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Who writes the questions on University Challenge?

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Who writes the academic quiz rounds on University Challenge? (Picture: BBC)

University Challenge is notoriously the toughest quiz programme on TV.

Since 1962, teams of four university students representing their place of education have gone up against the show’s academic questions.

Presenter Jeremy Paxman grills the contestants – though as far as we know, doesn’t write the questions himself.

So, who does? And how can you find your own University Challenge-style questions to test your knowledge on?

Here’s what you need to know.

Who writes the questions for University Challenge?

Questions, unsurprisingly, are written by expert quizzers.

Many are past contestants from the show, writes 1995 contestant Sean Blanchflower on his UC-devoted blog.

IMDB also cites a number of past contestants as question setters, including Dr Phil Jones – who represented Magdalen College at Oxford in 1998, winning the series.

Charles Oakley, who was captain of the 2005 Corpus Christi team, and 1997 series runner up Martin Heighway, who represented the Open University, have also set questions.

David Fanshawe, now a statistician at the University of Oxford, and Anoushka Davé, a 20-something with an incredible four degrees – also past contestants – were revealed to be two of several freelance question setters in an interview with The Telegraph in 2019.

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Does Jeremy Paxman approve the questions? (Picture: BBC / ITV Studios / Joseph Scanlon)

Others are experienced TV quiz writers – such as the late David Elias, who worked on the show in the 80s when Bamber Gascoigne was its host.

According to IMDB’s trivia section, Gascoigne would recheck questions himself – and rewrite any that didn’t hit the mark.

Does Jeremy Paxman, who took the helm of the series in 1994, do the same thing?

The series’ executive producer, Peter Gwyn, told The Telegraph that – after question setters have completed and fact-checked questions – Paxman would see them for approval.

‘He may have some notes for clarification, but he has certainly never said our questions weren’t any good,’ he told the paper.

Where you can find University Challenge-style questions for your own quiz?

Is there an easier way to find questions for your next quiz than watching the show and pinching them?

Undoubtedly – there are a number of official University Challenge quiz books, containing thousands of questions each.

The titles, by author Steve Tribe, include:

  • The University Challenge Quiz Book
  • The Classic University Challenge Quiz Book
  • The All New University Challenge Quiz Book.

They’re available via Amazon, Waterstones and other book retailers.

Here are a few well-known ones to get you started…

Q: Often featuring in photographic illusions caused by forced perspective, which structure was begun in 1173 as the third and final structure of its city’s cathedral complex? Designed to be 56m high, improvements to the foundations since 1990 have diminished its distinctive aberration.

A: Leaning Tower of Pisa

Q: What four letter word is this? A Buddhist teaching says it’s in the heart of a person who inwardly despises his father and disregards his mother, Shelley says it’s like London. John Paul Sartre says it is other people

A: Hell

Q: In cytogenetics, what term describes the entire chromosomal complement of a cell which may be observed during mitotic metaphase?

A: Karyotype

Credit: Original article published here.

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