Q. what should you never do at a quiz? A: Cheat - like Harvard student Andy Watkins did

Contestants who did caused a scandal in the 1950s and cheating has just been uncovered at Harvard. But perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge

When, in the 1950s, it was revealed that there had been widespread cheating on US television quiz shows, an outraged President Eisenhower declared it “a terrible thing to do to the American people” and the whole affair ended in a Congressional hearing and an amendment to the Communications Act.

There has been no word, as yet, from President Obama on the news that America’s most esteemed university, Harvard, has been stripped of four national quiz championships awards after one team member was found to have cheated. One thing is certain, though, Americans take their quiz wins seriously.

So seriously that one member of the  Harvard “A” Team, Andy Watkins, accessed a website which gave the first 40 characters of the questions to be asked in the National Academic Quiz Tournament (NAQT) on the three successive years he took part.

Watkins, who graduated in 2011, had partial access to the questions which run the entire pub-quiz, general-knowledge gamut, as he was involved in setting the quizzes for high-school level students. It all sounds like the film Starter for 10, which hinges on skulduggery on University Challenge, although without the good-looking love interest.

In Britain a quiz league has never really gained traction. We have Jeremy Paxman’s unerring eye and a full television studio surrounding contestants instead, and no one has yet been accused of deception (though teams have been disqualified for having members who have recently graduated).

Cheating usually takes place much closer to home over here. Mainly down the pub. With its febrile mix of lager, smartphones and football trivia ( “who played in goal for West Bromwich Albion in the 1962….”) that’s often where the accusation: “you big cheaters” is thrown.

The writer Marcus Berkmann, question master at perhaps the country’s most respected pub quiz (held at the Prince of Wales in Highgate), doesn’t encounter cheaters often, he says. “It is very much frowned upon at our quiz. At other pub quizzes you hear about people Googling away merrily or sneaking off to the toilet. But there would be an element of lost reputation if a regular was caught at the Prince of Wales,” he says.

One suspects what is true of the Prince of Wales may not be so much so at some other less reputable quizzes, which, in my experience, can sometimes resemble a general knowledge boxing match, with nearly as much shouting.

Either way perhaps one ought not to judge cheaters such as Watkins too harshly.  Have we not all, perhaps in younger days, given in to that craven urge to sneak a look at the upcoming Trivial Pursuit cards or palm a handy Scrabble tile? President  Eisenhower would doubtlessly disapprove, but I know I have.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Life and Style
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java Developer - web services, XML and API

£330 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Lond...

Maths Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to teach Furthe...

Primary teachers required for schools in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style