With the explosive growth of online quizzes and surveys, it’s interesting to pause and think about where they come from and how long they’ve been around. Traditionally, a quiz has been a form of game or mind sport in which players attempt to answer questions correctly. In their latest online iterations, used mostly for entertainment purposes, quizzes can be played in competition with others, with time and accuracy as the measure of success. Another more traditional definition and use for a quiz would be as a brief assessment used in education and similar fields to measure growth in knowledge, abilities, and/or skills.
According to Wikipedia, the first attested use of the word “quiz” “…is from 1781 and means an odd person. This sense survives today in the word quizzical. It was also used in the term quizzing glass, a common accouterment of British Regency dandies. It later acquired a meaning of to make fun of, or to mock. How it acquired its current meaning of a test is unknown, but that sense did not appear until 1867 and then it was in the United States.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the use of the verb quiz to mean “to question or interrogate”.
Historically, quizzes have been used in an educational context as a method to assess student progress. Quizzes are a form of small tests and are used in schools as a snapshot assessment tool. A “pop quiz” is a quiz that students are given no time to prepare for; they are simply surprised by it in class. Some companies and schools use online quizzes as an affordable way to educate their employees or students and to assess their skills and knowledge. The very popular trivia quizzes that are all the rage on social media have little in common with the quizzes used in an educational setting. They measure different things entirely.
Social quizzes categorize their users into specific groups, they measure current trends and they are often designed to determine specific cultural criteria. Many quizzes are designed to determine a winner from a group of participants – usually the participant with the highest score or fastest completion time. The draw of these contests is the ability of participants to post their results on social media to be compared with the results of their peers.
There are many ways that quizzes can be used to gather information. In many industries, online quizzes are set up to test knowledge or identify a person’s attributes. Some companies use online quizzes as an efficient way of testing a potential hire’s knowledge without that candidate needing to travel. The huge dating sector, including online dating services and social sites often uses personality quizzes to find a match between similar members.
The results of online quizzes are generally to be taken lightly, as they rarely offer profound insights into the quiz-taker, and they do not often reflect their true personality or relationship. They are a popular form of entertainment for web surfers. At best, entertainment quizzes provide an outlet for a person to explore his or her emotions, beliefs and actions, and they can give advertisers good insight into consumer trends and identify potential customers.