Quizbowl (also known as Quiz Bowl, Scholastic Bowl, Brain Bowl, Academic Team, Academic Varsity Bowl, Academic Challenge, Academic Challenge Bowl, Scholar Quiz Bowl, Academic Quiz Team, Academic League, Academic Bowl, It's Academic, Battle of the Brains, Quick Recall, Knowledge Bowl, College Bowl, High School Bowl, Masterminds, or Whiz Quiz) is a family of games of questions and answers on all topics of human knowledge, commonly played in high school and college. The game is played with a lockout buzzer system between some number of teams, most commonly two teams of four players each. A moderator reads questions to the teams, whose players endeavor to buzz in first with the correct answer, scoring points for their team.
There are several different formats of Quiz Bowl, but they generally share the following rules for playing. (See Formats
Two teams of (typically) 4 players, sometimes 5, each sit at a buzzer set, which is like a set of TV game show buzzers. Anyone who rings or buzzes in prevents anyone else from doing so. If a round is timed, a countdown timer is used. Most questions have a 10 second time limit. Each game is played with a packet of questions, which a moderator reads.
There are two basic types of questions asked: tossups (typically worth 10 points) and bonuses (worth a maximum of 20–40points). Other types of questions include written or worksheet rounds (in which each team writes its answers down on separate pieces of paper) or lightning or rapid-fire rounds, which usually consist of ten questions and sixty seconds, with only one team given the chance to respond. The other team may have the chance to answer the questions the first team missed; then the second team gets its own set of questions, and the first team may get to answer any missed questions.
Tossup questions, commonly referred to as tossups, can be answered by any player from either team. Tossups must be answered individually, without the aid of teammates or the audience. Aid by teammates is known as conferring and is generally not allowed. The first person from either side to buzz in may attempt to answer the question. Unlike the current version of Jeopardy!
, one may interrupt the moderator and give an answer. If the answer given is incorrect, then no other member of their team may attempt to answer and only players from the other team may ring in. Only one player per team may try to answer a given question.
- Question interrupted, wrong answer given: -5 points. In some tournaments and formats, there is no penalty for a wrong answer on an interrupted question. This is rare in all forms of school (both high school and college) play. Depending on the region, this may be called a "neg" or a "neg 5," from the word "negative."
- Wrong answer given after end of tossup: 0 points
- Right answer given, any time during/after question: 10 points
- Some formats require the moderator to call the answerer's name after they have rung in. Otherwise, the team gets only 5 points instead of 10. In some formats, failing to wait until recognized is the equivalent of a wrong answer (0 or -5 points)
Some formats, such as NAQT, add an opportunity for extra points on a tossup question by buzzing in before a predetermined point in the question. This is known as a "power" tossup, and rewards a buzz made before the easier clues have been read:
- Question interrupted early, right answer given: 15 points
In a similar vein, PACE has a so-called stretch round, in which any questions answered correctly before the moderator says the words "for ten points" and begins the next word are worth 20 points.
If a tossup is successfully answered, the answerer's team is given a bonus question.
Bonuses can only be answered by one team (at the high school level, some formats allow the other team to answer parts of the bonus question which the first team fails to answer; this is called rebounding or a bounce-back). The team may work together (confer) to answer the bonus question. Usually, bonus questions require multi-part answers, and tossups single-part answers.
- Total of 20 to 30 points possible (ACF and NAQT formats currently set all bonuses at 30 points)
- Often have multiple parts, each worth a small number of points (most typically, three parts, each worth 10 points)
- No penalty for wrong answers
- Scoring is only done in multiples of 5 (except in rare cases in the Illinois system when there are 3 or 5 part bonuses, the usual is 4 parts)
Games are either played in timed halves, or until a set number of tossups are read. In the case of a tied score, a tiebreaker is used. The nature of the tiebreaker varies by tournament and format. If a player or team feels that a question is in error, a protest may be made.If the tossup would have affected the outcome of the game. than this causes the question to be held for reevaluation, at which time points are adjusted if the points.
Face-Offs are where a person on one team is given a question and is only playing against the person on the other team that is sitting right across from them. The other person can rebound if it is missed and there is no penalty for wrong answers. Normally, the questions that are given to each set of people in the Face-Off are related.
Overtime only happens if there is a tie at the end of regulation play. This varies from format to format, and may include extra toss-ups until the score changes, entire toss-up/bonus sets until one team leads at the end of a set, a multiple-toss-up playoff, or a timed period of 1 or 2 minutes.
At the college and high school level, most questions are on subjects generally covered in a liberal arts education, or the liberal arts component of a degree. These include literature
; social sciences
; fine arts
, and philosophy
; and general knowledge. The choice of subjects and number of questions on each is called question distribution. To a lesser extent, questions are asked on engineering
topics (including computer science
), and popular culture
, referred to as "Trash."
Subjects in "Trash" games are generally considered to be current events, sports, pop culture, and some parts of the "general knowledge" catch-all. Much of traditional non-academic trivia falls under this heading. The use of the word "trash" in reference to these subjects was originally derogatory, but "trash-lovers" have reclaimed the word, and many label themselves "trash-meisters" or similarly with pride.
Between the college and high school level, there are several styles of writing questions. While some are frowned upon, and other styles more generally favored, each style "tests" for a particular skill or type of recall.
Buzzer beater, fast-buzz, or quick-recall questions are short with a single clue, and relatively simple. They have virtually disappeared at the college level, and are frowned upon as "bad quizbowl" by most high school players that compete at higher levels (such as at national tournaments). Most question companies do not include this type of question. An example:
QUESTION: "Which company makes Macintosh computers?"
ANSWER: Apple (Computers)
This type of question is written specifically to test quick recall skills of players, and does not discriminate the different levels of knowledge that the players possess, as pyramid-style questions do. As such, these questions are frowned upon by players with a deeper knowledge base because they lose their advantage. It is the player with higher confidence and faster reflexes who will answer first. Players who answer quickly are often said to have a "trigger finger."
Pyramid-style or pyramidal toss-up questions include more clues, tapering from difficult to easy. The last sentence generally includes the phrase "for 10 points" to signal that the question is almost over. This type of toss-up is the standard style written in college tournaments, as well as the high school tournaments which tend to attract stronger teams. Compare this example to the "buzzer beater" above:
QUESTION: In 1977, this Silicon Valley garage startup sold its computers for $666.66. In late 1997, it became a Fortune 500 company led by one of its two founding Steves, hoping that the public would "Think different" and buy more of "The computer for the rest of us.". For ten points, name this company which in 1984 introduced the Macintosh and now sells its popular iPod.
ANSWER: Apple (Computer)
Unlike Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy!, quizbowl players may interrupt the question and answer at any time. The lead-in clue ("In 1977, this Silicon Valley garage startup sold its computers for $666.66") uniquely identifies the desired answer, but is obscure enough so that those with deeper knowledge can answer earlier. As the question progresses, the clues become more accessible: Fortune 500, two founders named Steve, "Think Different", etc. The final "giveaway" clue, given after the phrase "for ten points", is often the easiest, such that most teams will be able to answer by this point.
Pyramid-style questions are designed to give the player with the stronger background in that area the best opportunity to answer first. It is for this reason that pyramid style toss-ups are popular with stronger players, as it typically removes (or at least reduces) the element of a "race of reflexes" or "buzzer race" to answer questions, and rewards the more studied player.
Few questions may potentially penalize the more studied players, when the lead-in clue is not unique; they may wait for a later clue to rule out a more obscure possibility, while a player knowing only the more common answer can answer first. An aspect of some pyramidal questions is to eliminate possible answers to the question by introducing clues that are uniquely identifying towards the correct answer. For example:
QUESTION: This American author was an ambulance driver in World War I. His experiences in the war, including a hospitalization where he fell in love with a nurse, gave inspiration to his novels such as A Farewell to Arms. Name this author of For Whom the Bell Tolls who won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea.
ANSWER: Ernest Hemingway
At "This American author", the answer is narrowed down to the subject of literature and American authors. By "World War I," the answer is narrowed down further. (This particular clue is famous in quizbowl circuits as a common clue to penalize less studied players; many authors were ambulance drivers in World War I) This question is poorly written in that there are no uniquely identifying clues until the title A Farewell to Arms; this clue could be considered a giveaway and may start a buzzer race without any obscure clues being presented beforehand.
One potential disadvantage of pyramid-style play is longer match times, because the questions are longer. This is sometimes countered by implementing timed matches, such as NAQT's nine-minute half. Moderators will also read questions at a quick pace to counteract slowdown. Writing pyramid-style toss-ups can be more difficult because the answer must have many clues, ordered from unique and obscure to giveaway, without tapering too quickly or slowly.
There are two styles of mathematics tossups; computational and non-computational. Non-computational questions are generally math history or involve a specific aspect of mathematics, and are similar to the other subject areas. Computational mathematics ask the player to solve a math problem, which is dissimilar to the other subject areas. Computational math problems are harder to write in pyramidal style as they generally do not feature an obscure clue that can uniquely identify an answer. As such, many pyramidal quizbowl formats will ask fewer or even no questions about computational mathematics when compared to formats that are not primarily pyramidal; for instance, the average NAQT packet will have two or perhaps three computational questions in a twenty-six question packet (as opposed to about five literature questions). Typically, players are given extra time to solve the problem.
One strategy used to implement pyramidality into computational math is to offer clues on how to solve the problem; during this time, weaker players can figure out how to work the problem, while stronger players are given a head start in computation time.
A common strategy for computational mathematics questions is to ring in on these questions before they actually know the answer. Many formats give a player time to answer any question after they ring in; on computational math, the player can have generally anywhere from 3–5 seconds in which they can work the problem, but nobody else can ring in. However, this strategy is potentially risky; if the player cannot solve the problem in 5 seconds, no player from his team can ring in again, whereas the other team usually will have additional time in which they can continue to work out the answer.
Bonus questions may or may not (as in the case of NAQT style formats) be related to corresponding tossups.
Multi-part bonus questions are often seen in a patterned format; that is the individual parts of a bonus question are often related by some common thread. This common thread is often revealed (though not always) in the opening part of the bonus question (called the "lead-in"). For example:
BONUS: Given the title of an Irving Stone biography, identify the subject.
- Lust for Life
- The Passions of the Mind
- Greek Treasure
- The Agony and the Ecstasy
- (Vincent) VAN GOGH
- (Sigmund) FREUD
- (Heinrich) SCHLIEMANN
- (Charles) DARWIN
- MICHELANGELO (di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni) [alt: Buonarroti]
These bonus questions are usually the simplest to write, and this style is the most commonly encountered at virtually all levels of play.
Just like "buzzer beater" questions, patterned bonus questions are held in lower regard by most of the better players, as it is the type of question that removes the advantage of working as a team to answer the questions. These questions are more commonly encountered in areas involving mathematics. For example:
BONUS: "Given a pair of resistors, give their equivalent resistance if they were connected in parallel with each other."
- 2 ohms and 2 ohms
- 3 ohms and 5 ohms
- 10 ohms and 20 ohms
- 8 ohms and 16 ohms
- 1 ohm
- 1 and ⅞ ohms
- 6 and ⅔ ohms
- 5 and ⅓ ohms
This bonus question tests only a single skill, thus if only one player has memorized the skill, the question is reduced to one question, repeated four times.
Some bonus questions are not broken into specific parts. Instead, players must be able to give their answers from a requested list. This is a stereotypical (some say the
stereotypical) list question:
BONUS: In any order, identify any five of the six nations which border India.
- (People's Republic of) China
- (Federal Democratic Republic of) Nepal
- (People's Republic of) Bangladesh
- (Islamic Republic of) Pakistan
- (Kingdom of) Bhutan
- (Union of) Myanmar [alt: Burma]
This is another very popular style of writing for bonus questions. This style of question writing typically gives less information and forces teams to recall larger chunks of information all at once, and critically consider multiple options that the team may come up with; some of which may be wrong.
30-20-10 (and variants)
This type of bonus gives three (or some other number) discrete clues in order of decreasing difficulty; with the decreasing difficulty comes decreased point value, providing an incentive to answer the earlier clue. In NAQT format, whose question writers are particularly fond of 30-20-10 bonuses, a correct answer after the first clue is worth 30 points, one after the second clue is worth 20 points, and a correct answer given after the third clue is worth 10 points. Virtually any pyramidal tossup can be modified to create a 30-20-10. In general, the team may offer an answer after every clue in a 30-20-10.
An example of a 30-20-10 might be:
- 30-20-10. Identify the author from works.
- 30. Player Piano, his debut
- 20. Slapstick"
- 10. Slaughterhouse-Five
Answer: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
For tournament purposes, a format covers rules of play and question structure/content. For questions, this includes question topics, clue difficulty, order of clues, and writing style. Rules of play include player eligibility, scoring of questions, acceptable answers, and procedures for protesting a question.
In particular, ACF, CBCI, HCASC, NAQT, and UC each have distinctive formats. Also, certain college tournaments and programs have developed their own distinctive formats. A few of them include the University of Pennsylvania (Penn Bowl), University of Michigan MLK, Stanford University, and Deep Bench (University of Minnesota/Carleton College).
ACF format has a rigorous emphasis on academics. There is no limit on graduate student participation. Questions are almost all on academic topics, and are more difficult than other formats. Toss-up questions are typically in pyramid style, with more difficult clues coming first, and a question should be answerable from any clue read. ACF is untimed; questions are generally much longer than CBCI questions. Games are usually played to a total of 20 tossups read.
CBCI or College Bowl format emphasizes comparatively short questions on academics, current events, pop culture, and general knowledge. The limits on participation are 6 years total in CBCI tournaments and only one graduate student per team. Questions tend to be structured so that most of the players know the answers to tossups read in their entirety. It is played in 8 minute halves, to a usual total of 22–24 tossups read, though there's no actual limit and 30-toss-up games, though quite rare, have occurred. Game play is relatively quick as a result. Related formats are HCASC (Honda Campus All Star Challenge) and UC (University Challenge).
NAQT format balances the diversity of subjects found in CB packets with question difficulty often seen in the ACF format. The limits on participation are complex; in a nutshell, as long as you're earning a degree, you can play. It is based on the Penn Bowl/MLK format. Game play is markedly different from ACF or CB. Timeouts and player substitution during timeouts are allowed. The NAQT also uses power tossups (extra points earned for a tossup answered early). Game length can vary a little, but a standard length for NAQT is 9 minute halves and a total of 28 tossups. National/Regional tournaments follow these formats very closely, while invitationals often modify these formats for their own use. NAQT also writes questions and helps organize tournaments at the high school level.
Other competitions evolved from these formats include competitions testing knowledge in the Bible, Latin, modern foreign languages, nursing, business ethics, Black History, athletic training, cooking, and hundreds of other specialities. Many medical schools use quiz bowl-style competitions as part of their "grand rounds" specialty training for students and interns. In the 1990s, "Deaf College Bowl" for university teams with hearing-impaired students emerged. TRASH is a format that focuses on pop culture and sports trivia.
In addition, other variants on the above quiz bowl formats are used at the high school level, including such formats as those of the Ohio Academic Competition (OAC), Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence (PACE), and the Panasonic Academic Challenge (PAC or simply "Panasonic").
, a Lithuanian
competition similar to the quizbowl games, the participants are primarily university students (including pregraduates, postgraduates and ones studying for PhD
). As students of different fields and from different faculties
and universities takes part in the competition, questions about different subjects are presented. The questions are usually about very minor subjects that are not known to the general public but it is possible to guess them if thinking logically. Therefore, to answer the questions one needs both knowledge and the ability to think logically. Each match of Protmušis consists of 10 questions (with a possibility of overtime
if a playoffs
match results in draw), one point is awarded for each question that is answered correctly and none are deducted for incorrect answers. The team members has one minute to discuss in order to find the correct answer. Each championship lasts for about four months.
United Kingdom: Schools' Challenge and University Challenge
There are two annual versions of Schools' Challenge
, a UK variant on Quizbowl, for High School students aged up to 13 and for 14-18 year olds. Tossup starter questions worth ten points are followed by bonuses given to the team answering correctly (3 x 10 points). A correct starter plus three bonuses is rewarded with a further ten points. The competition is split into eight regions, with regional winners meeting in a national final, contested over a weekend.
University Challenge is the equivalent competition for Universities. Despite their names,the two competitions are independent of one another. In University Challenge: tossups are worth 10 points; bonuses 3 x 5 points; tossup + 3 bonuses a further 5 points; incorrect interruption on tossup, -5 points.
Academic Competition for Excellence
Academic Competition for Excellence
, commonly shortened to "ACE," it is played in parts of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. One example is Forsyth County (North Carolina) and its academic competition program
. Administrators often prefer this brand of competition, due to its lack of pop culture and to the larger number of students that can play. (However, any form of quizbowl can have pop culture excluded and can be tweaked to permit large numbers of students to play.)
In most forms of ACE competition, there are four subject-area teams (math, science, social studies, and English) and an all-around team. A meet consists of the subject-area and all-around teams from the two schools competing. No one may play on two subject-area teams, although they may play on a subject-area team and the all-around team. Although exact rules vary by league, nearly all formats will have tossups and directed questions (similar to the VHSL format) in each subject-area and all-around competition.
Alabama Scholastic Challenge
Alabama's quiz bowl system consists of four periods, each with varrying point values. The first period contains 10 tossup questions worth 5 points each and has a variety of questions. The second period has 10 tossups questions worth 10 points each with each correct answer offering 2 bounce-back bonus questions worth 10 points each. The bonus questions are generally related to the original question. The third round is a 2-minute, 20 question worksheet worth 5 points each. The worksheet normally has a theme to it, such as "Famous suicides" or "All answers begin with 'H'." Finally the last period is 10 tossups worth 15 points each.
Teams generally have 4 players, with 2 alternates, who can be switched after every round. In addition, alternates are allowed to participate in the 3rd period of each game.
Alabama, like most states, has various regional tournaments, most of which are junior high-level. One of the largest of which is the Alabama Bay-Area Scholastic Challenge (ABASC). The tournament, like most regionals, occurs annually, with a Most Valuable Player being chosen each year. For example, the MVP for the 2008 tournament, which occurred March 14, was Garrison Odom of Jackson Middle School.
Illinois Scholastic Bowl
In the Illinois format of Scholastic Bowl, two teams of five players compete. 10 points are awarded for a correct tossup and no points are deducted for an incorrect interrupt. An exception to this is the 'Blurt Rule', where one answers a tossup before he/she is recognized by the judge. 5 points are awarded for a correct answer and no points for an incorrect answer in a 'Blurt Rule' situation. Although many schools have challenged rules to make the 'Blurt Rule' official, the IESA rejected their protest. Schools still play by this rule, although in Regionals and Sectionals, it hurts them in points. The bonuses are worth 20 points, usually divided into 4 parts worth 5 points each, but occasionally divided into 5 parts worth 4 points each or 3 parts where 6 points are awarded for one correct response, 13 for two, and the full 20 for all three parts correct. The other team has an opportunity (called bounceback
or "rebound") to get the parts of the bonus that the tossup-answering team missed. In a three part bonus, the rebounding team's first correct answer is worth 6 points, even if the first team answered one correctly. This can lead to a fully answered bonus being worth a total of 19 points. (At the middle school level, the first correct answer in a 3-part bonus question is worth 7 points.)
The Illinois format is unique in that Mathematics, including calculation questions, is recognized as a full category, and is weighted equally to Language Arts, Social Sciences, and Science, which each make up a fifth of the questions. Starting in 2007, Fine Arts constitutes slightly more than ten percent of the remaining questions (four out of 30 possible questions at the state level), with Miscellaneous topics (such as Business, Technology, Pop Culture, Sports, and Interdisciplinary, which can derive from any combination of topics from any category) making up the remainder.
Matches in the Illinois High School Association state championship series have 30 toss-ups; most independent tournaments and leagues will follow other IHSA rules but shorten the matches, 20 tossups is a typical length to keep tournaments on track and reduce fatigue on both moderators and players; some elementary-level matches have a maximum of 30 toss-ups and a maximum of 20 bonuses, with the match ending once either set is used up. Still, some conference and tournament matches are shortened to 16 questions with 8 question halves.
Matches are not timed to determine the end of a half or of the game. Halftime occurs after half of the tossups have been read. Once the moderator has finished reading the tossup, players have ten seconds (fifteen seconds at the middle school level) to buzz in to answer the question. Players are given 30 seconds after the completion of a computational tossup to buzz in with the answer. Overtime is decided with both a toss-up and bonus question.
The Illinois style bonus is also unique in that all parts of the bonus are read before the team is given a chance to answer; once the bonus has finished being read, the teams have a maximum of 30 seconds to confer to work or share answers. The 30 second time limit applies for both computational and non-computational questions. Once the conferral time has ended, the team that answered the tossup correctly gives the answers to the bonus all at once. The opposing team is then given the chance to answer the questions that rebound to them.
Kansas SHSAA Scholars' Bowl
The Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) Scholars' bowl consists of a format in which two teams of four players compete in a 16 question round. There generally are five players on each team, but only four can compete in any one round. The questions are 10 points each for a correct answer and a penalty of 5 points is deducted if a player buzzes in early and provides an incorrect answer. The questions are divided into categories. There are 3 social science questions, 3 language arts, 3 science, 3 mathematics, 3 fine arts, and one year-in-review or current event question. In some tournaments, there are only two fine arts questions, with the remaining question being foreign language or miscellaneous. Ten seconds are given after the question is read for a player to buzz in and answer. Longer time is provided on mathematics questions that require computation. It is a buzzer-beater style where the first person to buzz in is the only person who can give the answer. If that person gives a wrong or unacceptable answer, then the other team is allowed five extra seconds to buzz in and answer the question. If an action takes place that displeases the other team, such as an illegal procedure from the other team that the moderator or judge over looks, the team captain may challenge by buzzing in and stating the problem.
Kentucky Association for Academic Competition Governor's Cup
KAAC sponsors the Governor's Cup
, an academic event involving 20,000 students and 1200 Elementary, Middle and High Schools. The Governor's Cup version of Quiz Bowl is known as Quick Recall
, and is only one of eight Governor's Cup events. KAAC uses a straight tossup/bonus format with timed responses and two timed halves. There are four players per team. A bank of five officials—moderator, judge, scorer, spotter, and timer—officiates each match. All officials must achieve certification before they may officiate a Governor's Cup match.
KAAC has employed the bounce-back bonus since 2001. Questions are equally divided among mathematics, science, social studies, language arts and arts/humanities. All questions are worth one point, with no deduction for an incorrect answer. Tie matches are decided in a first-to-five overtime period. There is a formal inquiry process should disputes arise regarding the application of rules or questions/answers.
Missouri MSHSAA Academic Competition
In the Missouri State High School Activities Association format of quiz bowl play, there are two teams, each consisting of four players. Each tossup is worth 10 points, and each part of the four-part bonus is worth 5 points. Answering before recognized, not beginning your answer within three seconds of being recognized, or giving an incorrect answer results in a rebound to the other team for the same number of points, although with less time given, or, if neither team gets it or both commit a rule infraction, play goes to the next question. Questions are starting to be more pyramidal, and are organized into four rounds. The first and third rounds each contain only 15 tossups. The second and fourth are 10 tossups, each followed by a four-part bonus question if the tossup is answered correctly.
North Carolina Academic Team Association Format
The format endorsed by the N.C. Academic Team Association is used only in the organization's championship tournament, the North Carolina Open Academic State Tournament (NCOAST). Matches are divided into three sections: the category round (a question directed to each team on a particular topic, and a tossup on the same topic that either team may answer); the alphabet round (a twenty-question worksheet - all answers begin with the same letter); and a lightning round of ten questions worth ten points up or down.
Only NCOAST uses this format, but many tournaments run throughout North Carolina adopt at least parts of this format.
Ohio Academic Competition
The state of Ohio uses the Official Rules for the Ohio Academic Competition (OAC) to conduct the state academic competition, which is conducted each year in the spring. The competition is between two teams with four players and is very similar to the one used in North Carolina. Teams may only substitute in the middle of the regular rounds (after the Life Science category Questions), after the last regular round (before the alphabet round), and after the alphabet round (before the lightning round). There are ten (10) regular rounds of questions. These include the following categories: American Literature, Mathematics (Algebra I & II, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, Geometry), World History, Fine Arts, Life Science, English/World Literature, U.S. Government, Physical Science, World Geography, & U.S. History. Each team will receive a team question and a toss-up in each category. The team will have ten (10) seconds to attempt to answer the team question. If the team gets the question right on the first attempt, the team receives two (2) points (one point for a second attempt before the ten seconds has expired if correct). If the team doesn't get the answer correct within the ten (10) seconds on their two (2) attempts, the other team gets a chance to answer the question. If the team gets the answer correct, the team gets one (1) point (or bonus). Team questions alternate from team to team to determine which team gets the first question in each category. Each category will also consist of a toss-up question worth two (2) points. The first team to "buzz" will be given the chance to answer. If that team doesn't get the question correct, then the other team will have a chance to answer. The alphabet round consists of twenty (20) questions (dealing with any of the above categories) in which the answer begins with the chosen alphabet letter. Each question is worth one (1) point. The team gets five (5) minutes to answer these questions. If a team gets all twenty questions correct, the team receives five (5) bonus points. The lightning round consists of twenty (20) rapid-fire questions (dealing with any of the above categories). Each question is worth one (1) point. The first team to "buzz" in and answer the question correctly gets the point. If the first team doesn't have the correct answer, then the other team gets an opportunity to answer the question. If the two teams are tied after these questions, five (5) additional lightning round questions will be given to decide the match.
Teams that have won their local tournaments of other qualifying tournaments are invited to twelve regional sites--East Central (Jefferson Community College, Steubenville); Northeast (Copley High School, Copley); Northwest (Defiance High School, Defiance); Southeast (Shawnee State University, Portsmouth); Southwest (Cincinnati State, Cincinnati); & West Central (Tippecanoe High School, Tipp City). A winner and a runner-up from each regional are then invited to the state tournament, which is currently held on the campus of Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio. The twelve teams at the state competition are placed into two six-team pools. Pool play then begins with each team playing each other once. The winner of Pool A plays the runner-up in Pool B. The winner of Pool B plays the runner-up in Pool A. The winner of those two matches play in the championship match while the two losers play in the third place match.
Individual schools, competitions, invitationals, and tournaments within the state of Ohio may use any academic competition format they prefer. However, once the official state competition begins, then the OAC rules will be closely followed.
Vermont Scholars' Bowl
Vermont Scholars' Bowl is a league that has matches that consist of three rounds in which there is a 10 minute tossup-bonus round with bounceback questions, followed by each team having a 60 second rapid fire round with a 45 second followup to the opponent's missed answers, followed by a 9 minute tossup round. Tossups are all worth 10 points each, bonus questions are multi-part and go up to 20 points. If a team rings in early and is incorrect, they are assessed a 5 point penalty. Teams play 4 players in the first and third round, and up to six in the second. Substitutions may be made between rounds.
The league is split up into 7 geographical regions in the fall in which each team plays one another at least once. In the playoffs, the top eight teams comprise the A division and play in a modified double elimination in which the two teams that go 2-0 and the two that go 2-1 go onto the final playoff day. All the other teams, the B-division, play in a single elimination tournament. The two top teams from the B division are promoted the A division for the following season, while the two A division teams that went 0-2 are relegated to the B-division for the following year.
The champion of the B division gets to meet one of the 2-1 teams for a play-in for the fourth Final 4 slot. The semifinals and final match follow this play-in.
Virginia High School League Scholastic Bowl
Unlike in Illinois and Missouri, the Virginia High School League
format is only used in VHSL state series competitions, and other tournaments have a variety of formats (although the most prevalent is the tossup-bonus style seen in collegiate competitions). Each team has four players. Each match has three rounds: the first is 15 tossups, the second is ten directed questions per team and the third is 15 tossups. All questions are worth 10 points and there is a 5-point penalty for incorrect interrupts on tossups. If a team misses its directed question, the other team has a chance to answer the question and get the points. Tossups are pyramid style, although areas such as foreign language and grammar will tend to be more represented in the directed question round. Like other VHSL competitions there are three levels: district, regional, and state. The District round is a round robin tournament and the first and second place finishers in each district enter the regional (generally held in the same location at the same day). The regional and state tournaments are eight team double elimination
tournaments and the top two teams in regionals move to the state championships held at the College of William and Mary
is a Latin variation of the Quiz Bowl. There are three levels of competition: Novice, Intermediate, and Upper. The National Junior Classical League
(NJCL) runs the most prestigious Certamen tournament, pitting state teams against each other.
Quiz Bowl is generally played at tournaments, though high schools will also commonly play single matches against local schools, or schools within an athletic conference. Many schools hold on-campus tournaments (intramurals
) where anyone can play. Some schools have programs which practice weekly (or more) during the school year. These programs are generally open to all students. They often include in their names "College Bowl," "Academic Competition," or "Quiz Bowl." They send teams to invitational tournaments sponsored by other schools or organizations.
For Quiz Bowl, a tournament is a gathering of teams who engage each other in several rounds of games. A tournament winner is determined using some criteria (win-loss record, playoff record, etc....). There are several classes of tournaments, which may use one of several formats.
Intramural tournaments invite students on a given campus to form teams and play. They are often called campus tournaments. On occasion, such tournaments may be open to teams of graduate students, and/or campus staff.
Invitational tournaments involve teams from various schools. They are run by the Quiz Bowl team/program at a given school. Invitations are sometimes sent to individual programs. However, most tournaments give out open invitations for any school to accept.
Major variants of Invitational tournaments include National/Regional, Junior Bird, "Masters", and "trash" (popular culture) tournaments.
Such tournaments often have qualification requirements, sometimes including purchase of intramural tournament packets, or participation in regional tournaments (or other tournaments). They have unique rules above their associated formats, usually concerning eligibility and number of teams per school.
Junior Bird or Novice tournaments
Junior Bird or Novice tournaments are restricted to collegiate players in their first or second season. Freshmen and sophomores are the intended market, but upperclassmen or grad students who meet the criteria are sometimes allowed to play. These tournaments aim to support player development by providing experience against other teams of similar skills, and to give newer players a chance to compete without being dominated by long-time veterans. The unusual name "Junior Bird", originally used by Emory University
, derives from a famous tournament held at Berry College
, the "Early Bird", which was held early in the quizbowl season (though the Early Bird is open to all undergraduates).
Some tournaments are restricted to undergraduate collegiate players (excluding graduate students). Variants on this format permit teams to have a total of X years of experience (e.g. four freshman or sophomores, three juniors, but only two seniors), as quizbowl skill is thought to be proportional to experience.
Masters tournaments are tournaments which do not place any restrictions on who may play. They are intended for those who want to play with people from other schools, have graduated, or are otherwise ineligible for college play. The intent behind them varies.
Trash tournaments are similar to Masters tournaments, except that all the questions are on trash subjects. Because of the non-academic format and lack of eligibility restrictions, a few trash teams consist of people (especially bar trivia
enthusiasts) who have never competed in the academic side of quiz bowl.
Collegiate National Tournaments
At the College level, there are academic tournaments run by organizations not affiliated with a given school. These generally have regional competitions followed by a national championship. These organizations include:
- College Bowl - traces its history to 1953, but was suspended after the 2007-08 season by the College Bowl Company, Inc. (CBCI).
High School National Tournaments
Just as there are several college-level national champtionships, there are a number of high school tournaments that claim to be national championships in the United States. These include:
- High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT) is sponsored by National Academic Quiz Tournaments since 1999. While the site of the tournament originally rotated, it has been held in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont since 2005. It and NSC are by far the most prestigious high school championships.
- National Academic Championship (NAC) has been held since 1983, and is sponsored by Questions Unlimited. The tournament is played at three sites throughout the nation every year.
- National Scholastics Championship (NSC) has been held since 1988, and is organized by the Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence (PACE). The competition has been held at various sites in the South, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.
- Panasonic Academic Challenge (PAC or simply "Panasonic") has been held since 1988, and is sponsored by the school boards of the local counties and the State of Florida. It is traditionally held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
- ASCN hosted a national tournament from 1987 through 2005 at Lake Forest College in Illinois. The 2006 tournament was cancelled.
Junior High School National Tournament
- Questions Unlimited also sponsors the Junior National Academic Championship, just started in 2007.
Tournament scheduling at invitational tournaments is often in the form of a Round-robin
, where each team plays each other team once. The top teams may engage in a playoff. Some tournaments (historically College Bowl
) have used single-elimination
, but this reduces the number of matches each team can play, and has been criticized on the college-circuit. Large tournaments have employed Swiss pairs
. Sometimes bracket-play is employed, where each team plays others in a round-robin within a bracket, and the top team(s) move on to another round-robin or a playoff.
Eligibility rules depend on the game. For the college game, in official College Bowl
or other events, there are severe eligibility rules, while other tournaments differ on whether senior or only junior undergraduate, graduate, and even non-students can play. In general the less skilled players can always compete, there is a debate about how much more experienced players should be involved (analogous to the hypothetical question of whether NBA players should be able to play college games, or even high school games).
First and second year undergraduates can always play. Junior and Senior undergraduates are typically excluded from junior bird type tournaments. Graduate students are excluded from undergraduate-only tournaments. Non-students are excluded from college tournaments.
The general intent is to ensure a degree of fairness, by preventing teams from having too many players who have too much experience who can swamp the entire field. College Bowl in particular allows only one graduate student per team.
Non students generally are restricted to certain tournaments, which are open to everyone. These tournaments include "Masters" tournaments, "Trash" tournaments, and the occasional intramural tournament.
Questions come from one of three sources.
- Organizations such as Questions Unlimited, CBCI, and NAQT, or other vendors sell packets for use in intramurals and invitationals. These are written by a small group of professional writers, or by a large group of contract writers whose questions are later edited by a smaller group (such is the case with NAQT). They also write all of the packets used in tournaments they run, e.g. CB Regional Tournaments, and NAQT Sectionals.
- The school hosting a tournament may choose to write all the packets used. Members of the host school's team generally write the packets. Typical of many invitationals.
- Every team which participates in a tournament is expected to write a packet of questions. Typical of most invitationals.
No form of quiz bowl at the college level is broadcast regularly in the United States on a national basis. The "College Quiz Bowl" was broadcast on NBC radio from 1953 to 1955, General Electric College Bowl
was televised on CBS
from 1959 to 1970, College Bowl returned to CBS radio 1974–76, and HCASC was broadcast on BET
until 1995. University Challenge
is licensed from CBCI by Granada TV Ltd.
and broadcast in the United Kingdom
There are several local broadcasts of college and high school level quiz bowl.
There is no relationship between Quiz Bowl and Jeopardy! or any of the other TV trivia game shows, other than that many of the contestants may be the same. NAQT maintains a list of current and former quizbowl players at any level who have appeared on TV game shows.
Quizbowl shows have been on television for many years in some areas, including both the college and high school levels.
Quizbowl shows currently on television
- Academic Challenge - Cleveland, Ohio area high school tournament
- Academic League - San Diego County high school tournament
- As Schools Match Wits - WWLP-TV in Springfield, Massachusetts
- Battle of the Brains - Richmond, Virginia (WTVR-TV) and Hampton Roads, Virginia (WAVY-TV) area high school tournament
- Brain Busters - Channel 8 WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- Brain Game - Indianapolis, Indiana, WTHR-13, 9–12th grade tournament, sponsored by Westfield Insurance.
- Brain Game - Raleigh, North Carolina, WRAL-TV 9th and 10th grades
- Brain Game - ONN in Ohio (Statewide) High school tournament, sponsored by Westfield Insurance.
- The Challenge - Channel 12. Tristate tournament between schools in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island. Once state champions are named, they face each other off in two games to decide the tristate champion.
- Cox Academic Tournament
- Face Off Minnesota - Minnesota on Twin Cities Public Television
- Fast Money MBA Challenge - a summer tournament on CNBC for graduate students of business schools hosted by Dylan Ratigan
- Granite State Challenge - New Hampshire public television
- High-Five Challenge - Oregon public television
- High Q - WHIO-TV in Dayton, Ohio
- High Q - WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia
- High Q - KCOS in El Paso, Texas
- High School Bowl - WNMU-TV in Marquette, Michigan ,
- High School Bowl - WAVE in Louisville, Kentucky
- Hometown High-Q - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shown on KDKA-TV
- InQuizitive Lancaster, Pennsylvania shown on WLYH-TV, hosted by Brad Rutter
- In the Know - Central and southern Ohio high school tournament shown on WOSU-TV.
- It's Academic - Washington, DC area high school tournament
- It's Academic - Australian version of It's Academic.
- Know Your Heritage - in Chicago. Has questions primarily based on ethnic (black) history. Originally shown on WBBM-TV and WPWR, now on WCIU. A syndicated version "Know Your Heritage Black College Quiz" airs nationally in syndication at the beginning of the year.
- News Channel Three's Knowledge Bowl - WREG-TV in Memphis, Tennessee, for high school students, moderated by Jim Jaggers.
- Long Island Challenge - High School Quizbowl tournament for student in Long Island area; winner plays winner of New Jersey Challenge
- Masterminds - Time Warner Channel 3 (TW3) in Albany, New York. Quizbowl competition among area high schools, hosted by David Guistina.
- Matchwits - KTSC-TV a public station in Pueblo, Colorado
- New Jersey Challenge - High School Quizbowl tournament for student in New Jersey area; winner plays winner of Long Island Challenge
- Pop Quiz WVPT in Harrisonburg, Virginia
- QuizBusters - Michigan area high school TV quiz produced by WKAR-TV
- Quiz Kids (San Francisco) San Francisco Bay Area, Peninsula TV Channel 26 and KRON
- Quizmaster Challenge Montgomery County, Maryland on MCPS Cable Channel 34
- Reach For The Top, Canadian high school competition
- Scholars' Bowl (Tennessee) produced by East Tennessee Public Television
- Scholastic Hi Q WSIU-TV in Carbondale, Illinois (PBS)
- Scholastic Scrimmage Central Pennsylvania version produced by WPSU-TV, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania version produced by WLVT-TV
- South Louisiana Quiz Bowl - Houma & Morgan City, Louisiana - produced by KWBJ-TV, also airs on KFOL-TV
- University Challenge
- YSU Academic Challenge - Youngstown, Ohio area high school and middle school tournaments
- What? Where? When? - Russian quiz show
- Whiz Quiz - Watertown, New York on WPBS-TV
Quizbowl shows no longer on television
- Academic Competition, filmed at Mississippi College
- Brainstorm (quiz) - WGTE-TV in Toledo, Ohio
- City Smarts - WNYE-TV in New York. Cancelled due to lack of funding and the final round was never aired.
- College Bowl
- High Q - WAVE in Louisville, Kentucky
- High Q - WOWK in Charleston, West Virginia
- High Q - KWCH in Wichita, Kansas. Formerly affiliated with Butler Community College.
- High Q - WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kansas. Formerly affiliated with Washburn University.
- High Quiz Bowl in Wausau, Wisconsin, WSAW
- High School Bowl KHNL in Honolulu, Hawaii
- High School Bowl WTNH in New Haven, Connecticut
- It's Academic (Chicago)
- It's Academic (New York City)
- Klassroom Kwiz - WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia
- Minnesota High School Quiz Bowl on several local public access channels in Minnesota (a state final is still sometimes televised)
- Piedmont Quiz Bowl - SCETV in South Carolina
- Rutgers Academic Challenge (was New Jersey Bowl) NJN New Jersey Network
- Scholars' Bowl (Virginia)
- $cholars for Dollar$ in Plattsburgh, New York
- Scholastic Scoreboard WHNS in Greenville, South Carolina
- SmartAsk in Canada
- Teen Challenge WMAZ in Macon, Georgia
- Varsity Quiz Bowl - WYES-TV, Channel 12 in New Orleans (til mid 90's)
- Whiz Quiz (later Academic Varsity Bowl) - WFAA-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth (featured local public and private high schools; early shows were broadcast from Dallas Baptist University and the first two rounds (later first round only) were aired on radio, with successful teams being aired on TV)
- Winthrop Challenge (1979–1990) - SCETV in South Carolina