Quiz bowl is a game in which two teams compete head-to-head to answer questions from all areas of knowledge, including history, literature, science, fine arts, current events, popular culture, sports, and more. There are also tournaments for individual players rather than teams.
The defining feature of quiz bowl is the use of a “buzzer system” that lets players interrupt the reading of a question when they know the answer. That element adds a dimension of confidence, anticipation, and rapid recall to a game about knowing facts. Those “tossup” questions are answered individually, but doing so earns one’s team a chance at a three-part “bonus” question. Bonus questions are worth more points and allow collaboration, but are generally more difficult.
Organized quiz bowl competitions are available in most states and at grade levels from middle school up.
Quiz bowl tournaments can be interscholastic meets or intramural events designed for students at a single school. Some tournaments are based on athletic conferences, cities, and other groupings of teams.
NAQT is a company run by former players and coaches that provides tournament questions, practice material, rules, and guidance to all manner of quiz bowl tournaments, from casual competitions among fraternities to intense national championships for the best teams in the country.
For schools interested in serious competition, NAQT runs annual national championships at the middle school, high school, community college, and collegiate levels, as well as a tournament specifically for small high schools.
There are a myriad of ways in which one can get involved staff quiz bowl: any school (or homeschool group) can start a team, local tournaments can always use extra readers, and NAQT hires new writers every summer.
NAQT has published a guide for covering quiz bowl in the media.
It is essential that middle school teams have a coach who is willing to travel with them to tournaments and guide their development. Many tournaments will allow the team to be accompanied by any adult (if the coach cannot make it), but some require a school official. NAQT’s rules (as used at the MSNCT) permit the chaperone to be a parent, but local events may have different policies.
It is essential that high school teams have a coach who is willing to travel with them to tournaments and guide their development. Many tournaments will allow the team to be accompanied by any adult (if the coach cannot make it), but some require a school official.
First and foremost, find a core team of quiz bowl enthusiasts who are willing to perform administrative work (as well as play), and who may need to pay their own way to the first couple of tournaments. Unless events are timed very well, it is unlikely that a quiz bowl team in its first year of existence will be able to acquire significant funding since budgets are usually submitted and approved during the preceding academic term. These four to eight players will be the proselytizers for this team among prospective players, administrators, and faculty members. At this point it’s not so important to focus on finding a fully-balanced, top-notch team, but rather a group of people who love knowledge—and expressing it in this form of competition—and who are willing to work hard to build a club.