A Brief History Of Quizzes

History quiz questions

People have been looking to win competitions for several thousands of years (as you can see here [history of competitions]), but with quizzes not so much. This is probably surprising, what with the intense popularity of things like pub quizzes and general knowledge quizzes these days. However, in actuality the word “quiz” itself didn’t even exist until the 18th century.

Funnily enough, the initial meaning of “quiz” was also vastly different to what it means today, and there is more about that here [about the word quiz]. Enough about the world though; at Winzum we absolutely love competitions and quizzes, so we wanted to find out about the history of quizzes, and how they have flowered into the knowledge contests we all know and love today.

Quizzes before the 18th century

The word quiz didn’t exist before the 18th century, however it would be too restrictive to say that the general concepts of quizzes and quiz questions also didn’t exist before then.

For example, although they were not called quizzes, in Ancient China the Sui dynasty of 605 AD established a standardized testing system that was used to select candidates for specific government positions. The origins of what we now call quizzes can therefore be traced back to the initial emergence of academic testing.

Quizzing in the 19th century

By the mid 19th century quizzes had began to take on their modern meaning, with quiz being used in order to “question or interrogate”. It was also at this time that governments such as that of the British Empire decided to implement standardised testing inspired by the Chinese, something that greatly increased the visibility of a kind of knowledge quiz in the UK.

Of course, oral examinations had been commonplace in universities such as Oxford and Cambridge for hundreds of years, however it was only now that written examinations began to get more popular. Many quiz historians agree that this evolution in academic testing was crucial to the increased relevance of quizzes and quiz questions.

20th century quizzing explosion

Quizzes as we know them today were rolled out quite intensely during the 20th century, as the increased availability of all kinds of knowledge made it a lot easier for people to create their own quiz questions. Several popular TV quizzes were established as the century drew on, for instance, such as the classics Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, University Challenge and Mastermind.

The now-popular concept of pub quizzes in the UK was established in 1970, which is actually pretty mind-blowing when you think about how popular they are! At Winzum we love a jolly good pub quiz, and we’re sure you are the same.

Online quizzes and the 21st century

Although the Internet existed in the 20th century, it has really come into its own during the 21st century, something that has subsequently caused a major surge in quizzes across the world.

Online quizzes such as personality quizzes or Buzzfeed quizzes are outrageously popular nowadays, and there should be no surprise either with the amount of instantly available knowledge at our fingertips.

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