How can I get better at Quiz Bowl?

Interested in specific sets of questions to study and a plan for organizing your studying as you improve? Check out our guide for studying quizbowl tournament questions here

Improving at quiz bowl is simply a matter of motivation and hard work. You must be motivated to push yourself to learn in and out of both the classroom and the practice room. The hard work includes taking the time to not only read about things that could come up in a quizbowl match, but also to think about how that knowledge might be tested in quiz bowl. For example, what are some well-known facts that might come up as a giveaway for a question? What are some lesser-known clues that might come up earlier in a question? Making sure to “quizbowl-ify” your knowledge is one of the keys to improving at quizbowl. It is also important to have enough confidence and intuition to buzz in on questions before your opponents. Both that confidence and intuition will improve with more knowledge and more experience. Even if you initially struggle to answer most questions and feel overwhelmed by all the information quickly coming at you during a match, if you study and practice you will get better at quizbowl.

Fortunately, there are plenty of free resources for improving besides the obvious step of paying attention in class and participating in team practices. This page contains links to some of the best resources for getting good at quiz bowl that are available online.

The Essentials 

Quizbowl Packet Archive
An archive of tens of thousands of questions from almost every quizbowl tournament since the 1990s available for free download. Question sets are organized chronologically and divided into “Middle School,” “High School,” and “Collegiate” sections. This is the ultimate source for practice material for both team practices and for motivated individual players who want to learn new clues and see what comes up at different tournaments. If you’re a novice player, click on the “novice questions” link for some good intro-level questions.

A searchable and browsable database of quizbowl questions that is useful for finding questions about a certain subject, from a certain question set, or at a certain difficulty. Has been recently updated with new questions and a new interface. Very useful to learn how old questions have been constructed around various topics to help “quizbowl-ify” your factual knowledge of a topic. Just start searching for topics or specific potential answers/clues that interest you and see what comes up.

SCOP Study Guides
A series of study guides probably most appropriate for beginning teams and players (and good for middle schoolers of all levels as well). Has been recently updated with a lot more guides (especially for literature), so if you haven’t checked on this in awhile take a look. Once you’ve mastered these, move on to the NAQT “You Gotta Know” Lists for more of a challenge. Keep in mind, however, that study guides are only starting points; your goal should be not just to memorize the key points for each entry, but to use that as a jumping-off point for more learning.

NAQT’s You Gotta Know lists
NAQT’s series of lists and summaries for common topics that come up. It contains frequency lists for works of art, music, literature, and non-fiction, and short summaries of specific themes such as “deserts,” “Civil War battles,” or “Norse gods and goddesses.” Though players should not attempt to memorize all the information presented in these lists, they can serve as a springboard for further study. Note that some of the entries on these lists are fairly challenging as the lists are intended for all levels from high school through college.

Guides to Improving 

GPQB’s own Ryan Bilger, a 2015 graduate of Emmaus High School, offered some thoughts on how to study for quizbowl.

Two specific guides to improving at science that might be helpful, though they’re aimed at a somewhat advanced level, here and here.

Missouri Quizbowl Alliance’s Charles Dees has an excellent overview of tips for improving as an individual and as a team.

NAQT has a good overview of how to learn things for quizbowl with some additional links to other sources. This website has been updated relatively recently, so check back if you hadn’t looked at it much before.

Some other potential ways to learn things from the QBWiki.

The quizbowl forums have specific forums with discussions on general theoretical questions in quizbowl that include studying strategies and a forum targeted to new teams.

NorCalQuizbowl’s Niki Peters has a very extensive guide on improving targeted at high schoolers.

PACE’s Colin MacNamara has a broad overview of how to improve a team for coaches that’s similar to the guide we put together for GPQB.

Potentially Useful Additional Links 

A multiplayer quizbowl application. Its settings are highly customizable, and players can change anything from the difficulty to the question distribution. As the lobby is often filled with tough competition (and players who have memorized all the questions and like to troll), players are encouraged to set up private rooms (which you can do by simply adding anything after the backslash in Be warned that Protobowl is not a substitute for real quiz bowl–it contains only a small subset of questions and the frequent repetition can lull players into a false sense of competence. Use with care.

The Culture Guide Index
A somewhat disorganized but useful assortment of all kinds of topics. It is somewhat like a collegiate version of NAQT’s You Gotta Know lists, though frustratingly lacking in certain subject areas. A good starting place to start looking things up, though a bit advanced for most high schoolers.

A rather idiosyncratic but potentially useful guide to specific written sources and resources to improve at quizbowl (i.e. specific books, online resources, etc.). Targeted at a rather high (collegiate+) level, but could be very useful, especially to university students who have access to some of these resources online through their libraries.


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