How can I quickly learn as much general knowledge as possible?
August 21, 2008 10:12 AM   Subscribe

How would you go about cramming for a general knowledge quiz?

Let's say you're going to participate in a quiz, on your own. The questions are general knowledge, multiple choice (specifically three choices) and of moderate difficulty - the kind of question 6 out of 10 people know the answer to, and one individual probably knows the answer to 6 out of 10 questions. That said, you don't have access to an extensive corpus of previously asked questions, although you expect a mix of current & recentish affairs, history, science and nature, sport, and popular culture (both recent and less recent.)

But you want to do as well as possible.

You have two weeks to cram - how do you do it? In what savvy way do you start clicking through Wikipedia? In any given field, what's the "most obvious" stuff? How generally would you absorb a fairly disconnected bucketload of information?
posted by so_necessary to Education (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Start playing Trivial Pursuit. Start watching Jeopardy. Start playing Encarta quizzes. Watch the news. Read the paper.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:42 AM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd start with reading at least two newspapers daily (right-wing tabloid and a quality broadsheet) and probably start with the portals at Wikipedia and work my way down from there. If you can get your hands on a box of Trivial Pursuit cards start reading them and/or jump on to some of the online trivia games and quiz sites (google, there are plenty). Is there a pub quiz nearby you can join?

Ultimately though, if you haven't picked up much general knowledge before now, two weeks is unlikely to get you there! Good luck.
posted by goo at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2008

Bob Harris did something similar when studying for his first appearance on Jeopardy. You can read his method in Prisoner of Trebekistan. There's also Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac that might be helpful.
posted by mogget at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2008

Best answer: What I mean is, get into the mindset of answering questions and making mental connections between things, not trying to absorb specific areas of knowledge. You're playing a game, not taking a college final exam, so prepare for the game.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:43 AM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've heard that memorizing US Presidents (or at least getting the important ones arranged in your mind along with time frame that they served) is often useful for general purpose quizes (assuming you are in the US).
posted by mmascolino at 10:56 AM on August 21, 2008

The questions are general knowledge, multiple choice (specifically three choices) and of moderate difficulty - the kind of question 6 out of 10 people know the answer to, and one individual probably knows the answer to 6 out of 10 questions.

This format sounds a lot like Buzztime trivia, which I play a lot. Here are some of the areas that tend to come up a lot in the questions on there:

Highest points, Western-most points, etc.
Major bodies of water
Which country borders other countires

Tricky element symbols (Fe for Iron)
Nobel prize winners
Units of measure
Names of medical conditions (usually guessable via latin roots)
How many moons/rings each planet has, and the names of moons

Guess the author of a famous book
Match the book to the character

Major record holders
Match the athlete to the correct sport

Name the movie based on a description or stars
Oscar winners
Films of famous directors

Name the actor who played a certain character
Which shows were spin-offs of other shows.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:39 AM on August 21, 2008

Plenty of IRC networks have trivia channels.
posted by PenDevil at 11:40 AM on August 21, 2008

When watching Jeopardy, I always get tripped up on the questions about the constitutional amendments.
posted by marsha56 at 11:55 AM on August 21, 2008

When I was a wee moon, I competed in the GeoBee at the state level and the way that my mom helped me "study" was to go through the Carmen Sandeigo board game and ask all the questions on the cards (not necessarily "playing" the game).

I would echo a lot of the recommendations here and do the same with Trivial Pursuit cards. If you can find one of the older games, the questions used to be a lot harder and more esoteric. Get as many versions as you can and switch up the cards - get a friend to quiz you. Obviously, you can disregard any questions pertaining to countries that no longer exist, but science questions and the like are always pertinent.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:25 PM on August 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I haven't read the updated People's Almanac but the mid-seventies editions were profoundly wealthy with general-purpose information.
posted by workerant at 2:02 PM on August 21, 2008

Don't just study the knowledge; find out how the quiz works. Practice answering quickly & pushing the buzzer quickly. Practice with the kind of questions the quiz will use. All other things being equal, the person who wins at Jeopardy is the one who's fast on the buzzer.
posted by theora55 at 2:29 PM on August 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Read The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (it's all online).
posted by wireless at 6:13 PM on August 21, 2008

In most quizzes I've partcipated in, state and country capitals come up. It's a pretty easy area to study, so don't overlook it.
posted by triggerfinger at 11:55 AM on August 22, 2008

The Animaniacs can help you:

State Capitals


Nations of the World (incomplete and outdated but still pretty good)

Here's a poem to remember British Monarchs

Ask Mefi on how to memorize constitutional amendments.

Other mnemonic devices on Ask Mefi. One more.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:39 PM on August 22, 2008

Response by poster: I found a website doing recaps of old episodes of the show to get a flavour of the questions and to try and improve my guessing. I'm not sure how much effect it had, but with a combination of chance and skill, I won £20,000. Thanks, AskMefi!
posted by so_necessary at 8:52 PM on September 6, 2008

Woohoo! Congratulations so_necessary!
posted by goo at 3:20 AM on September 7, 2008

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