Saturday, August 23, 2008

On Quizzing

Saturday, August 23, 2008

We recently had the Fresher’s Challenge at BITS Pilani. It’s a quiz cum wordplay event held annually at the beginning of the year to find out the best quizzers in the batch. It also mostly transforms into a confidence shattering two hours. The scores are generally not too high, reason being the transition from school quizzing to college quizzing. School quizzing giants enter the campus with past laurels such as the success ESPN School Quiz, Bournvita Quiz Contest, Limca Quiz et al and are humbled by the level of quizzing at the college level.

Though trivia and obscure statistics is fun, college quizzing demands more of an analytical approach and the overly clichéd Steve Jobs advice of “connecting the dots” rather than memory alone. So why is this done?

Flattening the playing field might be one of the reasons. As Amit Varma elucidates on his blog:

A good quiz question is one in which, even if you don’t know the answer, you can work it out through clues given in the question…

I guess it’s also more to do with the fact that in hardcore trivia (read school or corporate business) quizzes it’s merely about knowing the answer. You either know it or you don’t. There aren’t any brain cells put to use. In such a case, a participant might feel cheated or as my British friends would put it “It’s simply not cricket”.

Quizzing then is also about setting good, workoutable questions. This means that the answer, in most cases should be something that everyone is aware of, however only the worthy can deduce that from the information presented to them.

For example one of the question asked during the Oasis Quiz(or simply OQ) last year was:

“Throughout history, the best pictures have always come in a yellow box.” Whose ad line?

The most obvious answer (probably due to 2 key words Pictures and Yellow) that comes to mind is Kodak, or probably some other variation a similar company. However, on closer inspection one notices something odd. The word History. Clearly Kodak is old, but not that old. Something doesn’t fit in.

The answer is actually National Geographic.

I wont deny that it does take a little getting used to for its so much more simpler to simply blurt out the answers which you are already aware of rather than sit and work things out. However the joy of deciphering the code that makes a good question is unparalleled.

Compared to the South, college quizzing in the North is still catching up. Lack of a high number of quality quizzes might be one reason. Another reason why the south is so good is probably due to the prevalence of the biggest quizzing clubs such as KQA, QFI etc.

Let’s refrain from talking about Kolkata :)


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