Test the Nation

Image:Test the nation logo.jpg



Anne Robinson (and Phillip Schofield from 2002-6 / Danny Wallace from 2006-7)


Announcer: Peter Dickson


Talent TV for BBC One, 11 May 2002 to 27 August 2007


The ultimate in playalong quizzes: a national test, no less, in which absolutely everybody can take part, by interactive TV, t'interweb, SMS text messaging or - crucially - just with a pencil and paper. Nothing too complicated, just 70 multiple choice questions over the course of about an hour and a half, a break for news, then a second programme going through all the answers. It's a brilliantly simple idea, and it works.

One of the reasons it works is that it's presented with some pizzazz. Anne Robinson's "queen of mean" persona on The Weakest Link was never all that convincing, and with Test the Nation it's completely demolished. Here, she gets to be herself, and she's got just the right mix of cheeriness and authority. You could imagine her at the helm of your local pub quiz, which is appropriate since this is basically a pub quiz on a very big scale. Also in the studio are around a dozen celebrities and about 250 members of the public, divided into six groups according to trade, hobby, hair colour or any other attribute that seems like a good idea. The rivalry between these groups adds to the fun. Phillip Schofield runs around a lot, talking to the members of the public and getting ridiculously excited about everything that happens in the studio. Just how much Pip 'n' Anne add to the proceedings is clear when you compare TTN to ITV's series of Great British Tests, which is basically the same format, but drained of the all-important fun factor. The original is still far and away the best.

Anne and Philip, about to test yer English

One of the really clever things about this format is that they chose to launch it with a National IQ Test. The debate over whether or not IQ actually measures anything worth measuring rumbles on, but quite honestly, who cared? The important thing is that it was a test everyone could have a go at, and ensured that the first show was a talking point, with people in schools, offices, shops and (probably) brothels up and down the country all asking each other on Monday morning, "Did you do it? What did you get?". The test was put together by Dr Colin Cooper, a mild-mannered psychologist from Queen's University, who became the latest in a long line of academics to become an apparently unlikely household name. What's more, unlike certain psychologists we could name, he seemed completely uninterested in self-promotion, which just endeared him to the nation even more.

Although the novelty quickly wore off, TTN was always a fun way of spending an evening. It was quietly discontinued in 2007, at just about the right moment, i.e. before we all got bored with it.

Episode list

11 May 2002 The National IQ Test
23 December 2002 The National 2002 Test
22 March 2003 The National Relationship Test
4 May 2003 The National IQ Test 2003
6 September 2003 The National Quiz
22 December 2003 The 2003 Test
20 March 2004 The Great British Test
22 May 2004 The IQ Test 2004
2 September 2004 The Popular Music Test
19 December 2004 The 2004 Test
12 March 2005 The Big Entertainment Test
4 June 2005 The 20th Century Test
8 October 2005 Know Your English Test
18 December 2005 The 2005 Test
29 May 2006 Know Your Planet Test
2 September 2006 The National IQ Test 2006
27 August 2007 The National IQ Test 2007

Key moments

When the results are revealed at the end of the answers show. There's never any statistically significant differences across the country, but somehow Phillip still manages to get unfeasibly excited about a one-point difference between average scores in, say, Belfast and Southampton. More like a thousandth of a point that trips the computer into rounding up rather than down, we're saying.


None as such, but much use of this formula:

"Is the top scorer among the butchers?" (butchers cheer) "No! Are they among the bakers?" (bakers cheer even louder) "No!" ...repeat for every group in the studio.


Based on a Dutch format.

Theme music

Hélène Muddiman


Test The Nation: The IQ Book (paperback)

Test The Nation: The Great British Test - Interactive (DVD)

Test The Nation: The Big Entertainment Test - Interactive (DVD)

Web links

Talent TV's Test the Nation pages

BBC "Test the Nation" pages

Opening titles from the BBC Motion Graphics Archive

See also

So You Think...?

The Great British Test


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