20 December 2012

For a real intellectual challenge...

... consider trying to answer the questions in the King Williams College General Knowledge Quiz.   I posted an explanation of the quiz in December of 2010:
For over a century, students at King William's College on the Isle of Man have been given a quiz (formally the "General Knowledge Paper") just before the Christmas holidays:
Up until 1999, pupils at King William's College would sit the paper unseen on the last day of term before the Christmas holidays. The questions are very hard and often cryptic, and pupils got hardly any questions right first time: five percent was considered a good score! During the Christmas holidays, pupils tried to find the answers to the harder questions by consulting reference books or asking clever relatives. When they returned to school in the New Year, they took the test again, under exam conditions and without the aid of notes.
The quiz is now voluntary for the students, but has spread worldwide via publication in The Guardian.  It is, as noted above, inhumanly difficult, requiring impossible amounts of knowledge of trivia and/or extraordinary computer search skills -
A Latin phrase is always printed at the top of the quiz: “Scire ubi aliquid invenire possisea demum maxima pars eruditionis est”.  Freely translated, this means "the greatest part of knowledge is knowing where to find something."
The best way to approach the quiz is as part of a group, many of which will form on the internet in the weeks ahead.
Here are sample questions and answers from the December 2011 quiz.

And some more here.

The quiz is published each year in this column in The Guardian, but it is not available online yet.  It is, however, available in the newspaper's hard copy, and some enterprising groups have already started working on the questions.

If you would like to join in with a group working on the quiz, I would suggest going to the Quite Interesting Talk Forum (you will need to create an identity and a password in order to log in to the forum).  Among their many interesting groups is one entitled "Sooper Seekrit Stuff.  A forum for discussing things we don't want Google to know about."  That's the one you want. 

Now an important point regarding internet courtesy.  When people work on puzzles like this and need to search the internet for the name of Charlemagne's sister or the height of Hadrian's Wall, they don't want to accidentally stumble across a set of answers to the questions.  So, unlike previous years, I will not be posting any questions from the Quiz here, and I'll request that nobody post the questions or any answers here, where they could be retrieved by Google; if you do, I'll delete them immediately. (At the QI Talk Forums, the questions and answers are behind a password sign-in, which makes them opaque to Google search engines).  

After the quiz is published online a few days from now, the internet will light up with the questions and answers in public forums such as Metafilter, and much of the fun of truly searching for the answers will be lost.  

I signed in at the QI Sooper Secret forum last night and answered some of the easier questions, but there are lots more that nobody has deciphered yet.  Some readers here might be very good at this.  Have at it, if you like.

Addendum Jan 24, 2013: Here are the answers.

Photo:  stained glass window from KWC on the Isle of Man, credit Don McPhee, via The Guardian.


  1. i saw some of the questions earlier, and i was surprised because i actually knew the answer to one off the top of my head.

  2. The QI talk forum link leads to an error when you try to register.

    1. Last night their website was experiencing some major problems. Today I got on fine, but that was after having finally registered last night and letting my computer log me on today.

      So tonight I logged off, then tried to access the "register" function, and ran into the problem you noted. I then searched their forums for help pages and found a thread with this comment dated 12/20:

      "I'm glad it wasn't just me. I managed to log in, but every time I clicked on a link, the page would hang for a dog's age before giving me a phpBB : Critical Error Could not connect to the database and webpage not available notification."

      Which triggered this witty reply:

      "I have been deeply distressed by the prospect of having to do actual work today."

      So there are some problems somewhere in their system. I don't know what to recommend other than to try back intermittently and try to catch the system when it is working.

    2. It's working this morning.

      Quick, before it goes down again...

    3. Here are all of the answers -



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