20 Questions

20 questions, an icebreaker game about deductive reasoning

20 Questions is an extremely simple Question Answer Game that is widely played all around the world. It is also one of the most effective icebreaker and get to know each other game. It is perfect for rainy days, new group and even works flawlessly at blind dates.

20 Question became hugely popular during the 1940’s that’s when the radio picked it up and made a famous radio quiz game. It soon spread like a wildfire because of its simplicity and effectiveness.


Equipment: None (Optional Flashcards)

Time: 10-20 minutes

Group Size: 2-7

Effective Age Group: 15 and above

How to play 20 Questions?

  • One of the player is chosen to be the ‘answerer‘.
  • The answerer is denote by ‘it’ meaning s/he can be anything, an object, a historical figure, or even higshchool class teacher.
  • The answerer does not reveal his/her identity to other players.
  • Now the other players must ask yes/no questions to try and guess what the answerer really is.
  • But while asking questions, the other players should not exceed the question count beyond forty.
  • Now each player reveals their guess about the identity of answerer. One point is awarded for every correct guess.
  • Each player takes turns being the answerer and the one with maximum number of points takes home the prize.

Key Takeaways:

  • Lying is not allowed in this game. If players are caught lying, they should be automatically eliminated.
  • Select the questions carefully to increase the odds of winning. For example, a question such as “Does it involve technology for communications, entertainment or work?” allows the questioner to cover a broad range of areas using a single question that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. If the answerer responds with “yes,” the questioner can use the next question to narrow down the answer; if the answerer responds with “no,” the questioner has successfully eliminated a number of possibilities for the answer.


  • The most popular variation of 20 Questions is Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. This game is played similar to 20 questions but the answerer reveals at the beginning whether s/he belongs to animal, vegetable or mineral kingdom.
  • There is also a computerized version of 20 Questions. This AI game deducts your identity in 20 questions with great success.
  • This game is also used by English as a Second Language educators by specifying a topic (e.g. science, environment, wars, magic etc.)

Learning Outcomes:

  • 20 Questions plays a great part to improve the deductive reasoning of the players. Since they must pinpoint the source from seemingly overwhelming number of equally likely ideas, this game is a good mind exercise.
  • This game also helps to bolster the creativity of the participants.
  • When played as English as Second Language (ESL) game, 20 questions helps the participants to learn English effectively.

For those who like classic stuffs (like me) here is a rather old video of 20 questions in a TV show: