One sunny June day last year, I remembered that I had told Paul Paquet, who runs the Ottawa Trivia League, that I would participate in the World Quizzing Championships, which had been described like a ‘midterm with beer’ on all matters trivia. That was not an exaggeration.

I made my way to the Arrow & Loon pub, found myself sitting with Paul and 11 others in the indoor courtyard. Paul was the quizmaster (he helped write the monster) and the others were a mix of regulars and total noobs (one girl said ‘so, where’s our team?’ to her boyfriend, apparently, not realising this was a solo venture – she didn’t do well).

I’m not going to get into the super boring bits (sitting in terror hoping you won’t have to pee because of that second pint, anyone?), but it was long. 240 questions (in eight categories) in on everything from ‘Two and a Half Men’ to Cherenkov Radiation. Your lowest category (in my case ‘Culture’ – I know less about art than science! WTF!) is dropped for a score out of 210. I got 103. It was the highest score in Ottawa and in the Canadian Top 10. I came in 234th in the world (out of 1366 people, I believe – the full results no longer appear online anywhere).

The winner was a professional quizzer (really) from the U.K. (of course). He’s one of the Eggheads, for crying out loud. I will probably never be anywhere close to his level, even if I do study my little heart out. But I want to be better. I want to get to Top 50 in North America this year, at the very least (I was 63rd).

Last June, I was super gung-ho, in my typical ‘I CAN CONQUER THE WORLD (maybe)’ way, until I realised just how little I know. I’m not really one to make flashcards (do people still do that?) about Roman Emperors and learn the periodic table, and the various groupings on it, easily, and for fun.

Most of my knowledge comes from television (I actually had wanted to write my dissertation on incidental learning from popular culture, but was discouraged from this as it’s kind of a vague, difficult topic for someone with no background in education, psychology, or the 18 other disciplines such an endeavour would require), game/panel shows, stuff I heard once and just somehow retained accidentally, and childhood obsessions with the Encyclopaedia Britannica Books of the Year. This was fine in my Reach for the Top days and for the pub quiz we do on Sundays (EXCEPT WHEN I FORGET MY MENTAL MAP OF SOUTHERN AFRICA GAH). For this? Not so much.

So, shockingly, I need to really need to sit down and focus (possibly rewiring my brain in the process) if I want to improve. My actual preparation thus far has not included spreadsheets or watching Jeopardy endlessly (I think I’ve seen two episodes in the last year), just doing the odd frequent quiz on Sporcle, writing down the capitals of Oceania, and…yeah, not much else. I have most of the Greek alphabet down, but haven’t looked at the lesser Shakespeare plays (not even necessarily to read). I can name the Noble gases, but haven’t a clue about any other scientific classifications in any discipline. There’s a giant world of stuff to learn and know, to retain and recall, and I just don’t know how I’ll do it.

Should I focus on my strengths still (Geography and popular culture, apparently) and not worry about the others so much? Who can I call on to quiz me when I realise that I’m just memorising orders of online quizzes rather than their content? Should I forgo this daily blog thing so that I can focus more on the task of ACQUIRING ALL KNOWLEDGE (trivial)?

Well, the response to that last one is probably ‘yes’. I just don’t, six months on and six months from the next World Quiz, know where to begin. Answers on a postcard, please.

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