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 Running a quiz.

Quizzes are great fun, good for socialising, making new friends, exercising the little grey cells, competing for the glory of winning and the chance of a small prize.

Most people’s experience of quizzes is probably attending a traditional “pub quiz” type session where the presenter shouts out trivia questions, often having to repeat them, the hard of hearing struggle, teams swap answers for marking, arguments arise and the whole thing descends into a rowdy party.  Or maybe the players are given questions on sheets of paper to fill in, which can be pretty boring.

We in U3A can do better than that!

At Madeley & District U3A we have been running monthly quiz nights for the past five years and they are the most popular of all our activities other than the monthly talk.  Hopefully this webpage will give you some ideas based on our experience. 

Recipe for a slick quiz

  • Teams of 4 or 5 max
  • Display questions on a screen as well as reading them out
  • Use Powerpoint
  • Include pictures, music, animation
  • For hard/specialist questions offer multiple choice answers
  • Difficulty level: aim for winners to get 80%+, losers 50%+
  • A quiz should last no more than an hour and a half. 5 rounds of 10 questions works well.  
  • Do one round at a time then collect in the answer sheets
  • Get a couple of volunteers to do the marking, not other teams
  • Display or announce running scores after each round
  • Ban mobile phones to stop the punters checking answers.
  • The presenter’s answer rules, OK!

Preparing questions

There are countless quiz questions available, but many will prove unsuitable for your U3A.  So many quiz books and internet sites contain trivial and boring questions, while sources like The Times Daily Quiz or University Challenge are just too hard!

Questions devised by personal research make for a more interesting selection, including locally based rounds, maybe including your own photographs of local scenes.  

Get regular attendees to contribute rounds or a complete quiz rather than just the co-ordinator/quiz-master doing it all.  

Most devisers initially fall into the trap of making questions too difficult:  they know the subject and think everyone else should! A useful tactic is to test your draft questions on a willing partner/friend. If one such person can get about 60% correct you can be confident that a team of 4 or 5 will get around 80%.

Usually it’s best to have 1 point per question, no half marks.  “Joker” rounds (whereby a team selects one round for which the points are doubled), and having more than one point per question can add to the excitement but may prove unpopular because a team with a specialist knowledge of the topic often gets all the points and others hardly any, which increases the score differentials and leads to despondency!

Aim for the winning team to get over 80% correct and the losers over 50%.  If is too easy it may be regarded as unchallenging or if too hard members may be put off from coming again. For more specialist/difficult questions offer multiple choice answers, so even if players know absolutely nothing about the subject they've got a one in four or five chance of getting a point and will feel mightily pleased with themselves if they guess correctly.  Or give the initials of the answer, or an anagram, or the answer with letters missing.  Pointless is good inspiration for this.

Have topic-based rounds, rather than random “General Knowledge”.  Use imaginative titles:  “Geography”, “Music”, “History” sound like boring school subjects.  Instead try “Where on Earth is this?” with descriptions or pictures of places;  a music round could be “Songs in praise of which women?” rather than just “What is the title of this song?” e.g. a 20 second music clip cut off just before the title is sung, like the intro to……“Honky Tonk Woman”.  The title of the round can be deliberately misleading, useful to thwart the experts who think they will benefit if you use Joker rounds, e.g. a round called “Vans” might contain no questions at all on motor vehicles, but a picture of a painting by….. Van Gogh;  a music clip by…..Van Morrison;  a picture of a machine….. Van Der Graaf generator.

Download the  EXAMPLE OF A MADELEY U3A QUIZ
(Please note that this is a large file, 111mb and hosted on Google Drive).

Creating teams

The ideal number in a team is 4 or 5.  Some members like to be in the same team each time with their regular partner/friends, others like the opportunity to mix with different members.  It can be daunting for members coming on their own, so be ready to welcome them as they arrive and sort them into a team.  To break up cliques and encourage members to get to know each other you can try randomly assigning members to a table by giving them a number as they arrive.

They think up a name for their team which they put on their answer sheets (QUIZ ANSWER SHEETS:  print off, staple top left to create 5 tear-off answer sheets)

You can give teams of five a 2 or 3 point handicap over teams of four to compensate for the extra player. 

Presenting a quiz

Reading out questions usually means lots of repetition and probably losing your voice.  Even if using a microphone some members will struggle to hear. Repeating for different sections of the audience can also result in a slightly different version with a clue which will cause complaints of bias, so take care to repeat the words of the question precisely. Far better to display questions on a screen, so the presenter needs to read the question just once.  All you need is a laptop connected to a projector pointing at a screen or white wall.  You can buy a projector for around £60.  Many hall and function rooms will have a projector mounted on the ceiling, with sound, or a wall-mounted TV you can plug into.

Powerpoint is an excellent format for this (see USING POWERPOINT AND A SCREEN).  It allows photos, images, music, animation etc to be incorporated, producing a much more stimulating and professional presentation than just reading out questions.

Paper quizzes

For quizzes where you give players sheets of paper to fill in, then Word, Excel or printed Powerpoint slides all work, ideally with some images. If you have a meal, these can be used to keep players occupied.  They are a great ice-breaker for strangers getting together in a team.   See attached examples of MEALTIME ROUNDS.  At Madeley we run 3 rounds of the main Powerpoint quiz then have a meal break with a paper quiz, with a separate prize.

Marking.

Swapping answer sheets for other teams to mark doesn’t work well:  it just leads to inconsistencies and arguments! It is quicker and better to use two or three reliable markers, who can be quiz participants. Write out the answers for them, plus what deviations are acceptable. At the end of each round the teams tear off their answer sheet and hand it over to the markers. While they are marking the presenter goes through the answers on the screen, by which time the marking should be complete and the scores can be entered on a scorecard.

The scorecard 

For the Excel U3A QUIZ SCORECARD what you do is enter the scores at the end of each round in the boxes, then scroll across and down to block all the team names and scores.  Then at the top of the Excel screen click on "Data", then "Sort" which should be set to "Largest to smallest", click "OK" and it should adjust the scores in order.    It can get quite dramatic and exciting, esp. when scores are close.


If scores are tied at the end you need a tie-breaker question, devised so that one team is bound to win, not another tie,  by making it “first to answer” or “nearest answer wins”,  e.g.


Prizes

The winning team deserves a prize!  If you have a mealtime round and a main quiz you’ll need 2 prizes.  A box of chocolates or something that can be shared at the time is better than, say, a bottle of wine which one couple takes home.   At our Christmas quiz we are more generous, giving each member of the winning team a prize.

Sharing quizzes

Copies of over 50 quizzes are available free of charge from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you have any of your own that you are prepared to share I can add them to the folder and make them available for other U3As.

I also have several Murder Mystery scripts, written specially for performance by U3A members who may have little or no acting experience.  These can also be used for play reading groups, where the members have to work out whodunit.


Downloads

U3A QUIZ SCORECARD

QUIZ ANSWER SHEETS

document U3A QUIZ TEMPLATE (143 KB)

USING POWERPOINT AND A SCREEN

AN EXCEL MEALTIME QUIZ

  document A WORD MEALTIME QUIZ (16 KB)

  document A POWERPOINT MEALTIME QUIZ (1.47 MB)

  document U3A QUIZ OCT 2019 (6.87 MB)

 


Murder at the U3A Bake Off

Madeley & District U3A in Staffordshire put on an entertaining murder mystery based on the shenanigans of an imaginary U3A Garden Produce & Cookery Group. At their annual Bake Off the rivalries were intense.  Rumours circulated of jealousies, cheating, theft and clandestine affairs.  Then a mysterious death or three.  Suspicion fell on the maker of a Bakewell tart found to contain slug pellets, but the bungling police were getting nowhere with their investigation.  Fortunately the Reverend Hercules Parrot, vicar and super sleuth, was on hand to help the audience work out who dunnit.

Writer and producer Chris Wright cajoled around 20 U3A members to act out the roles.  “We only managed 3 rehearsals and not everyone could get to every one of these, so the first time all the cast got together was for the performance itself.  Nevertheless it was “All right on the night” with some hilarious improvisations. Some of these members had never acted before, or not since schooldays. They revealed amazing enthusiasm and talent. There were not many lines to learn and just in case we forgot them (as if!) the script was displayed as an autocue on a screen at the back of the hall, which also served as subtitles for the hard of hearing. We had a lot of fun and put on a brilliant evening’s entertainment for an audience of other members and local people. Everyone was invited to enter a genuine bake off competition, with trophies for the winners, and the cakes were sold during the evening as a fund-raiser”.

Chris has now produced 4 murder mysteries which allow for a flexible number of actors and can be put on in halls with or without a stage.  “They are just right for U3As.  It gives members a real project to get involved in, developing the plot and their characters, sorting out props and costumes.  We developed friendships during the rehearsals and at a post-murder BBQ for the survivors and the odd dead body”.

The scripts would also be suitable for U3A play reading groups for the fun of reading and working out whodunit.

The scripts, directions, programmes, advertising posters etc. are available for other U3As to download here:

  image (269 KB) WHODUNNIT POSTER

  document BAKE OFF MURDER PROGRAMME (121 KB)

  document U3A BAKE OFF MURDER MYSTERY SCRIPT (51 KB)

  document NAME TAGS (12 KB)

  document PLACARDS FOR LOUISA BAKE OFF (50 KB)

  document MURDER CONFESSION (2.79 MB)

  document WHODUNNIT ANSWERS (13 KB)

  document MURDERER CONFESSION (13 KB)

Download the BAKE OFF MURDER MYSTERY AUTOCUE
(Please note that this is a large file, 128mb and hosted on Google Drive).

I have 3 other scripts available, but see how you get on with the Bake Off then let me know if you want any more.  They all follow a similar format, being comedies with audience participation and no-one knowing whodunnit until the very end when the audience is asked to write down who they think it is and Hercules then extracting a confession from the murderer(s)

  1. 1.  The Caribbean  Murder Mystery.   The redoubtable Hercules Parrot organises a holiday to the mysterious Caribbean Island of St.Tricia, renowned as the finest producer of straight bananas but also cursed by voodoo.  Guests stay at the dubious Marigold hotel.  Some have motives for going there beyond looking for sun and cheap booze.  Several deaths result, allegedly due to voodoo curses, but Hercules has other suspicions. Death in Paradise?

 For this show the audience were invited to come in holiday clothes:  Hawaian shirts, swimming costumes, diving gear etc.  which was quite amusing esp. as there were 6ft snowdrifts outside at the time.  Plus we had a "daftest sunhat"  and "coolest dude" competition, where guests paraded their creations to the tune of "All Around My Hat".  The caterers put on Caribbean food and cocktails.

  1. 2.  The Wedding Murder Mystery.  Cassandra's marriage to the feckless Rodney is supposed to the event of the year in Madeley, organised by Del and officiated by the Rev. Hercules Parrot, with a huge guest list. But things go rapidly wrong.  Neither bride or groom are too keen on the idea of matrimony, but Cassandra is pregnant and her Dad has a shotgun pointing firmly at Rodney.  The Best Man Trigger is a disaster and when one of Rodney's previous girlfriends gives birth during the ceremony you can guess that a few deaths are imminent.

For this the audience were invited to dress in posh wedding gear and the caterers did a nice wedding breakfast.

  1. 3.  The Angling Club Murder Mystery.  It's 1968, the Summer of Love, but not in Madeley where the pretentious Izaak Walton Fly Fishing Club is holding its annual awards.  Rivalry is intense for the "Biggest Catch" and "Angler of the Year" awards, with allegations of rule breaking  (using a worm instead of a fly to catch a trout - how disgraceful), jealousies, affairs and other shenanigans.  Murder results, but whodunnit?

Guests came in 1960s gear:  flowers in hair, John Lennon lookalikes, flares and even some well preserved ladies in mini skirts.  A disco to 1960s music followed the show, despite a few dead bodies.  I can send the music compilation.

Please note that I claim copyright on these murder mysteries.  I am happy for you to use them for your own U3A events but not for any further publication, copying or dissemination without my express permission (retired lawyer talking!).

Please get in touch if you need further info

Blessings

Rev. Hercules Parrot

Vicar and super sleuth

aka  Chris Wright