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#254453 - Mon Jan 17 2005 10:40 AM A closer look at an "impossible" quiz
d2407 Offline
Participant

Registered: Mon Jan 03 2005
Posts: 31
Loc: Rochester New York USA    
While another thread discusses quiz difficulty ratings, I thought it might be interesting to dissect the first of my quizzes to get the dreaded "impossible" tag. It's about the assassination of Robert Kennedy. You can play the quiz here.

The scores shocked me. There are 15 questions. One person got a perfect score; three got one wrong. Everyone else missed six questions or more. The average score as of this posting is 4.2/15 and the median is 4/15. The most common score is 3/15.

I've listed below the questions that have been answered wrong the most to date, and my thoughts on them.

SPOILER: I DISCUSS THE
ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS,
SO STOP READING IF YOU'D
LIKE TO TAKE THE QUIZ FIRST.

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(The percentages after the question show how many people have answered it correctly, as of the time of this posting).

Question 1: How had Kennedy fared in his most recent primary before California? (19%)

Just about every biography or documentary about RFK will mention that, one week before his assassination, he lost the Oregon primary, and it was the first time a Kennedy had ever lost an election.

Question 2: Where had Kennedy spent most of his time on the day of the California primary? (19%)

It's widely reported in articles, books, and documentaries about the assassination how he spent the day. When filmmaker John Frankenheimer passed away in 2002, most obituaries mentioned him being RFK's host on primary day.

Question 6: What were the last recorded words spoken by Kennedy? (8%)

This is, arguably, an unfair question. But there's a famous audio recording, widely played, of the shooting, that clearly includes a brief interview with RFK made AFTER his speech that night. Since two of the choices I give are well-known lines from the speech, they should be easily eliminated from consideration, and (in my mind), for a person familiar with the assassination, it's easy to make a correct educated guess from the remaining two choices.

Question 9: Besides Kennedy, how many other people were hit by gunshots in the assassination? (8%)

This is the worst question on the quiz. I hate questions that are exercises in memorizing minutiae, and this is one such question. However, most people familiar with the assassination know that more than two other people were hit, removing one of the choices I gave.

Question 12: Who credited Robert Kennedy with saving his life on election day? (11%)

This question is not that hard. The fact is readily available to anyone who has done much reading about RFK, the assassination, or the Kennedy family. My only criticism of the question is that it's deliberately misleading. I wrote it to sound like the question was asking about the assassination, but it was asking about something else. Thought I was being clever at the time, but had I known when I wrote the quiz how many people would struggle with it, I'd have worded the question differently to make it easier.

Question 13: From the hotel, where did the ambulance take Kennedy? (18%)

Another borderline-minutae question. However, one choice I've provided (Wilshire Ramparts Hospital) doesn't exist - I made it up. Another choice (city morgue) should be obviously wrong; I think most people know Kennedy lived more than 24 hours after the shooting. The only tricky part is that Kennedy was taken first to the nearest hospital, before being transferred to the better-equipped facility where he was when he died.

So those are the worst five questions. One of them I find to be unacceptably hard. The others could easily be answered by anyone who has read a book about the assassination or researched it on the web.

Anyone who has had a curiosity about the RFK assassination and read about it should be able to score 10 or higher on the quiz, and that's the audience I was writing it for.

Anyone who had ever read about RFK's career should have been able to score 7 or higher on it.

There's nothing wrong with taking a quiz outside one's area of expertise. It can be fun, and if the quiz is done well (I always try to have tons of information provided with the answers), there is much to be learned, and maybe people will be motivated to go learn more about the subject. That's happened to me a few times after taking an interesting quiz that I bombed on. I hope some of my quizzes have sparked that curiosity in some who've taken them.

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#254454 - Mon Jan 17 2005 11:25 AM Re: A closer look at an "impossible" quiz
Bruyere Offline
Star Poster

Registered: Sat Feb 10 2001
Posts: 18791
Loc: California USA
I didn't know you'd posted the entire quiz here, however, I had had a look earlier and this one struck me as being so specific, that it would take someone who'd recently read up on the Robert Kennedy assassination to score higher than half of the questions.
I think the information that you're asking is perhaps a little too specific for a more general audience, say, someone like me who's read up on some of the Kennedy stories over time, but who would have great difficulty determining which answer is correct.

Though many people do look up the information as a learning experience, I'd say that the majority don't. Therefore, even someone who had read a few books on that era, would not be able to answer correctly on many of those.

So, you've assessed it pretty well on your own, it would not be easy for someone to do it correctly even if they'd read up on the subject in the past.
_________________________
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#254455 - Mon Jan 17 2005 11:39 AM Re: A closer look at an "impossible" quiz
spanishliz Offline
Champion Poster

Registered: Thu Dec 13 2001
Posts: 21772
Loc: Ontario Canada
I just took your quiz (as it turns out for the second time), and am ashamed to say that I scored the same low score as I did the first time! So much for my having learned anything, eh? Perhaps it just speaks to my memory.

I've not read extensively about RFK's assassination, but was working from my memory of the events (he died the day I took my Grade 11 Math final), and reading news reports and seeing the TV news at the time.

Of the questions you mention, I knew that he had spent the day at the home of a friend, but chose the wrong one. For the life-saving question I was taken in by thinking you meant at the time of the assassination, but on reading the info said 'Of course' to myself, as I had read that story at the time.

I agree that the questions aren't too picky for the audience they were written for, and think that even a casual player has at least a chance of answering at least the majority of them.

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#254456 - Mon Jan 17 2005 11:46 AM Re: A closer look at an "impossible" quiz
spanishliz Offline
Champion Poster

Registered: Thu Dec 13 2001
Posts: 21772
Loc: Ontario Canada
Bru, we were posting at the same time, and seem to disagree on the 'fairness' of the questions. I really do think that only perhaps the 'last recorded words' question might fall into the 'unfair' category, simply because 'On to Chicago...' rings in my memory even now. However, even as I chose it, something in the back of my mind was saying 'I don't think that is right.'

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#254457 - Mon Jan 17 2005 11:58 AM Re: A closer look at an "impossible" quiz
Bruyere Offline
Star Poster

Registered: Sat Feb 10 2001
Posts: 18791
Loc: California USA
No problem Liz, I didn't think that any of them were really 'unfair' but that they seemed to be harder to answer, even for someone like you or me, with a little knowledge of the subject matter from memory and reading up therefore a larger base for average scores wouldn't be found.

I think the proportion of hard to answer questions is higher than it might be.
_________________________
I was born under a wandering star.

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#254458 - Tue Jan 25 2005 03:22 PM Re: A closer look at an "impossible" quiz
stuthehistoryguy Offline
Prolific

Registered: Fri Aug 20 2004
Posts: 1302
Loc: Omaha Nebraska USA      
Quote:


Anyone who has had a curiosity about the RFK assassination and read about it should be able to score 10 or higher on the quiz, and that's the audience I was writing it for.

Anyone who had ever read about RFK's career should have been able to score 7 or higher on it.






I think you've hit the nail on the head here, sir. Anyone who is thoroughly familiar with the RFK shooting would have no trouble with your quiz. However, the way things go here in Quizzyland, only a small minority of folks taking the quiz would fit that description. Therefore, you're going to see real low scores.

The same thing applies to my two "Impossible" quizzes--on vampire folklore and The Golden Bough, respectively. Anyone who's read one or two GOOD books on vampires (as opposed to the myriad of bad ones out there) will have little trouble with that quiz, but most folks don't have that background. Ditto the Golden Bough quiz--if you've read the book, no problem, but that's a daunting task. So, they're "Impossible".

The vampire quiz, by the way, has done OK in the ratings: 1,212/56,387 as of today. The other, alas, has not been played enough to be rated. Urgh!
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Stu
Editor, Sports

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#254459 - Tue Jan 25 2005 04:02 PM Re: A closer look at an "impossible" quiz
agony Online   content

Administrator

Registered: Sat Mar 29 2003
Posts: 14745
Loc: Western Canada
Stu, I often suggest "The Golden Bough" as a resource to kids who are writing quizzes about things like signs and symbols in witchcraft, and so on. Funny, I never hear from any of them ever again !

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