I auditioned for BBC Mastermind

I’m not as clever as I thought

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with quizzes. I think that University Challenge is the best show on TV, and once auditioned for the Birmingham team, I love watching re-runs of Who wants to be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link and I’m constantly try to drag my housemates to the S’Oak pub quiz every Monday night.


I can be on my own team

They say that “knowledge is power”, and there’s nothing more powerful than being right all the time.

One evening in November when I was visiting home, I was watching the classic BBC Two quiz show Mastermind with my parents. As I watched these so-called “masterminds” get question after question wrong during the General Knowledge round, I grew frustrated, claiming: “I could do much better than that.”

My Dad laughed and said: “Well if you think you’re so clever why don’t you apply then”.

Challenge accepted.

Much to my Mother’s horror, I whipped out my phone straight away and filled out the short online application form, choosing Harry Potter novels as my specialist subject.  I felt silently confident about having applied, as I never expected to hear back from the producers of the show.

One afternoon in March, I got an email from the BBC. My heart dropped as I assumed that this must be my long-awaited rejection email from their grad scheme.

Bracing myself for imminent rejection, I was equally surprised and horrified to read that it was from a producer of Mastermind who had been trying to reach me to conduct an audition for the show.



I replied, arranging a telephone audition for the next day and asking what the audition would entail.

That evening I swotted up on my specialist subject by taking all of the Buzzfeed “This is the hardest Harry Potter quiz you’ll ever do” tests, and watching reruns of the show to get a feel for the type of general knowledge questions I might be asked (I’d already seen all of the episodes of course).

I constantly refreshed my emails to see if the producer had responded to my question about the protocol of the audition. There was no response to this question before the call came the next day.

When the producer phoned the next day, he jumped straight into 20 general knowledge questions for me to answer. He asked me if I was ready and I thought “Yeah, I’ve got this”, until he asked me the first question, “In Geography, what do potomolagists study?”

I immediately retracted that thought, thinking “No..I don’t got this”.

I was encouraged to make an educated guess rather than passing, so I thought pots..soil goes in pots..potomolagists study soil? The producer didn’t sound too enthused by my efforts, and moved onto the next question.

Question after question of painstakingly debatable “educated” guesses or passes, we finally reached the last question.

The producer sounded exasperated by my ignorance at this point, as he asked “What mouse like rodent is suffixed with field, water or bank?” I panicked and answered shrew, but as we said goodbye and hung up the phone I shouted “NO IT’S VOLE I KNEW THAT”

The producer said if I don’t hear back within the next two months, to assume I haven’t made it through to the next round. I wasn’t allowed to know my exact score, but let’s just say I’m not waiting by the phone.

So, what have I learnt from this experience? Under pressure I’m not as clever as I thought I was, and I’ll never forget that potomology is the scientific study of rivers.


I think I’ll stick to Trivial Pursuit in my own black chair