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Quiz bowl


Quiz bowl

Quiz bowl
Other name(s) Quizbowl, scholastic bowl, academic bowl, etc.
Years active c. 1953–present
Genre(s) Quiz
Players 2–10
Age range School-aged and up
Playing time ~30 minutes (can vary)
Skill(s) required Knowledge, learning, recall
Material(s) required Lockout buzzer system, questions

Quiz bowl (also known as quizbowl,[1] scholastic bowl, academic bowl, and other names) is a quiz game that tests players on academic subjects. Standardized quiz bowl formats are played by middle school, high school, and university students throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The game is typically played with a lockout buzzer system[1] between at least two teams, usually consisting of four or five players each. Players are read questions and try to score points for their team by buzzing first and responding with the correct answer.

Quiz bowl is most commonly played in a tossup/bonus format, which consists of two distinct types of questions. Other formats, particularly in local competitions, may deviate from the above rules.[2]


  • History 1
  • Gameplay 2
    • Tossups 2.1
    • Bonuses 2.2
    • Variations 2.3
    • Preparation 2.4
  • Competitions 3
    • National tournaments 3.1
    • Controversies 3.2
  • Broadcasting 4
    • Game show contestants 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Works cited 7
  • External links 8


Most forms of modern quiz bowl are modeled after game shows.[3] College Bowl, which was created by Don Reid as a USO activity for US service men during World War II was an early influential quiz bowl program.[4][5] College Bowl, also known as "The College Quiz Bowl", started on radio in 1953 and then aired on national television from 1959 to 1970.[6]

In the first half of the 20th century, many other quiz bowl-like competitions were also created. Delco Hi-Q began in 1948 as a radio quiz competition sponsored by the Scott Paper Company for high school students in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. It claims to be the oldest continuously running student quiz contest in the United States.[7] The It's Academic televised student quiz show program has been run for high school teams in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area since 1961 and is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running quiz program in television history.[8] It's Academic has been spun off in many other US media markets and has inspired many other televised high school competitions.[8]

In 1977, College Bowl was revived as an activity on college campuses by College Bowl Company Inc. (CBCI).[9] In September 1990, the

External links

  • Jennings, Ken (2006). Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs, Villard

Works cited

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jackson, Matt. "What Is Quizbowl? A Primer and FAQ for Newcomers". Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Pinyan, Jon. "Concise Rules of Tossup/Bonus Quizbowl". Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Siegel, Alan (May 3, 2012). "The Super Bowl of the Mind". Retrieved December 13, 2013. 
  4. ^ Taylor, David; McNulty, Colin (August 2012). "Your Starter for Ten: 50 Years of University Challenge". Archive on 4. Event occurs at 4:40. BBC Radio 4.
  5. ^ Earl, Robert (September 21, 2010). Robert Earle Interview. (Interview). TV Legends. Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  6. ^ Weber, Bruce (April 4, 1999). "Total Recall".  
  7. ^ "Delaware County Hi-Q". Retrieved October 2, 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "History of It's Academic". It's Academic - The Official Website. Retrieved June 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Hot Fun in the Summertime... on TV, That Is". Game Show News Net. June 24, 2008. Retrieved September 15, 2009. 
  10. ^ Jennings, Ken (2006). Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs. Villard.  ,p. 259
  11. ^ Kahn, Joseph P. (February 17, 2009). "Keeping their eyes on the bowl".  
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Jennings, Ken (2006). Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs. Villard.  , p.29-48
  13. ^ "HCASC - Contact Us". Retrieved September 6, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c "College Quiz Bowl basics".  
  15. ^ a b "Quiz competition decided". SMU Daily Campus. February 4, 2005. Retrieved September 10, 2009. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f "Official NAQT Rules". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. 2010. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Tossup-only scoring rules". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Official 2013-2014 Rules for The National History Bowl – High School Division". The National History Bowl. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  19. ^ "2013-2014 Minnesota High School Quiz Bowl League". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "College Distribution". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  21. ^ "National Academic Championship". Questions Unlimited. Retrieved May 2, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Our Quizbowl Philosophy". High School Academic Pyramid Questions (HSAPQ). Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  23. ^ IHSA Scholastic Bowl Terms and Conditions. Bloomington, IL: Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 2008. p. 5. Buzzer-beater questions that virtually any team can be expected to answer after hearing only a few words are discouraged. 
  24. ^ a b Riley, David (September 2000). "Beta Tournaments Debut". Scholastic Visions (Evanston, IL: Illinois Scholastic Bowl Coaches Association (IHSSBCA)) 6 (1): 11. Retrieved September 15, 2009. ... similar to the format used at the NAA’s National Academic Championship tournaments. Each match will be divided into four quarters, as follows: 1) Ten relatively easy, “buzzer-beater” toss-up questions. 
  25. ^ a b IHSA Scholastic Bowl Terms and Conditions. Bloomington, IL: Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 2013. p. 6. For non-computational toss-ups, the preferred style is multi-clue, starting with a more challenging clue and ending with a clue that most teams should reasonably be expected to answer correctly. 
  26. ^ Vinokurov, Jerry (September 2009). Greenthal, Jonah, ed. "How to Write Questions". Scholastic Visions (Evanston, IL: Illinois High School Scholastic Bowl Coaches Association) 15 (1): 16–19. Retrieved September 24, 2009. 
  27. ^ Gauthier, Greg (September 2009). "What's a Good Quizbowl Question?". Scholastic Visions (Evanston, IL: Illinois High School Scholastic Bowl Coaches Association) 15 (1): 20–21. Retrieved September 24, 2009. 
  28. ^ "ACF Packet Submission Guidelines". Academic Competition Federation. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  29. ^ Hoppes, Jeff. "Re: 2009 NAQT HSNCT". 
  30. ^ "NAQT-Style Events". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  31. ^ "University of Chicago Quiz Bowl Team Beats Harvard to Win the First Annual National Academic Quiz Tournament".  
  32. ^ "Quiz Bowl Jobs". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  33. ^ "The Original College Bowl Format". College Bowl. Retrieved October 7, 2014. 
  34. ^ Dees, Charles. "Tips for Improving". Missouri Quizbowl Alliance. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  35. ^ a b "How to Improve as a Player". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  36. ^ a b c d Eltinge, Stephen. "Quizbowl lexicon". Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Frequency Lists". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  38. ^ a b c d "High School Quiz Bowl". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  39. ^ Burns, Jeff, ed. (2009). "GATA Coaches Manual". GATA. 
  40. ^ a b "Why Quiz Bowl". Texas Quiz Bowl Alliance. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  41. ^ Parke, Dr. Beverly N. (2002). Discovering Programs for Talent Development. Corwin Press. p. 119.  
  42. ^ "Official ACF Rules". Academic Competition Federation. Retrieved July 8, 2014. 
  43. ^ "College Quiz Bowl". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  44. ^ "High School Today". National Federation of State High School Associations. April 2011. 
  45. ^ "Bible Bowl". Bible Bowl. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  46. ^ "Certamen". National Junior Classical League. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  47. ^ "National Science Bowl Homepage". Office of Science. US Department of Energy. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  48. ^ "Texas 4-H Quiz Bowl Guide". Texas A&M University. Retrieved July 1, 2014. 
  49. ^ "DECA Quiz bowl study guide". Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  50. ^ "Academic Bowl". Gallaudet University. Retrieved June 13, 2014. 
  51. ^ "2014 HSNCT details". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  52. ^ "2014 NSC: Affiliated Tournaments". Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence. 
  53. ^ "What is quiz bowl". Northern California Quiz Bowl Alliance. Retrieved May 23, 2014. 
  54. ^ "Math Calculation Tossups". High School Academic Pyramid Questions (HSAPQ). Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  55. ^ Beall, Chip (June 2009). 2009 Interview with Chip Beall. Interview with Matt Laird. 
  56. ^ "WYES The Voice of New Orleans". Inside Northside. Retrieved June 14, 2014. 
  57. ^ "Quiz Kids Contestant Manual". Bay Area Quiz Kids. TV Game Brains. Retrieved June 24, 2014. 
  58. ^ O'Keefe, Karen (March 7, 2014). "QOHS Academic Club in "It’s Academic" Playoffs". The Town Courrier. Gaithersburg, Maryland. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  59. ^ "Episode List: Texaco Star National Academic Championship". TV Tango. Retrieved March 13, 2012. 
  60. ^ "Overview: Texaco Star National Academic Championship". TV Tango. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  61. ^ Higgins, Chris (2014). "Our Interview With Jeopardy! Champion Arthur Chu". Mental Floss. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  62. ^ "Quiz Bowl prepared contestant for ‘Jeopardy!’". Gainsville Times. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  63. ^ "Game Show Appearances". National Academic Quiz Tournaments. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  64. ^ Jones, Tamara (October 5, 2004). "A: Quiz Bowl. Q: What Do Top Game Show Players Prize?".  
  65. ^ Fran Scavuzzo, Sam. (April 30, 2010). Jeopardy!' Champ Starts History Bowl at RHS"'". Ridgewood, NJ: Ridgewood-Glen Rock Patch. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  66. ^ "2008 NATIONAL ACADEMIC CHAMPIONSHIP HIGHLIGHTS". Questions Unlimited. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 


See also

Quiz bowl has received media coverage due to the number of highly successful game show contestants with backgrounds in the activity.[61][62] Despite this, most game shows have little resemblance to quiz bowl in both question content and gameplay. NAQT maintains a list of current and former quiz bowl players at any level who have appeared on TV game shows.[63] Several of the top dollar winners in the history of Jeopardy! include former players such as Ken Jennings,[12][64] David Madden,[65] and Brad Rutter.[66]

Game show contestants

College Bowl was broadcast on NBC radio from 1953 to 1955. The program moved to television as General Electric College Bowl and was broadcast from 1959 to 1970, first on CBS and later on NBC. College Bowl would return to CBS radio from 1979 to 82, and HCASC was broadcast on BET from 1990 to 1995. The Texaco Star National Academic Championship ran from 1989 to 1991 on Discovery Channel and was hosted by Chip Beall and Mark L. Walberg.[59][60] In 1994, it was syndicated as the Star Challenge and hosted by Mark Wahlberg. University Challenge is licensed from CBCI by Granada TV Ltd. and broadcast in the United Kingdom. Reach for the Top, a Canadian competition with a quiz bowl-like format, has been broadcast on the CBC in the past.

Quiz bowl shows have been on television for many years in some areas and usually feature competitors from local high schools.[56] Many of these competitions may have rules and formats that differ slightly from standardized quiz bowl.[57][58]


Some proponents of reform seek to increase the educational value and fairness of quiz bowl, primarily by using pyramidal questions.[36][53] Many competitions at grade school levels are criticized for their use of speed-check questions, which encourage participants to rely more on their ability to buzz in quickly than on knowledge of the subjects tested.[36] Some tournaments such as College Bowl are criticized for being insufficiently academic, including superfluous clues in their questions, and for recycling questions from previous years.[3][12] The use of "hoses", misleading clues that discourage players from buzzing in too early, is also considered a mark of "bad" quiz bowl.[12][36] The use of mathematical computation problems in tossups is criticized by some for rewarding fast problem solving skills over conceptual knowledge and being non-pyramidal.[54] Pyramidal questions are sometimes criticized for containing obscure information and being unsuitable for television.[3][55]


The following high school tournaments are for single all-star teams from each US state or other political subdivision:

Several national competitions are conducted in the United States every year for high school students. Compared to at the college level, there are usually many more tournaments at which teams can qualify.[51][52] These include:

There are several collegiate-level national championship tournaments for which teams usually qualify through regional competitions. These tournaments include:

National tournaments

Additionally, various formats have been developed to test knowledge in specific areas like the DECA runs quiz bowl events at their competitions that tests knowledge on business and market topics.[49] Many medical schools use quiz bowl-style competitions as part of their "grand rounds" specialty training for students and interns. Gallaudet University sponsors a National Academic Bowl for deaf university students.[50] Tournaments designated as "trash" focus on pop culture and sports trivia questions.[12]

Some schools hold MSHSAA, Illinois's IHSA, and Virginia's VHSL.[38][44]

Quiz bowl is primarily played at single-day tournaments.[1] Some events have eligibility rules that dictate who may participate, such as allowing only freshman and sophomore players or excluding graduate students from play.[42] Additionally, most tournaments allow multiple teams from a single school to compete.


Since questions are generally derived from an unofficial canon of topics, players commonly review question content from older competitions to prepare for upcoming tournaments.[34][35][36] In this vein, NAQT also sells lists of topics that are frequently asked about in their questions.[37] Players also research and write questions to prepare for quiz bowl. Active participation in academic coursework can also serve as means of preparing for quiz bowl.[38] Blind memorization of out-of-context facts is often discouraged.[35][39] Team members often specialize in a few subjects.[40] Players benefit from exposure to a broad range of school and cultural subjects, memorization and study skills, and an improved ability to cooperate and work in teams.[40][41]


Matches played at the National Academic Championship and its affiliated tournaments are split into four quarters, with differing styles of gameplay in each phase.[24] Individual tournaments may use worksheet quizzes, lightning rounds, or tossups without accompanying bonuses.

Several variations on the game of quiz bowl exist that affect question structure and content, rules of play, and round format.[2] One standardized format is the pyramidal tossup/bonus format, which is used in ACF (or mACF) and NAQT competitions.[2][30] ACF/mACF tossups are written in pyramidal style and are generally much longer than College Bowl and NAQT questions. It has a rigorous emphasis on academics, with very little popular culture.[12] Games are usually untimed and last until a total of 20 tossups are read.[12] NAQT is another common variation on the tossup/bonus format that balances academic rigor with a wider variety of subjects, including popular culture and an increased amount of current events and geography content.[12][20] Unlike many mACF events, most questions used in this format are written and sold by NAQT themselves. NAQT also uses powers their in tossups, which reward players with 15 points instead of 10 for a tossup answered before a predetermined point.[16] Games played on NAQT rules consist of two nine-minute halves and a total of 24 tossups.[2][31] NAQT tossups are typically shorter than most other pyramidal tossups because of a strict character limit enforced on the questions.[32] The format used for the now-defunct College Bowl tournament uses comparatively shorter questions.[12] Gameplay is relatively quick as it is played in eight-minute halves, to a usual total of 22–24 tossups read. The Honda Campus All Star Challenge and University Challenge use similar formats.[33]


Bonuses usually have multiple parts that are related by some common thread and may or may not be related to corresponding tossup. A team is usually rewarded with 10 points upon correctly answering each bonus part. Usually, only the team that answered the tossup correctly can answer the bonus questions, though some formats allow the opposing team to answer certain parts of the bonus not correctly answered by the team in control of the bonus, a gameplay element known as a "bounceback".[2] Less-used types of bonus questions include list bonuses, which require players to give their answers from a requested list, and "30-20-10" bonuses, which give a number of discrete clues for a single answer in order of decreasing difficulty, with more points being awarded for giving the correct answer on an earlier clue. The 30-20-10 bonus was officially banned from ACF in 2008[28] and NAQT in 2009.[29]

Bonus question on biology

These biological monomers are usually in a zwitterionic form. For 10 points each:
[10] Name this class of molecules that make up proteins, examples of which include tryptophan, alanine, and lysine.
ANSWER: amino acids
[10] During translation, amino acids are polymerized by these complexes, which are formed in the nucleolus.
ANSWER: ribosomes
[10] Some proteins can become infectious agents. This is the name of those misfolded proteins that are responsible for mad cow disease and Kuru.
ANSWER: prions

2011 Collegiate Novice


In most formats, correctly answering a tossup earns a team 10 points.[15] Extra points, usually for a total of 15 or 20 points, may be awarded if a question is answered prior to a certain clue-providing keyword in the question, an action known as "powering".[12] Answering a tossup incorrectly is called "negging", and may incur a 5-point penalty for a team.[16] After a neg occurs the moderator continues reading the rest of the question for the other team.[16] There are usually no further penalties after one team has already negged.[2]

Pyramidal or pyramid-style tossups include multiple clues and are written so that each question starts with more difficult clues and moves toward easier clues.[1] This way the player with the most knowledge of the subject being asked about has the most opportunity to answer first.[25][26][27] Pyramidal toss-ups are a common standard for college and high school tournaments.[14][25]

Two common types of tossups include buzzer-beaters and pyramidal tossups. Buzzer-beaters (also known as speed check or quick-recall questions) are relatively short, rarely more than two sentences long, and contain few clues.[23][24] 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.[1]

Pyramidal tossup on trumpets

This instrument plays the opening Pictures at an Exhibition, as well as the rising theme C-G-C in the opening of Richard Strauss' Thus Spake Zarathustra. This instrument's tone can be lowered by one-and-a-half steps by pressing either its third or both its first and second (*) valves. For 10 points, name this brass instrument whose timbre is slightly brighter than that of a cornet.
ANSWER: Trumpets

2013 CMST


In most quiz bowl competitions, players and coaches may protest the moderator's decision if they believe their answer was incorrectly rejected, or an opponent's answer was incorrectly accepted.[2]

Quiz bowl tests players in a variety of academic subjects including literature, science, history, and fine arts.[20] Additionally, some quiz bowl events may feature small amounts of popular culture content like sports, popular music, and other non-academic general knowledge subjects, although their inclusion is generally kept to a minimum.[21][22]

Match length is determined by either a game clock or the number of questions in a packet.[2][16] In most formats, a game ends once the moderator has finished reading every question in a packet.[2] Tie-breaking procedures may include reading extra tossups until the tie is broken or a multiple-tossup shootout.[2][16]

Regional or local tournaments may dispose of any number of standard rules entirely.[2] Some may only have tossups and not use bonuses at all.[17] Some formats include a lightning round during which a team attempts to answer multiple questions as fast as possible under a given time limit, usually sixty seconds.[18][19]

During a quiz bowl game, two or more teams of usually up to four or five players are read questions by a moderator.[1][14] In most forms of quiz bowl, there are two basic types of questions: tossups and bonuses.[1] Tossups are questions that any individual player can attempt to answer, and players are generally not allowed to confer with each other.[2] Each player usually has a signaling device, also called a buzzer, to signal in at any time during the question to give an answer.[12] If the answer given is incorrect, then no other member of that team may give an answer. If a tossup is successfully answered, the correctly answering team is given an opportunity to answer a bonus question.[1][14][15] Bonuses are usually worth a total of 30 points, and consist of three individual questions worth ten points each.[2] Team members are generally permitted to confer with each other on these questions.[1][2][16]

A quiz bowl game at the University of Delaware


[13].historically black colleges and universities (HCASC) for Honda Campus All-Star Challenge In 2008 the College Bowl program abruptly ended, although the company itself continues to operate the [12][11]

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