Writing MS Sets

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Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Mon May 19, 2014 10:15 pm

I'm writing MS sets, and I'm aiming for NAQT length, but coverage of stuff that comes up in HS, and excluding the children's crap in NAQT MS. I also realized my powers would be too difficult to get. When is it appropriate for powers, and what should my distribution be?
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by the return of AHAN » Mon May 19, 2014 10:31 pm

jeremylu wrote:I'm writing MS sets, and I'm aiming for NAQT length, but coverage of stuff that comes up in HS, and excluding the children's crap in NAQT MS. I also realized my powers would be too difficult to get. When is it appropriate for powers, and what should my distribution be?
So... you're writing 'A' sets.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by RexSueciae » Tue May 20, 2014 12:27 am

What do you mean, "When is it appropriate for powers"? Are you asking when in the question you should put them (it depends, but generally after the first clue or so--if your powers are "too difficult to get," use easier clues) or if it's appropriate to use them for middle school (sure, you don't have to and it's time-consuming but it's a gimmick that people tend to enjoy)?

As for the distribution, you could borrow NAQT's middle school distribution, which is somewhat idiosyncratic with its decimals and its categories of dubious quality (computational math, young adult literature), or you could make a new one. I've knocked together a sample distribution (for a round with 20 tossups and bonuses), with comments on each category. Take all of this with a grain of salt, because I probably don't know what I'm doing, but here goes:


Literature: 4/4
  • I recommend 1/1 American, 1/1 British, 1/1 European, 1/1 Other (World, Ancient, any of the other three subcategories)--unless you're of the opinion that World Lit is entirely too hard for middle schoolers altogether, which might be the case. Please don't make this category into "language" and have tossups on grammar or verb tenses in Latin, because that's stupid. Asking about young adult literature is something that NAQT does and which you probably shouldn't do. One of the Big 3 categories.
History: 4/4
  • Something like 1/1 American, 1/1 European (being sure to include a substantial amount of British history), 1/1 World, 1/1 Ancient/Modern. One of the Big 3 categories, essentially unchanged from standard high school distribution because I'm unimaginative.
Science: 4/4
  • The standard for high school is 1/1 Biology, 1/1 Chemistry, 1/1 Physics, and 1/1 Other, but I'm worried how well physics, or even chemistry, would play with a middle school audience. I'd recommend boosting biology a lot because it's more likely that middle schoolers would have come into contact with it (I'm sure you'd find more people who know what a spleen is than a Bose-Einstein condensate, for instance). Maybe try and ask easier chemistry or physics if possible, and include more things like Earth Science (and some meteorology and astronomy?) and less Technology/CS in Other, for a tentative final subdistribution of 2/2 Biology, 1/1 Chemistry/Physics (do a tossup on one and a bonus on the other for each round), and 1/1 Other. One of the Big 3 categories.
Religion/Myth: 2/2
  • 1/1 Religion, 1/1 Myth. Fairly straightforward. Middle schoolers should know this. I separated Philosophy from its usual grouping with Religion/Myth for reasons that I shall explain shortly.
Fine Arts: 2/2
  • This one is a bit tricky. You'll have to be really careful with music, but I think you might be able to pull off 1/1 Visual Art, 1/1 Other. If not, just make this 1/1 Fine Arts and add another 1/1 Trash.
Philosophy/Social Science: 0/0
  • As much of a partisan I might be for 1/1 Philosophy and 1/1 Social Science in regular high school quizbowl, I highly doubt any middle schooler is going to know much of this beyond the absolute basics. You might be able to fit one or two questions on the topic into a "Misc. Academic" category, but there's not enough to stand alone.
Geography: 2/2
  • Slightly increased from the regular high school norm, but about the same as NAQT's normal content--just don't go overboard with, I dunno, "Name these Lithuanian rivers for 10 points each." You could probably do 1/1 American, 1/1 Foreign to avoid that.
Trash: 2/2
  • Maybe 3/3 if you decide against 2/2 Fine Arts or if you cut some other category. Now that I think about it, 3/3 Trash would allow you to do something like 1/1 Popular Culture, 1/1 Sports, 1/1 Misc. Academic which would allow you to write that stamp collecting tossup you've always dreamed of or leave room to add additional questions from categories you think are underrepresented.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by UlyssesInvictus » Tue May 20, 2014 12:59 am

For science, I think Vasa's totally right on the chem/physics recommendations, but I think more technology/cs might actually be more apt, albeit not on pure/theoretical scientific principles. That is, I feel like you can ask more about GK (general knowledge) science since this is the kind of science a middle school classroom will be learning: there's a great divide between elementary/middle school and high school science, since the former is about just being introduced to the canonical fields of science and doing cool stuff--your rockets and battery motors--while you're actually learning the fields in high school--rocket science and EM. You might even be able to get away with asking some particular topics that won't show up in the hs canon since MS questions will be shorter and you don't have to mine as much for deeper clues (asking about specific species in biology, for example, or a question on Linux might reward a mser who enjoys tinkering with his/her but won't have studied apcs).

*extra note: the "avoid ya lit" disclaimer is good as well, but don't throw out the baby with the bashwater by not including works like alice in w. or the little prince. This probably merits its own thread (and indeed I think I remember one a while back), but I'm much happier including things like The Outsiders or even Bridge to Terabithia/Jerry Spinelli than The Hunger Games/Dark Materials--maybe even in HS. I don't know, I do admit that seems like favoritism on my part.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Tue May 20, 2014 9:50 pm

I mean when I should mark the end of a power in my sets.

Also, I would rather do something like:

Lit 4/4
History 4/4
Science 4/4
Sports 1/1
Trash 1/1
Fine Arts 2/2
Geography 2/2
Religion 1/1
Philosophy 1/1


Could you guys review my packets here later?
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by heterodyne » Tue May 20, 2014 9:54 pm

jeremylu wrote:I mean when I should mark the end of a power in my sets.

Also, I would rather do something like:

Lit 4/4
History 4/4
Science 4/4
Sports 1/1
Trash 1/1
Fine Arts 2/2
Geography 2/2
Religion 1/1
Philosophy 1/1


Could you guys review my packets here later?
If you want the sets to be useable, obviously that's not an option, but there is actually a dedicated thread for that somewhere on these fora.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Tue May 20, 2014 10:05 pm

jeremylu wrote:I mean when I should mark the end of a power in my sets.

Also, I would rather do something like:

Lit 4/4
History 4/4
Science 4/4
Sports 1/1
Trash 1/1
Fine Arts 2/2
Geography 2/2
Religion 1/1
Philosophy 1/1


Could you guys review my packets here later?
1/1 philosophy is hard enough for high school, not sure how to expect middle schoolers to know that
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Corry » Tue May 20, 2014 10:41 pm

jeremylu wrote:I mean when I should mark the end of a power in my sets.

Also, I would rather do something like:

Lit 4/4
History 4/4
Science 4/4
Sports 1/1
Trash 1/1
Fine Arts 2/2
Geography 2/2
Religion 1/1
Philosophy 1/1


Could you guys review my packets here later?
I would certainly not recommend 1/1 philosophy either. It's just really, really hard to find enough usable answer lines at any level below college.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Tue May 20, 2014 10:43 pm

wait I think we shuold make sure what we mean by philosopy. What I'm thinking is stuff like Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, etc...

Also, I realized I forgot about math, which I am planning to have 1 computional in odd numbered packets and 1 concept/mathemetician in even numbered packets. I could replace philosophy with that.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Tue May 20, 2014 11:04 pm

jeremylu wrote:wait I think we shuold make sure what we mean by philosopy. What I'm thinking is stuff like Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, etc...

Also, I realized I forgot about math, which I am planning to have 1 computional in odd numbered packets and 1 concept/mathemetician in even numbered packets. I could replace philosophy with that.
The only one of those three philosophers you mentioned that would have a decent chance at getting converted at the middle school level probably would've been Locke, but now that you've posted those names there's no point in writing questions on them if you plan on selling these packets.

Conceptual math at the middle school level, I don't see how it's plausible.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Tue May 20, 2014 11:12 pm

I actually intend to help train students with these packets. By conceptual I mean stuff like Pythagorean Theorem, or even numbers, or Fibonacci numbers, fractals, etc...


EDIT: I've also seen Descartes come up in MS. Or maybe that was SCOP
EDIT2: Our history teacher also teaches stuff like Emmanuel Kant, Rousseau, Hobbes, etc... That would make Philosophy plausible
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Wed May 21, 2014 12:51 am

jeremylu wrote:EDIT: I've also seen Descartes come up in MS. Or maybe that was SCOP
EDIT2: Our history teacher also teaches stuff like Emmanuel Kant, Rousseau, Hobbes, etc... That would make Philosophy plausible
This is a pretty common new-writer fallacy. The fact that you can think of like five or ten answers that your audience could reasonably have heard of doesn't at all mean that you can fill out an entire tournament's answer space (12-15 tossups and the same number of bonuses, given that you're proposing 1/1 philosophy), nor does it mean that you can fill out questions with meaningful and useful early and middle clues and middle and hard bonus parts. Sure, Kant's a famous guy, and you might've heard his name come up in history classes about the Enlightenment, but there's no way there's even a middle school-length tossup's worth of clues on him that players could usefully buzz on.

No one's saying you can't have any philosophy questions, just that 1/1 is...overly ambitious.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Wed May 21, 2014 7:42 pm

hmmm..... I guess 1 tossup every 2 packets would be better. Also, how do you get inspired for bonuses? I find it much easier to write tossups than bonuses.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by RexSueciae » Thu May 22, 2014 12:11 am

An idea: find a tossup answerline and make that one bonus part--say, the medium one. For the other two bonus parts, take a middle clue from the tossup for your hard part and something else related to the topic that's somewhat easier than your first bonus part (depending on how hard the first answerline ended up being). So, taking a random example from Quinterest (from the 2010 PACE NSC), if you've found a tossup on Aushwitz-Birkenau, your other two bonus parts could be Rudolf Franz Hoss and then maybe something like the Holocaust [accept HaShoah] for the last one (note: given the difficulty level of the NSC, this may or may not be an appropriate bonus for middle school, although I think every middle school history program touches on the Holocaust, so this ought to be a decent example of the technique).

When you're writing about literature or any other category that involves works and authors, one pretty standard construction involves a work, the work's author, and something significant from the work (Of Mice and Men / John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. / California follows the pattern of work / author / "Name this state where Steinbeck located many of his works, including Of Mice and Men" ), or else work / author / slightly less well known work by the author.

Really, I'm not sure how much help I can give. Find some topic that people probably know and pick three things about the topic that are difficulty-appropriate (so that most of the worst teams should still get the easy part, getting the hard part is very reasonable for the top teams, etc.), and write about it. The most important thing to remember is, for the love of all that is holy, not to overshoot with the difficulty of the bonus's hard part. (Actually, try not to overshoot difficulty at all, if you can help it.) If nothing else, run the set by someone who's done this sort of thing before and has a bit of spare time.

I think most of the stuff I just said was correct. Good luck.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Thu May 22, 2014 8:17 pm

Is there anything else i could do with these sets, besides handing them down for coaching, and this being a useful way to spend time. I don't think making money is an option unless someone has a good idea
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Sniper, No Sniping! » Thu May 22, 2014 9:41 pm

jeremylu wrote:Is there anything else i could do with these sets, besides handing them down for coaching, and this being a useful way to spend time. I don't think making money is an option unless someone has a good idea
You can always end up using the packet writing as a learning tool, because there's always a LOT more to learn about stuff.

I don't think selling these packets will be very lucrative for you.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by RexSueciae » Fri May 23, 2014 12:49 am

Enlist teammates to help you write so that you all learn stuff. Make it a tradition to have new players write so that they learn stuff. Use it as proof of your abilities to land you a job with NAQT or HSAPQ.

Here's another idea: host a promotional open tournament at your school to draw better awareness of your quizbowl team. Field exhibition teams composed of popular teachers, get the school newspaper (hell, even local papers and TV stations) to report on your event, maybe charge a token entrance fee--there's possibilities here. There should, of course, be a gentleman's agreement regarding eligibility for your tournament (especially given the skill level of your question set), the specifics of which are up to you.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Fri May 23, 2014 6:45 pm

hi my teammates are collaborating with me. Technically we are unnafiliated with uor school, like we don't even have a room for practice there or any funding.

EDIT: where should the power mark be for this:

In the endosymbiotic theory of origin of this organelle, the organelle started as a prokaryotic cell which later lived inside eukaryotic cells. Glycolysis and Krebs Cycle occur in it and it is the production of much of the cell’s adenosine triphosphate. For ten points, name this organelle responsible for producing ATP, and considered the “powerhouse of the cell.”
Answer: Mitochondria or Mitochondrion


if this isn't original, tell me because i didn't write this
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by KnicksRule » Fri May 23, 2014 7:44 pm

Just a comment on the question itself: the first line doesn't differentiate between chloroplast and mitochondria. It is probably not going to be buzzed on, unless someone is willing to take a 50/50 guess.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Fri May 23, 2014 8:29 pm

EDIT: we changed it to this:

The electron transport chain in this organelle converts succinate to fumarate, NADH to NAD+, and water to oxygen. Glycolysis (*) and Krebs Cycle occur in it and it is the production of much of the cell’s adenosine triphosphate. For ten points, name this organelle responsible for producing ATP, and considered the “powerhouse of the cell.”

I powermarked this question here:

This figure drove out thieves from his father’s temple and had citizens place palm leaves when he rode on a donkey. He fed thousands with 5 loaves of bread (*) and 2 pieces of fish and preached the story of the Prodigal Son. For 10 points, name this central figure in Christianity who was child of the Virgin Mary.

but i want some feedback because I was born and raised a Christian and may be biased on when this should be a power. I honestly think my clues are too obvious but that's just me.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Corry » Fri May 23, 2014 10:59 pm

jeremylu wrote: I powermarked this question here:

This figure drove out thieves from his father’s temple and had citizens place palm leaves when he rode on a donkey. He fed thousands with 5 loaves of bread (*) and 2 pieces of fish and preached the story of the Prodigal Son. For 10 points, name this central figure in Christianity who was child of the Virgin Mary.

but i want some feedback because I was born and raised a Christian and may be biased on when this should be a power. I honestly think my clues are too obvious but that's just me.
I hardly know anything about religion, but this tossup looks ultra easy to me (even for middle schoolers). Isn't Jesus driving the moneylenders from the temple one of the most famous things he did? That'd probably be more appropriate near the end of power, rather than as the first clue.

I'd probably move everything down one clue, and add a harder leadin. Also, the power is very generous as is; you could probably move it before "loaves" and still be fine.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Sat May 24, 2014 12:48 am

Thanks for the advice. We have a history expert who is actually better at HS packets than MS due to his depth of knowldege. WEll he's this WWI and II expert who wrote this:

At the end of WWI, when Germany had its land taken away, this man said, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years." He was in command of his XX Corps that briefly tried to invade Germany at the start of the war. (*) This man was appointed Generalissimo of the Allied forces in 1917, and cooperated with British forces at Ypres and Somme. This man was the hero of the first and second battle of Marne. For ten points, name this Highly Decorated French General who's last name rhymes with brioche [pronounced \brē-ˈōsh, -ˈȯsh\]. [Ferdinand Foch]

i haven't even heard of Foch and I certainly couldn't have gotten this. Do you think its too hard?


EDIT: rewrote Jesus tosspu

This figure said that “his rock” would disown him and had citizens placed palm leaves when he rode on a donkey. He fed thousands with 5 loaves(8) of bread and 2 pieces of fish and preached the story of the Prodigal Son. For 10 points, name this central figure in Christianity who was child of the Virgin Mary

i used Peter, who was Jesus' rock. If this is too easy I would say that " he was baptised by his cousin" or "he ate eggs because he once said eggs were a good gift"
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sat May 24, 2014 1:06 am

Hey, if you want to collaborate/receive advice on your questions, please create a google doc or something and invite people to it. This forum isn't really a good place for it.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Cheynem » Sat May 24, 2014 1:09 am

Maybe he could use that feedback question thread?
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Sat May 24, 2014 1:14 am

Cheynem wrote:Maybe he could use that feedback question thread?
A great idea! I do predict, from a non-normative perspective (i.e. I am not commanding you as a moderator to do anything), that people will not take kindly to, or an interest in, you posting your entire tournament there. Still, that's where I'd advise you to head for question feedback.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by jeremylu » Sat May 24, 2014 11:15 am

First, I don't know about the feedback thread. However, I could share my Google Doc that we are using with someone if they would be willing to review some of it. You could PM me your email or something.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by the return of AHAN » Sat May 24, 2014 11:05 pm

jeremylu wrote:Thanks for the advice. We have a history expert who is actually better at HS packets than MS due to his depth of knowldege. WEll he's this WWI and II expert who wrote this:

At the end of WWI, when Germany had its land taken away, this man said, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years." He was in command of his XX Corps that briefly tried to invade Germany at the start of the war. (*) This man was appointed Generalissimo of the Allied forces in 1917, and cooperated with British forces at Ypres and Somme. This man was the hero of the first and second battle of Marne. For ten points, name this Highly Decorated French General who's last name rhymes with brioche [pronounced \brē-ˈōsh, -ˈȯsh\]. [Ferdinand Foch]

i haven't even heard of Foch and I certainly couldn't have gotten this. Do you think its too hard?
My 2 cents; If you have to give rhyming clues, your question isn't well-written.
Furthermore, in 17 years of coaching middle schoolers, I can't recall Ferdinand Foch ever being tossed-up or even being a bonus part, for that matter.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by The Polebarn Hotel » Sat May 24, 2014 11:36 pm

jeremylu wrote:Thanks for the advice. We have a history expert who is actually better at HS packets than MS due to his depth of knowldege. WEll he's this WWI and II expert who wrote this:

At the end of WWI, when Germany had its land taken away, this man said, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years." He was in command of his XX Corps that briefly tried to invade Germany at the start of the war. (*) This man was appointed Generalissimo of the Allied forces in 1917, and cooperated with British forces at Ypres and Somme. This man was the hero of the first and second battle of Marne. For ten points, name this Highly Decorated French General who's last name rhymes with brioche [pronounced \brē-ˈōsh, -ˈȯsh\]. [Ferdinand Foch]

i haven't even heard of Foch and I certainly couldn't have gotten this. Do you think its too hard?
He'd never be a reasonable middle school answer. He might come up as the hard part of difficult high school-level bounuses. Too hard? Absolutely.

Also, it's not a well-written question. The lead-in clue isn't even a famous quote (I don't think). Also, "he was in command of his" is redundant, and the clue about the XX Corps is trivial. Other than that, it's an alright tossup, barring the fact that it's ridiculously difficult for middle school students. Not to mention the rhyming part. Big no-no.
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Re: Writing MS Sets

Post by TSIAJ » Mon May 26, 2014 2:47 am

I'm by no means qualified to give you high-quality advice on question-writing, but one thing to be aware of is the similarity in difficulty of the tossups. e.g. don't have the Foch tossup and then the Jesus or Mitochondrion tossup right after.

Based on my personal experience, packets that had large fluctuations in difficulty were extremely annoying.
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