How many University Challenge questions can YOU answer?

How many of Paxman’s puzzlers can YOU answer? As Amol Rajan takes over as host of University Challenge, test yourself 30 of the trickiest questions from the past three decades

  • Jeremy Paxman will step down as University Challenge host after 30 years
  • The presenter will be replaced by the Today programme’s Amol Rajan, 39
  • The questions will remain just as confounding no matter who is asking them
  • Here, FEMAIL shares 30 of the trickiest to mark Paxman’s final season 

Jeremy Paxman will soon step down as host of University Challenge, to be replaced by ubiquitous BBC journalist Amol Rajan. 

While the choice of Rajan, 39, to front the flagship quiz show has raised some eyebrows, fans can rest assured that, even when the question master changes, the questions themselves will remain as confounding as ever. 

The programme puts the brightest minds to the test with questions on everything from Pascal’s triangle to pop songs (although the music rounds are far more likely to touch on opera arias than Ariana Grande).

Jeremy Paxman will soon step down as host of University Challenge, to be replaced by ubiquitous BBC presenter Amol Rajan. He will record his final episodes this autumn

Jeremy Paxman will soon step down as host of University Challenge, to be replaced by ubiquitous BBC presenter Amol Rajan. He will record his final episodes this autumn

To mark the news that Paxman will be leaving his post after almost 30 years, FEMAIL has delved into the archives to pick out 30 of the trickiest questions asked on the show.

Each of these questions was a Starter For 10, meaning they were worth 10 points a pop. The rules state they must be answered by a single player without consultation. 

Ready to put yourself to the test? Scroll down for the questions then check your answers at the bottom. If that’s not enough, we’ve included some bonus round questions to keep you going, too… 

While the choice of Rajan, pictured, to front the flagship quiz show has raised some eyebrows, fans can rest assured that, even when the question master changes, the questions themselves will remain as confounding as ever

While the choice of Rajan, pictured, to front the flagship quiz show has raised some eyebrows, fans can rest assured that, even when the question master changes, the questions themselves will remain as confounding as ever

Bonus questions: Gases

a. In 1996, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California created the metallic form of which gas, originally discovered in 1766 by Henry Cavendish?

b. Which gas was discovered in 1898 by Sir William Ramsay and M.W. Travers in the residue of distilled liquid air? It is used in lightbulbs, lasers, and in arc lamps for cinema projection.

c. Pierre Janssen and Norman Lockyer are jointly credited with the detection in 1868 of which gas as an unexpected line in the Sun’s spectrum? It was discovered on Earth in 1895 in the uranium mineral clevite.

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1. Born in the mid-19th century, which thinker rendered the agents in a well-known theoretical construct by the German terms Ich, Es and Über-Ich, in English they are known by the Latin terms ego, id and super ego 

2. GIMPS is the acronym for a multi-decade internet search that in 2018 discovered the 51st of what form of prime number, named after the French friar who studied them in the 17th century. 

The series begins 3, 7, 31, 127, 8,191. 

3. Miguel Ángel López and Aleksandr Vlasov, were among riders on the 2020 roster of which cycle racing team with sky blue and yellow colours.

Its name was that of the Asian capital that was renamed Nur-Sultan in 2019. 

4. ‘Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.’ 

These are the words of which leading figure in the United States judiciary who died in 2020? 

5. For your picture starter you are going to see the diagram of an embroidery stitch. Ten points if you can name the stitch. 

6. What adjective precedes worm, oleander, noise and teeth in the titles of novels by Bram Stoker, Janet Fitch, Don DeLillo and Zadie Smith?

7. Identify pairs of food stuffs whose common names begin with the same four letters. Give both names from the descriptions:

a) A large tropical fruit from the bromneliad family and the edible seeds from various species of conifer used to make pesto

b) Two fruits: citrus maxima, similar in appearance to a large grapefruit, and a member of the genus punica, whose common name comes from the Latin for seeded apple.

8. Picture round. You’ll see a map with a peninsula circled in red. For 10 points give the name of the peninsula. 

9. What present participle links a painting by Henri Rousseau depicting a moonlight desert and a lion and the infectious disease African trypanosomiasis? 

10. As his doctoral dissertation at the University of Jena in 1841, who submitted a Hagelian analysis entitled: ‘The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature’ (10 points, Merton answered correctly)

11. Which chemical element is found in all three of these substances: salt, laughing gas and ammonia? (10 points, Merton answered correctly)

12. These are the titles of four major non-fiction works. The same word has been removed from each title. What is it? (10 points, Merton answered correctly)

Bonus questions: Deaths of Roman Emperors according to Suetonius  

a. The death of which emperor in ad 68 provoked, according to Suetonius, ‘such great public joy that the common people ran through the city dressed in liberty caps’?

b. Dying at the age of 63 in ad 54, which emperor ‘towards the end of his life gave some unambiguous indications that he regretted both his marriage to Agrippina and his adoption of Nero’?

c. On the day before he met his death in ad 41, aged 28, which emperor dreamt ‘that he was standing in the heavens next to Jupiter’s throne, and that Jupiter pushed him with the big toe of his right foot so that he fell headlong to Earth’?

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13. ‘My music is best understood by children and animals.’ Who said that in 1961, 10 years before his death and more than 30 years after works such as Pulcinella, Oedipus Rex and The Firebird?

14. In which Canadian province or territory is the delta of the Mackenzie River. This river rises in the Great Slave Lake and flows more than 1,500km into the Beaufort Sea

15. Name either of the sports represented in the initial letters IBSF, this being an international governing body for two winter sports 

16. Named after a mother-daughter team, what type indicator is based on the theories of Carl Jung? 

17. In physics, what adjective is applied to the minimal mass of a fisial material required to sustain a chain reaction? 

18. Of the six wives of Henry VIII, name the two who appear as characters in a play usually attributed to both Shakespeare and John Fletcher? 

19. Filiform and fungiform papillae are small bumpy projections found on what part of the body? 

20. Derived from the Greek for a collection of flowers, what term denotes works such as the The Good Immigrant illustrated by Nikesh Shukla, Being Alive edited by Neil Astley, and The Zoo of the New edited by Nick Laird? 

21. Which of Shakespeare characters was described by William Haslet in 1817 as the authors only purely contemplative character? 

22. What is the name of this film? 

23. For the French for to sing, what name means a religious foundation, in which in return for an endowment the doles of the donor and their families will be prayed for? 

Bonus questions: Styles of French cooking 

a. Meaning a garnish of lobster, truffles and Mornay sauce, ‘à la Walewska’ means in the style of a mistress of which military and political figure?

b. Which area in south-west France, now mostly in the Dordogne département, gives its name to a truffle-based sauce or truffle garnish?

c. Sharing its name with a French film director, which style means garnished with mushrooms and truffles?

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24. Meanings of what four letter word include in pristine condition, the plant family also known as the dead nettle or sage that includes many culinary herbs, colloquially a large amount of money? 

25. The collaboration of the screenwriter Amy Jump and her husband the director Ben Wheatley include which film of 2015 based on a novel by J.G. Ballard and set in a luxury tower block? 

26. Amur, Siberian Brown and Norway are amongst the species of what small rodent of northern latitude? 

27. What city was the location of the Olympics that began at 8.08 local time on the eighth day of the eight month 2008?

28. Karen Uhlenbeck and Robert Langlands are among winners of which research prize? 

29. What middle letter is common to five letter words with these meanings: Adipose in the case of body tissue, milky fluid found in rubber trees? 

30. The areas in grey are continuous with the mainland of a sovereign state, the other colours surround the overseas territories of various nations. Name the country whose non continuous territorial waters are represented in dark blue. 

Now check your answers!   

1. Sigmund Freud 

2. Mersenne primes 

3. Astana, capital of Kazakhstan

4. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

5. Blanket or buttonhole stitch

6. Pineapple

7. Pine nuts

8. Korean peninsula 

9. Sleeping

10. Karl Marx

11. Nitrogen

12. Philosophy

13. Stravinsky

14. Northwest Territories

15. Bobsleigh or Skeleton

16. Myers–Briggs 

17. Critical

18. Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon

19. Tongue

20. Anthology 

21. Jaques 

22. 12 Monkeys 

23. Chantry

24. Mint 

25. High Rise

26. Lemming

27. Beijing 

28. Abel Prize

29. T 

30. USA  

Bonus questions 

Round one: Gases 

a. Hydrogen

b. Xenon

c. Helium

Round two: Roman Emperors

a. Nero

b. Claudius

c. Caligula

Round three: French cooking

a. Napoleon (Bonaparte / the First)

b. Perigord (‘à la Perigourdine’)

c. À la Godard 

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