Many people are perfectly happy with the level of ability that they have in quizzing. They enjoy the quizzes they play in, and have no great desire to do any better. That's absolutely fine, and it's a healthy attitude to take.
What's not very healthy is when people feel unhappy about how they do in quizzes, and yet aren't prepared to do anything positive about it. So they resort to grumbling about better players, changing rules to suit themselves, or cheating.
Quizzing is a game of skill and knowledge, and you can always improve your knowledge and your skills. You can improve, if you make up your mind to do so, and take some positive steps to achieve your goal. Now, I do think that we all have a different potential in quizzing. Some of us, no matter how hard we work, and how hard we try, are never going to be in the world's top 10. In just the same way, it doesn't matter how many lessons we have with a great golf coach, it doesn't mean that we'll ever be able to beat Tiger Woods. But the thing is, those golf lessons might not make you a champion, but they'd doubtless make you a better player than you were when you started.
Boil it down to its basics and quizzing is a pretty simple game, isn't it. Just answer more questions right than the other people do. Which means knowing more stuff. Some people are lucky. They tend to soak up general knowledge without trying to learn it. I'm not boasting, but I was such a person myself. I was a successful pub and league quizzer before I ever started to work at quizzing. But I'd like to think that I'm a much better quizzer today since I've started to learn things for quizzes. Whatever your level, you need to learn quiz knowledge. Because it's quiz knowledge which helps you win quizzes.
So let's look at a few things you can do to help you acquire quiz knowledge : -
* Play in quizzes. Not just your one local quiz a week either. Play in as many different quizzes , of different formats, as you can locally. The more different competitions you expose yourself to, the more you'll start to get an accurate idea of just where you are, quiz wise, and just where you need to be. You'll come to see your strong areas, and your weak areas too.
* Watch TV quizzes. You'll pick up a wealth of General Knowledge just by doing this.
* Read a quality newspaper every day. Start to pick out useful bits of information which could make good questions and write them down.
* Make your own quizzes. Volunteer to be question master at your local quiz. Great fun, and it will help you improve tremendously
* Ask yourself - do you know anyone personally who is a stronger quizzer than you are ? If so, approach them and ask for advice. Chances are they will be only too happy to talk to you on the subject.
* Be methodical. Make lists of what you need to learn
* Try different learning techniques - mindmaps - flashcards - mnemonics - whatever - and see what works for you. Then use it to start learning the stuff you need to know.
* Be critical - although not too critical - of yourself each time you play in a quiz. Make a note of what you didn't know, and make up your mind never to be caught out by it again. Ask yourself whether any deficient areas of knowledge have been highlighted for you. Then it's up to you to put the work in to improve.
* Buy my ebook "Be A Quiz Winner !" available on Kindle through Amazon. It goes into much more detail on all of these things, and other useful tips and ideas to help you develop as a quizzer.
Improvement as a quizzer won't happen overnight. But then why should it ? Those people you see winning quizzes on the telly have most likely been through all of this themselves. Ask yourself - is it worth it ? Because unless you can commit willingly to doing these things I've suggested, then you won't improve significantly, and maybe you'd be better off not wasting your time starting.
How Do You Win Mastermind ?
Underneath you'll find the best advice that I can give you. First, here are the questions that I was asked in my three rounds of Mastermind in 2007
Specialist subject Henry Ford
1) At which local school did Henry Ford begin his formal education at the age of 7 ?
2) In which race track in Detroit did Henry win his race with Alexander Winton ?
3) What nickname did Henry give to his wife Clara ?
4) For which company was Henry appointed chief engineer giving him more time to work on his projects ?
5) Name the Chicago Dr. who bought the first Ford Model A
6) Which company did Ford acquire leading to the construction of the Ford trimotor airplane ?
7) For which company did Henry become a demonstrator and repairman of portable farm steam engines ?
8) Name the ocean liner Henry chartered in 1915 rechristened the Peace Ship
9) The infamous brawl of 1937 became known as what ?
10) What was first produced in the first moving assembly line in the Highland Park plant ?
11) Name the local newspaper which Henry bought to put forward his own personal views ?
12) In January 1914 what was the minimum age for a worker to qualify for the $5 day ?
13) Name the Hungarian draughtsman and designer who played a key role in the development of the Model T Ford
14) On the only occasion that Henry stood for the US senate he was narrowly beaten by whom ?
15) Which natural product was heavily promoted by Henry Ford ?
16) Name the company personal secretary with whom it was rumoured that Henry had an affair ?
17) In 1905 Ford relocated to new premises on which road in Detroit ?
1) (pass) Scotch settlement school
2) Grosse point Michigan
3) The Believer
4) Edison Illumination Company
5) Dr. E. Pfennig
6) (pass) Stout Aircraft company
8) Oscar II
9) The Battle of the Overpass
11) The Dearborn Independent
( wrongly answered 25 )
13) Joseph Galamb
14) Truman C. Newberry
16) Evangeline Dahlinger
17) Piquette Avenue
1) With which band did Roger Waters reunite for the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park in 2005 ?
2) What is the common name for the eye condition called hypermetropia ?
3) Which sea lies between Italy and Croatia ?
4) The archaeopteryx is a fossil believed to be the ancestor of which creatures ?
5) By which name, taken from the name of a jewish festival, is the festival of Whitsun also known ?
6) Which British boxer defeated Sugar Ray Robinson to win the World Middleweight title in 1951 ?
7) Which electrical device which revolutionized the communication industry was invented by a team of three Americans in the 1940s ?
8) In classical mythology what name is given to the staff traditionally carried by Hermes, the messenger of the Gods
9) Name the author who created the character Simon Templar
10) Anne Neville was the wife of which English king ?
11) Who wrote the 1813 symphony called Wellington’s Victory ?
12) Which former county, created from parts of North Yorkshire, was the centre of the so called Child sex abuse scandal in the 1980s ?
13) Which word, meaning to shun or ostracise , comes from the name of an Irish landowner?
14) What is the surname of the family of brothers in the TV series Bread ?
15) Which monkey takes its name from the long protruberance on the nose of the male of the species ?
16) In July 2002, Theresa May became the first woman to hold which political post ?
17) Several Scottish rugby team have the letters FP as part of their name. what do the letters stand for ?
18) The Tsavo National park is situated in which country ?
19) Which planet takes longer to revolve on its axis than it does to orbit the sun ?
1) Pink Floyd
2) Long sightedness
( wrongly answered short sightedness )
3) Adriatic Sea
6) Randolph Turpin
9) Leslie Charteris
10) Richard III
( wrongly answered Tchaikovsky )
( wrongly answered – Northumberland )
16) Chairman of the Conservative party
17) Former Pupils
( wrongly answered Hungary )
( wrongly answered Mercury )
Mastermind semi Final questions
Specialist round - The Prince Regent - later George IV
1) Whom did the Prince of Wales secretly and illegally marry at her home in Park Street Mayfair on the 15th December 1785 ?
2) Which London mansion was given to the Prince of Wales on his 21st birthday which had been empty since the death of his grandmother Augusta 11 years previously ?
3) Who was appointed to the post of the Prince's preceptor or tutor in 1771
William Markham - bishop of Chester ( wrongly answered as Earl of Holdernesse )
4) Which of sir Walter Scott's works was the subject of a command performance when he visited Scotland in 1822 after his coronation as George IV ?
5) George 3rd sent which German countess back to Hanover with her diplomat husband afteer her affair with George was discovered
6) When he first met his future wife Caroline of Brunswick the prince was so shocked by her appearence that he asked the diplomat Lord Malmesbury to get him what ?
A glass of brandy
7) He delivered his maiden speech in the house of Lords during a debate in May 1792 when he stressed his support of the existing constitution. What was the subject of the debate ?
The King's Proclamation on Seditious Writings
8) Whose friendship with the Prince finally ended with him calling out to Lord Alvaney at a ball " Who's your fat friend ? "
9) Jane Austen was asked to dedicate which of her novels to the Prince who was said to have enjoyed her earlier works ?
10) Which of the Prince's mistresses was appointed Lady of the Bedchamber to Caroline of Brunswick and attended her arrival in Britain in 1795
Countess of Jersey
11) As king he was finally persuaded to give his assent to which bill in April 1829 a year after reluctantly agreeing to the repeal of the test and corporation acts ?
Catholic Relief Bill
12) He increased his effort to marry off his daughter Princess Charlotte after she confessed that her mother had encouraged her relationship with which captain in the Hussars ?
13) In the Prince's first serious relationship with the actress Mrs. Robinson he referred to her as Perdita. What name did he use for himself ?
14) At a ball given by the Duke and Duchess of York in 1811 he injured his ankle while demonstrating which dance to Charlotte
The Highland fling
15) What name was given to the 3 man investigation team that was set up in Italy in 1818 to establish the truth about Caroline's behaviour ?
The Milan Commission
16) The Prince's infatuation with which older woman from around 1806 eventually led to the end of his relationship with Mrs. Fitzherbert.
The Marchioness of Hertford
1) Which japanese dish normally consists of small rolls of vinegar flavoured cold rice over the garnish of vegetables, eggs or raw seafood ?
Sushi ( wrongly answered teriyaki )
2) Which popular theme park lies just off the M6 near to Stoke ?
3) In physics what name is given to a material that is a good transmitter of heat or electricity ?
4) Which British actress received her fifth oscar nomination in 2007 for her role of a bored housewife in Little children ?
5) Which archangel is described in the New testament as contending with the Devil and in Art is often depicted fighting a dragon ?
6) Whose album Songs from the Labyrinth topped the classical album charts in October 2006 and featured the tunes of John Dowland, the court musician of James I ?
7) Which indian city is reverting to its pre colonial name of Bengaluru which according to the legend means town of boiled beans ?
Bangalore ( wrongly answered bengal )
8) The resin of the terabinth pine was the original source of which substance used as a solvent for paint and varnish ?
9) Which french boxer who was the world light heavyweight champion from 1920 to 22 was known as The Orchid Man ?
10) In shakespeare's the Tempest who is the monster son of the witch Sycorax ?
11) The former Miss great Britain leila Williams and the actor Christopher Treace were the original presenters of which childrens' TV series ?
12 Which Italian word used as a musical term means gradually increasing in loudness ?
Crescendo ( wrongly answered fortissimo )
13) Which organisation was founded in Chicago in 1905 to promote a fellowship in busines of professional men ?
14) Who at the age of nine wrote the Young Visitors which was published in 1919 ?
( Daisy Ashford ( wrongly answered TS Eliot )
15) The Caeshon bred as a barge dog and named after a dog owned by Kaes de Kaesala in the 1880s originated in which country ?
Holland ( wrongly answered Germany )
16) What term referring to britain's technological advances in the time was coined by the economist and social reformer Arnold Toynbee in 1884 ?
The Industrial Revolution
17) What was the name of the Lybian King overthrown by colonel Gaddaffi in 1969 ? King Idris
18) To which London street did Caxton's successor Wynkyn de Worde move his printing press in about 1500 making it one of the first to be sited there ?
Fleet Street ( wrongly answered Paternoster Street )
19) Which word originally referring to a wooden device used by clowns to make a smacking noise is now used for a type of knockabout comedy
My Questions in the Mastermind Final
Specialist questions - London Bridge
1) In 1305 whose head is recorded as being the first to be displayed on London Bridge
2) According to an old saying London bridge was built on what because of a tax imposed by Henry II in 1876 to pay for its construction ?
3) Serle le Mercer, William of Allemayne and which other London merchant are recorded as being responsible for the completion of the bridge in 1209 after the death of Peter de Colechurch ?
4) What name is given to the protective structures consisting of wooden piles filled with rubble which were built around each pier of the bridge to fend off debris and traffic ?
5) Lord Wells, the English ambassador to Scotland, jousted with which scotsman on the bridge on St. George's Day 1390 following an arguement over whose nation were more courageous ?
6) The head of which catholic goldsmith who became a victim of the popish plot in 1678 was the last to be displayed upon the bridge?
7) London Bridge was the only river crossing in Central london until the opening of which bridge in 1750 ?
8) Which norse poet wrote the lines London Bridge is broken down - Gold is won and Bright renown referring to the demolition of the bridge in 1014 ?
9) Who collaborated with Thomas Telford to submit designs for a new bridge in 1801 ?
10) What was the profession of Wright and Gill who occupied the remaining part of the Chapel House until 1759 ?
11) What was the name of the last inhabitant of the bridge in 1759 whose landlady Mary Russell's tenancy came to an end ?
12) Rennie's replacment for the Old Bridge was opened by the King and Queen on which date in 1831 ?
13) In 1968 who bought Rennie's Bridge and reassembled it in Lake Havasu city in Arizona
14) What was the name of the dutchman who installed waterworks at the northern end of the bridge in about 1582 to pump water from the Thames into the city ?
15) Who wrote a survey of London which was first published in 1598 which provides a valuable source on the early history of the Bridge ?
16) According to one of the earliest references to the post roman bridge for what crime was a woman thrown from the bridge into the Thames in the latter part of the 10th century ?
17) Which architect whose father designed a block of houses on the bridge is believed to have made the first accurate measurement and drawings of the bridge in 1799 ?
1) William Wallace
3) Benedictwricte also called Benedict Botewrite
5) David de Lindsay
6) William Stayley
7) Westminster Bridge
8) Ottar svatar
Incorrectly answered Snorri Sturluson
9) James Douglas
Incorrectly answered George Dance the Younger
11) John Evans
12) 1st August
13) Robert P. McCullough Snr
14) Peter Morris
15) John Stowe
17) George Dance the Younger
1) What name is given to the cup used by Christ in the last supper,the object of a legendary quest ?
2) Which mountain is known in the tibetan language as Chomolungma roughly meaning Goddess mother of the earth ?
3) Which 1947 Tenessee Williams play tells of the culture clash between Blanche Dubois a fading southern belle, and Stanley Kowalski , a member of the industrial immigrant class ?
4) In policing what does the acronym SOCO stand for ?
5) Which pub immortalised by Florrie Forde in a music hall song still stands near Hampstead heath in London ?
6) In the TV series Life on Mars in which year does DI Sam Tyler find himself living and working after a car crash ?
7) Who was the herald of the greeks in the trojan war and had the voice supposedly as loud as that of fifty men ?
8) What title did the newspaper The Daily Worker adopt in 1966 ?
9) The blue, great crested and long tailed are species of which small bird native to Britain ?
10) Who succeeded Duncan Fletcher as England's cricket coach following the team's poor performance in the 2007 world cup ?
11) Which scottish authors works include the novels Glue, Filth and Trainspotting ?
12) Which christian democrat poltician was finally ousted as German Chancellor in 1998 after 16 years in power ?
13) Which member of the onion family often served as a seperate vegetable dish has the scientific name allium porrum ?
14) What name deriving from the greek word for race is given to the study of family history ?
15) During the second world war which country constructed the Metaxis line of defence against Bulgaria ?
16) The specialised muscle fibres known as the bundle of Hiss are located in which organ of the body ?
17) Which pop duo consist of the vocalist Neil Tennant and the keyboard player Chris Lowe ?
18) What name is given to the force that attracts a body to any other body having mass ?
19) The 2007 film Goodbye Befana is an account of whose 20 year relationship with James Gregory his guard on Robben Island ?
1) Holy Grail
3) Streetcar named Desire
4) Scene of Crime officer
( incorrectly answered Stand On . . )
5) The Old Bull and Bush
( incorrectly answered 1975 )
8) The Morning Star
( Incorrectly answered The Sun )
10) Peter moores
11) Irving Welsh
12) Helmut Kohl
13) Leek -
( incorrectly answered chives )
17) Pet Shop Boys
19) Nelson Mandela
Well, the way that this question’s been asked, I can only answer – I have no Idea how YOU can win Mastermind . All I can tell you is how I did it, and what worked well for me, and you will have to also accept that I had a huge slice of luck throughout the series.
Selecting a Specialist Subject
This is crucial. You have two objectives in selecting your specialist subjects, which are : -
1) Get the right specialist subjects for you and for the show
You want to select specialist subjects that will make you attractive to the production team and give you a decent chance of getting on the show. You also want to select subjects that will give you a reasonable chance of doing very well in your specialist round(s) .
There can often be a huge gulf between these two objectives. If we take the first one, it means that there are certain subjects you won’t have much chance of getting onto the show with. They can either be too popular – eg
The Harry Potter novels of JK Rowling
Yes, you might love the novels, but so do hundreds of thousands of other people, and your chances of actually getting onto the show with this are slight. On the other hand, they can be too obscure as well, eg the often quoted rejected topics of
Orthopaedic bone cement in total hip replacement.
Routes to anywhere in mainland Britain by road from Letchworth
Basically you want a subject that people will have heard of , or will at least want to hear something about. You can do a lot worse than checking out reviews of shows in recent series , which you can find on Weavers’ Week, or on my own blog, Life After Mastermind, which will give you a really good idea of the range of topics that are acceptable to the production team.
As regards choosing subjects that you can actually do, I used a few principles to guide me. These were : -
Choose something you have at least a passing interest in.
Whatever subject you choose, you’re going to be living with it for quite a long time. A friend of mine, never expecting to to get to the semis, chose a subject he had little knowledge of, and no interest in for this round. Hence he spent an unenjoyable time learning about it.Its really important that you should enjoy the learning process leading up to your shows - Remember – This is supposed to be FUN !
Choose something that you already have sources of information about.
Unless you’re going in on a wing and a prayer, you’re going to want to do some revision for your specialist subject. If you’re starting gathering sources from scratch, then this cn be a very frustrating and expensive process. If you already have a main source book to start with, then this is going to make it more cost effective, and also means that you don’t have to waste valuable time gtting hold of books and other sources.
Choose finite subjects, which have a clear beginning and an end, and make sure that those parameters are clearly agreed on by yourself and the production team.
Essentially, if you pick a huge wide subject, then you are making it very difficult for yourself to cover all of the ground that you need to. For example, there is a huge difference between doing , say, ornithology, and doing Birds of the British Isles. Even that’s still a vast subject, having said that.
Biographical subjects are a good mainstay of the show, especially if you can find someone interesting, who maybe not that many people know a great deal about. The parameters of biographical subjects are obvious.
Literary subjects are another mainstay of the series, although these come with a health warning. If you take, for the sake of argument, the Palliser Novels of Anthony Trollope, don’t think that its just the details of the 6 novels themselves that you’ll need to know. I’ll talk more about this in the next section.
Popular Culture, that is, film , TV and modern music is a significant Mastermind genre nowadays. Don’t be misled into thinking that these subjects will be any easier than others. If that’s what you’re interested in, a particular TV series, for example, or a band, or a film director, then that’s great, and good luck. But don’t go for this sort of subject just because you think you might get an easier ride, because you won’t.
If you get this far, then congratulations. It means that the production team already see you as a potential contender for the show. That’s the good bit. The hard thing is that now you have to convince them that they are right.
You need to turn up with your 3 specialist subjects, ready to talk a bit about each of them and why you have picked them. However, there is every possibility that they may turn down one or more of these, for a variety of reasons. So if you’re smart, then you’ll have at least a couple of others up your sleeve. This willingness to compromise, and ability to think on your feet will show that you have commitment, and really want to be on the show.
One major part of the audition will be to answer 20 general knowledge questions. I think that if you get at least half of them right then this won’t count against you. There’s nothing I can do to help you with this. If your general knowledge is weak, then its weak. You can always improve your general knowledge, but its going to take time. Basically, you need to start attending quizzes regularly, watch them on telly, and start to use quiz books to test yourself. If you don’t get through the audition, do this for a year and then apply again.
You should have between 8 and 12 weeks between being told for definite that you are on the show, and the recording of the show itself. What you do now, and for the next few weeks, will determine how you do in your specialist round.
Time is of the essence. If you have 8 weeks, then plan to use those 8 weeks. If you have 12 weeks, then plan to use all of those 12.
There are many different learning techniques. I settled on a fairly traditional method, using flashcards, and regular quickfire testing. This involved selecting three source books for the subject in hand. After an appraisal of the three books I was using, I would select which one I thought to be the most authoritative. Then I began to work through this main book, section by section.
Picking facts you could use to make questions is fairly simple. Basically incontrovertible facts are fair game. Every time I found a piece of information I thought might make a question, I put a little asterisk by it. For the second part of each revision session I would take all of my asterisks from the session, and use each to formulate one question. Each question would be written on a separate piece of card, with the answer on the other side. For the third part of each session I would test myself on the new cards, until I could get them all right. Then I would test myself on all of the other cards I’d already made in previous sessions.
The advantages of this system were several.
You’d be continually reinforcing what you’d done in previous sessions.
You’d be practising answering in quick-fire bursts, which to some extent replicated the conditions in the show.
You could take the cards with you to work, or wherever, and use any unexpected spare time for an impromptu test session.
Disadvantages were that it meant that by the time you’d finished the main book, you could easily have between 800 and 1000 questions on your subject. This became very time consuming, but it was a necessary sacrifice to make.
The other two books were for ‘light reading’ after the session. These didn’t have to be read in great detail, but if they gave any facts that the main book didn’t, then these were to be committed to cards as well.
This method served me well. 16 or above is a great specialist score on Mastermind. I never managed 16, but in 4 specialist subject rounds I scored 14, 14 , 15 and 15, on a wide and diverse range of subjects. If you are managing mid teens on your specialist subject, you will always be in with a chance of winning a show.
The Show Itself
Lets not beat around the bush. The show puts a lot of pressure on you as a contender. Or actually, you put a lot of pressure on yourself as a contender when you’re on the show. Even if you’ve used every second you possibly could to learn your subject, it doesn’t mean that nerves won’t conspire to bring you down.
The show is meant to feel intimidating. Actually the chair is very comfortable, and John Humphrys is very nice and not at all threatening. He has a great sense of humour actually. Still, it does require some presence of mind to achieve your best. There’s not much to tell you in the way of tactical thinking. Basically, it boils down to this : -
You’re not allowed to ‘jump in’ with an answer if John hasn’t finished asking the question. So , as soon as the question has been asked : -
Provide the right answer as quickly as you can. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it ? Yet you’d be surprised how many people start to doubt that the answer that has popped into their heads is correct, and so waste valuable seconds. If you’ve prepared by quickfire testing yourself, then trust your knowledge, and answer as soon as it pops into your head.
If you don’t know the answer : -
There is nothing to be gained by passing if you can guess as quickly as you can pass. Wrong answers won’t count against you, but passes will.
Absolutely the worst thing you can do is hesitate for a minute, and then pass.
If you get an answer wrong : -
Don’t worry about it. Practically everyone gets some wrong. Just answer the next, and the next, and the next . . .
Don’t try to keep score. Its practically impossible, and you need to have all of your concentration focused on the question that is coming at you now.
In 4 shows, I was only once the last person to go in the 2nd round. If you are setting a target that some others will have to beat, try to put it out of your mind, and play the questions on their own merits. Answer what you know as quickly as you can. Guess what you don’t know as quickly as you can. Try not to pass. Don’t dwell on wrong answers.
Actually the same pretty much applies if you are the last to go. Having a target in your mind is not helpful. The only way that I managed to focus on the task was to say to myself that all I had to do was to keep answering the damn questions, and if I did that, then I would have answered enough correctly by the end of the round. Thankfully that’s the way it worked out.
This is the most difficult thing to do, but if you can, try to make time to stop and smell the roses. That is, take in the experience, because its over quickly, and when its gone, its gone. It was only in my final that I realised how much I was enjoying it while it was still going on. In all of the other shows, it wasn’t till it was over.
After you’ve been on the show, if you won your series, then congratulations ! Its more likely that you didn’t, so maybe you ought to think for a bit about whether you want to have another go or not. I’m not the first champion who took more than one bite at the cherry to win . After my unsuccessful 2006 appearance, I was invited to the semis as a stand in, and when I saw many of the semi finalists in action, I knew deep down that if I had been just a tiny bit luckier in my first round, I could have done at least as well, if not better than they had. So I had another go. You must ask yourself, how close was I to making it to the semi /the grand final ? If you honestly did as well as you could have, then that’s great. If you didn’t though, then maybe you need to show a little persistence, and have another go. Every year a proportion of the contenders are making a second, or third appearance on the show. Every now and again, one of them even makes it all the way.