The formula for University Challenge success

Sick of feeling stupid every time you watch University Challenge? This handy guide will show you the path to sticking one to the boffins*. This is an evolving list, please suggest further points of advice in the comments below.


  • Have a rough knowledge of each dynasty of the kings and queens of England
  • Know the names of the last twenty Booker prize-winning novels and their authors
  • Learn the most famous quotes of Samuel Johnson and to whom or what he was referring when he said them
  • Commit to memory the important events and people of fifth Century Athens
  • Know what a homophone is
  • Have a good idea of which cities have hosted the Olympics
  • Learn the Greek alphabet and, if you’ve time, a few other ancient ones for good measure
  • Know the major treaties, diets and pacts of European nations from the middle ages up to Maastricht
  • Commit to memory a chronological list of great philosophers from Socrates to Sartre. Know the title of the magnum opus of each
  • Learn the rough location of the world’s major ancient cities
  • Know your Gladstone from your Palmerston
  • Read plenty of Shakespeare. A little Pinter, Miller and Beckett may also help
  • Know the names of the major composers from each great European nation, preferably also the century in which they were active.
  • Under no circumstances concern yourself with questions about science

*This may involve becoming one, but won’t it be worth it for the smug sense of satisfaction as you annoyingly shout out the answers before your flatmates or family have had the time to hear the rest of the question?

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