About Quiz Bowl


So what is quiz bowl?

Quiz Bowl is an academic competition that involves two teams competing against one another to answer questions in numerous academic subjects like literature, history, science, and fine arts. Teams compete to answer tossups, questions that are typically three to five sentences long featuring clues that get progressively easier as the question goes on. A team that correctly answers a tossup will receive a corresponding bonus, a series of three questions typically with an easy, medium, and difficult part. Whoever finishes with the high score after 20 tossups wins the match.


Typically, there are four players on either team playing at any given time, but a team can have up to six registered players. Most quiz bowl games consist of 20 tossups and 20 bonuses; a player who "buzzes in" before a certain mark in the tossup rewards a team 15 points, while a player who "buzzes in" after a certain mark in the tossup rewards a team 10 points, interrupts (incorrect answers before the tossup ends) resulting in -5 points for a team. After an interrupt, that team can no longer answer the question. Three-part bonuses are given to the team that answers the tossup correctly, and teams can confer on each part of the bonus. 


Here is a typical breakdown of the subject distribution for a high school set. The "4/4" means that for every 20 tossups and bonuses, there are, for example, 4 history tossups and 4 history bonuses. 

4/4 History
-1.25/1.25 American 
-1.25/1.25 European 
-1/1 World 
-0.5/0.5 Ancient/Other
4/4 Science
-1/1 Biology
-1/1 Chemistry
-1/1 Physics
-1/1 Other
4/4 Literature 
-1/1 American
-1/1 British
-1/1 European
-0.5/0.5 World/Ancient
-0.5/0.5 Other/More American and British
2.5/2.5 Fine Arts
-1.25/1.25 Auditory Arts
-1.25/1.25 Visual Arts
0.75/0.75 Religion 
0.75/0.75 Mythology
1.5/1.5 Geography/Current Events 
-0.75/0.75 Geography
-0.75/0.75 Current Events/Modern World
1/1 Social Science/Philosophy 
-0.66/0.66 Social Science
-0.33/0.33 Philosophy
0.75/0.75 Popular Culture/Sports 
0.75/0.75 Other Academic/Miscellaneous/General Knowledge 


Tournaments in the downstate area specifically attract anywhere from 18 to 36 teams, while upstate tournaments have a wider range from 8 to 24. Tournaments are usually held from 9:00 to 5:00 on Saturdays with preliminary matches in the morning and playoff matches in the afternoons after a lunch break. Tournaments usually charge $50 to $80 per team, but teams can receive reduced fees for bringing a moderator (reader), bringing a working buzzer system, or traveling a far distance to the tournament. Typically, the morning matches are played round-robin style in which teams in a particular pool play every other team. Teams with similar records after five or six morning matches then play each other in new pools, the teams with near perfect records (5-0 or 4-1) playing each other in a championship bracket to determine the tournament's winner.



A list of podcasts from HSNCT tournaments can be found here.



So why start a team?

Quiz Bowl is a fantastic way for students to apply their knowledge from school and from individual studying to friendly competition with peers from all over. Quiz bowl questions are designed to reward knowledge in particular subjects that may not be taught in a high-school setting, allowing students to become more familiar with interesting subjects that may lead to a newfound appreciation of certain fields of research. By attending more tournaments and by utilizing more resources, students will learn more about various cultures and their scientific and historical advancements that have shaped society, even going so far as to dispel racial or ethnic stereotypes. 


Much of this knowledge can be applied to daily life, whether it be using evidence from court cases in political discussions, citing literature in essays, or just conversing with friends about art and music. Contrary to popular belief, trivia is not trivial, it is not a series of facts that have little to no meaning or purpose. By contextualizing this knowledge and by becoming more knowledgeable about the world, students gain greater insights into the world we live in, all while attending tournaments and meeting wonderful people from the community.

Quiz bowl is also a rather cost-effective extracurricular program: tournaments are at most $20-30 per person, questions are mostly available online on archives and databases, and buzzer systems for 10 or so people are around $250 and last for years. Fundraising at schools and hosting tournaments are also viable options for teams to raise money for their club.


Anyone can join and attend tournaments as well, with no GPA cutoff or grade level bias. Anyone committed to putting in the effort to learn more about particular subjects will see results quickly, especially with the help of teammates and people from other teams!