper for a round of inter-divisional league games (introduced in 2019–20) and/or a

a round of the knockout competitions.

A question-setting rota is published on the league website at the start of the season and each team must

determine the week(s) for which they will be responsible for setting the questions.

Teams are advised to prepare their questions well in advance of the quiz: last-minute setting is likely to result

in poor questions.  To aid legibility please use a font size of 10 or greater.  Questions must be printed, not

handwritten, and the answer must be clearly separated from the question, ideally by putting the answer on a

separate line, as set out in the (Microsoft Word format) question paper templates that may be downloaded

below.  Setters are strongly encouraged to use these, to reduce the amount of time that our Questions Tsars

need to spend on transcribing and re-formatting questions to make them ready for publication on the website.

Question paper template for league matches

Question paper template for knockout matches

 

At least seven days before the quiz leave eight copies of the questions—each in an unsealed envelope —at

The Railway, clearly marked for collection by Dave Badley (who will distribute the papers to the venues).

 

Format for ‘normal’ league matches

The quiz consists of four rounds:

  • Rounds 1 and 3: these comprise 30 paired, verbally-answered questions (15 to each team).
  • Rounds 2 and 4: ten unpaired questions, to which teams provide written answers.

Rounds 2 and 4 may contain a theme/connection - see ‘Connections/Themed rounds’ below.

The paper should also include at least five (non-paired) spare questions.

 

Format for ‘inter-divisional’ league matches

These matches (introduced for the 2019–2020 season) are largely the same as ‘normal’ league games, but with

one significant difference: rounds 1 and 3 (consisting of 30 verbally-answered questions) are not paired, but

are simply asked sequentially (from 1 to 30 and from 41 to 70), so it is therefore absolutely essential that

setters distribute the questions very carefully to ensure a fair balance of subjects and difficulty for both teams.

Rounds 2 and 4 are identical to ‘normal’ league games: ten unpaired questions, to which teams provide

written answers.  One or both of these rounds may contain a theme/connection.

As usual, the paper should also include at least five (non-paired) spare questions.

 

Format for knockout matches

The format is essentially the same as for ‘normal’ league matches, with one major difference: teams choose

the verbally-answered questions randomly by ‘picking a number’ (between 1 and 30 in round1 and between

41 and 70 in round 3), so there is no need to pair the questions in these two rounds.

Games can’t end in a draw, so please include a third, ten-question written round (for use as a tie- breaker) and

also a ‘nearest-the-bull’ tie-breaker: e.g. As of 1 May 2009, what is the maximum seating capacity of the

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester? (Answer: 2,341).  The tie-breaker shouldn’t be too obscure and should allow

teams to have a ‘reasonable stab’ at the answer, rather than being a wild guess.

 

Accuracy

Check that the given answer is correct and is the one and only possible correct answer to the question.  For

example, ‘What is the collective noun for giraffes?’ has at least ten equally-correct answers (tower, corps,

herd, group, stretch, troop, group, kindergarten, journey and totter).  Ask your team-mates to read the

questions, checking answers and spelling.  Errors can be found in any book or website (however reputable),

so never write a question using information from a single source.  Many websites contain downloadable

questions; tempting though it may be, don’t plagiarise these.  Not only do they often contain mistakes, but it

can give a player who happens to have read the same questions a huge advantage.  Facts can change between

the writing and asking of a question: records can be broken, people can change jobs, a country may adopt a

new currency etc., so where appropriate qualify the question with a date, e.g. As at 21 November 2005, who

is the Shadow Education Secretary? 1

 

Pairing

In ‘normal’ league matches the verbally-answered questions (rounds 1 and 3) should be paired: for each

question a team is asked, their opponents should be asked a question on the same subject and of SIMILAR

difficulty.  Ensure pairings are correct: for each pair one question should be odd- numbered, the other even. 

Don’t be too ‘obvious’ with pairings as this can give an unfair advantage to the team getting the second of a

pair, allowing them to ‘predict’ the question they will receive (and to start thinking about the answer well in

advance).  For example, if you ask ‘What was Eric Morecambe’s real surname?’ do not ask the other team for

Ernie Wise’s real surname2.

Pairs should be of similar difficulty: if you ask one team for the capital of France don’t ask their opponents for

the capital of Kiribati3.  Check whether pairs are equally difficult by ‘testing’ your questions on other members

of your team.  Questions of equal difficulty in the opinion of the question-setter may be unbalanced to others.

 

Content

Remember that there is a vast range of subjects on which to ask questions.  League members have many

different interests and are not (quite) exclusively male and over forty.  To get as broad a range of subjects as

possible ask several team members to contribute questions.  Don’t make the questions too hard: this is the

Stockport Quiz League, not University Challenge, and is supposed to be a fun night out!  All teams should be

able to answer at least half of the questions correctly, so aggregate scores should never be lower than 80 and

no team should score under 40.  An all-match average score in the range 50–65 is indicative of a ‘decent’ quiz. 

Avoid lots of questions on ‘obscure’ subjects: questions should fall largely under the category of general, not

specialised, knowledge.  Try to avoid a ‘never heard of him/her/it’ response once the answer is revealed. 

Similarly, don’t make the questions too easy.

 

Ambiguity

The wording of a question should make it absolutely clear as to the answer required.  For example: ‘Who was

the first US President born in the 20th century?’ probably means ‘Who was the first man to be US President

and have been born in the 20th century?’ (John F. Kennedy, b. 1917), but it could mean ‘Who was the first man

born in the 20th century who went on to become US President?’ (Lyndon B. Johnson, b. 1908).

The required answer must be concise: teams should be able to answer in a few words at most.  Don’t set

questions that require long-winded/complicated answers, as these often place an unfair burden on the

question master (QM), who may have to decide whether a given answer is ‘correct enough’.  Likewise, avoid

questions beginning ‘What is the difference between...?’ or ‘Why...?’.  If you require a specific answer (e.g.

‘tenor saxophone’ rather than just ‘saxophone’) then make this clear in the question.

Unless otherwise specified, teams need only give the surname to answer correctly when asked for the name of

a person.  If there is more than one feasible answer with the same surname— there have been several

composers called Strauss—specify in the question that a first name is also required.

 

Multiple answers

Teams have thirty seconds to answer, so it’s unreasonable to ask for a multiple answer such as the last five

Presidents of France4.  It also makes it comparatively easy for a team’s opponents to identify and correct any

mistake(s) in the given answer.  If you want to ask a multi-answer question, do so as an early question in one

of the written rounds, so that teams have a suitable amount of time to come up with a full answer.

 

Connections/Themed rounds

These may be used in either, both or neither of the two written rounds, entirely at the discretion of the

question-setters.  Where a theme is used, it must be clearly marked on the question paper that there is a

connection/theme.  Do not make question ten: ‘What is the connection between the previous nine answers?’.  

If using a connection that relates to the first letter(s) of each answer, bear in mind that teams may answer a

question requiring the name of a person by giving only the surname.

 

Parochial Questions

This is the Stockport & District Quiz League.  Not every team has an intimate knowledge of Stockport town

centre or Stockport County FC, so parochial questions should be avoided or used sparingly.

 

Novelty/guesswork/trick Questions

Do not use questions such as ‘How high is the Eiffel Tower?’ (320.75 ± 0.15 metres, depending on the

temperature) or ‘How many teeth does a mosquito have?’ (they don’t have teeth).  Whilst perhaps fun to ask,

questions like this are not fun to answer, and often have answers that are debatable or based on ‘urban myth’.

Any true/false or either/or questions must only be used in one of the written rounds.

 

Oscars

Be careful when setting questions on Academy Award winners.  Confusion often arises from the discrepancy

between the year a film is released and the year in which it receives an Oscar.  Films usually receive awards

in the February/March of the year after that for which the award is given.  For example, The Godfather won

the 1972 Oscar for Best Picture, but as it received the award at the ceremony in March 1973 many sources

refer to it (incorrectly) as the winner of the 1973 Oscar.  This sort of ambiguity is easily avoided by including

additional information such as the name of an actor, director or film.  For example, instead of asking ‘Who won

the 1973 Best Actress Oscar?’ ask ‘Who won the 1973 Best Actress Oscar for her performance in A Touch of

Class?5.

 

Biological taxonomy

Be careful when asking questions of the type ‘To which plant family does...belong?’.  In biological taxonomy

 ‘family’ has a specific meaning somewhat different to its everyday use.  For example, garlic is often said to be

a member of the lily family.  It isn’t.  Its biological family is Alliaceae, which is in the same class of plants

(Liliopsida) as the Liliaceae family (which contains true lilies).

 

Locations

When asking a question that requires a location as its answer, state clearly how specific the answer should be. 

For example, 'Wembley Stadium', 'London' and 'England' are all valid answers to the question ‘Where was the

1966 Football World Cup Final played?’.  Rather than using 'where' it is better to ask ‘In which country/city/

building...?'.  Similarly, be careful to specify the sort of answer required when asking questions about the four

home countries of the UK: 'Wales' and 'UK/Great Britain' are equally-correct answers to the question ‘In which

country was actor Timothy Dalton born?’.

 

Final checklist

Before printing and delivering your questions check that they contain:

  • Rounds 1 and 3, each of 30 questions—correctly-paired, where necessary
  • Rounds 2 and 4, each of 10 questions
  • At least five spare questions
  • An ‘extra time’ written round and nearest-the-bull tie-breaker (knockout games only)

Ensure the question numbering and pairing (when required) are correct.  For ‘normal’ league games each

question in rounds 1 and 3 should have a corresponding, equally-difficult ‘pair’ on the same subject (one

question should have an odd number, the other an even number).  For inter-divisional games, questions in

rounds 1 and 3 should not be paired, but should be carefully distributed to ensure a fair spread of question

subjects and difficulty.

Question papers should be checked for errors by a third party.  Be absolutely certain that every answer is

correct and is the only acceptable answer.  Questions should cover a wide range of subjects to suit players of

all ages, genders, interests and abilities.

 

Asking questions

The home team must provide a question master (QM).  If the home team has six or fewer players(including

the QM) and the away team has seven or more, it’s the ‘done thing’ for the away team to offer to provide a

QM, although this isn’t compulsory.

 

Answers to questions

1 David Cameron.

2 Bartholomew and Wiseman respectively.

3 Paris(!) and South Tarawa.

4 Macron, Hollande, Sarkozy, Chirac, Mitterrand.

5 Glenda Jackson.

 

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