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The Top 5 Question Writing Mistakes

The questions in a game show are incredibly important for obvious reasons; they convey the training content and they affect the flow and effectiveness of the game show. Written incorrectly, questions can be confusing and detract from the game show as a whole. The following are five of the most common question writing mistakes:

1. The question is too difficult or too easy. Questions should be difficult enough to challenge the contestants, but not so difficult that contestants have no chance of answering it. Those crickets-chirping moments after a too-difficult question slow the game down and can have a devastating effect on the momentum and energy generated by a game show.

Questions that are too easy can be fun to play and used as a review, but they don't challenge contestants to learn and demonstrate knowledge of the content and they take away from the competitive fun. Have a peer or sample group of trainees review your questions before a game show to get a sense of their difficulty level.

2. The question has more than one answer. Outside of a Family Feud-style game, questions should ask for one clear, distinct answer (though the answer may have multiple parts). Having more than one correct answer available in a multiple-choice question (without the option to select both) can be a problematic and can adversely affect a smooth scoring process. Likewise, having only one correct answer possible in a short-answer question clears up confusion and prevents discrepancies.

A lot of questions that have more than one possible answer can avoid this trap by clarifying the question itself.

What makes a leader?

This question would be great for brainstorming, but it's hard to judge whether one given answer would be absolutely correct or incorrect. A lot of things could technically be a correct answer--but may not be the answer a trainer is looking for. A better question would ask, "According to the material we just covered, what is the 1st principle of leadership?"

3. The question is unclear. Contestants should concentrate on playing the game show-not on trying to decipher what the question means. If it's unclear what the question is asking, the trainees will be unsure of what answer to give and may have a difficult time coming up with the designated correct answer. If the question itself is worded in a way that is confusing or grammatically suspect, it can throw a wrench in the smooth operation of the game. Make sure questions are clear and concise-both in wording and in communicating which answer they are looking for.

We dislike questions meant to “trick” contestants for this reason—it’s rarely as fun as having straightforward, appropriately difficult questions.

4. The question is inaccurate. Questions make a powerful impression on contestants-they'll remember them long after the training session is through. As with anything, you make sure that your questions have correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. However, it's doubly important to make sure that the facts are correct and the content is accurate. A question that is out-of-date or no longer relevant, or a question that is made inaccurate by a simple typing error (e.g., "Name the six wonders of the world," when there are actually seven wonders) can be confusing to trainees and can also convey the wrong information.

5. The question is too long or wordy. Questions are best when they are simple, direct, easy-to-understand and relatively short. In most game shows, contestants have a limited amount of time to read a question and recall information. Questions that are long and wordy and have to be processed and figured out can eat into the time trainees are supposed to be spending formulating an answer. If a question must be long, try breaking it up into several parts-have an intro screen with the premise of the question or an introduction to the content, have a hint that further clarifies the question, and utilize info screens after the question for extra information.

Bonus Tip: Run questions by a peer to check for clarity and errors. It's easy know training content so well that one doesn't think about the questions and answers in a game show or see potential pitfalls. After formulating questions, we find the most helpful check-and-balance to be a fresh set of eyes. Show your game show questions to a colleague or peer after you're finished writing them. They'll be able to tell you whether your question is difficult, long, unclear, or inaccurate.

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