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Jamie's Blog

About the blog

This blog is for anyone who wants to improve their general knowledge in record time.

Seeing Red

March 2011 Posted on Fri, March 18, 2011 14:20:55

According to recent research carried out by The Journal of Social Psychology, seeing things in red helps you remember them. So bear that in mind when it comes to compiling your quiz revision notes.

Whether you should write in red – or just underscore the relevant facts in red – is something worth trying out and seeing what works best for you.

Priming before a pub quiz!

March 2011 Posted on Thu, March 10, 2011 12:39:53

In my book, I talk about the importance of creating a quiz persona for yourself – allowing yourself to get into the right mode for quizzing.

In Kluge (the book I am currently reading), the author discusses experiments where people who were called ‘intellectual’ and ‘smart’ before taking part in an IQ test seriously outperformed people who were insulted with words such as ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid’ before taking their tests.

This technique is called ‘priming’!

How effective it is for quizzing purposes is something I’m certaily curious about.

And for all the pub quiz players out-there, it might be worth priming your team-mates right before a quiz (yes, that means complimenting one another and praising all your team-mates on the incredible breadth of their general knowledge!) smiley

Why our brains are ill-suited for quizzing!

March 2011 Posted on Tue, March 08, 2011 19:00:28

So, one of my interests (in case you haven’t guessed!) is working out how the human brain (with all its faults and peculiarities) can be manipulated to memorise huge amounts of trivia! smiley

Because one thing that has always been quite apparent to me is that the human brain is not designed well to retain trivia and general knowledge facts.

I mean our memory does peculiar things! For example, once I remember sitting down at a different desk in my old office and being unable to enter my Windows log-in password. This was the same password I had entered day-in, day-out for over a year… and yet the moment my surroundings had been altered slightly, my brain failed to recall the password!

I also notice how my brain fails to concentrate some times – wandering off on daydreams and tangents!

So when I saw a book on the evolutionary ‘kinks’ in the development of the human brain, I knew I had to give it a read.

I honestly think that understanding the peculiarities of the human brain (from an evolutionary standpoint and a personal standpoint) is very helpful in developing a successful method of quiz revision.

So the book I’m reading right now is called Kluge: The Haphazard Constuction on the Human Mind by Gary Marcus – and it really got me excited about how the findings of this book might apply to quizzing!

The book confirms the contextual-nature of our memory. Unlike a computer memory which is organised like a giant map, with each item assigned a specific location, our memories are less systematic – and driven by contextual cues instead.

This is why even the most robotic-like quiz-players are still prone to the occassional slip-up: the cues that stimulate the relevant facts in the quiz-players’ brain stimulate other facts at the same time, causing confusion.

In relating this to learning trivia facts, there are a few things that might be worth considering (and these just my own thoughts!):

1. If you’re always quizzing in the same room in your house, you may not be doing yourself any favours! The facts you’re trying to remember may be anchoring themselves to specific visual cues in the room, rendering you a less-able quizzer in a different setting. You should get used to recalling trivia facts in a range of settings so that the cues which stimulate the relevant facts are quality cues (i.e. not visual cues, which are of no help if you’re outside of your usual quiz setting).

2. If you think of the facts you learn as little octopuses with little arms growing off of them, you have to work on improving the quality of the arms – the cue-grabbers – which bring that particular fact to the forefront of your mind. For example, I cannot remember what I had for breakfast two days ago because the relevant cues – i.e. the word ‘breakfast’, etc. – stimulate every memory I have of eating breakfast, which all merges into one big usless blur!

(I’m pretty sure octopuses have arms not legs – but other trivia addicts, feel free to correct me!)

Anyway, these were just some of my thoughts when reading the book. Let me know what you think!

Without sounding like a shameless plug, some of the exercises in my own book should help improve the quality and efficiency by which your brain classifies a trivia fact.

Oh and BTW, Marcus’ book also explains some of that daydreaming too, citing the “slopping integrations between our ancestral, reflexive set of goal-setting mecahnisms and our evolutionary more deliberative system.” So there you have it!

Reader’s Question

March 2011 Posted on Sun, March 06, 2011 13:24:25

Ok, so I’m going to try this new thing each week where I answer a reader’s question (with permission) here on my blog. Let me know what you guys think!

So, to start things off, here’s a good question I received last week from someone who had read an article I wrote on learning how to guess the answer to questions:

“I enjoyed reading what you had to say about getting into the pyschology of the question setter. Do you have any other tips for doing this?”

I promised to answer this on my blog – so here goes! Let me use an example. Take a look at this quiz question:

“In a novel by Jane Austen, who is quoted as saying “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other?”

(Great quote by the way!)

Now look carefully at the question: “In a novel by Jane Austen”

Why has the question setter CHOSEN to omit the name of the novel?

There are two hypothesis. smiley

– 1. The answer is one of Jane Austen’s most famous characters and by giving the name of the novel, the answer will be the most commonly-guessed answer. For example, if the novel is ‘Pride and Prejudice’, most people would guess ‘Mr Darcy’ – so the question-setter has chosen to remove the name of the novel to prevent this kind of guessing!


– 2. The answer is also the name of the novel. Now anyone who knows all of Jane Austen’s main novels (and quite frankly, all you budding quizzers should!) will know that the Austen novel which has a person’s name in the title is ‘Emma’!

So with these two hypotheses, you have a choice of guessing either Mr Darcy or Emma!

Those of you that choose to guess Emma would be CORRECT!

* Just as an aside, I was recently at a quiz where someone was asked what the full name of the Darcy character was in Pride and Prejudice. I liked her answer a lot: ‘Mister’! smiley

So, that’s my post for today. If you’re in the quizzing mood, don’t forget to check out the very latest quiz on my website: just go to Free Quiz Questions and Answers and get quizzing!

– Jamie

CJ de Mooi Interview

March 2011 Posted on Sun, March 06, 2011 12:40:59

Just wanted to give you the heads up about my latest interview. Lots of you guys requested this one! It’s with none other than CJ de Mooi from BBC’s Eggheads! Hope you guys like it! smiley

Quiz-Genius Interview With CJ de Mooi

If there is anyone in the quizzing world you would like me to interview, let me know! And feel free to suggest questions!

Oh, and check out my Squidoo page on a few cool ways to improve your quizzing abilities: Ways To Become A Quizzing Genius!

The e-book version of ‘How To Become A Quizzing Genius’ and why I wrote the book!

January 2011 Posted on Fri, January 28, 2011 15:54:37

Many people have been asking me what an e-book is and whether they should buy the e-book or print version of my book. smiley

Let me start off by saying, I’m grateful to anyone who buys my book in any format! And again, thank-you to everyone who has already purchased a copy.

An e-book is an electronic version of a book that can be read on your computer or laptop.

It really comes down to a matter of personal taste: some people like the instantaneousness of e-books – you can download them in a matter of seconds and start reading! Other people prefer having a physical copy so they can curl up by the fire and read!

So if you were thinking of buying my book in e-book format, please do! It is currently priced at £3.99.

A lot of people have been asking me what inspired me to write the book – so let me share with you the story! smiley

I was recently playing a pub quiz machine and as the winnings began to stack up, people began to gather round and watch me play – and even started to cheer me on! It was really quite funny and I say this not to boast, but because at that very moment, I remembered the fact that I used to be bad at quizzing!

I did well at school – but my capacity to remember little details seemed non-existent!And quizzing is all about little details – names, dates, etc. smiley

So what brought about the change in me?

Well, it all goes back to being in class one day, when a rather mean-spirited and pompous teacher demanded to know who was the smartest child in the class. To my sheer displeasure, several students put my name forward, prompting this rather cantankerous teacher to fire a range of general knowledge questions at me (of which I only managed to answer a handful correctly).

Now, all these years later, a more confident me would have pointed out that general knowledge is no measure of a person’s intellect. But back then, that experience really scarred me! smiley

I vowed (YES, VOWED) that I would never be embarassed like that again and so I set about trying to improve my general knowledge!

I bought probably ever book on the subject of improving memory and learning, and tried everything!

And did I see an improvement? No, actually! I mean, maybe a marginal improvement but certainly nothing on par with the quiz goliaths you see on TV!

So I started to question the ways I was improving my general knowledge and slowly but surely, I started to develop techniques which actually brought about improvements – BIG improvements- in my general knowledge! And that’s when I knew I had to share these techniques with others!

So when people ask me if I’m surprised by the positive response to the book, I always say ‘grateful but not surprised!’ I’m not surprised because I know from my own personal experience that these techniques work and I’m madly-excited to share them!

What about the motivation for creating the quiz-genius website? When I think back to that younger version of myself, struggling to improve my general knowledge – I don’t remember there being a single resource available for people who wanted to improve their general knowledge but didn’t know how to go about it! I want the website to be the resource that I didn’t have growing up! smiley

The quiz heavyweights I saw on TV were inspirations to me growing up because they reminded me what could be achieved if you were committed to improving your general knowledge! Now I finally get to ask them just how they went about developing their quizzing skills!

‘The Chase’ on ITV1!

January 2011 Posted on Fri, January 14, 2011 09:20:35

Great season of ‘The Chase’ this year! smiley

We finally got to see what happened when none of the contestants make it through to the final round (they nominate one team-mate to play for a £1000 each).

And in yesterday’s episode, a contestant even played for -£2000 in an attempt to join the rest of his team-mates in the final round – a final round, which was especially exciting.

Check out the episode on ITV Player here – and you’ll see what I mean.

The Chasers themselves are as entertaining and impressive as ever!

Contestant Call for Series 5 of BBC4’s Only Connect!

December 2010 Posted on Mon, December 13, 2010 19:03:19

smiley Right all you quiz fans…

The fifth series of our favourite BBC4 quiz show, Only Connect is about to get underway and the show is looking for contestants.

If you’ve always wanted to appear on a quiz show, why not go for it?!

Here are the details:


Victoria Coren presents the fifth series of the popular BBC Four quiz
show ONLY CONNECT where, as in life itself, knowledge will only take
you so far: patience and lateral thinking are also vital. It’s all about making
connections between things which may appear, at first glance, not to
be connected at all.

We’re looking for teams of three players who share a common passion,
ability or profession, to pool their combined wits to solve fiendish conundrums
and vexing puzzles.

ONLY CONNECT: the quiz where general knowledge meets lateral

To request an application please email: onlyconnect<at>presentable<dot>co<dot>uk including a telephone number.

The application deadline will close Wednesday 26th January 2011, so
get them in as soon as possible.

If you applied for a previous series, but were unsuccessful, you are welcome to apply again for the new series.
Auditions will be held in regional centres throughout the UK.

All applicants must be aged 18+ and U.K. Residents.

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