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Pop Quiz: How to Create Great Quizzes


Everybody likes to test their knowledge with fun quizzes and trivia. Witness the longevity of such games as Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy. While people may like taking quizzes, few people have ever stopped to consider what factors go into making a good quiz.

When designing a quiz, there are 2 main characteristics for the creator to think about – the function of the quiz and the style of the quiz. With regard to function, one should consider the following 3 questions for the entire quiz: Is the purpose of the quiz clear? Do all of the items reflect this purpose? And, is there a strong theme that unifies all of the items on the quiz? Quizzes tend to be more satisfying if there is coherence in theme, purpose or structure. With regard to style, the following questions pertain to each individual question: Is the question stem precisely worded? Does the question stem match all of the answer choices? And, do all of the answers all seem plausible? The quiz writer should make sure to be precise in numbering, lettering, spacing, and consistency of indentation.

It is a myth that quizzes need hard questions to be good. The success of most TV quizzes such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire rests on the ability of the audience to “play long” with the on-screen contestants. Experienced quiz takers certainly want to be challenged, but the majority want to be able to get a good portion of the quiz right. A well-structured quiz should include a group of questions that everyone can answer easily, so the casual participant doesn't feel excluded as well as a few intermediately difficult questions. A few impossible questions for laughs and a few multiple choice questions so that even those who know they are 'bad' at quizzes can have a go add appeal to a quiz. The really hard questions should be no more than 25% of the quiz - enough to separate out those who really know their stuff! The ability to play a quiz as part of group as well as individually adds to the fun. Categorizing a quiz as music, sports, geography, relationship, etc will appeal to quiz-takers as well.

Finally, adding in a few humorous questions and/or answers will help make a fun quiz. However, a quiz constructed with measurement in mind should not offer ludicrous answers as distracters. The quiz writer will need to decide if the goal is to entertain the takers or to measure their knowledge.

Although the purposes of quizzes may vary, one thing remains constant – the need to write questions effectively. One common error is having a time reference in the question where the answer is not always constant and may change as time goes by. A second common error is linking questions - each question should stand successfully on its own. A third frequent error is date stamping questions such as “As of 2006,…” which results in questions going stale. Another mistake, one that often frustrates quiz takers, is inadequate explanations of the answer - don't leave players wondering why the answer is correct. Finally, one should write questions in the past tense, not the present tense.

Nowadays, besides tv and boardgames, people interested in quizzes can take and make them online. Some of the fun features that online quizzes offer are the ability to rate a quiz, the ability to search for quizzes based on a certain topic, and the ability to see how one does compared to others who have taken the same quiz. On sites such as http://www.sconex.com/quiz_featured.php one can even post the results of a quiz directly to his/her online profile, such as a MySpace account, and also invite others to take a particular quiz.

With these handy tips, anyone can easily create a successful quiz!

Submitted by:

Josh Grossman

Josh Grossman is the marketing manager at http://Sconex.com, a social networking site for teens where users can make and take online quizzes.





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