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Mastermind is an ELT game played the same way as the Mastermind game, using with 5-letter words instead of colours. As an ELT game, it's basically an elaborate version of hangman.


Practice vocabulary, spelling.


First the teacher puts up five blanks on the board. Then the students guess a word, and the teacher leaves the right letter in place if it corresponds to its correct position in the target word but puts an asterisk for other correct letters which are NOT in right position. Students/class get five "goes" to work out the correct word.

The difference between this and hangman is that students have to guess/work out - and say - whole words, rather than individual letters.


  • 1. Teacher thinks of a word (e.g. CHAIR) and puts up _ _ _ _ _
  • 2. Students say TABLE (one letter is correct but not in the right place)
  • 3. Teacher puts _ _ * _ _ (one of the letters from CHAIR, the A, goes where the asterisk is)
  • 4. Students say LARGE
  • 5. Teacher puts _ * _ _ * (two of the letters from LARGE are correct but not in right places)
  • 6. Students say CRASH (four letters are correct, with two of them in right place)
  • 7. Teacher puts C*A_*
  • 8. Students say CHART (four letters correct, with three in right place)
  • 9. Teacher puts CHA*_
  • 10. etc. - but max. 5 goes

Number of letters[edit]

The game is traditionally played with five-letter words - although other possibilities obviously exist. Presumably there are too many four-letter words in English, and six-letter words are more difficult to manage. Nevertheless, there's no harm in experimenting.

See also[edit]