What would you include if compiling a quiz about France?

Columnist Nick Inman prepares a syllabus to help you become a French quiz whizz

Find out what you need to know to become a French quiz champion, from geography to language
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I am a sucker for quizzes and part of the pleasure is secretly judging the person who sets them.

Sometimes, I scoff at a question for dealing with an obscure subject that no one is likely to be familiar with.

On the other hand, I love to be teased and tested by a question that I really should be able to answer as an averagely well-informed person.

The last person to know everything, they say, died in the early 19th century. Since then, the store of human knowledge has grown beyond anyone’s capacity to retain even half of it.

Nowadays, we have to be selective about what facts any reasonable person can be expected to regurgitate.

French general knowledge

Which leads me to ask my own question: what should we count as general knowledge about France?

I considered this while listening to France Inter’s daily quiz, Le Jeux des 1000 euros.

One of the contestants was a British woman who had taken French nationality.

She had measured her progress in French over the years, she said, first by being able to understand the questions on this quiz and then by becoming quick enough, and well informed enough, to answer them.

I admired her for having the guts to take part but my heart went out to her when she was asked the name of Louis XIV’s finance minister. The answer was Nicholas Fouquet, but who, except a professional historian, is going to know that?

Here is a first draft of a core syllabus on France. Have I left anything out?


A basic grasp of the country’s physical and human geography would seem essential since so much else depends on them: the names and locations of the main mountain ranges; the largest cities; the characteristics of each region; the most important tourist attractions; distinguished museums.


An understanding of the development of France from prehistoric times is key.

You do not have to name all Merovingian monarchs in order, but the 10 most high-achieving kings are important to know about.

The main events of the Revolution and the 19th century, which steered France from monarchy to republic, and the country’s role in the two world wars must be on the syllabus.

Politics and current affairs

The rudiments of the political system at all levels are crucial.

I do not expect you to know the names of all politicians or every prime minister, but presidents you should be able to do (and contenders for the next election) and leaders of the main parties.


We can leave out the reality TV stars who are famous for being famous but I would expect you to be familiar with the most conspicuous men and women of the day, including TV

presenters and philosophers.


The essentials of French literature are de rigueur. Ditto artists and musicians, directors and their films: learn the main ones in each category. TV shows are often cited in conversations and familiarity with them is useful.


No one can know the names of every sports personality but we should learn about the main ones, along with basic details of the most popular sports

in France and distinguished teams.

The economy

To understand France, we must know about its main industries, where they are, and about employment and the role of trade unions.

Science and technology

France is proud of its role in discovery since the Enlightenment. Learn about the

principal sciences and scientists.


Every quiz in France includes a question about the language. How do you spell a difficult word? Is a word masculine or feminine? It is an expert subject, but you should at least be able to make respectable guesses.

I would expect you to know about 80% of this, with revision. If you score less than 50%, see me.

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