"Has the RAG Quiz deteriorated in recent months?", is, I'm sure, a question on many of your collective lips. Along with some crumbs, if you're anything like me.
Ever since I took a few of my first-year corridor friends to it, I've gone nearly every week (At least 80%) with a variety of teams. The zenith was undoubtedly when the University Challenge team won about 6 on the trot in a period of such domination that:
a) We were half-heartedly asked to stop coming and
b) I had 17 litres of lager that I'd won. I think my mother still has some, as beacuse I'm not fond of Foster's and Carling, I gave it to her to make Gary Rhodes' lager batter for fish. We were happy with Kudos.
Of course, due to the electability of the quiz master, the quality could change year on year. In this academic year, Neil Faraday produced an excellent quiz, with interesting questions and some innovative rounds. Unfortunately, I beleive the quality has deteriorated with the new regime. Some examples:
A recent question asked "Which Balkan country borders greece to the South and Yugoslavia (Or was it serbia? It doesn't matter) to the North?" We naturally put down the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Unfortunately, the given answer was Albania. Here is a map. Of course the problem here is that both are valid, and this is therefore a poor question (If anything, FYR Macedonia is a "more valid" answer, as the 2 parts of Yugoslavia that Albania borders have semi-autonomous characteristics).
Film rounds usually have links at the end. One recently was "A Bridge Too Far", and my team correctly answered this. However, as the answers were being read I overheard another team comiserating themselves for discounting this fine war film, as it had been a link within the last couple of months. They were correct, it had been.
Music rounds are getting more obscure. I freely acknowledge that "popular" music is not the speciality of myself or my team, and it is usually our poorest round. However, when you look at the the scores, the music round is probably the lowest scoring round, with the majority of teams scoring badly, and only a few – who happen to know and like the particular music being played – doing exceptionally weel compared to the mean.
The accumulator question is an exciting new innovation. However, when there is £24 at stake, innaccurate answers are even more likely to make my blood boil. Recently, the accumulator question was "How many States of the USA end in the letter 'a'?". An excellent question, as virtually nobody will know for sure, but many will be able to make an educated guess. My team vastly underestimated, but when the answer was revealed as 21, I was suspicious. Sure enough, when I checked (with a little more that a minute available) the real answer turned out to be 18.
So, has the quiz lost its way? I don't think it's as good as it could be, but I'll still attend anyway. What do you all think?
Lastly, a little thoguht about what, to my mind, makes a good quiz. I've been to many and written a couple, and here are my thoughts.
I think a good question works on 2 levels. Firstly, there is the actual knowing something. Obviously, if you know the answer it's easy, as Mr Tarrant likes to say. But, more importantly, there's being clever, skillful and logical and being able to work something out.
A question which says "Who did such and such?" is dry and boring, and requires one particular bit of knowledge. If you know it, you know it. If you don't, you sit there, bored. A question along the lines of "Which (nationality) profession (eg scientist) did such and such in (date)?" is far better for a couple of reasons. Somebody with a real general knowledge can have a decent attempt at working it out, as there are several clues. The answer's been narrowed down to a nationality, and a time and a profession. This doesn't have to make the question easy – facts can be easily found to slightly mislead the quizzer but still guide them to the answer. For example, perhaps the subject wasn't best known for that profession, or nationality.
This also cuts out that tedious thinking at the end of a round, when somebody's there trying to remember a particular name or date from just one fact, which, if you haven't remembered already is very difficult. If you have more pieces of the jigsaw, no matter how small, the process becomes a bit easier, and more rewarding and fun.
The actual selection of the question is important too, for the same reasons. Take a recent sport round at the RAG quiz. There were two questions I remember, both of which had people as their answer. One asked you to name a tennis player based on a Wimbledon result a couple of years ago (I forget now, but it was something like losing finalist). That's actually quite tricky for a casual observer, as past final merge into one through the mists of time, years get mixed up etc. Another question was about Rugby Union, and an English hat-trick scorer in a particular World Cup match. A little thought, and you realise that anyone who scores a hat-trick in Rugby Union is most likely one of the back 3, and sure enough the answer was Full-back/Occasional winger Josh Lewsey.
Obviously, neither of these discriminate against those who simply know the answer, but whilst the first may leave those with a general knowledge of tennis scratching their head sifting through a dozen or so successful tennis players, the latter allows those with a true general knowledge to make a decent educated guess at World Cup winning back.
Think for a moment about the questions on University Challenge and Mastermind. They are riddled with sub-clauses and little clues, titbits of information which allow the participant to deduce the answer, or in the case of the former, allow the sharpest and most knowledgable competitors the chance to buzz in extremely quickly. That's why they're the best quiz shows on television.
So, quiz-setters, not just here, but the world over, let's have an end to boring questions with one route in, and better rewards for those who can think about, rather than recite their answers.