The Official Blog of the 2013 NAQT HSNCT

Quizbowl: A Brief Overview

Quizbowl is an academic competition between two teams (usually high schools or colleges) that rewards knowledge and quick recall.

Any school in the country can play quizbowl, although there are many different formats used. All teams at the HSNCT either had to qualify by performing well at a tournament on NAQT questions or by applying as a wild card team.

Games consist of the two teams, usually of 4 players each, listening to a moderator read toss-up questions as the players attempt to “buzz in” using a buzzer system to signal when they believe they know the correct answer. Correct responses to toss-ups are rewarded with a bonus question for the team that correctly answered the question. Incorrect responses may be penalized and the other team is allowed to hear the remainder of the question. The HSNCT uses timed matches, whereby teams compete during two 9-minute halves or until the entire packet of 26 toss-ups is finished. Most other tournaments just use 20 untimed toss-ups.

The process may be easier to understand by seeing it in action: these podcasts from 2009’s tournament are fine examples of full matches. This YouTube clip from the 2009 HSNCT also provides a good view of how toss-ups work.

Although it specifically examines college-level quizbowl, perhaps the best journalistic take on quizbowl is this 2008 Harvard Crimson article by Christian B. Flow that accurately captures the feel of playing in a tournament and the eclectic community of people that quizbowl attracts. Well worth a read.

All questions used at the HSNCT are pyramidal. That is, players who have more advanced knowledge and/or understand of the topic being asked about should be able to “buzz in” correctly before players with less knowledge. This is a key feature that separates quizbowl from being simply a trivia quiz and rewards players who read deeply rather than simply memorizing information.* Questions at the HSNCT follow a subject distribution that includes all aspects of the high school curriculum as well as some more advanced areas like the fine arts. The questions are written by a wide variety of current and former players and edited by NAQT’s staff (practically all of whom were former players themselves).

See a sample packet of HSNCT-level questions. And here’s a list of the 100 most commonly-asked works of literature in NAQT questions.

*[For a more in-depth discussion of the concept of “pyramidality” in questions, see this post by Dwight Wynne.]

Quizbowl is played all around the country (and even internationally). The HSNCT usually takes place around Memorial Day weekend, but tournaments take place all around the country throughout the year. See NAQT’s results and schedule [note: the schedule for next year has not been posted yet] pages for details


1 Comment »

  1. […] new to the world of quizbowl, I’ve put together a brief introduction to quizbowl that you can access here (complete with audio and video examples!) or you can simply email me/comment here for more […]

    Pingback by Pre-Tournament Prognostication OmniPost « The Official Blog of the 2010 NAQT HSNCT — May 24, 2010 @ 1:45 am | Reply

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