Quizzing in Email: An Innovation in the Inbox

Published March 15-18, 2023


Quizzes and Me

I love quizzes. Being able to answer a question creates an inner sense of joy and triumph. My earliest memory of experiencing this thrill was as a 10-year-old at Poona Club. I remember being asked a question about the profession of an individual whose name I cannot now recollect. I correctly answered (more like guessed), “Dancing.” It was right! I won a cash prize. I then had the option of answering a second question. If I guessed right, I could double my winnings. If I guessed wrong, I would lose what I won. Or I could choose to walk away with the cash – which is what I did. I figured the odds of me guessing correctly twice in a row were quite slim!

As a school-going kid, I remember listening to Bournvita Quiz Contest which was an inter-school quiz contest broadcast on radio every Sunday. I would then buy their annual book which had all the questions (and answers). I memorised many of them. I would ask my friends to ask me a question at random and more often than not I answered correctly. In the ninth standard at school, I was part of the four-member team that participated in the inter-school Nehru Science Centre quiz. One of the happiest moments of my childhood was winning the trophy – and getting a small segment shown on Doordarshan’s Marathi News (called Batmya).

In IIT, I realized there were many better quizzers than me! So, as hostel and Institute Literary Secretary, I switched to conducting quizzes. The ones I liked the most were the specialized ones – on PG Wodehouse and Sherlock Holmes. The esoteric knowledge that the winners had never ceased to amaze me!

Among my childhood memories is listening to BBC Mastermind on radio. (I used to watch the TV version later on.) The questions were tough – and I was happy if I managed to answer two or three questions before the participants. My “General Knowledge” had a long way to go. In India, a program that did very well in India was Siddharth Basu’s Quiz Time, an inter-collegiate contest broadcast on TV. In the early 2000s, I was captivated by KBC (Kaun Banega Crorepati, an Indian adaptation of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”). Watching “Jeopardy” reruns during the early pandemic months was also something I enjoyed.

Every once in a while, I will come across a quiz and I am willing to be challenged. There is something about the format which instantly attracts, challenges, educates, and tests. In schools and colleges, tests are called “quizzes”. It is a word that is never far away from even our adult lives – books, websites and apps abound.

As I was thinking of interesting AMP use cases, I thought of quizzes. None of us has seen a quiz in an email because emails have not been interactive. Clicking through to a landing page and then answering questions creates inertia and we just let the moment pass. Remembering to open an app daily and participate leaves quizzing to the most passionate. I asked myself: what if we combined the power of AMP in email with the attraction of quizzing? Imagine getting a few questions daily in the inbox and answering them – all in a matter of seconds. Could it bring back the excitement we all felt as casual quizzers in the early years of our lives?


Backgrounder – 1

Let’s start with a history of the quiz. From Britannica: “The earliest known appearance of the word quiz in print, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), is surprisingly recent—1782—and the word then referred to an odd-looking person… As a term that refers to a test of knowledge, the word quiz first appeared in print in 1867, according to the OED, when it applied specifically to a set of questions used to evaluate a person’s knowledge in an academic context. This specific sense of the word has survived and is still used by instructors to denote tests that are not long enough to qualify as examinations and are often not announced prior to being given to the surprised students. By the early 20th century, American newspapers were applying the word quiz to a form of amusement… The OED theorizes that [the change in meaning] may have occurred by way of association with the word inquisitive or question.”

A short answer from ChatGPT: “Quizzing has a long history, dating back to ancient civilizations where tests and competitions were used to measure knowledge and intelligence. In modern times, the first known quiz competition was held in the early 1700s in London, England. Quizzes became popular in the United States in the early 1900s, and were often used as a form of entertainment on radio and television shows. Today, quizzes are still used as a form of entertainment, but they also have many educational and professional uses. They are also widely used in online platforms and mobile apps for fun and for educational purposes.” It also explained the most popular formats:

  1. Multiple-choice format: This is one of the most common quiz formats, where participants are presented with a question and multiple answer choices, and they have to select the correct answer. This format is easy to grade and score and can be used for a wide range of topics and difficulty levels.
  2. True or False format: This format consists of statements that are either true or false, and participants have to indicate whether they believe the statement is true or false.
  3. Matching format: In this format, participants are presented with a list of items or concepts and have to match them with the correct category or definition.
  4. Fill-in-the-blank format: This format consists of questions or statements with one or more blank spaces that participants have to fill in with the correct word or phrase.
  5. Open-ended format: This format consists of open-ended questions that require participants to provide a written or verbal response. This format is often used for more in-depth or subjective questions.
  6. Team format: This format is where participants form teams and compete against other teams in answering questions, usually in a buzzer system.

Quizzes satiate our curiosity to learn and be tested – either individually or against others. As Britannica explains: “Curiosity is why most quiz events take place away from the spotlight, in dingy basements and rented halls on weekends. What drives serious quizzers is a combination of the desire to know more and more about the things they see and read about and the joy of retaining and recalling these unrelated facts in the heat of the moment to answer a question.”


Backgrounder – 2

In a 2000 column, Amelia Hill explained our love of quizzes. A short answer: “Because they fulfil a need for knowledge in society and they’re fun.” 98thpercentile adds: “Quizzes are a great way to have fun, but they can also be used as a tool for self-improvement. They can help you learn more about yourself and how others view you.” With the internet, quizzes have moved online. In a 2014 article, Wired wrote: “The reason quizzes have proliferated, of course, is the same reason they have any social relevance at all: We share our results with each other. As quizzes have become a lucrative option for online publishers, they’ve also a signifier of self, as indicative of who we are as the profile pictures we choose, the music we publicly listen to on Spotify, or even what kind of bath towels we just bought on Amazon. The fun isn’t taking the quiz—it’s showing the result to others.” The article quotes Sherry Turkle: “[Quizzes are] specifically for performance. Here, part of the point is to share it, to feel ‘who you are’ by how you share who you are. [It’s] the conflation of who you are and who thinks you’re okay.”

To a specific question on the problems that quizzes solve in our lives, here is the answer I got from ChatGPT:

  1. Education: Quizzes can be used to assess students’ knowledge and understanding of a particular subject or topic. They can also be used to test students’ retention of information and as a tool to improve learning.
  2. Entertainment: Quizzes can be used as a form of entertainment, whether in a live setting or on a television or online show. They can be used to engage audiences and create a sense of competition.
  3. Recruitment and selection: Quizzes can be used to assess the knowledge and skills of job candidates. They can also be used to test the cognitive abilities, logical reasoning and problem-solving skills and personality traits.
  4. Marketing and advertising: Quizzes can be used as a marketing tool to generate leads and engage with potential customers. They can also be used to promote a brand or product.
  5. Knowledge assessment: Quizzes can be used to test people’s knowledge on different topics, whether in a formal or informal context. They can also be used to identify areas for improvement and to provide feedback to the quiz takers.
  6. Memory retention: Quizzes can be used to test people’s memory retention and can help them to recall important information.

A Scientific American article from 2015 uses research to show that frequent tests can boost learning: “According to [Jeffrey] Karpicke, a professor of cognitive psychology at Purdue University, retrieving is the principal way learning happens. “Recalling information we’ve already stored in memory is a more powerful learning event than storing that information in the first place,” he says. “Retrieval is ultimately the process that makes new memories stick.” Not only does retrieval practice help students remember the specific information they retrieved, it also improves retention for related information that was not directly tested. Researchers theorize that while sifting through our mind for the particular piece of information we are trying to recollect, we call up associated memories and in so doing strengthen them as well.”

Quizzes have had some part in our lives – and for some, they probably still do. They educate and entertain, are teaching and learning moments, bring social recognition, and work as filters in recruitment. How can we bring them into our inboxes daily – to fill life’s empty moments and also the know-now ones?



I have written many essays about email and innovations like Ems (short emails), AMP (interactive emails) and Atomic Rewards (incentivised emails). We can combine all these ideas to create an interactive quiz email sent daily. The good thing about using AMP is that all the actions can be done right inside the email – eliminating the need for clickthroughs and landing pages. Think of the AMP email as an app (software) inside an email. It is a gamechanger for driving greater engagement within email. Combined with the push feature of emails, we can imagine a new service – let’s call it QuizMails – where quiz emails are delivered daily to our inbox.

Here is an outline of the features of QuizMails:

  • An email is sent daily with three quiz questions. Each question has a timer (few seconds) to ensure that there is not adequate time to do a Google search for the right answer. The questions are custom for every recipient – chosen from a large question bank.
  • Each question is multiple choice with four options – and a fifth “Skip” one. A right answer gets +4, a wrong answer -2, while a skip gets 0. These points can be given in the form of Mu.
  • As soon as one question is answered, the next question shows up in its place. Thus, answering the three questions would take no more than 20-30 seconds.
  • Mu can become the mechanism to unlock additional features: an additional question, an additional email daily, the ability to eliminate one of the wrong options to increase the probability of getting the right answer, and the option to increase the difficulty level of the questions for additional Mu.
  • A leaderboard can bring social recognition. The daily score (Mu earned) and leaderboard position can be shared on social media – and could help QuizMails with virality.
  • The QuizMails platform could then also be used for specialised questions: for test prep, specific verticals, on material read, and so on.

None of us has seen the combo of quizzes that can be answered in our emails. This will be a novelty, and with continuous innovation, has the opportunity to be a game that many of us would like to play. It can also work as a showcase for the richness and immense possibilities of what AMP and Atomic Rewards can do to bring to life the new worlds of Email 2.0 and Loyalty 2.0. A consumer success could encourage more brands to adopt these technologies to build better relationships with their existing customers, cut back on AdWaste, and supersize their profits.

Maybe QuizMails will help us rediscover the joy we experienced as kids and teens. One is never too old to be challenged by a quiz – especially if technology can help remove the friction in the experience.