King William’s College General Knowledge Paper

One of my Christmas traditions is to take a run at “the world’s toughest quiz”, the general knowledge quiz of King William’s College on the Isle of Man. The quiz is given to students right before they leave for the holidays, then again when they return. The idea is to find out some answers while you are home and to improve your score when you return. This has been going on for 107 years.

Now when you first read through the quiz, you might spot an answer or two but you will be lucky to answer six of the one hundred and eighty questions. So, on your next pass, use Google. If you perseverve, you might get a hundred and forty or so before the answers are posted in February. If you have better than a hundred and sixty correct answers, then you have done very well indeed.

The questions are divided into eighteen sections. The first section concerns events of a hundred years ago — stuff that happened in 1911 — the last covers news of the year just ending. In between the sections might be anything at all, but within each section there is a common theme. Here’s a section from last year:


1 who rescued John Galt?

2 who was No. 1, of No. 1 Company of the XIVth Army?

3 what entitles Mrs Magnusson to add R af E after her name?

4 who chased Ran Bagha and caused a bridge of boats over the Jumna to collapse?

5 whose son had served the Indian Government in every way for forty-seven years?

6 who was the favourite, and the only one of the 37, to survive the conflict with Scipio?

7 who, being the gift of a Mesopotamian ruler, was to perish on Lüneburger Heide?

8 who was presented to a Habsburg Prince by the King of Portugal?

9 who was presented to a Pope by the King of Portugal?

10 who set off for their honeymoon in a yellow balloon?

In order to make sense of the questions, you have to recognize that the theme is Famous Elephants. Maybe Question 10 rang a bell, or the mention of Scipio suggested Hannibal, but somehow you got the theme. Now unleash your google-fu.

This year’s questions may be found here as well as quizzes and answers for several previous years. Right away I think I know the answer to Question 1 in Section 4 and that suggests a plan of attack on that section. Excuse me. I’m going to be busy for a few weeks.


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